I’m Dancing and Singing in the Drought (Willem Van Cotthem)

You probably know I’m not the actor Gene KELLY, that’s why I’m not dancing and singing in the rain, but in the drought.

The reason for my optimistic mood today is quite simple :  there are so many remarkable reports published on successful, sustainable, cheap, efficient methods and techniques to grow fresh food in containers, in family gardens, in allotments, in community gardens, in vertical gardens etc., that I get the strongest believe that everyone, every family, every community living in the most harsh environments in Africa, Asia and South America, can definitely ban hunger and malnutrition, with a little bit of help, of course.

That’s why “I’m dancing and singing“, just like Gene KELLY, not in the rain, but in the drought.  And I hope that one day those one billion hungry people will dance with us.

The title song for that celebrated film musical Singin’ in The Rain (1952) was originally created by lyricist Arthur Freed and composer Nacio Herb Brown for MGM’s Hollywood Revue of 1929.

I couldn’t resist changing a few words to express “my glorious feelin’ ” about all those opportunities we have to offer hungry and malnourished children and adults a better life.  So, here I go :

“I’m singing in the drought
Just singing in the drought
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy in thought
I’m laughing at skies
So bright up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the drought
I’ve a smile on my face
I walk down the ford
With a happy thought
Just singin’,
Singin’ in the drought”


You get me ? Let’s dance and sing together, because “with a little help of my friends” (Ringo STARR) we can make this world better.

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends,
Oh, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

Forget the billions of dollars for long-term food aid.  Keep those for emergency cases.

And with a little help of our friends, let’s teach those people in need how to grow vegetables and fruits in containers, buckets, used barrels, pots, whatever can contain some potting soil.

Because we will really help them towards sustainable development !

Benefits of a container garden wherever you live (Google / Conducive Chronicle)

Read at : Google Alert – container gardening


The Revolution is in the Dirt


As Raj Patel illuminated in his 2007 book Stuffed and Starved, the global food system–dominated by large multinational corporations–does not work for most of us. Those of us who live in developed, Westernized nations are eating (on average) more than we should, while those who labor to produce the food we over-consume are starving. Millions in the U.S. are nutritionally deficient too, and this is not an exaggeration. This situation is largely a result of the concentration of power in the hands of buyers and multinational supermarket chains, as is illustrated by these diagrams created by Patel, who does not stand alone in this assessment. Scholars of global food systems articulate consensus about the role of multinational corporations in shaping availability of and access to food around the world.

While the dynamics are certainly shifting as more and more people around the world adopt consumerism as a way of life, historically those who labor to produce the food we consume do not have the same access to food themselves. Their labor and land are bought up by corporations and their products shipped to “consuming” nations. With most fertile land employed for an export economy, producers are left with little to no farmable land to meet their own needs.


Gardening is a physically and mentally rewarding project. I can guarantee you will appreciate food grown by yourself more than any other. Those with even the smallest patch of grass or dirt can create a garden. Before you start, or even if you have already planted, it’s a good idea to perform a soil analysis so that you are aware of any harmful toxins in your environs. If planting seems unwise, or if you rent and are not allowed to transform the space, then a community garden or a home container garden are great alternatives.

I have kept a container garden for a year, and have noticed that there are benefits apart from the delicious produce. With a container garden, you do not have to weed, and have much less problems with pests, especially if your garden lives on a second floor balcony (like mine). Another benefit of a container garden is that you can put it in the optimum spot for sun without having to alter the landscape, and you can move it around as you wish. Surprisingly, you can grow just about anything in the right sized container. I have had great success with lettuce, mustard greens, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, carrots, and herbs. If you have never gardened before, start small with just a few plantings as you get your green thumb in gear.



A dream about famine, hunger, malnutrition, drought and desertification (Willem Van Cotthem)

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 in the Horn of Africa ?  Who could deny that there is an urgent need of humanitarian assistance for them ?

A financial gap to respond to this emergency has still to be closed.  That explains Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s appeal on many top officials described in my former posting on this blog.

