Empowering families through food sufficiency at the household level



Mati City promotes home gardening in barangays

Riser with bottles in Jojo ROM’s garden in Davao City, The Philippines, producing enough vegetables and herbs for the family needs – * Riser – vegetables – Photo Jojo ROM – 971622_10200263484728066_974390336_n.jpg

DAVAO CITY- The City of Mati in Davao Oriental is advocating home gardening and nature farming with the establishment of green communities in the different barangays in the city. One aspect of the program is promoting urban container gardening among homeowners in the city.

Jojo ROM, an expert on container gardening in his own kitchen garden with risers in Davao City, Philippines) – * Riser – Radish and carrot – Photo Jojo ROM – 215853_1728582652671_1181604134_31573102_4686613_n_2.jpg

From January to May of this year, three homeowners association were chosen as pilot areas to undergo Urban Container Gardening (UCG) activity cycle 1. A total of 77 homeowners voluntarily enrolled to participate and 48 of them adopted the program marking a 62% success rate.

The homeowners association include Sambuokan Homeowners Association, Macambol Homeowners Association and Fatima Sudlom Home Farmers Association.

Self-sufficiency by home gardening in containers on risers – * Riser for massive food production – Photo Almar B. Autida – 10255663_10201730750126773_1525730629288922985_n.jpg

The urban container gardening is institutionalized thru the city mayor’s Executive Order 42 which establishes Green Communities with agri-based industry based components for youth, women and other organized associations adopting the 4H club and the rural improvement club strategies, creating the technical working group providing funds therefor.

Riser with a fish pond underneath for irrigation of the contairs with water enriched by the fish – * Riser with pond – Photo Jojo ROM – 154253_1533125726370_5655386_n.jpg

Vice-Mayor Glenda Rabat-Gayta says that empowering families through food sufficiency in the household level is the main goal. The benefits of this simple gardening in the backyard are strengthening family relationships, incurring savings, income augmentation, entrepreneurial opportunities, promoting agri-tourism and solid waste management.

Read the full article: Philippine Information Agency

Promoting soil health could help achieve SGDs

 Photo credit: SciDevHealth

Image credit: Hailey Tucker, One Acre Fund

  • Focus on soil health to achieve SDGs

    “Many of us fail to consider the importance of preserving the health of the earth’s soils for now and generations to come.” 
     David Guerena and Margaret Vernon, One Acre Fund

    Speed read

    • In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 65 per cent of soils are degraded
    • Promoting soil health could lead to biodiversity and increased productivity
    • The results may take time, but promoting soil health could help achieve SGDs


    Crucial and last frontier

    Seventy per cent of poor people in rural areas depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. [4] These rural areas comprise large numbers of smallholder farmers, who cultivate less than two acres of land.

    Lacking access to quality inputs, tools training, and financing, smallholder farmers are often at the mercy of unproductive soil. Promoting soil health, through strategies such as agroforestry, intercropping and composting is one important way to increase the productivity of these small plots of land.

    These strategies could help smallholder farming communities increase their resilience to environmental shocks and grow their way out of hunger and poverty.

    Soil is the greatest reservoir and the last frontier of biodiversity. Most known antibiotics come from organisms that were isolated from the soil. The soil biosphere controls the cycling of most major plant nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. What other secrets are held in the soil biosphere? In one gram (one pinch) of soil, there are over one billion individual organisms and over one million unique species! [5] We know less than one per cent of who they are and less than one per cent of one per cent of what they do.

    Read the full article: SciDevNet


SCAD’s home gardens for food security and nutrient deficiencies

Photo credit: Google

Kitchen Garden

An effective tool for household food security

in SCAD Newsletter Vol. 2 March 2015

Kitchen gardens or home gardens have the potential to improve household food security besides serving effectively to alleviate the micro nutrient deficiencies, quite a common phenomenon in rural areas. Raising different vegetables, fruits and medicinal plants on available land in and around the house premises is the easiest way to ensure access to healthy, fresh and poison-free food. This is especially important in rural areas where people have limited income-earning opportunities and the economically poor have less or no access to healthy food markets.

