Recommended: Tunnels in the drylands


Photo Pinterest mosiac+002.jpg

A tunnel of willow cuttings

Growing living tunnels with drought-tolerant trees to create possibilities to grow fresh food for each family in the drylands

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

A living tunnel – Photo Pinterest baltimore+002.jpg 



On all continents people are looking for success stories or best practices to combat desertification and to alleviate malnutrition or hunger.

Don’t we agree that food aid is not a sustainable solution.  Year after year one is looking for growing support to ship food to people in need all over the world.  Clearly, this will never stop because the causes of hunger and malnutrition are not halted.

But what if we could offer to the suffering people some solutions to grow their own food, even in the desert ?  Well, some success stories prove that this is possible.

Take for instance the possibility to grow drought-tolerant trees, e.g. some willow species, in the drylands.

Not too difficult to imagine how people in the drylands could grow their own fresh food in such a tunnel. Yes, they can ! – Photo Pinterest baltimore+006.jpg

My recommendation is quite simple: grow these drought-tolerant trees in the form of a tunnel (see pictures) and thus create a location in which one can permanently grow vegetables and herbs.

You think the soil can be a problem ?  Avoid that problem by growing fresh food in containers (sacks, bags, buckets, tubes, tubs, …)

You think water supply can be a problem ?  Water saving techniques offer lots of chances to grow food with a minimum of water (see examples at

The biggest difficulty to take this important step towards a better future : MAN.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

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