Thursday, July 16, 2009

Of Fish Farms and Urine

Aus and I got invited to Auqa Vista Resort and Farm last night in Calabar South. It is run by Mfon Essang and Dr. Umoh, one of our premier stakeholder members. Aus and Jess have both been telling me about Aqua Vista since I landed in CRS. Mfon treated us to dinner, a little tour, and a lot of conversation last night. It was a lot of fun. The resort is a combination resort/restaurant/fish farm/tour operator. Calabar, like most of CRS, is pretty much a huge tributary. The Calabar river is the major water source, but with the ocean less than an hour away, the entire area is a hodge podge of rain forest to the north, saltwater marshes and mangroves around Calabar, and coast farther south. Aqua Vista was built on an old salt water marsh and the constructucted a series of rivulets around the resort that carry the tidal water that flows through the area. As a result, the offer boat tours all the way to the ocean when the tide is in, which is actually quite amazing when you consider the river is nearly half an hour away by boat, and the ocean nearly an hour or so by water. Unfortunately, when the tide is out, the river dries up entirely leaving a thick, ugly black mud that smells a bit. To solve this, they are a digging a channel that will connect with a smaller river that will keep the water level constant, regardless of the tide.

In addition to their own river system, the resort has five fish growing ponds. Each pond is maybe by 10x15 yards and seem to be no more than 4 or 5 feet deep. Unsurprisingly, they grow primarily Tilapia. As readers of the blog probably know, I have a bit of a minor obsession with aquaculture and fish farming so I was geeking out while talking to Mfon. In addition to Tilapia, they grow two other species and are experimenting with a local fish. I can't remember the name as it was something long and fairly unpronounceable in Efik, but Mfon told me it is well muscled and an active fish that enjoys jumping. The operation is not big enough but they do have plans to exapnd the farm into a full scale commerical farm in the future in addition to building more lodgings along their river route all the way to the sea.

Dinner was a spicy grilled Tilapia from the farm, covered in slice onion and tomato, along with some french fries, ketchup, and a hot sauce. It was one of the tastiest meals I've had in a long, long time. While eating, Dr. Umoh arrived and joined us and we had a pretty fruitful discussion. Aus and Dr. Umoh and Mfon mainly talked shop for most of the time but the conversation soon expanded to general plans for the resort and about Nigeria, in general. I mentioned how when they expand they could very easily supply many of the restaurants and hotels with exceptionally fresh fish and employ a decent number of local people. I also talked about possibly exploiting the silt from the bottom of their ponds and selling it or using it as a fertilizer if they were to ever to look into cultivating their own crops.

The discussion proved enlightening on quite a few topics. It convinced me all the more that this country requires intense institutional reform if it were to ever really live up to its awesome potential. Mfon and the Dr were explaining to me how it is impossible to get long term financing and how banks will charge, on average, between 22 and 25% on short term loans of 2-3 years. Thus making it impossible to to do any kind of big projects, needlessly slowing down development. Combine that with the endemic corruption that makes doing business unnecessarily costly and the lack of infrastructure, due to a mixture of incompetence, lack of funding, and corruption and you have the perfect recipe for getting nothing done. I mentioned how it was our hope and goal that after we are gone that CRQ will act as an organizing agent of private business owners that will eventually help to push through some reform with the weight of their influence...or that's the hope. Whatever happens, organzing is key.

On an unrelated note, ran into a neat little post on ecogeek about this chemist at Ohio University who has figured out a way to get hydrogen from urine using a quarter of the electricity it takes to remove hydrogen from water. I love seeing little things like this. It's a combination of imagination, basic research, and applicability to current problems that makes this solution, to me at least, extremely elegant. makes me wish I had the head for such things, like playing with urine all damn day...anyways, I pray folk have a decent day. back home in 2 weeks...


Lauren said...

Okay, is it wrong that I'm jealous that you went to a fish farm? You know I have a thing for Aquaculture ever since I put some research into it for my development class. Sounds like a good trip and a tasty dinner. Glad you enjoyed yourself.

Frank said...

unrelated note, guillermo rigondeaux got a first round KO with a left hand counter uppercut to the liver in his second fight. it was picasso.