We need a programme to promote sacks gardening at a global level

Photo credit: Avantgardens

Sacks gardening in Kibera, Kenya

INTRODUCING SACKS GARDENING TO COMBAT HUNGER AND POVERTY

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem – University of Ghent (Belgium)

 

Smallholders and rural producers have a vital role to play in overcoming global hunger and poverty, and new and varied partnerships are needed, with particular emphasis on the interests of women, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on February 17th, 2010.  He also confirmed that the growing international recognition of the role of agriculture and rural development in poverty reduction is helping to build the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition.

* Sacks - Malawi - Photo Heifer - MW201204-320-e1365708582234-682x1024.jpg
* Sacks – Vegetables on sacks in Malawi – Photo Heifer – MW201204-320-e1365708582234-682×1024.jpg

 

Despite the hardships of the global recession, one saw an upturn in investment in agriculture, along with promises from world leaders of large additional increases over the next years, he said, thereby underscoring that “we need to continue creating diverse and innovative partnerships that can help people and communities achieve greater productivity, nutritional health and self-reliance. In this respect we must give pre-eminence to the interests of women, who juggle their time between food production, processing, marketing, child care and balancing the household budget”.

In every developing country people are suffering from the high food prices.

 

* Sack - Garbagenwealth GoodHealth - 58318_103530029804304_2040917991_n.jpg
* Sacks – Gardening on big bags – Garbagenwealth GoodHealth – 58318_103530029804304_2040917991_n.jpg

 

Taking into account that most of the rural women in the drylands spend the major part of their daily life with small-scale agricultural activities, it goes without saying that, when creating diverse and innovative partnerships that can help people and communities achieve greater productivity, the best return on investment will come from the creation of small kitchen gardens close to their houses.

* Sacks - Photo Crops in pots 386314_302266149815757_262706507105055_825194_1086186138_n.jpg
* Sacks – Students setting up a sack garden in Karachi (Pakistan) -Photo Crops in pots 386314_302266149815757_262706507105055_825194_1086186138_n.jpg

 

There is no need to offer them some financial resources.  Funding to start up a family garden can be done as a “micro-credit”, not with a certain sum of money, but in the form of the necessary materials and equipment. Success stories have shown that, in rural areas, offering a family garden to women is the easiest and most efficient way to combat hunger and poverty.

However, in urban areas the situation is quite different. With their extremely low income and having barely a patch of arable land, many of the urban families are confronted with some form of hunger and malnutrition.  In Nairobi (Kenya), hundreds of residents of the slums have adopted a new form of intensive gardening: growing vegetables and herbs in sacks.

 

* Sacks - potatoes - Photo Farm Curious - 81135230757539134_dRGYJxyM_f.jpg
* Sacks – Potatoes and other vegetables on plastic and burlap sacks – Photo Farm Curious – 81135230757539134_dRGYJxyM_f.jpg

 

Previously, women in densely populated cities planted vegetables on small plots of barren land. Nowadays, the novel form of gardening in sacks or all kinds of containers can be introduced in every urban area.  Indeed, as finding even small patches of arable land in a city or a town is becoming almost impossible, sacks or other containers, taking up less space than small-scale gardens, are an interesting solution for food production.

 

* Sacks (big bags) Treehugger vacant-lot-lfa.jpg
* Sacks – An urban garden on big bags –  Treehugger vacant-lot-lfa.jpg

 

With only a small budget, NGOs can easily start up a sacks gardening project with a small number of women and later extend invitations to more women, and even schools, to join the group.  This seems to be a fantastic way for almost every urban family or school to have access to affordable vegetables, herbs and fruits.

Wherever needed, a short training in sacks gardening can be planned. Women and children can learn in the shortest time these simple gardening techniques of container gardening, in particular those of water harvesting, soil fertilization and adequate irrigation.

 

* Sack - veggies - Photo Terry Schreiner - 574890_3304491894160_1114278384_n.jpg
* Sack – Onions and herbs on a plastic sack – Photo Terry Schreiner – 574890_3304491894160_1114278384_n.jpg

 

As sacks gardening can provide a sustainable source of vegetables and fruits, one can foresee a growing success of this novel form of gardening both in rural and in urban areas. NGOs and foundations can help women and schools to fence their gardening plots and to store irrigation water (not drinking water).

With a limited number of sacks of vegetables family members or school children do not fear to be hungry.  It would be a remarkably easy way of food production in refugee camps, where every family could have a small number of sacks close to the tent.

 

* Sacks - garbage - Photo Crops in pots Treehugger 404459_315544111821294_262706507105055_858274_1606004967_n.jpg
* Sacks – Gardening on garbage big bags – Photo Crops in pots Treehugger 404459_315544111821294_262706507105055_858274_1606004967_n.jpg

 

The success of similar projects in developing countries on all continents should encourage NGOs, foundations, banks and international agencies like FAO, WFP and UNHCR to invest in this efficient way of combating hunger and poverty.

If there is really a growing international recognition of the role of agriculture and rural development in poverty reduction, helping to build the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, along with promises from world leaders of large additional increases over the next years, like Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said, then it should not be so difficult to set up a programme to promote sacks gardening at a global level.

 

Imagine all the people … (John LENNON).

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

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