An invitation to 5 billion non-hungry people on earth (Willem Van Cotthem)


INTRODUCTION

Many people are looking for success stories of organic family gardening or farming in rural and in urban areas.

Don’t search anymore: here is a splendid testimony of the results booked in Argentina, in a number of other South American countries and in Haiti.

Haiti? Isn’t that the country where food aid was so badly needed after the recent earthquake? Well, read this little story carefully and get aware of the undeniable potentialities of local food production for all these families, since 2005 being enabled to cover some or even most of their food needs thanks to a remarkable programme for self-production of fresh food, already launched in 1990 in Argentina under the name Pro-Huerta.

For me, a breathtaking reading of this interesting publication lies in the sequencing of a number of quotes of the original text.  They are listed below.

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The original heartwarming article, of which an excerpt was reposted by Michael Levenston on the City Farmer News (New Stories From ‘Urban Agriculture Notes’):

http://www.cityfarmer.info/2010/11/02/organic-gardens-feeding-people-from-argentina-to-haiti/

has been published by Jane Regan and Marcela Valente on the IPS-website on Oct. 22, 2010:

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53257

Organic Gardens Feeding People from Argentina to Haiti

Here is my selection of quotes:

Neither hurricanes nor floods, nor an earthquake, nor political instability managed to wipe out the organic gardening initiative, called Pro-Huerta (Pro-Garden), Programme d’Autoproduction d’Aliments Frais (“Self-Sufficient Fresh Vegetable Programme”) or “ti jaden òganik” (Creole for “small organic garden”), underway in Haiti since 2005.

The aim of the programme is to promote organic gardens in both cities and rural areas.

After the earthquake, some families had their own garden production to fall back on and cover some of their food needs.

Some families told us they were glad they didn’t have to stand in line all the time to suffer the humiliation of asking for food.

Emerged in 1990, the programme has now in Argentina 630,000 gardens and farms distributed in 3,500 urban and rural settings. The model has also been replicated in other countries of the region, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela.

There are all sorts of initiatives all over the region, which either replicate the model or take some elements from it, and there’s also an international course to provide training in other countries.

The Haitian experience has been particularly successful because a great deal has been achieved without considerable inputs or efforts.

With a 100-metre garden a family can grow enough food to cover its needs, but a space half that size is also good. And community or church plots can be used too.

These organic gardens are also sprouting in schools, prisons, community soup kitchens and senior citizen groups.

Food is mostly grown for personal consumption, but trade networks have also emerged. This is agro-ecological production: no chemicals are used, pest control is done naturally and the soil is allowed to recover through crop rotation.

In Haiti, where some 2.4 million of the country’s nine million people are considered “food insecure” and half the food consumed in the country is imported, these small gardens are making a difference.

Pro-Huerta is probably the most successful example of South-South cooperation.

Families in Haiti have been trained to produce their own seeds, good seeds. This is an important step towards assuring food security and food sovereignty.

Seeds are a flashpoint issue in Haiti. Following the earthquake, the agro-industrial giant Monsanto donated four million dollars worth of hybrid maize and vegetable seeds to the government, sparking outcries and protests, including the burning of mounds of seeds. As it turned out, the seeds were not really donated but offered to farmers for a fee.

With programs like Pro-Huerta, Haitian farmers are helped to improve their own seeds, their nutrition and their economic situation, all at the same time.

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This fantastic programme deserves to be applied at the global scale. It is the crux of the matter in the combat of hunger and malnutrition.

Families, schools, communities, allotments, hospitals, churches, youth associations, senior citizen groups, sports clubs, prisons, …

Let’s start with the poorest and most vulnerable families. Let’s start doing it for all those malnourished children.

Please, stop the discussion about the price of providing quality nutrition to children and the problems of transport and distribution of food aid. Give these poor families, and in particular the mothers, a chance to put a first step forward towards self-sufficiency.

It is a real honour for me to invite today 5 billion non-hungry people on earth to sign a petition aiming at achieving such an appealing food aid programme.

Let’s join our hands.  Let’s join our hearts.

Willem Van Cotthem

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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