Rick Hermanns, a member of our church, has a foundation through his business that supports ministries around the world through Tilapia ponds. This is what he wrote about them.
Fishers of Men
Most of us have heard the expression, “Teach a man to fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.” But what can this look like in a Christian context and in practice? For five years now, the HigherQuest Foundation has been building fish farms for ministries across the globe. These fish farms provide an excellent way to provide not only daily sustenance for the people served by the ministry but they help the ministry itself thrive by relieving it of fundraising worries and brings the satisfaction that comes with ownership.
There are several excellent reasons to set up fish farms for ministries overseas. Some of these include:
Fish Farms Provide an Excellent Return on Investment
As a general rule, in most countries and with proper supervision, a fish farm will produce 150 to 200% per year in fish value relative to the cost of installing the fish farm. That is, if the fish farm cost $1000, it should produce about $1500 to $2000 worth of fish per year. As such, the recipient of the fish farm sees significant value from his/her effort.
Fish Farms Provide More or Less Permanent Income
A typical fish farm will last for years and even when it needs to be rehabilitated, it will have already earned enough funds to provide for the rehabilitation. This fact has several important ramifications. For example, a donor can know that he or she has not just “stood in the gap” for a temporary period of time, but rather has given a gift that will continue for years to come. This further allows the donor to gracefully support a different ministry in the future while knowing that they have not abandoned the first. Let me give you an example, our second and third fish farms were built for an orphanage and an old age home in India. While there are numerous other needs there, the HigherQuest Foundation can know that it is providing ongoing assistance even while we have moved on to work with other ministries. That is, each year, our fish farms are providing for the ministry there.
Another important aspect of the permanence of the fish farm is that the ministry can expand its use. Some ministries are better than others at this but we have seen ministries take one small fish farm and parlay it into 5 or 6 fish farms.
Fish Farms Can Provide a Great Way to Assist Pastors
Our last project was a collaborative effort in Indonesia with Pioneers, Clean Waters, and Mustard Seed. In only six weeks and with only $7,800 we built 21 fish farms, 2 hatcheries, and a fish food making facility. The fish farms are basically backyard fish farms designed primarily to allow pastors to support themselves. In countries like Indonesia and India, it is incredibly difficult for pastors to support themselves. Their congregations tend to be poor, forcing them to typically be bi-vocational. However, as it is known that they are Christian, finding proper employment is usually very difficult , if not impossible. Thus the backyard fish farm provides for about half of what the pastor needs to live—all for a minimal upfront investment. In our Indonesian effort, the strong local organizations are allowing the seeds we planted to grow dramatically.
Fish Farms Provide a Basic Need
Other than air and water, food is about as basic a need as we have. Lack of access to protein has huge long-term ramifications to our health. In the orphanages where we have installed fish farms, the children have been supplied with a high quality source of protein in their diet that would otherwise have been unaffordable.
Fish Farms are Versatile
We have built systems as small as a large hot tub and as large as a system with three interconnected ponds totaling several acres. Based upon the land available, the funds available, access to power and water, our fish farms can be tailored to the needs of the ministry being supported.
Of course, there are many factors that are critical to the success of fish farming and the purpose of this article is not to be exhaustive. However, if there was one critical element to the success of the fish farm, it is the commitment of the recipient ministry. Only if the ministry sees the value and is sold on the concept will the fish farm(s) succeed.
Into the Future
From just a nifty idea a few years back, we have grown and learned a great deal. As we have learned from our experience and mistakes, we have adapted and planned for an even bigger future. Some of the exciting plans are as follows:
· We are building a training center near Orangeburg, South Carolina. The training facility will have housing and all that is needed to learn to set up a fish farm. We expect our first classes to start next summer. Our hope is that any individual or organization with the desire to build fish farms will participate. We have very limited resources and want to help maximize what we do have. In short, it is not about how many fish farms we install, it is about making the most of the talents God has given us.
· We are in the process of establishing the ability of individuals to loan money to ministries overseas to set up a fish farm. By requiring the recipient to repay the cost of the fish farm creates even more “ownership”, helps encourage seriousness of purpose, and allows us to extend our resources. Of course, a person can always donate but the loan program will allow donors to connect even closer to the recipients of their aid. Simply put, the more financial resources we have, the more fish farms we can build.
· We are building partnerships with other churches and organizations to identify overseas ministries that would benefit from our services. As stated earlier, the commitment and quality of the donation recipient is the single biggest determinant of success in the long run.