Mal nourishment and nutrition deficiency disorders are common among rural women and children. In order to improve nutrition and enhance household food security, SCAD initiated kitchen garden promotion in a striking manner. This programme encouraged home gardening to provide both food and income besides nutrition education for the families of malnourished children. The kitchen gardens were established with a simple and low-cost approach of providing 8-10 different types of vegetable seed packets. The seeds are carefully selected to yield greens, tubers, fruits and vegetables. It was observed that when the households understood the nutritional and economic benefits of home gardening, the impact of establishing and utilizing productive home gardens was larger. These efforts gave the household members a sense of being involved in the programme and an incentive to improve child feeding practices.

A well-developed home garden has the potential to supply most of the non-staple food that a family needs every day of the year. Keeping this in mind, comprehensive training packages, especially to suit the requirement of the women, have been prepared for people living in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli regions and are widely disseminated. SCAD’s Rural Development Division in conjunction with the SCAD Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) actively collaborate with the agricultural departments to procure quality seeds and train the field level extension staff, farmers, women ́s groups and school teachers in gardening techniques.

Read the full text in SCAD’s Newsletter

Social Change And Development (SCAD)

105/A1 North By Pass Road, Vannarpettai, Tirunelveli – 627 003, Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Email: scb_scad@yahoo.com / Web: http://www.scad.org.in

Preventing land degradation and effective use of water resources

Photo credit: Google

Eleusine coracana is an annual plant widely grown as a cereal in the arid areas of Africa and Asia. Earliest Karnataka civilisation shows it was grown in Hallur in the later Iron Age. Wikipedia

Breeding climate-smart crops top priority for Indian state of Karnataka

Breeding climate-smart sorghum, finger millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut crops figure high on the agenda of the Government of Karnataka (GoK).

Chickpea (Cicer anietinum) - http://www.cilr.uq.edu.au/UserImages/Image/ImageGallery/larger_images/Chickpea%20flowers_big.jpg
Chickpea (Cicer anietinum) – http://www.cilr.uq.edu.au/UserImages/Image/ImageGallery/larger_images/Chickpea%20flowers_big.jpg

Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister of Agriculture, GoK, said that Karnataka will soon sign an agreement with ICRISAT and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, India, to produce non-GM varieties of the above five crops. A consortium would be formed for this purpose and will be funded by GoK.

Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) -   http://www.icrisat.org/what-we-do/crops/crops-pigeonpea/pigeonpea-asia.jpg
Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) – http://www.icrisat.org/what-we-do/crops/crops-pigeonpea/pigeonpea-asia.jpg

With 2015 being the International Year of Soils, he said that the upcoming Bhoochetana Plus program would lay great emphasis on preventing land degradation and effective use of water resources.

“Our soils are not just thirsty, they are hungry too,” he said referring to the micronutrient deficiencies that the soil tests have revealed during the first phase of the Bhoochetana project initiated by ICRISAT. He said the government aims to issue Soil Health Cards to all farmers in Karnataka by 2016-17.

Read the full article: ICRISAT

How to grow nutritious food and to sell it at markets

Photo credit: IPS News

Women organise themselves into small collectives, to better bargain and trade their produce. Credit: Helen Keller International

Farm Projects Boost Bangladeshi Women, Children

“It’s not just about growing their incomes, it’s about education leading to healthier and more productive lives.” — Kathy Spahn

By Josh Butler

Women in Bangladesh are carving healthier, wealthier futures for themselves and their children – and they have chicken eggs and pineapples to thank.

Since 2009, the non-profit group Helen Keller International has overseen programmes in the eastern Bangladesh region of Chittagong, mentoring women in agriculture to produce food not only for their own families, but also to sell at market.

Kathy Spahn, president of HKI, said one-fifth of homes in Chittagong are considered hungry, while half the children are stunted and one-third are underweight due to poor nutrition. In the area HKI works, around 75 percent of people survive on just 12 dollars a month.

“The area is stigmatised and has little access to health services,” Spahn said at an event this week organised by Women Advancing Microfinance New York.

“We’re teaching women to grow nutritious fruit and vegetables, raise chickens for meat and eggs, and grow enough to sell at markets for extra money.”

The programme, ‘Making Markets Work For Women,’ or M2W2, gives both initial start-up capital and ongoing guidance. Women in Chittagong, who may have previously been viewed solely as homemakers, are given tools to grow nutrient-rich crops like spinach and carrots to feed their own families, as well as more lucrative crops like pineapple and maize to sell.

Chickens are raised, eggs are eaten and sold, ginger and turmeric are harvested and refined and packaged using supplied machinery; and women who never before had any control over family finances are suddenly bringing in their own income to pay for education and healthcare.

