Family gardens in the Sahara desert of Algeria

Within the framework of UNICEF’s nutrition program in Algeria, a project was launched to construct family gardens in the refugee camps of the people of the Western Sahara (Sahraouis). The main objective of this project is to provide fresh food (vegetables and fruits) to the refugees as a supplement to the monthly food basket offered by UNO.

In each of these camps at least one agronomist takes care of the follow-up of this project. Already in 2003, ir. Taleb BRAHIM started growing vegetables in his private garden in the camp of Smara.

Today, he sents me a short report and some pictures. As I visited him in Smara in May and December 2006, I am adding my pictures of his garden to this message. The general conclusion is that vegetables can be grown quite easily in this part of the Sahara (S.W. Algeria), in particular when using the soil conditioner TerraCottem, saving a lot of water and fertilizer.

Here is Taleb’s message, followed by the pictures :

My name is Taleb BRAHIM, an engineer of agriculture. I am from the Western Sahara and I live in the Sahraoui refugee camps in the southwestern desert of Algeria. It is difficult to grow plants in a place like that where I live, but we need fresh food for our children and families. So, for many years I had the dream of having a small garden close to my house. I started growing vegetables in 2003, but it costed me too much water and the production was very small. Then I met Professor Van Cotthem who told me a lot about his invention “Terracottem” and his experiments in dry lands all over the world. I was excited by the good results they achieved and started my own experiment. Till now I observe that the use of Terracottem reduces the amount of water that I use for irrigating my plants to lesser than half and that my plants are more vigourous than before. Here are some photos from my garden“.

taleb’s garden
2006-05 : In Taleb’s garden a number of TC-tests on different vegetables showed the positive effect of the TerraCottem soil conditioner.

Neighbour’s garden
2006-05 : The start of a family garden in Smara camp. Vegetables growing with TC.

Neighbour’s garden 02
2006-05 : Under very harsh conditions, some vegetables are still growing well, thanks to the TC around the roots.

Taleb’s garden
2006-12 : The effect of TC on a number of vegetables is tested under a protective sunlight screen.

Taleb’s garden
2006-12 : All the young vegetables are growing splendidly with the soil conditioner TerraCottem. Irrigation scheme was reduced from once every 3 days to once every week.

2006-12 : Young carrots growing on lines with 50 g of TC per linear meter (click twice on the picture to see it in full size).

2006-12 : Flowering courgette plants (Cucurbita pepo) in the desert.

2006-12 : Young courgette fruits are developed.

2006-12 : Garlic plants (Allium sativum) growing splendidly in the Sahara sand, thanks to TC soil conditioner.
2006-12 : Young plants of red beetroot (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) developing well with only 50 % of the normal irrigation water volume.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

6 thoughts on “Family gardens in the Sahara desert of Algeria”

  1. Prof Van Cotthem,
    I read somewhere else that you wanted seeds of tropical fruits. Unfortunately, I can’t find that site again. I live in a tropical country and probably I can send you some seeds.
    May I have the address to send?

  2. good job the sahara can be a wonderfull food source for the planet it is sunny for 360 days a year, it only needs water

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