Great Big Plants – first commercial comment

Today, I received the first comment on my blog coming from a business company in the USA:

Address: 4405 South Litchfield Road
Avondale, AZ 85323 – USA
Telephone: 001-877-4BIOSCI

Here is what Hans STROCK wrote:

We came across your site while conducting research on agriculture, gardening, and farming. There is a lot of great information on your site, and we are impressed. Many blog sites have been analyzed and when we came across yours we hoped that you would help us spread the word about Great Big Plants. To show our gratitude, we will also provide a link back to your site once something is written. Please take a look at the flyer to get a glimpse of what Great Big Plants has to offer. This organic, liquid compost has the equivalent of 8 large compost bags in one 32 oz. bottle. We believe your readers would find good benefit in knowing about Great Big Plants. If you feel the same, we encourage you to post about it. If you are interested, please check out the official site for the product at or visit the blog site at
Thank you, and we hope to hear from you soon.


Well, of course I had a quick look at the flyer, the website and the blog (see addresses in the message above), and found very nicely presented advertisement on the organic liquid compost.

Interested people should not hesitate and surf to the addresses to find more info. I joined the e-mail network immediately (see link).

Thanks, Hans, for contacting and informing me. I wish you a lot of success with Great Big Plants.


Going for Growth – Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa

I have read with interest the following text published in Development Gateway’s dgCommunities :

Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa


This collection of essays by key experts in the field of international development looks at the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa. This year has seen an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest. The report of the Commission for Africa, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Our Common Interest, set out the themes that dominated the G8’s discussions at Gleneagles over the summer, while a mass movement, in the form of the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, affirmed that the political agenda was matched by a widespread public demand for action. Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies.
Calestous Juma, ed. The Smith Institute, London, November 2005.
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
ISBN: 1 902488 97 0
Document Length: 129 pp.

For more information about this publication please contact:

Contributor: John Daly – Published Date: February 7, 2007

Going for Growth in Action: Smith Institute Report’s Ideas Applied to Africa’s Mining Industry

Science, Technology, and Globalization Project Director Calestous Juma has sparked a serious debate about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry in Dr. Chris Hinde’s “Comment” column which appears in Mining Magazine. Juma is the editor of Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa (.pdf), a collection of essays published by the Smith Institute, a British think tank. “Going for Growth” emphasizes building Africa’s capacity to solve its own problems.

Juma starts his essay with “Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.” He has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa. See “African Lessons” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (February 2006) for the complete interview.

A later issue of Mining Magazine continued the discussion, focusing on the need for the proposed schools to teach how both the international risk-capital markets operate and mining ventures are financed. African mining operators and investors must be trained on how and where to obtain capital. See “Money Matters” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (June 2006).

On June 22, 2006, Professor Calestous Juma resumed the discussion by addressing the Human Rights & Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C. The Roundtable is comprised of representatives of the extractive industry (oil & mining companies), human rights organizations, and development agencies. They meet regularly in invitation-only, confidential sessions to discuss issues of common cause and concern — specifically the promotion of the rule of law and open societies. Over the last few years the group has focused increasingly on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement.

This session, entitled “Bain or Blessing: Can the Extractive Industry Help Reinvent African Economies?”, focused on how resources can be utilized to “extract growth” for Africa, as well as other developing countries. Professor Juma discussed how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability. The Roundtable explored the direct links between community/development activities, including corporate partnerships with international donor agencies and the larger strategy of economic development. As companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment.



What an interesting text about “the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa”!. This is what we were since long looking for: “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, and all other developing regions of course, in particular when entering a period of “an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest” (Make Poverty History campaign).

It sounds like a dream-come-true when we read:

Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies”.

