Environmental solutions to economic challenges
Over the years, tilapia fish farmers in Pingsha, China, watched their incomes dwindle to less than $250 (USD) a month. Chemical overuse in ponds, isolated farming and low winter harvests had taken their toll and the 750 families in the region who rely on this practice for a living were desperate for help. It was the Enactus team from Sun Yat-sen University who discovered the answer was literally growing under their feet.
Extensive research and water testing by the team revealed planting ryegrass could positively impact the health of the ponds and counteract years of eutrophication. In addition, this solution opened the opportunity for the farmers to supplement their incomes by selling extra ryegrass. After teaching these farmers proper ryegrass planting techniques, the group was organized into a co-op to help reduce planting costs and establish direct sales channels. This allowed the farmers to secure contracts to supply grass feed to local rabbit and cattle operations.
Thanks to the “Golden Pond” project, all of the existing fish ponds in this region have shown marked improvements in chemical structure and the average summer fish yield has risen from 18 tons to 23 tons. Also, 6.4 hectares of previously unproductive land is now being used to harvest ryegrass. This, along with the collective bargaining power of the cooperative, has generated more than $10,000 in profits and increased annual incomes by 45 percent.