Combating child malnutrition with beans

Photo credit: CIAT blog

Beans to the rescue in the fight against child malnutrition and school absenteeism in Madagascar 

Biofortified beans to defeat micronutrients deficiencies

by Stefanie Neno


Madagascar is known for its sunny beaches and scuba diving. What many don’t know is that nine out of ten Malagasy people live below the poverty threshold, according to a 2013 World Bank report. Madagascar is among the world’s least developed countries. And the political crisis that hit the country between 2009 and 2013 caused further economic slowdown, and an increase in poverty and marginalization.


Half of Malagasy children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition and severe micronutrient deficiencies. “The rate of chronic malnutrition is still very high in Madagascar,” says Holy Raobelina, Coordinator of the Office for National Nutrition (ONN). “The MDG1  survey recently reported a national average of 47.3%.”


Two birds with one stone: Fighting malnutrition and improving school results

Holy is part of a team of motivated people from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Population, Social Protection and Women Promotion, who are kicking off an ambitious program to fight child malnutrition in the entire country.


This program involves reviving the national school feeding system, which was unfortunately abandoned in 2009 due to the political crisis.

To demonstrate that school canteens can indeed improve the state of child nutrition in Madagascar, a 5-month pilot was coordinated by ONN in an Antananarivo primary school between March and July 2013.

Read the full article: CIAT blog

Spineless Opuntia in Senegal

Photo credit: Ilonka De Rooij


ilonka DE ROOIJ sent a nice photo of a series of cactus pads growing at their development project in Senegal.  Please register that this variety of the prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis) has no sharp spines, which make it quite easy to handle.

Recently we posted on our Facebook-page of the “Opuntia Ambassadors” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/699997340039515/) a message of Anke Zürn, who shared an article of the FAO entitled “TRADITIONAL CROP OF THE MONTH”. This article was shared by somewhat 600 people and a lot of positive comments were posted.

Photo credit: Ilonka DE ROOIJ (Senegal).
Photo credit: Ilonka DE ROOIJ (Senegal).

The observation that Opuntia stricta got out of control in Australia, invading tens of thousands of hectares of rangeland, particularly in Queensland. It was eventually controlled by introducing the moth Cactoblastis cactorum to become a classic example for effective biological control” can’t be seen as valid for this spineless variety of Opuntia ficus-indica, as this variety is fully edible (pads and fruits for food and animal feed). Therefore, it will remain constantly and completely under control.

We wish our friends Ilonka and Rafaël a well-merited success.

Food shortages in South Sudan

Photo credit: UN News Centre

A child sips on therapeutic milk at a hospital in Juba, South Sudan, where nearly one million children are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Photo: UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

South Sudan: UN agency warns of catastrophic food shortages if conflict continues

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan is sharply reducing food supplies and slowing humanitarian access to people in need, the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) said today, urging warring groups in the country to follow up quickly on the ceasefire deal agreed on Monday.

Without such commitment, the country’s conflict areas face potentially catastrophic food shortages, UNICEF warned, pointing to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) group of experts’ report, which is released this week, and to its own latest nutrition survey, which supports the IPC’s findings.

“UNICEF needs access to remote areas made inaccessible because of the fighting,” the agency’s Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch, said. “This is where the crisis is forming. Both parties to the ceasefire need to reach a long-term settlement or face a growing food crisis by the end of the dry and lean season.”

Mr. Veitch said UNICEF and its partners are starting to see large numbers of people on the move in conflict areas because of food shortages. At least 229,000 children are estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition in South Sudan – a number that has doubled since the start of the conflict just over a year ago.

“We remain on edge, and any increase in violence will see supply routes cut, markets disrupted and humanitarian access denied. This would be catastrophic for acutely malnourished children and could quickly lead to high levels of mortality.”

Read the full article: UN News Centre

A plant species for men and animals

Photo credit: Pixabay

Elephant in the spekboom bush at The Thailand elephant sanctuary

Elephant bush to combat desertification and hunger

by Willem VAN COTTHEM – Ghent University (Belgium)


In addition to a former posting on this blog:  AFRICA: Finding the food crops of the future


and a number of postings on the elephant bush or spekboom (Portulacaria afra Jacq.), I am dedicating a major part of this text and some photos to this remarkable plant species.