Let us go a bit deeper into the “serious debate” about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry, sparked by Director Calestous Juma (see above) when he starts his essay with …

Continue reading “Going for Growth – Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa”

Nourriture et reboisement – Food and reforestation


In his comment on my former post about school gardens Dr. Mohamed Saadi says that reforestation is more important than constructing some scattered school gardens. As almost all countries have suffered from deforestation during the last decades, I agree fully that reforestation is very important. However, I am convinced that in desertied areas reforestation and food production are equally important in the combat of desertification. They can easily be combined in a school garden project, aiming at food production for the school kitchen, combined with the creation of a school nursery for production of young trees to be planted by the children. Every National Ministry of Education, cooperating with international agencies like UNICEF, WFP or FAO, could easily set up an interesting program to involve all schools in the creation of a school garden and a tree nursery. A National Tree Planting Day could certainly help. It seems to me that this is the best way to motivate all youngsters of a country to contribute to the improvement of their living conditions and the ecological situation of the nation.


La désertification rampante et la pollution est la conséquence de la méconnaissance du milieu dans lequel nous vivons. L’irresponsabilité des structures chargées de l’urbanisation principalement ont grandement contribué à la désertification de la bande Nord de l’Algérie, bande de 80 km environ du littoral vers la chaîne de l’Atlas Tellien. Une des solutions est un reboisement ” à outrance “, planifié et efficace qui tend à réconcilier l’homme et son environnement. L’école et l’enfant constituent un passage obligé pour reconstituer ce que nous avons détruit et replanter ce que nous avons défriché.

Je pense que plus important que quelques jardins parsemés par-ci par-là est que nous lançons un projet (par exemple à Boumerdès où, dès qu’un enfant naisse, ses parents plantent un arbre. Ainsi je propose un projet sous l’égide de l’Unicef en coordination avec une association dédiée à ce but, les services des communes, les écoles et la direction des forêts, pour reboiser des zones d’abord urbaines, puis à la lisière des cités.

Je serais prêt à participer à un tel projet.




Comme presque tous les pays ont durement souffert d’un déboisement à outrance pendant les dernières décennies, je suis du même avis que le Dr. Saadi : le reboisement de grandes surfaces est très important pour tous les pays en voie de désertification, même dans les zones humides.

Néanmoins, je suis convaincu que dans les pays désertifiés des zones arides et semi-arides, même sub-humides, le reboisement et la production de nourriture sont d’une importance quasi égale. Pourrions-nous penser que des jeunes avec un estomac presque vide seraient intéressés par un programme de reboisement ? À chaque fois que j’ai proposé un projet de reboisement dans les pays Sahéliens, j’ai eu les mêmes réponses : “Comment produire les efforts pour créer des trous d’implantation d’arbres avec un estomac qui gronde de faim ?” et “Donnez-nous à manger d’abord et nous planterons des arbres par après !”.

Nous avons alors réagi à ces observations pertinentes de la population rurale par le lancement de projets de jardins communautaires, qui réunissaient toutes les femmes d’un village pour la culture maraîchère dans un jardin entouré d’une ceinture d’arbres. Ainsi, la production alimentaire était combinée avec le reboisement. Bien sûr, tout ceci n’était qu’à une toute petite échelle. Mais les résultats excellents auraient dû suffire pour convaincre les autorités à multiplier ces efforts splendides à l’échelle nationale. C’est là que notre lobbying n’a pas connu de succès, car la politique est une chose totalement différente du travail de terrain. Et je ne suis qu’un chercheur qui apporte une solution pour les problèmes de sécheresse et de désertification. C’est aux décideurs de s’en servir à l’échelle nationale ou même internationale. Hélas !

