The Eagle has landed… and has landed with fish!

In July of 2015 an emotional milestone was marked in a 6 month long uphill battle. While it’s been 11 years since passing my board of review for Eagle Scout, the same feelings of accomplishment which I had experienced as a 17 year old boy are stoking my soul.

The children of Chitipi children’s home will be eating fresh fish for Christmas this year.

Nelson, a recent MSCE candidate and child within the Children of the Nation’s program from Mtzilizta village near Lilongwe traveled the furthest he had ever been in Malawi while accompanying me on the long arduous journey to the National Aquaculture Center in Domasi Malawi. On this trip, Nelson learned how to make feeds using an experimental exclusive plant based formula which will be used in a head to head experiment against fish meal based Maldeco feed which is over twice as expensive. After 3 days of hands on training from the staff at NAC, we returned back to Lilongwe delivering the precious 60 Tilapia rendali and 60 Oreochromis shiranus to the fish pond at the children’s home. After 5 hours on the road, we reached Chitipi and were greeted with tremendous excitement. In all honesty, I’ve never seen the kids so excited once I convinced them that there were real live fish swimming around in this strange looking plastic bag filled with oxygen and green tinted water. They were screaming SOMBA! SOMBA! (“fish” in Chichewa) as the sun faded, concluding yet another day in the warm heart of Africa.


Highs and Lows of working with concrete

In the beginning of June of 2015, we decided to go forward with the construction of a concrete fish pond. I have little to 0 experience in construction and it was very frightening to rely solely on the Lord and his helpers here. There is an excellent construction crew at COTN whom I would recommend for any job, but it still is difficult to oversee something you have little knowledge about. After consulting various fish pond systems in Nigeria and in talking to the experts at the National Aquaculture Center in Malawi, we went forward and made two 6m x 6m concrete ponds side by side in three weeks costing around $3600 USD. We used
• 30MT riversand
• 25MT local 1.5 inch stones
• 75 bags cement
• 15000 local fired clay bricks
• 11 rolls 2ply brick force wire
• 12 15ft timbers
• 9 Y16 rebar
• 60m of linked fence
• 14 15mm x 15mm steel bars
• 3 63mm gate valves, 3 63mm PVC pipe and various fittings

To start, footers were poured on the edges with rebar inside. Brick walls were then erected at 2 bricks wide up to 1.5m height. The concrete floor was poured at 4 inches thick and smoothed and vibrated. The insides of all the brick walls were plastered and smoothed with about 1 inch of concrete. Two sides of the pond were completely supported with dirt backfilled although 2 sides were not. I did not think the walls had to be backfilled at all but unfortunately I was wrong and after filling one of the ponds overnight, we woke up to a broken side which we think originated at the weakest point, the corner. I was blessed to have a couple engineers present who were traveling on a flood team that were able to brainstorm solutions. I also found a very unique Malawian man who has constructed over 50 swimming pools throughout the country come and offer his advice. To fix the remaining pond which was largely intact, we spent another $550 USD to build a concrete pillar on the corner and fill in the inside corners with cement. Finally on July 11th and 12thwe filled the pond up to 0.75m depth and began fertilization. Cassim helped do the first fertilization of the pond with chicken manure and was also taught how to take a pH reading of the water which is very important for a concrete pond as cement can be very alkaline. Cassim Tembo, a recent high school graduate has been recruited to work on the project. He has grown up in the COTN homes and is a very smart young man whom will help much. His dreams are to either become a doctor or go into business either of which he will benefit from learning the fish pond skills. There will also be a couple other students helping with the fish pond who will be participating in a business microfinance program which COTN is partnering with to help give their children the skills needed to transform Malawi and at the very least be self-sufficient.

Construction of the concrete fish pond

Concrete JM

Trial # 12: Damages of the concrete fish pond

Concrete JM2

Solution # 13 to problem/trial # 12:

Concrete JM3

Finished Product:

Concrete JM4Concrete JM5Concrete JM6

Concrete JM7