I am convinced that Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s voice will be heard and that in the weeks, maybe months to come, sufficient humanitarian aid will be provided.  However, many children and adults will not survive this catastrophe.  Those who will be more lucky, will try to stay alive for a number of years, until a new catastrophe will come.

And then, the same old story will happen 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 3 years now, I wanted to go to bed for a good night’s rest, when slowly I closed my eyes in front of my 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 in all the drylands of this world.  Very well informed, the Secretary-General described a number of these “success stories”, thereby reconfirming 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 be 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.

That heartwarming noise was waking me up, sitting still in front of my computer, 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 the day will come …



New York, Jul 27 2011  3:05PM

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed the need for urgent funding to carry out critical humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa and assist the millions suffering from famine and drought in the region.

In phone calls yesterday with top officials from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Ban discussed the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Horn of Africa, where an estimated 11.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Millions in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia are facing severe food shortages with rates of malnutrition and related deaths having reached alarming levels in many parts of the region. Somalia is the worst affected country, with the UN last week declaring a state on famine in two areas of the south.

The Secretary-General explained to the officials that only half of the $2 billion needed to respond to the drought emergency has been raised so far.

“He called for urgent international efforts to meet the gap in the humanitarian requirements for the region,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters in New York.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) moving from pastoral to urban areas is increasing in Somalia.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has scaled up its operations to reach 175,000 people in the Gedo region, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is distributing supplies to 189,000 people in southern Somalia.

WFP is also providing emergency relief rations to 60,000 pastoralists in Djibouti who have suffered massive livestock deaths.

The office also expressed concern about the worsening situation in Ethiopia, where 4.5 million people are in need of food aid. The price of wheat in the capital, Addis Ababa, is more than 80 per cent higher than it was one year ago, it stated.
For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

Farming in the desert (Almarai Farming Division)

Is farming in the desert possible ?  If it really is, then we can solve the hunger problem, and that of child malnutrition, and the migration problem, and that of famine in the Horn of Africa, and …


Please enjoy :

Farming in the desert-x 3006

It works in Wales, it can work in many places : sustainable food production (The Guardian)

Videos seen at :


Primrose organics: a model of sustainability – audio slideshow

Using sustainable techniques he collectively calls ‘high biodiversity low carbon polyculture’, farmer Dr Paul Benham grows an astonishing £25,000 worth of organic produce every year on an acre and a half of land in the Black Mountains


Organic fruit and veg made easy

One incredibly productive farmer in Wales grows produce worth £25,000 a year – and says you can copy him in your backyard

  • Probably the most productive piece of agricultural land in Britain lies in the foothills of the Black Mountains in Wales. Here, on a modest 1½ acres, Dr Paul Benham and a handful of students and volunteers produce around £25,000 worth of organic fruit and veg each year. And the best bit is: you could replicate it in your backyard.

    The variety and abundance here are staggering: five kinds of potato, half a dozen of salad, seven mustards. Herbs, from mint, marjoram and oregano to soapwort, sorrel, heartsease and hyssop. Chards, onions, garlic, spinach. Beets, beans, courgettes, carrots, peas, leeks, cabbages. More than 100 varieties of apple, pear, plum and nut.

    Almost all Primrose Farm‘s produce is sold within five miles, mainly to restaurants and at Hay-on-Wye’s weekly market, on a stall groaning with 30 varieties of spectacularly tasty produce. And bar 1,500 miles a year in a battered Volvo for deliveries, and a couple of gallons of diesel for a 60-year-old tractor used, at most, once a year, Benham does it all pretty much without fossil fuel.

    He calls this high biodiversity, low-carbon polyculture – working with nature, not trying to control it. It’s a resilient system that he argues can survive peak oil, even climate change. By contrast modern, energy-intensive, heavily subsidised monoculture – single crops grown in huge fields using copious chemicals and heavy machinery – looks unstable, and increasingly unsustainable. “This shows what’s possible,” he says. “A food system in harmony with the environment.”

Planting trees for the food security of rural families and villages (Google / AlertNet)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification


Climate Conversations – Feeding a hungry world with trees

By Dennis Garrity

A couple of decades ago, when my colleagues began urging African farmers to plant trees in the middle of their maize fields, many agricultural development specialists thought we were a bit deranged.