Continue reading “Nourriture et reboisement – Food and reforestation”

Des pluies salvatrices en Algérie

J’ai lu avec grand intérêt un article de A. Bellaha dans le journal EL MOUDJAHID du 28 janvier 2007. Il décrit bien l’inquiétude qui régnait en Algérie concernant la pluviométrie. Voici quelques extraits de cet excellent article:

De la pluie et de la neige, le changement brusque intervenu ces derniers jours, après une longue période de sécheresse, a ravivé le sentiment d’espoir à un monde agricole et de l’assurance aux gestionnaires du secteur de l’hydraulique en prise sur l’impact de cette pluviométrie dans l’alimentation des nappes“.
Pour leur part, les représentants du secteur de l’agriculture considèrent que ces pluies sont de nature à sauver du moins une campagne labours-semailles pour ne point hypothéquer totalement les prévisions de récolte. C’est assurément un nouveau souffle qui est donné au gré de cette clémence du ciel après une longue phase d’angoisse et d’inquiétude ayant amené à la rationalisation de la distribution de ce précieux liquide avec l’ensemble des effets sur les ménages et autres secteurs d’activité. Effectivement, des plans d’urgence ont été mis en exécution pour la préservation de l’eau et la protection des sources et ressources ayant atteint parfois des sommets alarmants de tarissement“.
S’il est aisé d’établir le constat de la sécheresse qui persiste depuis des décennies, il demeure en revanche, judicieux de s’interroger sur l’action destructrice d’un environnement écologique de l’homme ou de l’Algérien, particulièrement hostile parfois à la verdure, à l’arbre et à la nature“.
Toute une réflexion est à engager par les chercheurs et universitaires, à l’effet de remettre les pendules à l’heure et de renouer avec les caractéristiques saisonnières d’antan. Une réflexion qui ne peut s’inscrire que dans cette préoccupation d’une communauté internationale autour du réchauffement de la planète. Pour l’heure, prions pour que ces pluies salvatrices s’abattent encore“.


Bravo, M. Bellaha, pour vos réflexions sur l’effet de ces quelques pluies! Malheureusement nous savons bien qu’elles ne changeront pas d’une façon durable les effets négatifs de la sécheresse soutenue. Il nous faut beaucoup plus d’initiatives performantes dans la lutte contre la désertification pour renouer avec les situations d’antan.

Continue reading “Des pluies salvatrices en Algérie”

“La forêt Algérienne”

Lors de ma dernière mission en Algérie (janvier 2007) dans le cadre du projet UNICEF pour la construction de jardins de famille dans les camps des réfugiés Sahraouis, j’ai visité évidemment mes amis des Services de la Conservation des Forêts à Tindouf.

A cette occasion, M. Abdelmoumène MOUZAOUI m’a remis une quantité de graines d’arganier (Argania spinosa) en vue d’une étude de méthodes pour faciliter la germination. Ces expériences sont actuellement en cours.

Il m’a remis aussi quelques exemplaires d’une revue très intéressante. Il s’agit de “La forêt Algérienne“, Revue d’information et de vulgarisation, éditée par l’Institut National de la Recherche Forestière (Baïnem-Alger). Comme il ne s’agit pas de numéros récents de cette revue, je ne peux pas vous assurer qu’elle est encore éditée à ce jour. Mais les articles que j’ai lu dans des numéros de l’an 2000 et de l’an 2003 sont tellement intéressants, que j’espère que cette revue existe toujours. A recommander fortement à tous ceux qui s’intéressent à la recherche forestière.

Cinq jardins scolaires à Boumerdès (Algérie) – School gardens in Algeria


Unicef Algeria and SOS Children’s Village of Draria (Algiers) signed an agreement to construct school gardens in the region of Boumerdès (N. Algeria). These gardens will deliver food for the school restaurant and improve the attention of the children for their environment.


Dans le Quotidien d’Oran du 17 janvier 2007, la journaliste Nouria B décrit l’accord signé entre UNICEF ALGERIE et SOS Village d’Enfants de Draria (Alger). Voici le contenu de son article “Création de cinq jardins dans des écoles“:

Cinq jardins seront créés dans cinq établissements scolaires de la wilaya de Boumerdès en vertu d’un accord de partenariat signé, hier, entre le Bureau d’Algérie du Fonds des Nations Unies pour l’Enfance (Unicef) et SOS village de Draria. Ce projet-pilote, selon Raymond JANSSENS, représentant de l’Unicef, vise à améliorer et diversifier les menus servis dans des cantines scolaires et à lutter contre les carences nutritionnelles. Entrant dans le cadre de la création des clubs de l’environnement dans les écoles, cette expérience servira également à inculquer l’amour de l’environnement et de la terre chez les enfants. Ce projet initié en accord avec le Ministère de l’Education nationale répond un peu à la démarche consistant à introduire des activités diversifiés dont l’enseignement et la sensibilisation des élèves par rapport à l’importance de l’environnement.

