Your seeds in garbage bins or in family gardens ?
In August 2007 I developed a new website in the Dutch language (<www.zadenvoorleven.wordpress.com>) to invite Dutch speaking people not to throw seeds of some plant species (vegetables and fruits) in their garbage bin anymore, but to wash them, dry them and send them to me. The main objective is to use these seeds in family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and the like in drought and desertification affected countries. Thus, we will be able to help the poor people deprived of food, vitamins and other necessary nutrients.
Currently, a lot of actions are programmed to combat hunger and poverty. In most cases, it are large-scale actions for which development programmes are spending huge amounts of money. It is rather well-known that such massive initiatives are difficultly understood by the rural people, so that they do not automatically lead to sustainable development. Large-scale programmes and project tend to slow down and even stop completely when external aid is halted. Local rural people stay behind in a sort of impossibility to manage the remains of such huge projects.
I am convinced that small-scale projects offer more chances to be successful, in particular because the local population is in a better position to manage them, e.g. their own family garden versus larger community gardens. During years of field work in drought affected countries on all continents, I noticed that the basic problem of hunger and poverty is caused by a continuous lack of support for the construction of small family gardens, school gardens or allotment gardens, both in rural and in urban areas.
Family garden in the Sahara desert (refugee camp of the Sahrawis in S.W. Algeria) with different vegetables and young fruit trees.
If only every family could have its own family garden of 30-40 square meter, and every school could construct its own school garden, where every pupil would have a few square meter to practice production of vegetables and seedlings of fruit trees, hunger and poverty would gradually be alleviated, until they disappear thanks to the continuous efforts of the poor themselves, registering every day their progress. They would no longer be permanently dependent on external aid, but slowly become self-sufficient. Investment in such small gardens, where the local people can take care of their own food production, is significantly cheaper than investing in massive, but temporary food aid programmes.
(Click on the picture to enlarge it)
This small garden is producing enough food for a family of five. The small plastic greenhouse at the right contains tomatoes.
There is a Chinese proverb saying : “Don’t give this man fish, but teach him how to fish !
“. Here is my version of it : “Don’t send continuously food to hungry people, but teach them how to garden, even in the driest conditions !
In every village of the developing countries where we have constructed family gardens and school gardens in the past, there is now less risk of famine. Indeed, we have shown the people and the children how to produce their own vegetables and fruit trees with a combination of traditional methods and modern technologies, e.g. soil conditioning to keep a garden soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water. Such things are never forgotten, even if these people move to urban areas, where they will try to set up a tiny little garden.
That is the reason why I make this appeal upon you : please help us to collect seeds of vegetables and tropical fruits that can be grown in family gardens and school gardens in desertified regions.
Left to right : A school garden in Cabo Verde (TC-Dialogue project, Island of Sal 2003) / A community garden in Senegal (project of private sponsors and TC-Dialogue, Toubacouta 2002) / A family garden in Algeria (UNICEF-project, Tindouf area 2007)
I suppose you eat from time to time a tropical fruit like melon, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, avocado, passion fruit, cherimoya (Annona), etc. We all throw the seeds of these fruits in the garbage bin. But, these are viable seeds, out of which new plants can easily grow in developing countries.
Since August 2007 I am collecting all the seeds sent by my Belgian compatriots and even by people from The Netherlands, France, Porugal, Germany etc. Last October, I took some 30 kg of seeds to the UNICEF-project in Algeria (see former messages on this blog), where they will now germinate and produce new fruits in more than 1000 small gardens constructed in the refugee camps of the Sahrawis.
It suffices to wash these seeds (to take the pulp away), to dry them on a plate (not on a paper to avoid sticking) and to send them to me : Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM – Beeweg 36 – B9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium). We are taking all the necessary phytosanitarian precautions before taking the seeds to Algeria or to other humanitarian projects, e.g. in India.
For the first time in their life, the refugees are now in a position to grow vegetables and fruit trees in their own small family garden. An interesting complement of the daily food basket, offered by the World Food Programme (WFP), is now produced by the Sahrawi refugees themselves. Fresh food is produced for daily consumption, directly from the garden to the kitchen, thus contributing to the public health, in particular of that the children, containing lots of vitamins and nutrients like iron and iodine.
Therefore, I am counting on your generosity : send me the seeds you would otherwise throw in your garbage bin. In the name of all deprived people, I am thanking you very sincerely.
Family garden in the Smara refugee camp, visited by a UNICEF ALGERIA delegation with Mr. Raymond JANSSENS, Representative, showing the gardening tools offered by the project to every family having constructed a garden.