This is the first of 3 articles that we submitted to Agriforum – a farming magazine in Namibia. – in November 2022.
Horticulture’s Most Sustainable Disruptive Technology Returns to Namibia
In early 1990, as the new Republic of Namibia emerged – and the world celebrated the birth of the latest nation – Dr Mark McMurtry stood in the wings with a birthday gift of his own.
McMurtry, a scientist from North Carolina State University had, in conjunction with an extensive team of prominent experts, designed and demonstrated a food production technology that would enable Namibia’s impoverished villagers (and others) to source their nutrition in such a way that it did not cause harm to their environment.
He had persuaded US Senator George Mitchell (then Majority Leader in the Senate) and through him Robert C. Byrd (then Chair of the Senate Foreign Appropriations Committee) that, in conjunction with Sir David Godfrey and the Rössing Foundation, would ‘see’ that the Integrated Aqua-Vegeculture System (iAVs) be implemented across Namibia.
Namibia’s inaugural President, Dr Sam Nujoma wrote to NCSU to personally thank them for McMurtry’s contribution and dedication to establishing Namibia’s food security.
By March 1991, a 5-year development plan had been formulated and everything was set to move forward.
And then, due to a single act of bureaucratic malfeasance, the money – and the grand vision – vanished in an instant!
Long story short, that ‘mis’-appropriation triggered a sequence of events, which saw the Integrated Aqua-Vegeculture System – and its inventor – impoverished and effectively relegated to obscurity.
At around the same time, in a bizarre twist of fate, iAVs spawned some unfortunate mutations that subsequently become known as aquaponics. Its emergence coincided with that of the Internet and aquaponics quickly become the ascendant integrated food production method (online) – notwithstanding some serious flaws.
The ignominy was revived when iAVs re-emerged in 2014 to find itself in a battle for its very existence with the well-entrenched ‘mutts’ who had descended into pseudo-science and cultism. They weren’t ready for a righteous McMurtry in their midst as he battled the willful ignorance being generated in online communities.
However, by 2018, Mark McMurtry had had enough. The will to ‘fight’ for authentic iAVs had largely left him as he was forced to attend to immediate personal survival matters.
And then in late 2022, as if by ‘magic’, Namibian interests reached out once again.
Since that happened, there’s a looming sense around the iAVs camp – of ‘unfinished business’ in Namibia.