Climate change could make that classical staple foods can’t be grown anymore in the same climatic zones.  Hence, people would need to grow other crops. In your own country, which would be the food crops of the future? What kind of options for continued food security will you have?  Do we need scientists to do years of research work on climate models linked to agriculture and horticulture to determine which will be the crop yields in the future?  Or can we use existing climate-resilient crops in a ‘new’ environment created by the impact of climatic changes on the existing vegetation?

Some scientists believe that intensive research work is needed to produce these ‘new’ varieties of food crops, e.g. drought-resistant ones.  Models are already used and still perfected.  Some believe that experimenting with these models, or with genetic modification of existing food crops, ‘will save the time that would have been spent on field trials and help speed up the agricultural research cycle’ (see Jennifer OLSON in the IRIN News-article mentioned above). Therefore, highly esteemed institutions provide extremely important research grants to encourage such ‘innovative solutions’.

I fully agree with Jennifer OLSON that ‘bioscience can improve crop resilience to climate change, or perhaps improve the shelf-life of a food product’, but I want to express my serious doubts about the necessity to spend millions of dollars on developing ‘new’ varieties of climate-resilient crops, when in nature one finds a considerable number of species and varieties that can successfully be introduced in regions or countries affected by climate change, e.g. drought-stricken areas.  It suffices to accept that under the new conditions these drought-resistant plants, having a high nutritional value for men or livestock, can be shipped as seeds from elsewhere to become the ‘new’ staple food. That happened before with many of our own food crops.

If we can’t grow maize (corn) anymore, but another, less water-consuming cereal, why should we stay hungry?  If our region is not adapted to olives, oranges, almonds, papayas, bananas etc., why would we hesitate to choose other already existing fruits from other climatic zones?

It is my most sincere conviction that Africans can be perfectly happy with food crops now growing in Asia or South-America and vice-versa.  I also believe that we should pay more attention (do some rather inexpensive research work) on opportunities to introduce Asian or South American food crops in the African drylands or the other way around.

Do we need to fear invasive crops? Let someone explain first to us what would be an ‘invasive’ food crop.  Would it become a noxious weed?  Would we have to destroy it or eat it?  Recently, I was reading an interesting publication on the flora of Zanzibar in which a large number of “fruiting plants and spices from around the world have been introduced”.

I leave that discussion open for now, trusting in the fact that if the Brazilians in their ‘Nord-Este Province’ have enormous plantations of the spineless prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) with edible fruits and green pads that can be used as food and fodder, etc.), my good friends in the Sahelian countries or even in the Sahara desert would be bewildered if they could get a good opportunity to set up such plantations in their drylands. Invasive species?  No way, because the spiny prickly pear grows all over that part of the world.  Too expensive?  No way, because it suffices to put a pad in (or even on) the dry soil to see it developing new buds.

This Opuntia is only one single example of a drought-resilient species or variety that should be dispersed all over the desertified world, where it can help people to eat pads and fruits or produce some fodder for their livestock.

Accepting that research work must go on, I can’t stop dreaming of extremely inexpensive research work to disperse ‘all good things’ that Mother Earth is offering us today.

Whenever I am reading about the fantastic qualities of one or another plant species or a variety, I am dreaming about the possibility to use seeds or parts of that plant to improve the living conditions of all the people who don’t have the chance to profit from this exquisite species.

Why don’t we offer those rural people, or even the people in cities or towns in the drylands, a chance to grow avocado trees (Persea americana), tomato trees (Cyphomandra betacea), cherimoyas (Annona spp.), spekbooms (Portulacaria afra), pitayas or dragonfruits (Hylocereus undatus), …

Knowing that all these ‘goodies’ are already there, we do not have to wait for the results of years of research work.  We only have to take the decision to spread the ‘goodies’ around, of course in a well-organized way, e.g. as seeds.  That’s what ‘organizations’ are set up for.

To produce climate-resilient food crops or to use existing ones, for me it is not a question anymore.

Portulacaria afra Jacq., the spekboom

South African are saying: “As long as your spekboom is growing and prospering, so will your finances”.

Photo credit: WVC 2014-06
Photo credit: WVC 2014-06

Cuttings of Portulacaria afra

Spekboom, elephant bush or elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra) is a fantastic plant species, native to South Africa, resisting extreme drought in dry, rocky places.  It is a hardy, succulent, soft-wooded bush (shrub or small tree) with brownish stout stems or trunks  (up to 4-5 m high in nature) and juicy, bright green leaves, shriveling when drying, but plumping up with some additional water.  It can also grow well in containers, so one does not need a huge garden to grow some attractive plants at home.  It can be seen in most of the botanical gardens because of its ease of culture.

