Water Governance Institute’s Aquaponics system is helping households generate food and income — and bringing nutritious fish to a region that needs it.

In Hoima, Uganda, fish is hard to come by. Demand for the nutritious meat is high, especially among families with growing children and elderly people in their household. Fish fetch a good price at the market — and fish farming can be a profitable business.

Ms. Proscovia Rujumba recognized the opportunity and set out to farm fish in Hoima. Initially, she didn’t do as well as she’d hoped: The large, outdoor earthen pond she used to breed and grow tilapia and catfish failed to produce enough fish for her to sell.

Water Governance Institute, a Ugandan social enterprise, heard about Proscovia’s struggles though the Hoima Hoimdistrict local government. They suggested she install an innovative tank system called Aquaponics to replace the pond and increase the farm’s production.

Proscovia was skeptical at first — she had never seen fish raised outside of ponds, streams, or lakes. But Henry Bazira, the executive director of Water Governance Institute, and his team persuaded her to give Aquaponics a chance. Soon after, Water Governance Institute set up a unit in her house.

The 1m3 plastic subsistence and small-income generating Aquaponics system offered by Water Governance Institute


The Aquaponics system consists of two parts: A grow-bed where crops grow in a fertile sand-gravel mixture and a tank beneath the grow-bed for the fish (see above). The two parts depend on and complement each other — the fish tank provides water and organic nutrients to the plants in the grow-bed, while the plants clean the water before it returns to the fish tank.

Fish farmers can install the system inside of or next to their homes, saving space and making it easy for people with physical constraints to access and operate. An Aquaponics system saves water too, by recycling water between its two parts.

Mr. Henry Bazira and Ms. Aisha Nalwoga of Water Governance Institute talk to Ms. Proscovia Rujumba (right) an Aquaponics farmer in Hoima District, Uganda.

“We bring fresh fish right into the home,” says Bazira. “The Aquaponics system makes fish farming accessible for anyone who wants to earn an income or who wants to put a healthy and nutritious meal on the dinner table for the family.”

Aisha, a WGI staffer, assists Proscovia in sorting catfish fingerlings for stocking in the Aquaponics unit.

Proscovia prepares to stock fish fingerlings in her Aquaponics unit.

Within three weeks, Proscovia was convinced the system worked. The catfish and plants were growing right before her eyes!


By itself, a working system didn’t guarantee success. Proscovia had to learn how to operate and maintain it, and she faced several challenges — especially with the water recycling. When the water didn’t properly move from one part to another, the water quality suffered. A musty smell started emanating from the fish tank, and two of her small fingerling fish died. But Water Governance Institute staff came to her aid, walking her through the maintenance steps and showing her how to prevent future problems.

With support, skills, and determination, Proscovia’s fish farm flourished. She was able to produce one hundred and ninety-seven catfish weighing around 1–1.5 kilograms each, along with produce from the grow-bed. She ate some of the catfish and tomatoes at home and took some to market, earning USD 612 from her work.

Proscovia Rujumba’s Aquaponics unit with flourishing tomato plants. Mparo village, Hoima district.

Soon Proscovia’s neighbors began visiting, excited by the Aquaponics technology and her success. She realized that the system could work for her friends and neighbors too.


Proscovia is now a successful fish farmer and a local promoter of the Aquaponics system, sharing her success and answering familiar, skeptical questions about whether this system really works. She even spoke about her experience on a local FM radio station, telling people throughout the region why they should try Aquaponics.

Water Governance Institute learned from Proscovia’s experience as well: They resolved to put greater focus on maintenance training during the system installation. That training will empower each customer with the knowledge and expertise to keep their system running smoothly — generating food and income for a long time.

Together, Water Governance Institute and small entrepreneurs like Proscovia are giving women and small farmers all over Uganda the ability to feed their families and earn a living by farming nutritious, homegrown fish.


Support Water Governance Institute’s work to curb nutrition deficiencies and poverty by sharing this story. To learn more about Aquaponics and our work, contact our office by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

On the 5th-8th of march, WGI went on a field trip to the gold mining areas of Moroto and Nakapiripit districts .This was conducted under the project on “Promoting mining industry compliance to social and environmental safeguards in Uganda” .The main objectives of this trip were;

  • To sensitize relevant authorities on the work of WGI and the project.
  • To collect soil and water samples from gold mining and processing points, including the surrounding environment that will be tested in the laboratory for presence of Mercury, Cyanide, Arsenic, Lead and Aluminium  as indicators of pollution. Recent reports indicate that communities continue to use these hazardous chemicals in gold extraction processes. The results derived from the laboratory tests shall be shared with the relevant authorities at local and central government levels.
  • To understand the dynamics in the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector and the impact of mining activities on the livelihoods of local communities on ground.
  • To sensitize relevant stakeholders on the risks of the chemicals used in Gold extraction and ways in which such risks may be mitigated.


Water governance institute together with its partner Navigators of development Association (NAVODA) in Hoima conducted awareness raising meetings about aquaponics farming at Glory summit hotel on the 8th and 9th April 2017.  Information on the innovative fish farming was disseminated to the community as well as story telling from the successful farmers who have been in the innovation in the past year.

The team also had a talk show on community green radio, 3 participants expressed their interest in the system and demos were setup at their homes.  



The SWFF Program Team lead, SWFF TA Facility deputy program coordinator, and other USAID representatives travled to Kampala, Jinja, and Hoima to meet with innovators in Uganda, including Aquaponics and Green Heat.

“SWFF site visits allow the program to get a better understanding of innovators’ activities and provide more in-depth advice that can accelerate their path towards progression,” SWFF Program Team Lead Dr. Ku McMahon said.

