Closing the 21st century hunger gap


by Prof. Dr. Willem Van  Cotthem

Ghent University – Belgium

Originally published at:

I have been reading with great interest Malin FALKENMARK’s article, of which the coordinates and abstract are given below:

Water Resour Manage (2007) 21:3–18 – DOI 10.1007/s11269-006-9037-z


Shift in thinking to address the 21st century hunger gap

Moving focus from blue to green water management

Malin Falkenmark

Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Facts are facts but perceptions guide approaches



The present water policy debate is dominated by the 30 yr old mission to secure water supply and sanitation to all people. The water needed to produce a nutritionally acceptable diet for one person is however 70 times as large as the amount needed for domestic water supply. The food security dilemma is largest in arid climate regions, a situation constituting a formidable challenge. It is suggested that an additional 5 600 km3 /yr of consumptive water use will be needed to produce an adequate amount of food by 2050 – i.e almost a doubling of today’s consumptive use of 6800 km3 /yr. Past misinterpretations and conceptual deficiencies show the importance of a shift in thinking. Combining the scale of the challenge and the time scale of the efforts to feed humanity and eradicate hunger leads to an impression of great urgency. This urgency strengthens the call for international research both for supporting agricultural upgrading, and for much better handling of issues of environmental sustainability. What stands out is the need of a new generation of water professionals, able to handle complexity and able to incorporate water implications of land use and of ecosystem health in integrated water resources management. It will for those reasons be essential and urgent to upgrade the educational system to producing this new generation.



I agree fully with the author that the food security dilemma constitutes a dramatic challenge, in particular in the drylands. Eradicating famine and hunger is indeed very urgent and focused research is needed to address the universal problem of shortness of fresh water for agricultural upgrading.

A “new generation” of “water professionals” should be “able to handle complexity and able to incorporate water implications of land use and of ecosystem health in integrated water resources management“.


The dry soil conditioner TerraCottem, a granular compound to be mixed with the topsoil, able to absorb a considerable quantity of water and the mineral elements dissolved in it.


However, I really do believe that in an integrated water resources management, those water professionals should take into account the existence of technologies or methods to reduce, in a considerable and sustainable way, water consumption for agricultural and horticultural purposes. Indeed, we have already many opportunities to apply at larger scale the TerraCottem-method, we developed at the University of Ghent (Belgium). With this technology we can save some 50 % of the normal volume of irrigation water and still double food production with less fertilizer.


Visit of a Boumerdès delegation to the TerraCottem-treated kitchen garden in the SOS Children’s Village International of Draria (Algiers, Algeria)

(Photo WVC 2006-12-BOUMERDES-10.jpg)

The method has already shown its merits for sustainable rural development in many drylands. Small scale demonstration projects show undeniably that this TerraCottem-method should be applied universally. Saving 50 % of water in agriculture and doubling food production would certainly solve a lot of problems in arid climate regions, don’t you think ?

As seeing is believing, do not hesitate to visit TerraCottem’s website to learn more about this interesting technology (



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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