Combat hunger in the drylands by growing food in containers (Insana DEE / Lisa DIBBLE / Willem VAN COTTHEM)

My name is Willem VAN COTTHEM.  I am a honorary professor of botany of the University of Ghent (Belgium) and member of the Committee for Science and Technology (CST) of the UNCCD.  I am particularly interested in the desertification problem and in sustainable solutions for the problems of hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Let me invite you to have a close look at Insana DEE’s photo (New Harmony, Utah, USA) :

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=400213486686468&set=a.400212350019915.83471.100000934606241&type=1&theaterInsana 

Spuds growing in bins in dry Utah (Photo Insana DEE)

Insana DEE gave us a remarkable plea for container gardening in the drylands :

I have really rocky soil (as you can see). So it’s hard to grow ground crops here. I don’t have irrigation water. Everything has to be watered with a hose and dribblers. So the container gardens worked best for me. They’re much easier to weed and maintain as well and it helps keep weeds, critters and some bugs from taking over.

Lisa DIBBLE from Arlington, Texas, commented :

I am so getting into container gardening (and even indoor gardening, lol!) — I have squash, tomatoes (big and cherry), carrots, several types of green beans, cucumbers and other things I can not think of right now, all growing in containers and pretty pots indoors. I don’t have to deal with weeds OR bending over to PICK said weeds. I don’t have to depend on the weather to water (or not water or hail on or freeze, eep)… and… I ate from my cherry tomato plant all winter one year while the snow was thick and deep on the ground, yes!!

These ladies are only two of the millions of adepts of container gardening, strongly believing in the potentials of this gardening method to be a good solution for the world problems of hunger and malnutrition.

What can be achieved by these two housewives, can also be done by every single family living in areas where hunger and malnutrition are the main social problems.

Here is an example of the simplicity to grow heaps of potatoes, given by Insana DEE :

The bins have big holes in the bottom for drainage and I add a little soil and straw every few weeks so they keep making more spuds. Then, when the plants die back and they are ready to harvest, I just tip the whole thing onto a tarp and pick the potatoes out and use the soil for next year.

If you are hungry all year long and you depend permanently on food aid, wouldn’t you try to grow potatoes like Insana does ?  Maybe you don’t know a thing about this method ?  You are not to blame !  There are sufficient food aid people who should know about the huge potentials of container gardening for food production in dry areas with poor soils and who are in the best position to teach you.

There is hope for the hungry and malnourished of this world : the day will come  … that small-scale farmers will grow more to make sure everyone has enough to eat (see OXFAM : http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/find-an-action/small-scale-farming-oxfam).

And I am sure that small-scale farmers will have learned that container gardening is one of their best tools to enhance food production in a sustainable way, with less water, less fertilizer, less labour.

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Willem Van Cotthem

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