Today a dream, tomorrow … ? Our hope for a better world.

Family garden in a refugee camp in S. W. Algeria – Photo credit : Ph. Hittepole –  P1030125_2_3 copy.jpg (2011-01) 

About hunger, malnutrition and real solutions for that catastrophe

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

University of Ghent, Belgium


Do we still have to be convinced that there is an urgent need for assisting the millions of people suffering from drought, malnutrition, hunger and famine?  Who could deny that there is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance for them?


Year after year, international aid organizations claim that a financial gap to respond to this emergency has still to be closed. I am convinced that their voices will always be heard and that humanitarian aid will continuously be provided.  However, year after year many children and adults are not surviving this catastrophe.  Those who are lucky, will try to stay alive for a number of years, remaining dependent on international emergency aid.


And then, again and again, the same old story will be told again!  Because emergency aid, noble as it is, will never change a thing at the causes of those catastrophes.  So, it makes me sad that all those noble humanitarian aid actions will have to be repeated, some day, somewhere, etc, etc., etc.


Tired, after a busy day taking care of my dear wife, who had a brain stroke and remained paralyzed already for 7 years now, I wanted to go to bed for a good night’s rest, when slowly I closed my eyes in front of this computer and started dreaming.


I heard Mr. Ban Ki-moon pronouncing a beautiful speech about the urgent need to use all necessary funds for a worldwide application of the well-known successful methods and techniques to produce food crops with a minimum of water, locally, in all the drylands of this world.  


Very well informed, the Secretary-General described a number of these “success stories”, thereby confirming the important role of smallholder farmers and women.  He spoke about successes in dryland management, soil conditioning, water harvesting, permaculture, agroforestry, container gardening, free distribution of seeds of drought-tolerant plants, nurseries of drought-tolerant fruit trees, school gardens, allotments in the cities, vertical gardening and many “best practices” more.


At the end of his speech, Mr. Ban Ki-moon made clear to the audience of world leaders and directors of the agencies and organizations, that the most urgent objective to achieve will remain to use our knowledge and skills to ban the hunger from this world in the shortest time, not by bringing food to the hungry, but by teaching them how to grow fresh food themselves, rural and urban people all the like.


What I then heard was filling my heart with great joy: a deafening applause.


Suddenly, still sitting in front of my computer, that heartwarming noise was waking me up, and although even more tired, I decided to tell you about my dream.


For today, that’s all, folks! But I will keep on dreaming, because once the day will come that one will understand …


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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