On vise à produire des aliments de bonne qualité et l’on invite les directeurs des autres écoles à contribuer à la propagation de cette expérience“, dira Raymond Janssens.

Continue reading “Cinq jardins scolaires à Boumerdès (Algérie) – School gardens in Algeria”

Gardens in the desert – Jardins dans le désert


Within its Nutrition Programme, UNICEF ALGERIA launched in 2006 a splendid project, called “Family gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis“. These camps are located in the region of Tindouf (S.W. Algeria).

I will try to show the success stories of this project by inviting you to have a look at a series of pictures with legends about the small gardens created in different camps. Please do not forget that these gardens are constructed in the Sahara desert, with all its possible constraints (climate, availibilty of water, soil, salinity etc.).

Have a look at the following URL and double click on the pictures to see the enlarged version and the legend:

Interesting isn’t it ?

Dans le cadre de son Programme Nutrition, UNICEF ALGERIE vient de lancer en 2006 son projet “Jardins Familiaux dans les camps des réfugiés Sahraouis“. Ces camps se trouvent dans la région de Tindouf (S.W. Algérie).

Je veux essayer de vous montrer les cas de succès de ce projet en vous invitant à voir une série de photos et de légendes concernant ces petits jardins créés dans différents camps. Veuillez ne pas oublier que ces jardins ont été construits dans le désert Sahara, avec toutes ses contraintes possibles (climat, disponibilité de l’eau, sol, salinité etc.).

Visitez l’URL suivant et cliquez deux fois sur une photo pour la voir en agrandissement et avec la légende:

Intéressant, non ?

Désertification, information, coopération.


Receiving more and more comments on former posts, I confirm hereby my intention to strive for closer cooperation between all people active in the field of combating desertification. Let us join hands and start exchanging information on success stories and best practices, even if we don’t speak the same language.

Here is an example concerning the construction of family gardens in S.W. Algeria (the refugee camps of the Sahraouis). My comment is in French, but I can provide an English translation to all interested people.


yahiaoui fouzia | | IP:


J’ai trouvé ce site en cherchant des informations sur l’arganier et je félicite tous les acteurs qui ont travaillé pour le projet des jardins dans la région de Tindouf. C’est une très belle initiative pour la lutte contre la désertification et l’intégration des femmes dans les programmes de développement durable. Ce projet est un exemple à suivre pour l’immensité des régions arides et semi-arides.

Aussi, est ce possible d’avoir un peu plus d’informations sur la méthode utilisée ou des orientations pour la réalisation de ces jardins.

Autre chose: est ce qu’il est possible d’avoir des informations par l’intermédiaire de l’ingénieur forestier de Tindouf sur la répartition et la quantité des spécimens d’arganier qui se trouvent à Tindouf.


Yahiaoui Fouzia
Ingénieur écodéveloppement des zones arides et semi-arides.
Conservation de la nature.


Cher Yahiaoui Fouzia,

Merci pour votre appréciation pour le projet UNICEF ALGERIE, avec lequel nous essayons de compléter le panier alimentaire des réfugiés Sahraouis vivant déjà 30 ans dans des camps près de Tindouf (S.W. de l’Algérie). Vous savez sans doute que ce panier des Nations Unies vient d’être réduit considérablement. Ainsi, les réserves nutritionnelles des Sahraouis ont été épuisées et la malnutrition se fait de plus en plus sentir, en particulier chez les enfants.

