Methods and techniques to help stop hunger and malnutrition (Happy House and Garden / Desertification.wordpress)

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It all started with a quote of the actor Robin WILLIAMS, recently shared on my Facebook page: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up alone, it’s not.  The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.

A comment of John Richard PENDERGAST (London, UK) ignited an interesting discussion about the significance and lack of recognition for methods and techniques to help stop hunger and malnutrition :

29-7-2013. Hi Willem, Can you please tell me (why) people have not taken my ideas forward to help stop people dying from HUNGER, even though I’m offering my 3Rs Plastic Container Gardening ideas to the world for FREE, so that one day it might become part of Governments WORLD AID programme right now and in the future. (

What is the PROBLEM with people not using my ideas? 

Is it because I’ve got a young black naked child on the intro-page of my website (, scraping the earth for something to eat, with the words Making Globalisation Work for the POOR on it ? 

Or is it because I’m offering a different way to grow something to gardeners who already know how to grow their own food?

Or is it just because it’s too much of a high price to help save lives, even though it’s for next to nothing, because it’s all made from waste.

I know lives are being lost when they could have been saved.  What more can one man do without help from like-minded people, trying to save millions of lives if we can in our own ways ?

Here is my short reply to him :  Yes, John, That’s what happens to great ideas. Anyway, keep up the good spirit, be patient, for Rome and London haven’t be built in one day (or even two).


Posted in Desertification, hunger / famine, Technologies

The power of hydrogels to turn dirt into lush gardens (go-Digital Blog on Digital Marketing)

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The Diaper Farmer | Popular Science


Willem van Cotthem’s super-soil harnesses the power of Pampers to turn dirt into lush gardens

Willem van Cotthem’s Diaper-Powered Soil  by Kevin Hand

Willem van Cotthem’s Diaper-Powered Soil
by Kevin Hand

When asked to imagine the Earth in 2040, many scientists describe a grim scenario, a landscape so bare and dry, it’s almost uninhabitable. But that’s not what Willem van Cotthem sees. “It will be a green world,” says van Cotthem, a Belgian scientist turned social entrepreneur. “Tropical fruit can grow wherever it’s warm.” You still need water, but not much. A brief splash of rain every once in a while is enough. And voilà—from sandy soil, lush gardens grow.

The secret is hydrogels, powerfully absorbent polymers that can suck up hundreds of times their weight in water.

Hydrogels have many applications today, from food processing to mopping up oil spills, but they are most familiar as the magic ingredient in disposable diapers. The difference with agricultural hydrogels is that they don’t just trap moisture; they let it go again, very slowly, almost like time-release medication, into the root system of plants. That continuity of moisture is what brittle landscapes like deserts need to become fertile again. Water activates a mineralization process, setting free nutrients in the soil so that life can grow.

But water alone won’t make gardens flourish in sand. So van Cotthem, an honorary professor of botany at Ghent University in Belgium who has helmed several international scientific panels studying desertification, invented a “soil conditioner” called Terracottem. It’s an 8- to 12-inch layer of dirt impregnated with hydrogels, along ! with org anic agents that nourish the natural bacteria in the soil.

Van Cotthem’s early experiments with his soil are now literally bearing fruit on every continent except Antarctica. Where Terracottem sits, barren plots of land are now fertile, and have already changed lives. In 2005, UNICEF invited van Cotthem to oversee the construction of “family gardens” in the Sahawari refugee camps in Algeria. Since 1975, thousands of Africans in the camps have lived in tents and shacks, dependent on the World Food Program to provide them with dry and canned goods—a diet that left them vulnerable to disease. Today more than 2,000 pocket gardens there provide healthy food.


Posted in Desertification, soil conditioning, TerraCottem

Seed-planting robot to fight off desertification (Google / Inagist)

Read at : Google Alerts – desertification

Do you think this seed-planting robot can fight off desertification?

Seed-Planting Tumbleweed Robot Draws From Nature to Fight Desertification |

Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

Israeli industrial designer Shlomi Mir has created a prototype, tumbleweed-inspired robot that uses wind power to study desertification.