People can’t eat trees. So what good would planting one do for the food security of rural families and villages?

Before long, though, many of the farmers who had planted the soil-replenishing “fertilizer trees” that the World Agroforestry Centre had identified, were proving that all this made good sense. Within only a few years of planting these trees and shrubs, farmers were reaping abundant harvests of maize from fields whose exhausted soil had previously produced almost nothing.

Millions of farmers from around Africa have improved their soils and boosted their livelihoods by culturing nitrogen-fixing species such the indigenous African acacia, Faidherbia albida, or others like Gliricidia selum or Calliandra calothyrsus, introduced from Central America.

The usefulness of trees to agriculture has now caught on with African governments, as well.


Eleven countries in the Sahel, at the heart of the continent, are creating a Great Green Wall, a monumental agroforestry programme working toward environmental and development transformation in the region. The heart of this programme is the vast expansion of agroforestry parklands on farmers’ fields, where their food crops grow under the canopy of a forest of compatible trees.


2002-08 : TC-Dialogue’s agroforestry project on the CABO VERDE Island of Fogo (Campanas). Training of the villagers (Photo WVC)

Forests account for almost all of the world’s land-based carbon uptake (Science Daily)

Read at :


World’s Forests’ Role in Carbon Storage Immense, Research Reveals

ScienceDaily (July 20, 2011) — Until recently, scientists were uncertain about how much and where in the world terrestrial carbon is being stored. In the July 14 issue of Science Express, scientists report that, between 1990 and 2007, the world’s forests stored about 2.4 gigatons of carbon per year.

Their results suggest that forests account for almost all of the world’s land-based carbon uptake. Boreal forests are estimated to be responsible for 22 percent of the carbon stored in the forests. A warming climate has the potential to increase fires and insect damage in the boreal forest and reduce its capacity to sequester carbon.



2007 : ALGERIA/TINDOUF : With a minimum of means and tools, refugees produce fresh vegetables in the drylands. If they can do it….. (Photo WVC)

Thousands of people displaced by drought cannot find shelter for rains (IRINNews)

Read at :


SOMALIA: Displaced by drought, hit by rain

MOGADISHU, 21 July 2011 (IRIN) – Heavy rains have fallen in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, making life harder for thousands of people displaced by drought who cannot find shelter, officials said.

“About 10,000 families displaced by the drought from Bay, Bakool, Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba and Upper Juba regions, who have come to Mogadishu, are now in a serious situation,” Aden H Ibrahim, Minister for Health in Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), told IRIN. “They are without shelter, food, water, health facilities as well as latrines. These families are in 50 camps in the capital.” Continue reading “Thousands of people displaced by drought cannot find shelter for rains (IRINNews)”

Living in an area classified by the UN as one step away from famine (IRIN News)

Read at :


ETHIOPIA: Golecha Deba, “If it rains, I will even crawl on my knees and plant”

DIKICHA (OROMIYA REGION), 21 July 2011 (IRIN) – At 96, Golecha Deba, an agro-pastoralist from Dikicha village, in southern Ethiopia’s drought-hit Oromiya region, about 20km from Kenya’s northeastern border, has seen several cycles of drought, but never as severe as this one. He spoke to IRIN about living in an area classified by the UN as one step away from famine:

“I have lived long enough, I never thought I would see a day like this. Even my father never told me of such a day. When I was a boy we had seasons of bad rains but never like this.

“My [five] sons and I lost 28 livestock in May this year. Our livestock is our savings, our life, and our children.

“We have not had a drop of rain for over a year. If it rains, I will even crawl on my knees and plant my seeds.



2007 : UNICEF’s Family garden project in refugee camps in the Sahara (ALGERIA/TINDOUF) – With minimal efforts fresh vegetables can be grown in the desert (Photo WVC)

High global levels of malnutrition (IRINNews)

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GLOBAL: The vital statistics of hunger

JOHANNESBURG, 4 July 2011 (IRIN) – Louise Masese-Mwirigi, an analyst recording nutrition data in southern Somalia with her team, have on occasion had to turn away from a village because the local authority that consented to the survey a week ago is no longer in charge or may have changed their minds when they arrive. Fighting between the government, its allies and various armed groups in parts of Somalia has severely restricted humanitarian space.