C’est la raison pourquoi nous voulons, aussitôt que possible, offrir à toutes les familles des camps un petit jardin familial de 20 à 30 mètres carrés seulement. Nous avons calculé qu’un tel petit jardin est suffisant pour compléter le panier alimentaire des Nations Unies, en particulier pour l’approvisionnement en vitamines et éléments minéraux.

Continue reading “Désertification, information, coopération.”

Une réaction intéressante

Hier, j’ai reçu une réaction intéressante sur les commentaires que j’ai publiés sur mon message du 6 février 2007 :

Interesting comments – Commentaires intéressants February 6, 2007

Voici cette réaction :

frilou | | | IP:

Le sahara c’est avant tout le dromadaire

Feb 10, 6:27 PM

Je partage en partie l’avis de “frilou” que le dromadaire occupe une place importante dans la vie des nomades du Sahara. Mais il n’y a pas que le dromadaire !

Si UNICEF ALGERIE a lancé en 2006 le projet “Jardin familiaux dans les camps des réfugiés Sahraouis en Algérie” dans le cadre de son Programme Nutrition, c’est surtout par ce que beaucoup de leurs enfants, mais aussi des jeunes femmes, soufrent d’un manque manifeste de vitamines et d’éléments minéraux. Le projet magnifique vise la création d’un petit jardin potager pour chaque famille. La phase pilote de ce projet est couronnée de succès. Certaines familles consomment déjà des légumes frais tous les jours.

UNICEF se charge maintenant de la multiplication des jardins à une plus grande échelle. Pour atteindre l’objectif final (un jardin pour chaque famille), l’agence UNICEF compte sur un nombre de partenaires. Les intéressés peuvent prendre contact avec UNICEF ALGERIE – Villa Amina No.4 – rue des Mimosas – Extension Paradou – Said Hamdine – Hydra – Alger.

Tout en sachant que dans les jardins familiaux il y aura aussi production d’une certaine quantité de matières organiques pour le cheptel, nous y voyons une raison pour dire :

Le Sahara c’est avant tout l’être humain dans son cadre de vie (ou de survie), dans lequel le dromadaire a sa place.

Interesting comments – Commentaires intéressants

De retour de ma mission en Algérie, je trouve quelques commentaires concernant mon message “Jardins familiaux dans le désert Sahara en Algérie“. Je m’empresse de vous les transmettre.

Back home from my mission to Algeria, I found some comments onmy message “Jardins familiaux dans le désert Sahara en Algérie“. I can’t resist forwarding them to you all.

1. Mouzaoui Abdelmoumene (Services des Forêts à Tindouf) – January 29, 2007

Merci Monsieur le Professeur Willem VAN COTTHEM,
Merci Taleb BRAHIM et les autres ingénieurs Sahraouis, et
Merci Unicef Alérie pour le travail dont j’ai moi même constaté les fruits lors de mes sorties aux camps des réfugiés Sahraouis.

Sans oublier les contributions des Services des Forêts de Tindouf, dont je fais partie, je félicite surtout les femmes Sahraouies pour l’adhésion aux projets initiés par Unicef Algérie. C’est l’effet direct du conditionneur de sol TerraCottem, porteur d’espoir.

2. Said – January 29, 2007

Assalamo Aalaikom,

Je suis un jeune ingénieur agronome, mais vivant à l’autre côté de la frontière (territoires occupés). J’avoue que votre expérience est assez remarquable et j’encourage l’ingénieur Taleb à y mettre son savoir-faire pour que chaque maison et chaque tente dans les camps de Tindouf aient leur jardin potager. Je pense à des techniques d’économie d’eau comme : le palissage… Bon courage !

3. Salek – January 30, 2007

C’est un travail remarquable qui démontre la viabilité de ce genre de travail dans les campements de réfugiés Sahraouis à Tindouf. La volonte et l’encouragement des ingénieurs Sahraouis vont aider la population Sahraouie de survivre malgré les difficultés et les contraintes de l’exil… Bravo et bonne continuation.