In addition to meeting with the innovators, Ku and the SWFF team talked with local farmers and technicians to get feedback and confirm innovator-submitted data over the course of the week.


“SWFF site visits allow the program to…provide more in-depth advice that can accelerate their path towards progression.”

Each innovator serves as a pioneer, impacting the amount of water used in poor countries through cutting edge technologies and business models. Water Governance Institute’s aquaponics program serves to eliminate nutrient deficiencies through a tray cultivation system. This technology creates a bridge between crop and fish production, allowing for optimal food output with less water.

The Green Heat program cuts down on water use by implementing a waste-separation system that creates fertilizer. SWFF travel plays a key part in both organizations’ success through offering the innovators in person support and guidance.

Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development helps farmers around the world grow more food using less water, enhance water storage, and improve the use of saline water and soil to produce food by ensuring that the entrepreneurs get the support they need to apply and expand their solutions around the world.

To learn more about Securing Water for Food, as well as access a list of our innovators, visit www.securingwaterforfood.org/innovators





Women panning-off earth tailings with no protective gear to reveal the Gold impregnated Mercury at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende district. .
Women panning-off earth tailings with no protective gear to reveal the Gold impregnated Mercury at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende district. 

Uganda’s abundant mineral wealth if well managed has the ability to enhance the economic fortunes of the country. Indeed, many Ugandans view mineral resources– such as gold in Mubende and the Karamoja region– as critical precursors to the country’s move towards prosperity as well as the means for lifting thousands of people out of poverty. This mineral wealth is captured in the country’s economic blueprint “Vision 2040” as a driver of growth and development.

While, admittedly, the exploitation of mineral resources could bring prosperity to Uganda, they could fuel violations of human, health and safety rights, particularly, the right to a clean and health environment as provided in country’s constitution and environmental regulations.

During a recent field trip by Water Governance Institute staff to the gold mining areas of Mubende district, it was observed that women gold miners were found using Mercury Oxide and Cyanide in gold extraction. These are highly toxic and dangerous substances, which if ingested or gain entry into the human body could result in serious health problems and ultimately death of the affected persons. These chemicals are particularly risky to women, because it is the women that are mostly engaged in extracting the gold from the earth tailings using a mixture of water and any of mentioned chemicals.

30-year old Rose Namaye (real name withheld) holds a basin containing Gold impregnated Mercury after panning off the earth tailings at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende District

30-year old Rose Namaye (real name withheld) holds a basin containing Gold impregnated Mercury after panning off the earth tailings at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende District

In addition, women often work with no or inadequate protective gear, which worsens their exposure to the hazardous chemicals.  Women do this usually out of ignorance or mire lack of enough money to buy the protective gear. This is worsened by the low labour wages they are paid for their work.

Laboratory analysis of soils and water taken from selected sites in Mubende revealed pollution levels of up to ten times the permissible levels by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Similar results were obtained in respect to Cyanide in water. Water Governance Institute is planning a multi-stakeholder dialogue that will bring together government officials, ASM-miners and CSOs to deliberate on the findings a chart a way forward.

According to the World Health Organization, Mercury is highly toxic to human health and inhalation of Mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, including organs like the lungs and kidneys, resulting in death.  Similar effects to the human body have been reported by other experts.  NEMA puts the permissible levels of Mercury at 2.0 milligrams per kilogram of soil and 0.001milligrams per litre of water, while WHO puts it at 8.0milligrams per kilogram soil and 0.001milligrams per litre of water.

In respect to Cyanide, NEMA’s permissible level is at 10.0milligrams per kilogram soil and 0.1milligrams per litre of water. The WHO’s standard for Cyanide is 0.2milligrams per litre of water. WGI’s search of the WHO records online did not reveal any permissible standard for Cyanide in soils, this is probably because Cyanide is unacceptable in soils by WHO standards or WHO has not yet investigated Cyanide in soils to set a standard.

It is clear that while NEMA and WHO are in agreement on the permissible levels of Mercury in water, their standards differ for soil. NEMA’s standard for Mercury in soil is more stringent and restrictive. Likewise, the NEMA standard for Cyanide in soils and water is more restrictive and stringent compared with that of WHO. In such cases, it is better to enforce the NEMA standards for Mercury and Cyanide.

Women panning-off earth tailings with no protective gear to reveal the Gold impregnated Mercury at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende district. .

Women panning-off earth tailings with no protective gear to reveal the Gold impregnated Mercury at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende district. 

Gold impregnated Mercury (Whitish material in basin) revealed after panning-off earth tailings at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende district

Gold impregnated Mercury (Whitish material in basin) revealed after panning-off earth tailings at “Kampala” Gold mining site in Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende district

According to the December 2015 Auditor General’s report on Regulation, Monitoring and Promotion of the Mining sector, the artisanal, small- and medium-scale mining sector employs up to 200,000 people in Uganda of which 50% are women. This suggests that 100,000 women are exposed to the harmful Mercury and Cyanide chemicals. This is not a small number that can be ignored by any administration.

Since the women gold miners are not in position to effectively protect themselves from the negative effects of chemicals used in gold mining, it is important for government to require mining companies and/or individuals employing women in gold extraction to provide them with safety gear and to comply with health and environmental standards and practice. Also, civil society actors and other development partners should come to the aid of such women, including men.

While we recognize the efforts government is undertaking to revise the mining policy and legislation, we think government is slow (or is it reluctant) to put in place a mechanism that will regulate artisanal, small- and medium-scale mining, including the formalization of this sub-sector.  The new mining policy and laws should also be guided by the aspirations and principles of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and Agenda 2063, which recognizes a mining sector that harnesses the potential of artisanal and small-scale mining to stimulate local/national entrepreneurship, improve livelihoods and advance integrated rural social and economic development.


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