Speeding urgently needed seeds of major food crops to communities in West Africa

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Photo: FAO

Ebola: World Bank will provide seeds to farmers in West Africa to ward off hunger


The World Bank Group announced today that it has mobilized some $15 million in emergency financing to provide a record 10,500 tons of maize and rice seed to more than 200,000 farmers in the countries most-affected by the unprecedented Ebola outbreak, in time for the April planting season.

“Agriculture is the lifeline of the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for Africa. “By speeding supplies of urgently needed seeds of major food crops to communities in West Africa, we are jumpstarting recovery in rural areas and preventing the looming specter of hunger in the countries hardest hit by Ebola.”

According to the World Bank, “more than one million people could go hungry unless they have reliable access to food and emergency measures are taken immediately to safeguard crop and livestock production.”

A recent World Bank Group report shows that the Ebola crisis has taken a heavy toll on the economies in all three countries, and the agriculture and food sectors have been particularly hard hit.

“Reports show that desperate farming families have resorted to eating stored seed originally intended for use in the next cropping cycle. Rural flight has caused harvest-ready crops to wither in the fields,” the World Bank said in its announcement.

Read the full article: UN News Centre


See also: https://www.facebook.com/groups/seedsforfood/



Food shortages continue to plague Zimbabwe

Photo credit: IPS News

Markets are critical to the success of Zimbabwe’s smallholder farmers. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Good Harvest Fails to Dent Rising Hunger in Zimbabwe

by Busani Bafana

With agriculture as one of the drivers of economic growth, Zimbabwe needs to invest in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who keep the country fed, experts say.

Agriculture currently contributes nearly 20 percent to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP), due largely to export earnings from tobacco production. More than 80,000 farmers have registered to grow the plant this season.

But, even as tobacco harvests expand, food shortages continue to plague Zimbabwe, most dramatically since 2000 when agricultural production missed targets following a controversial land reform that took land from white farmers and distributed it to black Zimbabweans.

Depressed production has been blamed on droughts, but poor support to farmers has also contributed to food deficits and the need to import the staple maize grain annually.

Last year, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that “hunger is at a five-year high in Zimbabwe with one-quarter of the rural population, equivalent to 2.2 million people, estimated to be facing food shortages …”

Read the full article: IPS News

Strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis

Photo credit: Eng. Taleb Brahim 2008-04

Vegetable production in a family garden

UNICEF project

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis

by Willem Van Cotthem – University of Ghent (Belgium)


Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

Read the full article : European Tribune



Africa can achieve food security by 2030

Photo credit: Pixabay

Farming in Kenya

Africa Will Feed Itself, Say Bill and Melinda Gates

22 JANUARY 2015


Seven out of ten people living in sub-Saharan Africa are farmers. (Compare that to the United States, where the ratio is two out of a hundred.) And yet Africa has to rely on imports and food aid to feed itself. Though it’s the poorest continent in the world, it spends about $50 billion a year buying food from rich countries.

This is in part because African farmers get just a fraction of the yields that American farmers get. For example, the average maize yield in Africa is about 30 bushels an acre. In the United States, it’s more than five times that.

There’s a related problem, which is that the food most Africans eat isn’t nutritious or varied enough to make up a healthy diet. For example, many Africans consume starchy staples – maize, rice, or cassava – almost exclusively. As a result, malnutrition runs rampant across a continent of farmers, affecting children’s cognitive and physical development and therefore everything from child mortality to how much they can learn in school to the productivity of laborers in the cities.

In the next 15 years, however, innovations in farming will erase these brutal ironies. The world has already developed better fertilizer and crops that are more productive, nutritious, and drought- and disease-resistant; with access to these and other existing technologies, African farmers could theoretically double their yields.

With greater productivity, farmers will also grow a greater variety of food, and they’ll be able to sell their surpluses to supplement their family’s diet with vegetables, eggs, milk, and meat. With the right investments, we can deliver innovation and information to enough farmers in Africa to increase productivity by 50 percent for the continent overall.

Read the full article: allAfrica


Fostering inclusive growth means investing in agriculture to pay dividends in poverty reduction (IFAD)

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Less Hunger, But Not Good Enough

By José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo Nwanze, and Ertharin Cousin

Every year, we take a snapshot of world progress in the fight against chronic hunger. This year, the picture is looking better, but it’s still not good enough.

Some 842 million people are estimated to have been suffering from chronic hunger in 2011-2013, according to The State of Food Insecurity in the World, a report released jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

This figure is down from 868 million during 2010-2012, and represents a decline of 17 percent since 1990-1992. Significant as this progress may be, it cannot disguise the harsh reality: roughly one person in eight suffers from hunger.

The vast majority of undernourished people, 827 million, live in developing countries, while 16 million live in developed countries. It is unacceptable that in a world of plenty, hundreds of millions of people are denied their most basic right to freedom from hunger. The only acceptable number is zero.

