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Maa-Bara: Catalyzing Change

Global Challenge Award

Maa-Bara: Catalyzing Change

Competition Year: 2011

Closed-loop system producing healthy fish and vegetables in areas with limited arable land, increasing food security and providing jobs starting in the Niger Delta.

Health and Medical Education and Training Energy and Environment Water and Sanitation Finance and Entrepreneurship Agriculture and Processing Emergency and Disaster Relief


Quick Links

Our Pitch

In the agrarian society of the Niger Delta, spillage from oil extraction causes pollution of soil and water stifles both fishing and farming activities, crippling the local economy where there is 85% adult unemployment. Our solution is "Maa-Bara," a scalable, locally sourced, locally crafted structure for the propagation of fish and vegetables atop this oil-polluted landscape. Translated "Water-Farm" in Ogoni language, Maa-Bara is a zero-waste sustainable agricultural model. Each Maa-Bara structure is designed to utilize kitchen scraps to feed tilapia fish. The tilapia produce waste, which becomes nutrient solution for hydroponics (growing vegetables without soil). In the summer of 2010, the team traveled to the Niger Delta and secured partnerships with Enterprise for Development International (formerly TechnoServe, Nigeria) and River State University of Science and Technology. In October of 2010, one of our team members constructed a 50-gallon proof-of-concept pilot. Shell Oil is on board to fund the roll out and scaling up of the project following a successful pilot in the Niger Delta.

Innovations: Vertical design uses gravity for aeration of water in lieu of aerator. Vertical design creates shade for workers, fish, and plants. Peer-to-peer agricultural training program in the fishing villages of the Niger Delta, partnering with University.

The problem:


Providing sanitary food and creating employment opportunities for the 200 people living near Bodo, Niger Delta.


2011 Yunus Challenge: Agricultural Processes

Who We Are

OGHENERUNO OKIOMAH ( - Ogheneruno will head the execution of the pilot project of Maa-Bara in the Niger Delta in collaboration with the non-profit Enterprise for Development International (formerly TechnoServe Nigeria). Ogheneruno was raised in Nigeria and designed the Maa-Bara as her Master in Architecture thesis at MIT. Ogheneruno traveled to Nigeria (Summer 2011), secured commitment from RSUST (University in Nigeria), Enterprise for Development International (largest NGO in Nigeria) and the Bodo community to execute the project pilot in Niger Delta.

ELISHA GOODMAN ( - Elisha will facilitate the R&D (construction and operation) of a full-sized pilot in Lynn, MA in the summer of 2011, develop the peer-to-peer training program, and facilitate the roll out plan for regions beyond the Niger Delta. Elisha oversaw the implementation of a 50-gallon proof-of-concept aquaponics project in Lynn, Massachusetts (October 2011), demonstrating technical feasibility of the Maa-Bara system. Elisha is experienced with hands-on tropical agriculture and non-profit start-up and management. Elisha will graduate in June 2011 with a Master Degree from MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning .

SANDY HUANG ( - Sandy will manage business development and finance of Maa-Bara. Sandy spent the last 4 years working at’s Corporate Development team, where she worked with several start-up ventures to optimize revenue performance, develop advertising strategies, and implement short-term and long-term growth initiatives. Sandy is an MBA student from MIT’s Sloan School of Management with a focus on social entrepreneurship and sustainability.

DR. CALESTOUS JUMA ( - Dr. Juma will fundraise for Maa-Bara via high level contacts in leadership at federal ministries, state governments and financial institutions including the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Dr. Juma is ready to conduct a parallel pilot in Kenya on his secured land because he was raised on tilapia! Calestous is Professor of Practice of International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, founding Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi, author of, “The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa,” which details how agricultural innovation will be the key driver for economic development in Africa.

Our Community Partner

Partner Name

Enterprise for Development International (formerly TechnoServe, Nigeria)


Port Harcourt, Nigeria


One of the most reputable NGOs in Nigeria with ties in the Niger Delta region. Key liaison between the rural communities and the oil companies. Enterprise for Development International has committed to facilitating execution of the project in the Niger Delta through their networks and people power.