Un Sahraoui de l’autre coté sous l’occupation Marocaine.

Back home – De retour à la maison

Dear visitors, Chers visiteurs,

I had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks with the UNICEF projects in Algeria and today I am happy to pick up my stories about best practices and successful initiatives in the combat of desertification. Thanks to all those who have sent some comments. It shows we are forming a close family of people interested in field actions. I hope to receive some messages about success stories from your side too. That is the right way to coordinate all positive efforts and experiences. Be welcome with your positive stories about combating desertification and alleviating poverty towards sustainable development of rural people in the drylands.

J’avais le plaisir de passer 3 semaines aux projets UNICEF en Algérie et aujourd’hui je suis heureux de reprendre la publication de mes messages concernant les bonnes pratiques et les cas de succès dans la lutte contre la désertification. Merci à tous ceux qui m’ont déjà envoyé des commentaires. Ceci nous montre que nous formons une bonne famille de gens intéressés dans les actions de terrain. J’espère de recevoir des messages sur vos succès enregistrés. Cela formerait la meilleure coordination de tous les efforts positifs et l’expérience acquise. Soyez les bienvenus avec vos messages positifs sur la lutte contre la désertification et l’atténuation de la pauvreté en vue d’un développement durable de la population rurale dans les régions sèches.

Looking back to the future


In December 2002, coming home from CRIC 1 of the UNCCD (see the website UNCCD dot int and a series of interesting documents concerning the UN Convention on desertification), I decided to launch the creation of a network of individuals interested in desertification and poverty.

If you look for a newsletter (a bulletin) concerning these problems, please contact Miss Laetitia VERDIER at the UNCCD secretariat in Bonn, who is now publishing the newsletter, through her e-mail address: Lverdier ad unccd dot int.

Today, I went back to the first newsletters to freshen up my memories about those early days and can not resist offering you a short review of our first communications on the subject of success stories and best practices. Indeed, we can learn a lot from this early exchange of ideas. I hope you will enjoy “Looking back to the future” and see it as a renewed start towards more efficient actions in the field. Because that is what the poor rural people in the drylands are looking for: ACTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION AND TO ALLEVIATE POVERTY.

Please have a look back at some of the messages exchanged !

2002-12-03 – INFO 001

Dear Friends,

One of the important messages and conclusions of UNCCD’s CRIC1 in Rome (11-22/11/2002) was that there is an urgent need for exchange of information within a network of individuals interested in the desertification problems. Many of us enjoyed very much the presentations of case studies and the ensuing discussions, although seemingly there was no time for in-depth analysis or exchanges of views on the situation in other countries. Nevertheless, CRIC1 certainly was a real success!

Most of the participants will remember that single sentence, repeatedly coming up in different interventions from the podium and the floor: “There is no more time for talking, this is time for action!“. I had a couple of times the privilege and the pleasure of reminding my friends that “REAL ACTION” could be launched by selecting a small number of success stories (best practices) and applying these in small scale projects, but in a large number of countries in all regions. The TPNs seem to be an excellent forum for setting up such comparative initiatives (see the pilot projects of the Asian TPN3 on sand dune fixation and rangeland management to be launched pretty soon). It goes without saying that we still need to exchange a lot of ideas on the way such actions could be optimally planned.

Willem Van Cotthem


2. Namsrai SARANTUYA

Congratulations with your great ideas to create such networking among individuals interested in the desertification problems! I think, first of all, we need human networking /it is CAPACITY!/ for achieving a real success in prevention and combating desertification in our countries.

I am looking forward to receive from time to time your messages and also contribute in different ways in information sharing between members of the network.

Dr.Sarantuya, from Mongolia


Yes, of course we are thinking too much in our “private-family-horizon”, but can you actually tell me how to pass on information and data if there are so many problems to start field work? Where to fly to if I can’t even find wings on my body? I’m really glad that there are people like you, reminding us of what we talked about… but I’m in the wrong position. I don’t know what kind of helpful information I can give you. Of course, if I can present any results, I’ll share them with the Yemeni Institutions as well as with a Network to Combat Desertification.


