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Tuesday, 05 February 2019

Growing new relationships to learn new things

LESSONS LEARNED: (l-r) Christiaan Hartzenberg, Nina van Savooijen, Stijn Burmanj, Fareed Ismail (front) and Douwe Schoemaker in the Mechanical Engineering Courtyard which sports a aquaponics system. LESSONS LEARNED: (l-r) Christiaan Hartzenberg, Nina van Savooijen, Stijn Burmanj, Fareed Ismail (front) and Douwe Schoemaker in the Mechanical Engineering Courtyard which sports a aquaponics system.

Three Dutch students who spent the last three months working with a community outreach project in Belhar have captured their work on video.

Douwe Schoemaker, Nina van Savooijen and Stijn Burmanje from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands worked under the supervision of senior lecturer Fareed Ismail of CPUT’s Mechanical Engineering Department. The video (Beleaf Aquaponics) explains what they did with the Africa Community Project (ACP) at the Belhar Early Childhood Development Centre.
One of the speakers in the video is Christiaan Hartzenberg, founder of ACP which runs the Centre from the Multipurpose Hall. The Centre, which opened in 2001, looks after about 120 children and they started a food garden in 2002.

They approached CPUT and first worked with students through the Work Integrated Learning programme, but things really took off when they met Ismail who introduced them to sustainable aquaponics farming.

“These three Dutch students worked on a business model for the aquaponics system, looking at marketing the produce and researching potential clientele,” explained Hartzenberg.

The students (one Architecture student and two Industrial Design Engineering students) arrived in South Africa with a plan, ready to do a business review of the food garden in collaboration with the Mechanical Engineering Department. They were surprised to encounter children at the project centre and had to offer fun learning activities while working on the aquaponics system. Within the first month of work they managed to secure R55 000 funding to upgrade the system.

The trio plans to start a non-governmental organisation in the Netherlands, drawing on previous students from TU Delft and Ernst-Abbe University of Applied Sciences (Jena, Germany) who also worked on the project. Beleaf (which is also the name of the video and blog) will be a platform to raise funds for the project and a way for the students to continue to be a part of it even after completing their studies.

While the food garden’s most important purpose is to feed the children at the Centre, they harvest enough produce to sell and generate an income. The short video also features one of their loyal clients, corporate catering company Pure Good, who have signed a contract with the community pledging to buy required produce.

Ismail said the short video was exactly the kind of platform needed to promote the project through electronic media: “This places CPUT at the forefront of fostering entrepreneurship in needy communities. Fostering strong community engagement and international relationships with foreign universities stands us in good stead for the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department Simphiwe Nqabisa expressed excitement about the potential of the exchange programme between CPUT and TU Delft:” We need to foster these kinds of collaborations. For the past few years it’s been one-sided with their students coming here. But, we want to explore new possibilities and send our students out."

Written by Theresa Smith


Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.