  • Service Location
    Bodo, Nigeria
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Comments and Support

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    Posted by BouseBotsBort on Sun, Sep 2nd 2012, 00:58 Report Abuse

  • Maa-Bara made it into The Tech, MIT newspaper!!! check it out...

    Posted by O. Okiomah on Tue, Apr 26th 2011, 13:45 Report Abuse

  • Runo . . Keep it up! You have my vote. "Best of luck"

    Posted by LT on Fri, Apr 22nd 2011, 17:02 Report Abuse

  • I am excited to be a part of this great effort. Let's get going!

    Posted by A. Dunn on Fri, Apr 22nd 2011, 15:45 Report Abuse

  • Am impressed! Charity begins at home they say! For carrying out dis research in nigeria is a good step in d right direction and above all dat it bothers on waste management in d niger delta region is a plus cos dats one of d problems dat have ravaged the area till date. Its a good one. I wish u and ur team a swell time and wish u a win win!

    Posted by i. ejimadu on Sun, Apr 17th 2011, 20:06 Report Abuse

  • Nice! all d best luv! x

    Posted by O. Efoechoku on Fri, Apr 15th 2011, 19:08 Report Abuse

  • Bravo, Runo!!

    Posted by B. Idrisu on Thu, Apr 14th 2011, 00:31 Report Abuse

  • Hope you win! I'll try to spread the word to some of my friends.

    Posted by D. Gonzales on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 23:54 Report Abuse

  • Runo, your idea is very healthy :) I voted! Good luck to you!!

    Posted by Y. Kim on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 22:14 Report Abuse

  • You've got my vote, Runo!

    Posted by I. Olanrewaju on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 22:02 Report Abuse

  • Runo, this is wholesome! More power to your elbow!!

    Posted by O. Komolafe on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 21:27 Report Abuse

  • I am voting for this Maa-Bara!

    Posted by O. Komolafe on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 21:26 Report Abuse

  • Brava Runo. That is the way

    Posted by N. Omar on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 19:00 Report Abuse

  • Runo, your mom and I are very proud of you. We are in full support of this effort and trust that the Lord will grant you your heart's desires and even beyond Posted by Festus & Ruth OKIOMAH - Parents of Runo

    Posted by R. OKIOMAH on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 18:48 Report Abuse

  • I am impressed by your belief in and desire to create economic development and produce social change in the world. You recognize the challenges, envision the possibilities, and have pulled together the resources to offer a creative solution to drive a healthy transformation in the Niger Delta. "Hope in the face of despair" - Runo Okiomah (Change Agent and Visionary) Congratulations to all involved in this project. We hope for the best---

    Posted by S. Odamah on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 16:00 Report Abuse

  • Very exciting work

    Posted by Amrita Mahindroo on Wed, Apr 13th 2011, 14:52 Report Abuse

  • I saw their presentation during the MIT Sloan Africa 2.0 event. It made me very proud to see the students deliver a solution to tackle a 50 year old problem in the Niger Delta. The economic and social impact is enormous and can be very profitable as long as they can engage the right resources on the ground to help them model it to fit the business/environmental conditions. This team has my vote!!..

    Posted by O. Oghenejobo on Sun, Apr 3rd 2011, 09:20 Report Abuse

  • Great cause. Keep up the good work Runo!

    Posted by D. Barisik on Sun, Mar 27th 2011, 22:54 Report Abuse

  • The beauty of this project is the way it builds on the strengths of a local culture in the face of massive challenges, needed change. Rather than a technical patch fix from outside, Runo provides a synthesis of knowledge that comes from local and global sources. Her solution builds capacity and sets the stage for long-term integration of cultural development, technical skill building and intentional and durable transformation. These are the hallmarks of truly sustainable design. I can't wait to see the first prototypes, and the project after 20 years. (The real test.) Congratulations on beginning a long and fruitful journey!