“The situation is uncertain in Somalia and access is a problem – especially in the last two years in central and southern Somalia,” said Masese-Mwirigi, who works for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Security and Nutritional Analysis Unit (FSNAU) for Somalia.

Armed with an electronic weighing scale and a metre-long board to measure the height of children, Masese-Mwirigi and her team, led by Mohamed Moalim, along with Action Contre la Faim (ACF), a food relief NGO, have carried out a survey in the Mogadishu region, where the capital is located.

The survey is the first in seven years. “It took a month of planning… we could access six districts but had to let go of the remaining three because of security concerns.”

A rapid assessment by FSNAU in Mogadishu in December 2010 picked up high levels of malnutrition based on the measurement of the middle upper arm circumference (MUAC) – a quick, easy and cheap approximate measure of malnutrition in children younger than five years. “We felt we needed more information through a comprehensive nutrition survey, given the rains had performed poorly and the MUAC results were indicating high levels of malnutrition in the town.”

The MUAC measurement uses a long strip of plastic with a series of colour-bands that is put around a child’s bare upper arm. The colours show the level of malnutrition: green indicates a 135mm circumference, which is normal; yellow – 125mm to 134mm – shows a risk of malnutrition; orange – 110mm-124mm means moderate malnutrition; red, for measurements less than 110mm, is an indication of severe malnutrition and risk of death.

In the past two years FSNAU have had to depend entirely on MUAC in parts of the conflict-hit areas. “It is less resource-intensive, and quick and ideal for emergency situations, but ideally we would like a more thorough survey,” Masese-Mwirigi said.

Detailed data

A thorough survey would take into account four variables – age, weight, height and gender – as well as the MUAC. Crude mortality rate (usually measured in deaths per 10,000 people per day in emergency situations), rate of disease prevalence, child care and feeding practices, household food security, and water and sanitation indicators, are also taken into account to understand the overall nutrition situation.



2008-2009 : Fresh food production in refugee camps in the Sahara desert, a tremendous tool to alleviate malnutrition (Photo Taleb BRAHIM)

Agriculture must be harnessed to improve nutrition and health in Guinea (IRINNews)

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GUINEA: Nutrition finds a place in agriculture plan

DAKAR, 7 July 2011 (IRIN) – The quality of a baby’s first solid food and teaching families about proper nutrition and hygiene are now part of Guinea’s agricultural investment strategy. Experts working on the 2011-2015 agriculture plan, to be finalized in the coming weeks, say the first-ever nutrition component stems from an increasing recognition that agriculture must be harnessed to improve nutrition and health.

“There is a realization that agriculture is not production alone,” said Kaba Camara of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. “We need to ensure people are educated about proper feeding habits and monitor people’s nutritional status.”

The new section of the investment plan covers nutrition education, improving access to nutrient-rich foods, treatment of malnutrition, and complementary feeding for children aged 6-24 months, according to Mamady Daffé, head of nutrition in the Health Ministry.

“Of course the important thing will be implementation,” he told IRIN. “But it’s already a quite important step that we have integrated nutrition into the agriculture scheme.”

Camara said the move stems in part from a 2010 forum of the Economic Community of West African States, at which experts said it was time to do away with the institutional walls between the health and agriculture sectors and incorporate nutrition into overall development.

Quantity, quality

 Global: The vital statistics of hunger
 Aid Policy: Call for local manufacture of nutrient-rich foods
 Pakistan: Chickpea replaces peanut in supplementary food recipe
 Political will can solve malnutrition

For decades agricultural research and development focused on maximizing production, with nutrition policy and monitoring on a separate track; but in recent years there has been more of a focus on agriculture’s role in improving health and nutrition, especially of poorer populations. In February policymakers, donors and agriculture and nutrition experts met in New Delhi to discuss the interconnections.



2009 : Algeria/refugee camps in the Sahara : If small kitchen gardens can be created in the Sahara, it should be possible to copy these “best practices” at the largest scale in Guinea too (Photo Taleb BRAHIM)
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