One of the hard truths underscored by the report is that, despite overall progress made in hunger reduction, marked differences persist across regions, with many countries left far behind. Sub-Saharan Africa has made modest progress in recent years, but remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment (24.8 percent).

Western Asia has seen no discernible improvement, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa have registered slow progress. Eastern Asia, Southeastern Asia and Latin America, on the other hand, have seen greater relief from the grind of extreme hunger, with significant reductions in both the number and the proportion of hungry people.

Food security depends on a host of factors. While food availability is important, it is equitable economic growth and access to employment for the poor that enhance access to nutritious food. The report shows that transport, communication, safe water, sanitation, and appropriate healthcare and feeding practices are also crucial for reducing chronic hunger and undernutrition.

Given that 75 percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and mainly depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, fostering inclusive growth means investing in agriculture. And this investment has been shown to pay dividends in poverty reduction.


The (un)sustainability of food aid programs, an interesting discussion (Willem Van Cotthem)

It all started with a quote of the actor Robin WILLIAMS, recently shared on my Facebook page: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up alone, it’s not.  The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.

A comment of John Richard PENDERGAST (London, UK) ignited an interesting discussion about the significance and lack of recognition for methods and techniques to help stop hunger and malnutrition :

29-7-2013. Hi Willem, Can you please tell me (why) people have not taken my ideas forward to help stop people dying from HUNGER, even though I’m offering my 3Rs Plastic Container Gardening ideas to the world for FREE, so that one day it might become part of Governments WORLD AID programme right now and in the future. (http://youtu.be/rQfno80fmtE)

What is the PROBLEM with people not using my ideas? 

Is it because I’ve got a young black naked child on the intro-page of my website (www.recycling.moonfruit.com), scraping the earth for something to eat, with the words Making Globalisation Work for the POOR on it ? 

Or is it because I’m offering a different way to grow something to gardeners who already know how to grow their own food?

Or is it just because it’s too much of a high price to help save lives, even though it’s for next to nothing, because it’s all made from waste.

I know lives are being lost when they could have been saved.  What more can one man do without help from like-minded people, trying to save millions of lives if we can in our own ways ?

Here is my short reply to him :  Yes, John, That’s what happens to great ideas. Anyway, keep up the good spirit, be patient, for Rome and London haven’t be built in one day (or even two).

John PENDERGAST’s reaction was :

30-7-2013. Hi Willem, Yes I know things don’t happen overnight normally.  Over (16) years now I have been telling so many people like yourself that my 3Rs Plastic Container Gardening systems works.  And you have proved it by using my ideas in your own way.   You would have thought someone out there,  who is already involved in trying to help save lives, would have taken my ideas forward, just like my friend Dr Job S. Ebenezer is doing in his group Technology For The Poor. 

Album:Photos from John Richard Pendergast's post in CONTAINER GARDENING AND VERTICAL GARDENING
Album: Photos from John Richard Pendergast’s post in CONTAINER GARDENING AND VERTICAL GARDENING

Maybe if we, and lots of other people, make comments on say the World Food Programme or the DFID, someone might get the message and start up some projects with our help.”


This was a sparkling for my more consistent reply : “Sorry, John, But for many years (1992-2006), as the representative of the Belgian scientists at the desertification convention UNCCD, I showed, to all the delegates of the countries and the international aid organizations, with presentations and poster stands various effective methods and techniques to combat desertification, hunger and malnutrition. Not even a handful of them have reacted in a constructive way. One of the most positive reactions was that of UNICEF Algeria, setting up a project of “Family Gardens in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria” in 2005-2007. For a reason still unknown to me, who was their own scientific consultant, this successful project was suddenly stopped in 2008, although all the UNICEF reports were extremely positive.

2007 - Family garden in the Sahara desert (S.W. Algeria) - UNICEF-project (Photo WVC)
2007 – Family garden in the Sahara desert (S.W. Algeria) – UNICEF-project (Photo WVC)

Many people commented already on this strange attitude and decision. The common idea in all these comments is : (1) if UNICEF Algeria has built successfully almost 2000 family gardens (kitchen gardens) to help the refugees in the Sahara desert to grow fresh food full of vitamins for their needing children, (2) if UNHCR and FAO delegations in the refugee camps have seen this success story and even asked to construct a similar garden in their headquarters in Rabouni (Tindouf area), why didn’t these UN organizations synchronized their efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in a sustainable way by building a family garden for every family in the camps ? Why do they prefer to continue the monthly shipment of truckloads of food over a distance of 800 km in the desert (and this for already 37 years (since 1975-1976 !).

Can someone tell me what the meaning is of the word “(un)sustainability” ? Here, I rest my case.”

Food aid sold by government (IRIN News)

Read at :


Swazi government sells food aid

Swaziland’s government has sold maize donated by the Japanese government to feed hungry Swazis for US$3 million and deposited the money in the Central Bank of Swaziland.