Thank you for the new challenge, and for the attached information. It was indeed a great pleasure working together at CRIC 1 in Rome. It is really gratifying to having people always on the move at the helm. Yes, indeed, let’s work closer together on desertification, or better, on anti desertification activities on the ground. As indicated verbally in Rome, SAHEL DEFIS has tested a bag of TerraCottem in Northern Burkina where we work with villagers in Djomga. The first trial on a small vegetable garden was a success, as compared to cattle manure and to another product that we have also been testing with Japanese partners. The work was not conducted in a very scientific manner, but the results were satisfactory.

Tahirou DIAO

5. NGO BIOS (MOLDOVA) – 4 Dec.2002

We were happy to hear from you and to realize that, while we are all thinking things over and getting slowly started, you have already undertaken an excellent practical step. But we do agree with you that the Rome meeting was a success and it needs all of our efforts to make it a greater success in the future.

The network you have so generously initiated is an important endeavour and we will support it any way we can and we will certainly appreciate our being on the mailing list.

We were impressed with all your interventions during the Rome CRIC and the creative ways of drawing the full attention of the audience. It is a rare art.

We, in our NGO, discussed the ways to assist the Convention and we have some interesting ideas. We have even provided to Mr. Marcos Montoiro, NGO Liaison Officer of the Convention, an outline of a case study we could present at a future convention event on some very practical things we have done in one or two villages, starting with the villages almost drowned in garbage, with utterly degraded pastures, the trees of the village forest in process of full destruction, huge gullies and coming to gradual improvements in the vineyards and orchards and creation of entertainment.

INFO 004

Dear Friends, Chers Amis,

Our network for information exchange on all aspects of combating desertification (UNCCD), caring for biodiversity (UNCBD), acting for sustainable development and alleviating poverty, has got a new name: “PEOPLE FOR ACTION”.

Indeed, this network is not just one of those many initiatives to submerge people with (sometimes useful) information. It is strictly oriented towards ACTION.
Therefore, I would like to ask all members of the network to send me by preference information on:

* Successful traditional methods to combat land degradation (soil improvement, water harvesting, plant and animal production etc.)
* Successful modern technologies to combat desertification
* Successful combinations of traditional and modern methods
* Successful projects (soils, water, plants, animals, socio-economy, gender,
poverty, biodiversity, etc.), especially those of the NGOs.

Of course, I will also appreciate all kind of information on interesting activities in your country our region. That is the reason why I have included in this INFO 04 messages from the CBD Secretariat (thanks to Juliane ZEIDLER), from and to Edison WOTHO (Botswana), from the CBO Friends of Mpigi Forests (Uganda) and some general messages from “Development Gateway” (for which I recommend your subscription) and from the LINKAGES UPDATE (another subscription to be recommended!).

Should you want to share your information, ideas and data with our network members, please do not hesitate and send me an e-mail with the message you want to convey. I will be more than happy to forward it.

Our Belgian TC-Dialogue Foundation looks forward to link all “PEOPLE FOR ACTION”, aiming at improvement of the standards of living of all people living in the drylands. We know that we (and they!) can count on you.

Willem Van Cotthem

PS. Que mes amis francophones ne désespèrent pas! Je promets d’incorporer aussi tous leurs messages dans la langue de Molière. A eux de jouer!

7. Edison WOTHO

Dear Willem,

Indeed you are a true friend of nature. Personally, I have high regards for you since working with you from AHTEG on CBD. Your ideas are very useful and practical. I agree with you that action speaks louder than words. Hopefully the scientists should demonstrate their findings on the ground. It is important that we come with practical programmes and projects to answer the needs of the poor communities who live in the dryland ecosystems.

