My name is Andrea Knighton and I am pleased to have the opportunity to tell you a little bit about Wichita Area Sustainability Initiative, “WASI” for short. I founded WASI as a nonprofit shortly after graduating from Wichita State University with a Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) in May of 2012. My area of study in graduate school was psychological trauma. Upon graduation my decision was to work in the area of trauma prevention. With trauma prevention in mind and after much post-graduation reading and research, the WASI vision emerged.
WASI’s mission is to help reduce basic resource insecurity by helping to localize the food and energy systems with sustainable and “people-powered” solutions. The WASI vision is based on the premise that people CAN work together to make survival level resources available to create an environment of resiliency for themselves, their families, their neighborhoods and their community.
Our planet encompasses and supports all life. Everything needed for abundance is here yet scarcity prevails. Understanding the root causes of scarcity in turn can help us design solid solutions. Solutions that work with and within our earth’s miraculous design will unlock self-sustaining abundance. WASI is here to help pull us together, to roll up our sleeves, to get to work to build these solutions together.
WASI’s First Program ‒ Feeding the 5000
Although WASI’s mission is broad, our programs are designed to be targeted and to provide sustainable solutions while at the same time building community‒all to combat scarcity. To this end our first program is called Feeding the 5000. Feeding the 5000 consists of building off-grid aquaponic greenhouses for churches and area nonprofits to run with neighborhood participation. Raising food together in our neighborhoods can help us address the fact that nearly one in four children in Sedgwick County are food insecure and that Wichita unfortunately offers 44 square miles of food deserts. Feeding the 5000 can help combat this scarcity by making fresh fish and 100% naturally grown produce available to food insecure households, 365 days-a-year.
Churches and neighborhood focused nonprofits are well positioned to encourage community building through neighborhood-wide participation in the food-raising process. Expanding upon the Feeding the 5000 program to offer a community garden, onsite food preparation, do-it-yourself cooking classes, adding other suitable urban livestock options, etc. creates a place to gather to learn and interact around life-giving healthy activities.
Why Aquaponics for WASI’s Feeding the 5000 Program?
Aquaponics is a food production system that integrates aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water) where fish and plants are raised symbiotically in a biologically balanced, closed eco-system. Fish waste with the help of nitrifying bacteria feed the plants, the plants filter the water that goes back to the fish which means the same body of water is used to continually raise food.
The sustainable attributes of aquaponics makes it an ideal urban agriculture solution. Plants grown aquaponically can be grown closer together because nutrients are delivered directly to each plant’s root system. In addition, aquaponics requires approximately 90% less water than soil-based agriculture. Add this to an “off-grid” greenhouse structure, you are producing highly nutritious natural food that collapses energy, transportation, processing and storage costs, while at the same time building neighborhood connections and bonds.
WASI is in the beginning stages of making its Feeding the 5000 pilot operation a reality. Please visit our website (www.wichitasi.org) and Facebook page to track progress. As soon as the pilot operation is up and running smoothly it will be time to bring Feeding the 5000 off-grid aquaponic greenhouses to Wichita neighborhoods. With your help, a community-based food system for Wichita will happen!
In closing, thank you for taking the time to learn more about WASI’s mission. As the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award winner Will Allen says, everyone is needed at the Good Food Revolution table! With much gratitude, Andrea Knighton, LMSW.
Andrea L. Knighton, LMSW
WASI – Founder
Wichita Area Sustainability Initiative (WASI)
A Not-For-Profit Kansas Corporation