Photo credit: WVC 2010-03
Photo credit: WVC 2010-03

Portulacaria cuttings 40 cm high, leaves 1,0-1,5 cm long


Spekbooms are mostly propagated from cuttings or ‘truncheons’ (supersize cuttings), but also from seeds.  I am convinced that Portulacaria afra is a great species for combating desertification and poverty in all the drylands.  In some very dry parts of South Africa, e.g. the Karoo, it is growing in extravagant abundance in thickets all over the hills in the Eastern Cape region.


Photo credit: WVC 2010-05
Photo credit: WVC 2010-05

Multiplication of Portulacaria afra is remarkably easy: leaves are rooting swiftly in humid soil


Grown as a living hedge around gardens or fields it makes a good, very dense and almost impenetrable fence.  Its branches can be bent.  Pruning of the upper parts stimulates outgrowth of lateral branches and thus thickening of the hedge.  Fallen branches reroot quite easily.

Photo credit: WVC 2010-05
Photo credit: WVC 2010-05

Root development of the spekboom on small cuttings


Its root system develops extremely well on poor, rocky or sandy slopes, thus preventing soil erosion.  There is even a ‘prostrate’ variety of the spekboom, developing its branches not higher than 15 cm above the soil and forming a dense ground cover.

In spring, the spekboom produces pink to lilac blossoms with a lot of nectar, which makes it interesting for beekeeping.  It is the favourite juicy food of elephants, ostriches and ruminants, but the leaves are eaten by humans too.  A number of publications mention that its raw leaves have been and still are used in salads. After tasting a couple of leaves myself, I agree that more research work in this field could reveal some interesting potentialities of spekboom leaves to become a valuable part of the fresh food (vitamins and mineral elements).  The slightly acidic, lemony taste reminded me of that of spinach or purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.).  In South Africa it is also used for its medicinal properties, e.g. diabetes treatment.  Some local women eat the leaves to stimulate milk production.

It can also be used to make great bonsai plants, low-care commercial crops exportable to the developed world and thus contributing to the enhancement of the rural people’s annual income.  Its amazing ability to soak up CO2 (a great potential for carbon sequestration) is another interesting quality for carbon trading.

Photo credit: WVC 2010-04
Photo credit: WVC 2010-04

Small lateral branches (2-4 cm) and leaves of Portulacaria afra rooting in a cake box

As the spekboom is not an invasive species, I believe this hardy and adaptable shrub or small tree can be introduced in many arid and semi-arid countries without displacing natural biomes. It goes without saying that we all have a huge responsibility to conserve and protect the natural vegetation types everywhere. However, vast desertified dryland and urban areas, without any possibility of restoring the natural vegetation, are in desperate need of greening (see the numerous reforestation projects on all continents). Therefore, the planting of useful or attractive species that are not invasive can be a good option. Available information indicates that the use of Portulacaria afra in greening initiatives has great potential.  For people in other parts of the world it is interesting to know that the spekboom can tolerate fair amounts of frost.  Attention should be paid to possible overgrazing by cattle.

Hopefully, many people will set up some experiments with this remarkable bush plant and discover its unique potentialities for sand fixation, combat of erosion, creation of a dense vegetation cover in dry areas, carbon sequestration, food and fodder, production of economically interesting bonsai plants, etc.

Let me wish you good luck and a greener environment, wherever you live in the drylands or in the cities, where the spekboom could be a precious plant for sidewalk greening.

Anyway, in regions affected by severe droughts it is better to grow such a truly priceless evergreen plant, resisting to bush fires, than all those rubbish, but readily accepted ‘exotic ornamentals’ of which some are invasive too.


No clear benefit for most healthy people to consume vitamin supplements : grow your own fresh food in containers (Science Daily)

Read at :


Importance of Food as Key Provider of Vitamins and Nutrients

Dec. 17, 2013 — While dietary supplements can help some people meet their nutrition needs, eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods is the best way for most people to obtain the nutrients they need to be healthy and reduce their risk of chronic disease, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Two newly published studies in Annals of Internal Medicine, and an accompanying editorial, indicate there is no clear benefit for most healthy people to consume vitamin supplements.