Botswana as you know, is a semi-arid country with very erratic rainfall patterns. Our advantage lies on the small population, which has over the years been very practical in managing their environment. As a NFP, I am sometimes frustrated by the lack of resources to complement their efforts. Though our NAP is yet to be finalized, its key elements are now part of the Ninth National Development Plan (NDP9). The NFP office continues to discuss with the civil society best practices of addressing this problem. I was particularly touched by the Youth Programme in Lesotho. However my problem is that the project seems not to have room for self-sustainability.

Of our four (4) small projects, I believe the agro-forestry project is doing very well, but as you know water is a major limiting factor in this country. In addition we a very thin in capacity and in this regard I would appreciate to know if the Government of Belgium would be of any assistance in terms of developing the people I work with on the project.

The developing country Parties require resources to implement some of their noble ideas. The people down there are hungry and need assistance. I personally believe in doing. Results! Results! Results! That should be our slogan at UNCCD. When we talk of alternative livelihoods, we should come up with microprojects because that is the answer to combating desertification and poverty. Too many macroprogrammes, such as NEPAD, will not answer the needs of people living and driving their livelihoods from the drylands.

Once again, I thank you Prof for your great vision and I hope that all will be up to the challenge. One day we should sit down and reflect on your great dream as presented at the interactive dialogue in CRIC 1. My worry is that even NGOs do not reach the people. The projects they introduce are temporary in nature and do not provide a long-lasting solution. Botswana is prepared to make a difference, resources permitting. This why I am eager to personally attend a course on accessing GEF resources.


My dear friend Edison,

Sincere thanks for your appreciation. I hope our little network will bring all likeminded people together and create possibilities to exchange ideas about the success stories in combating desertification and alleviating poverty. Because one thing is sure: WE KNOW HOW TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION.

It goes without saying that alleviation of poverty and mitigation of drought will never happen in our nice conference rooms, but in the field. A lot of people have shown in the past, through a number of small projects, which can be the best practices in water harvesting, soil conditioning, agroforestry, cash crop production, marketing of Third World products etc.

It is up to us to set up comparative trials with these best practices, in order to decide which of them will offer the best results in all different regions. Of course, not every single method will be applicable in all different circumstances and locations. We have to adapt our traditional methods and modern technologies to the local situations, but we can do it quite easily.

The classical question is: Where to find the necessary resources?

If only we could spend less resources at conferences, seminars, round tables etc., if only we could spend less at huge, and often non-sustainable programmes, maybe then we could save more money for a first series of serious tests of comparative studies of success stories in all regions (and later on in all countries).

But for me the real problem is not the lack of money. It is the human choice of priorities!

Like I said at CRIC1 in Rome, when we speak about possibilities to apply an excellent modern technology like TerraCottem (TC), automatically we get the question: “How much does it costs?”. Or: “Do you have a detailed cost-benefit-analysis?”. We all know that TC brings a solution for water harvesting, for soil improvement and for enhancement of plant production. We all know that TC improves standards of living of poor people in the drylands. Since 1988 it has been proven that TC is one of the success stories in the combat of desertification. Yet, people are still asking about its prize, not about its long-lasting positive effects, so that investment in it should be spread over ten years or more.

But for guns, bullets, land mines, bombs and missiles, destroying life all over the world (and mostly of the poorest), nobody seems to ask these questions about prizes and cost-benefit analysis. I know that the comparison is not a valid one and that at the international level other rules and laws play a dominant role. But I will continue to find it a real shame that WE COULD WIN THE COMBAT AGAINST DESERTIFICATION AND WE COULD ALLEVIATE POVERTY, if only we would stop fighting and would use those financial resources to apply the best practices all over the world.

Maybe, this wish will never come true. But please, let people never ask me again about the prize of TC or any other method to combat desertification, or I will give them the outcome of my cost-benefit-analysis of one bomb and one single missile.

Dear Edison, have a peaceful end of the year and a successful 2003. And let
us continue to work together, hand-in-hand, all of us, people wanting to combat desertification and poverty.

Willem Van Cotthem

(to be continued)