Posted in Desertification, seeds, Technologies

Desertification in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (Google / Peoples Daily)

Read at : Google Alerts – desertification

Can Africa halt desertification in the face of hunger?

By Ese Awhotu

The European Union (EU) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) have launched a €41 million, 4.5-year programme to bolster sustainable land management and restore dry lands and degraded lands in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The programme, named Action Against Desertification, is crucial in fighting hunger and poverty, fostering stability and building resilience to climate change in some of the world’s most vulnerable areas, the programme sponsors say.

Action Against Desertification is designed to support local communities, government and civil society in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Niger and Senegal in the sustainable management and restoration of their dry land forests and rangelands.

It will support agro-forestry and promote income-generation activities, as well as the creation of employment opportunities in rural areas, especially for youth and women, based on the sustainable production, processing and marketing of agricultural products and forest goods and services.

According to the FAO, farmer field schools and knowledge exchanges will allow farmers to learn about the causes of desertification and the best ways to combat and prevent it.

Although located on the other side of the globe, both the Caribbean and the Pacific face similar challenges as Africa. Unsustainable land management practices have caused soil loss, degraded natural habitats, contributed to the loss of biodiversity and reduced natural buffers to droughts and floods.


Posted in Desertification, hunger / famine

Desertification In Central Asia (Google / Docs)

Read at : Google Alerts – desertification

The Socio-Economic Causes And Consequences Of Desertification In Central Asia

(NATO Science For Peace And Security Series C: Environmental Security)

Roy Behnke – ebook, pdf, download

Posted in Desertification, Social dimensions

Small-scale gardening, malnutrition and food security (Willem Van Cotthem)

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Malnutrition and small-scale gardening

By Willem VAN COTTHEM (University of Ghent, Belgium)


Malnutrition in developing countries is generally alleviated by food aid provided by international organisations like the World Food Programme (WFP). This kind of intervention at regular intervals leaves the recipient people mostly dependent on external aid. However, small-scale gardening is an excellent tool to provide food security and to improve nutrition and health conditions, in particular for children.


Posted in food / food security, malnutrition, small-scale farming

Mini-greenhouses, first step to combat desertification (Willem Van Cotthem)

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Mini-greenhouses, first step to combat desertification

By Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent – Belgium)

This is the first part of a description of ‘mini-greenhouses’, made of simple and cheap materials like yogurt pots, soda or juice bottles, mushroom trays, plastic bags etc. This kind of inexpensive equipment to produce seedlings of vegetables and trees, e.g. fruit trees, isavailable all over the world and almost free for all the poor, both in rural and urban areas.Seedlings can be grown in mini-greenhouses with a remarkable minimum of irrigation water(saving both water and fertilizer!); they can easily be transplanted in family (kitchen) gardensor school gardens and their survival rate is dramatically higher than that of seedlings orsaplings grown with classical gardening practices.The many advantages of this method make it an efficient first step to combat desertification and to get around the problems of drought and soil poverty:

  • To produce a maximum of seedlings with a minimum of water and fertiliser, 
  • To grow seedlings in disposable pots, bottles or bags,
  • To grow seedlings close to the house instead of in the field,
  • To avoid the manifold problems of the garden soil,
  • To make use of significant educational aspects
  • I intend to publish a number of variants on mini-greenhouse construction:

Part 1: Yogurt or other plastic pots.

Part 2: Plastic bottles

Part 3: Plastic trays

Part 4: Plastic bags

On all continents these materials are generally littered, dramatically enhancing pollution. Streets and squares, road sides, fields, thorny trees, even the deserts are literally besmeared with all kinds of plastic objects in the most diverse colours. That dirty plastic is not only degrading the environment, it is also the source of many diseases, e.g. by condensing sewage water underneath the plastic in the gutter. Therefore, it is recommendable to teach youth how to ‘recycle’ plastic bottles, pots, cups, trays, bags and the like by ‘recycling’ them for seedling production in mini-greenhouses (see below).


Posted in Desertification, mini-greenhouse