“These findings support the evidence-based position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that the best nutrition-based strategy for promoting optimal health and reducing the risk of chronic disease is to wisely choose a wide variety of foods,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Heather Mangieri. “By choosing nutrient-rich foods that provide the most nutrients per calorie, you can build a healthier life and start down a path of health and wellness. Small steps can help you create healthy habits that will benefit your health now and for the rest of your life.”




2012 : And the result of growing vegetables and herbs in bottle towers (Photo WVC)
2012 : And the result of growing vegetables and herbs in bottle towers (Photo WVC)

Please have a look at 2 of my videos :



This video shows the efficiency and sustainability of a bottle tower garden. They can be installed against the wall of a house or along a hedge or a fence.  The number of bottle towers has to be adapted for providing food security for the family all year long and year after year.  It is a method applicable anywhere on earth, both in rural and in urban areas, e.g. on a balcony.  It can be applied at the lowest cost to alleviate malnutrition and hunger.


Building a bottle tower for container gardening


Plastic bottles stacked into a bottle tower can be recycled to set up a vertical kitchen garden at home. The bottle towers are used for container gardening of vegetables and herbs. How to build such a tower is shown in different steps.

Straw from agriculture could play an important role in the future energy mix (Science Daily)

Read at :


Straw Could Supply Energy to Millions of Households

Oct. 21, 2013 — Leipzig. Straw from agriculture could play an important role in the future energy mix for Germany. Up until now it has been underutilised as a biomass residue and waste material. These were the conclusions of a study conducted by the TLL (Thueringian regional institute for agriculture), the DBFZ (German biomass research center) and the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). According to them, from a total of 30 million tons of cereal straw produced annually in Germany, between 8 and 13 million tons of it could be used sustainably for energy or fuel production. This potential could for example provide 1.7 to 2.8 million average households with electricity and at the same time 2.8 to 4.5 million households with heating.

These results highlight the potential contribution of straw to renewable sources of energy, scientists state in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Applied Energy.


Is the spineless variety of the prickly pear cactus really edible ? (Willem Van Cotthem)

Today, I received an interesting comment on my video :


Spineless Opuntia to Combat Desertification

“This spineless, edible cactus is a very interesting plant for smallholder farmers in the drylands.  Easy to grow from vegetative paddles, growing with a minimum of water in dry areas.  Can be used to combat desertification, to limit erosion.  A nice food crop (paddles, fruits) and fodder plant for livestock.”

Here jonipinkney‘s comment :

Here in Arizona the spineless as well as the spined varieties grow all over. However, even the spineless ones have tiny hairlike needles called glochids. Do you know of any varieties that lack glochids as well as the larger spines? If so, where would one get them?

My reply was :

Yes, even the spineless variety has glochids. These are eliminated by brushing the pads with a small brush under running tap water (I saw this in a YOU TUBE video about “nopales”). As Brazilians and Mexicans (maybe other Central and South American people too) are eating tons of nopales, I can’t imagine that it is such a difficult action to prepare nopales for consumption. Anyway, as a botanist, I will continue to look for spineless Opuntia without glochids. That would make this wonderful plant even more precious.


2006-12-OPUNTIA-01The massive stands of the spineless variety of Opuntia ficus-indica that I discovered quite easily in the vicinity of Algeria’s capital Algiers and a number of other localities in that N. African country (Photo WVC)

Opuntia for food and fodder


The fact that a large number of people in Central and South America are eating regularly pads and fruits of the Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis or use it as fodder for their animals, made me looking for the spineless variety of this widely distributed cactus all over the world.  My search was really successful.  I discovered it in almost every country where the prickly pear cactus was growing : in Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Algeria and Arizona. In most cases, the local people did never pay special attention to the presence of this remarkable natural variety. They simply didn’t realize it is so valuable.

This makes me formulating the hypothesis that, wherever the prickly pear cactus grows, one can also find the spineless variety amidst the thickets of the cactus.

As this is only a hypothesis, it would be nice if local people, both scientists and laymen, could look for the presence of the edible spineless variety in their local (national) flora.  It goes without saying that the “discovery” of “a new edible wild plant” would be very interesting for any country wanting to help poor and hungry people to some affordable fresh food, full of vitamins and other valuable mineral and organic components (see Google).  And even if the local people would not want to eat it, their livestock would certainly like it.

We are looking for the day that the spineless variety of the prickly pear cactus will be internationally recognized as a valuable edible plant.  Undoubtedly, it can play an extremely important role in the combat of hunger, child malnutrition and poverty, particularly in the drought-affected regions.

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