Algeria : Successful gardening by Saharawis in the Sahara desert (Willem)

Today, engineer Taleb BRAHIM, Saharawi coordinator of the UNICEF-project on “Construction of family gardens and school gardens in the Saharawis refugee camps” has sent interesting legends to some of his pictures taken in January-February 2008.  These pictures show the remarkable successes booked with this project, which contributes to food security and production of fresh food, enhancing the level of vitamins and mineral elements in the refugees’ food, thus managing some aspects of malnutrition and contributing to public health, in particular that of children.

Although the Saharawis refugees are mostly nomads or fishermen, training and capacity building sessions with a small number of Saharawis engineers conducted to a swift build-up of horticultural experience within the families, living already for more than 30 years in these refugee camps.  More and more families are currently constructing their own garden, surrounded by a fence or a brick wall, in which the soil conditioner TerraCottem is applied to keep the soil moistened with a minimum of brackish irrigation water.  This soil conditioner is making desert gardening possible, even easy and successful.  It contributes to sustainable development within the refugee camps.  As it also improves the effects of drip irrigation or other irrigation methods, application of this technology offers possibilities to solve a number of problems in other refugee camps, mostly located in harsh environments all over the world.

The pictures below show undeniably some of these interesting opportunities :

Smara garden 2008-02
Click on the picture to enlarge it.
Picture No. 117 : One of our demonstration gardens. Soil treated with the water stocking soil conditioner TerraCottem to keep the sand underneath the drip irrigation lines moistened for a considerably longer period (less irrigation water, more biomass production).

Smara garden 2
 Picture No. 125 : One of our Saharawi engineers showing families some agricultural practices, like thinning the vegetable seedlings.

Smara garden 3
 Picture No. 128 : Different crops growing in one of our new family gardens.  It’s clear that our Saharawi people need more training on agricultural practices: less seeds should be used on these small beds to have the vegetable seedlings growing at the right distance between the plants.

Smara courgettes
  Picture No. 138 : Vigourous courgette plants growing in one of our first family gardens.  Improvement shown by the significant enhancement in plant growth when using TerraCottem soil conditioner.

Smara courgettes 2
Picture No.150 : Giant courgettes (zucchinis) produced on desert soil.  Our people still need more information on the suitable time for every agricultural practice, like the one for harvesting courgettes.

Picture No.153 : Tomatoes grow well outdoors in harsh conditions of the Sahara desert.  It means that agriculture or horticulture becomes possible in a soil fertilized with the TerraCottem soil conditioner, a compound with water stocking substances, fertilizers, root growth activators and volcanic rock.

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Smara garden 4
 Picture No.155 : The new garden of a family without any former experience in agriculture. The right methods and technologies, but also training and capacity building are important factors for success.  Follow-up by agronomists or horticulturists remains necessary.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

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