The Immanuel Sheefeni Aquaponics Project and the Namibia AIDS Service Organisations (Nanaso) recently signed an agreement to secure funds for the preliminary work on a N$100 million aquaponics project.
AIDS activist and aquaponics project founder Immanuel Sheefeni said at the signing ceremony in Windhoek that investors will not release funds to the project until it is bankable.
"Hence, we have to raise our own funds to cover the initial costs for things such as a detailed feasibility study, an environmental impact scoping report and some other technical aspects required before we can finalise our financing term sheets with the investors," said Sheefeni.
The project situated 1,5 kilometres from Outapi in Omusati region is owned by the Immanuel Sheefeni AIDS Foundation, through the Immanuel Sheefeni Fish Farm Trust.
Sheefeni said the project will initially employ 350 people living with HIV, 300 of whom will be young people whose parents died of AIDS, and the other 50 will be those who are directly or indirectly affected by HIV-AIDS.
When the project hits full production, about 750 people will be employed including some at the planned processing factory.
"All these people are currently being trained for their new roles," said Sheefeni.
Every permanent member of staff or management will be allocated
10 000 ordinary shares to make them part owners of the company, he said. "Hence in principle, Immanuel Sheefeni Aquaponics (Pty) Ltd is an employee-owned company," he added.
It is envisaged that the project, which will start production towards the end of 2021, will produce 100 000 tonnes of catfish, 100 000 tonnes of tilapia and 45 000 tonnes of freshwater prawns per year, as well as hundreds of tonnes of different varieties of vegetables.
Nanaso, which works with governmental, community and faith-based organisations and supports groups of people living with AIDS, is working to ensure that they meet the requirements of the agreement.
Nanaso's executive director, Sandie Tjaronda, said the Covid-19 lockdown had delayed the process but "we are now starting again to ensure we look for potential shareholders to get them on board without delay." The groundbreaking ceremony of the project was initially scheduled for 1 June, but was postponed to November due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The two entities will also cooperate on how to best serve and assist people living with HIV.
Tjaronda said the project will not only create employment for its members and increase the revenue base of the organisation, but will also sustain its response to the HIV epidemic.
Within the Namibian context, sustainability of the HIV response refers to the "provision of adequate and accessible HIV prevention and treatment services to the entire population maintaining the 95-95-95 targets and reduced new infections that remain less than the number of deaths attributable to AIDS.
This also includes adequate funding through domestic resources.
Sheefeni said over the years he has helped more than 30 000 people get tested for HIV, while he has a social media following of more than
100 000 Namibians infected or affected by HIV.