    Posted by Scott Francisco on Tue, Mar 8th 2011, 18:54 Report Abuse

  • This is a very noble idea and every well meaning person should support.

    Posted by L. Adebomi on Tue, Mar 8th 2011, 12:21 Report Abuse

  • Lovely project, projects like this are never too much especially in the Niger Delta region that provide the nation with enormous resources yet the indegenes live in abject poverty. l believe this will contribute positively to the lives of the people in that area. Well done!

    Posted by E. Okwoho on Mon, Mar 7th 2011, 04:19 Report Abuse

  • You've got great energy Runo, I can tell you'll take this far!

    Posted by Jeff on Tue, Mar 1st 2011, 21:12 Report Abuse

  • Great Runo! Your presentation was amazing, and I believe everyone was captivated by your work and conviction. Looking forward to hearing more!

    Posted by linda c on Tue, Feb 22nd 2011, 15:28 Report Abuse

  • great work Runo! You 've work so hard for this. Kudos

    Posted by Aunty Lizzy on Mon, Feb 21st 2011, 15:49 Report Abuse

  • Nice work Runo! This is quite a challenging issue you have picked, but wish you a continuing success on this project! Look forward to seeing some pics and diagrams in near future!

    Posted by Kenta Konishi on Mon, Feb 14th 2011, 09:31 Report Abuse

  • Great work Runo, glad to see this building upon the thesis!

    Posted by J. Wescoat on Sun, Feb 13th 2011, 09:50 Report Abuse

  • Congratulations Team Maa-Bara. I too would love to see pictures from your trip and of the structure. Good luck!

    Posted by B Williams on Thu, Feb 10th 2011, 10:52 Report Abuse

  • Runo, Great work! I'm so happy to see how this project has grown, how it started from a mere idea and has evolved to something that is definitely appropriate to the context, applicable, scalable and sustainable. Wishing you continued success.

    Posted by K. Peters on Wed, Feb 9th 2011, 21:04 Report Abuse

  • Congratulations. This sounds great.

    Posted by Rume on Tue, Feb 8th 2011, 18:52 Report Abuse

  • Congratulations Team Maa-Bara on this truly noble pursuit. From all indications the pillage & spillage has not been given the kind of reparative, that would ensure true sustainability for the land and its people. Being privy to the extent to which this onslaught has engendered poverty and its ilk, i must confess this is a true inspiration to me and many young persons who have watched this disheartening happenstance. I salute your courage and your efforts, i sincerely trust that your labour will make a distinctive difference in the niger delta region as you innovate and apply your somewhat tangible resources as it may seem. The people will be glad, the course will be furthered and your stake as individuals will gladden the hearts of those who had only wished for change but couldnt effect it in a practical way. Runo, I'm certain the ones before you would be delighted to see that you bear this cause and you carry it with actionable progress. I am proud of you & i dont doubt that they are too.

    Posted by Opia 'Nero on Tue, Feb 8th 2011, 06:57 Report Abuse

  • good job Runo .. keep bulidng the country. Also try to visit the Federal Ministry of water resources and environment in Nigeria, they probably have data on such. When I did my advanced independent study on the lower Niger river in Nigeria. I worked with the ministry of water resources and transport in Nigeria. Government agencies can sometimes be helpful.

    Posted by chiso Nwangwu on Mon, Feb 7th 2011, 16:56 Report Abuse

  • Welcome, Team Maa-Bara. This is an incredibly challenging problem that you've picked up on - I salute your courage. I'm really looking forward to reviewing your team's initial proposal. And I want to urge your caution in using this site to publicly post any details that might compromise your IP. Don't forget: last opportunity to submit an initial proposal is March 5. Good luck!

    Posted by L. Hasselblad Torres on Sat, Feb 5th 2011, 23:03 Report Abuse

  • Do you have any pictures or diagrams of the structure? I am interested in the details of how it works.

    Posted by C. Blackburn on Sat, Feb 5th 2011, 22:30 Report Abuse

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