The nearly 12,000 metric tons of donated maize was sold by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development in 2011, but the sale was not made public until an item about the transaction appeared in a performance report the ministry presented to the Swaziland Parliament for review last week.

Swaziland has not produced enough food to feed itself since the 1970s. It depends on international food aid to bridge a gap that varies from year to year, ranging from two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 million people in 2007 to about one-tenth of the population this year, after a better than average rainfall, according to the World Food Programme.

Unanswered questions

The majority of Swazis reside on communal Swazi Nation Land, under the authority of chiefs appointed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Lacking title deeds to their ancestral farms, they are unable to secure bank loans to invest in irrigation equipment or farming machinery, relying instead on rainfall to water their crops. However, Swaziland’s climate is becoming increasingly arid and agricultural inputs are growing increasingly unaffordable.


Millions in Sahel to require food aid (UN NEWS Centre)

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Millions in Africa’s Sahel region will continue to require food aid, says UN agency

A year after the international community launched a massive humanitarian response to the food crisis affecting Africa’s Sahel region, millions of people there are still affected by drought and require assistance, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

“This year, some nine million people across the Sahel will still require food assistance from WFP, through emergency food assistance, rural development, nutrition and education activities,” said Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director.

Ms. Cousin was the host of a high-level event in Rome bringing together leaders of humanitarian agencies, government representatives from affected countries and major donors to review the effectiveness of the assistance provided to the region.

Last year the international community helped to avert a humanitarian catastrophe by providing $1.2 billion in assistance to around 10 million people across eight countries in the Sahel, noted a news release issued by WFP.

“However, millions of people in the region are still affected by drought, with close to 1.5 million children under the age of five at risk of severe acute malnutrition,” said the agency.


Food insecurity in N. Mali (IRIN News)

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Food insecurity the next crisis for northern Mali

Many more northern Malians are likely to face severe food shortages in the coming days and weeks if markets remain blocked by border and road closures, and humanitarian access remains limited, warn food security agencies.

The border with Algeria is officially closed as a result of the conflict that broke out on 11 January between Malian and French forces and Islamist groups that were occupying the north. As a result, the amount of food coming through has halved, according to the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) Vulnerability and Analysis Mapping Unit.

Algeria supplies almost all markets in Kidal Region in northeastern Mali with rice, couscous, oil and milk – the staple diet of northern Malians. While some trucks can get through, traders are reluctant to travel because of strict border controls and fear of further aerial bombardment, says the WFP analysis.

Mopti markets also supply northern regions with significant imported rice stocks and millet – availability of which has dropped by 40 percent in Kidal since January 2012. They also cost 120 percent more than the five-year average, according to WFP.

“Should the situation last, food security is foreseen to worsen severely in the coming days,” says WFP.


Food-for-work scheme (IRIN News)

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Food-for-work scheme helps Malagasy forests and people

The dry, spiny forests of southern Madagascar comprise one of the most unique ecosystems in the world, but they are becoming increasingly endangered as residents of the arid, food-insecure region cut down trees to make way for cultivation and to produce charcoal.

In an effort to slow the rapid deforestation and to address chronic food insecurity, the World Food Programme (WFP), in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is replanting 1,000 hectares of trees through food-for-work projects reaching 60,000 beneficiaries.

Eager to plant

When a chief in Amboasary Sud District asked residents of the small town of Ankirikiriky if they would help replant the surrounding forest, the townspeople readily agreed.


Enhancing agricultural production and marketing (ACTED)

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From IDPs to Farmers: Enhancing agricultural production and marketing in Northern Uganda

Since 2010, ACTED has been supporting the economic recovery of Uganda’s war-torn Northern region by helping smallholder farmers improve their livelihoods through the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress (P4P) Initiative. Through this initiative, ACTED has constructed and equipped grain storage warehouses for bulking, and helped develop farmers’ business, marketing, and management skills. By producing a greater quantity of a better quality of grain, farmers benefiting from P4P have increased their incomes and significantly improved their quality of life.




Dear friends of WFP,

Your initiatives are very noble. I am really impressed by your achievements.  My sincere congratulations for that.

However, you claim (see message below) :

“Providing the right nutrition at the right time is one of the ways that WFP is solving global hunger.”

My question :

Giving free food to hungry people at regular intervals (in some cases for many years) can “save lives and provide hope to mothers and children every day”, but how is this changing the causes of hunger and malnutrition ?

Is this really solving the problem ?

Why is WFP not supporting programs to help the hungry people growing their own fresh food in community gardens, family gardens, etc., e.g. by training them in simple and inexpensive methods for container gardening ?

P1080704Bottle towers, a container gardening method for all the hungry people, all over the world, even in the drylands, cheap (recycling containers), but very effective, see my video on

Building a bottle tower for container gardening


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