Aviation fuel from Jatropha plants grown in desert with sewage water

 

Photo credit: Google

TNAU Agritech Portal :: Bio Fuels

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Origin and Distribution in the world. Abundance and availability of energy resources largely determine the economic well being of a country.

Egypt produces jet biofuel from jatropha

Speed read

  • Research team produces aviation fuel from jatropha plants grown in desert with sewage water
  • Aim is to cut aviation emissions, but high cost remains a challenge for use by the end of 2017
  • Semi-industrial experiments kicked off to develop a production method that may cut the cost

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Jatropha curcas is being grown for biodiesel – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/54/14/b1/5414b1fcf289cfc0c62554f2f29659ea.jpg

Researchers at Egypt’s National Research Centre have produced a biofuel suitable for aeroplanes after successful semi-industrial experiments conducted last December.

The centre was officially commissioned by the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation to find a local biofuel to power aircrafts. This was to support the implementation of the International Air Transport Association plan, aiming to halve carbon dioxide emissions caused by aviation companies by 2050. Commercial aviation contributes about 2 per cent of global carbon emissions annually.

Gizine El Diwani, professor at the centre’s chemical engineering and semi-industrial experiments department, says it all started with the production of a biofuel for cars. The researchers made biodiesel from the seeds of the jatropha tree — the seeds’ oil content is between 20-25 per cent. The oil can be easily extracted using organic solvents such as hexane, according to El Diwani.

“Globally, the lowest price of biofuel is 90 per cent higher than that of the average fuel; this is due to the high cost of the materials needed for the manufacture of biofuel.”

Khaled Fouad, Zagazig University in Egypt

Because the properties of jatropha oil differ from those of traditional engine oil — in terms of viscosity, density and degree of combustion — it has to go through a number of fairly simple chemical processes to be adapted for use in running engines.

At this stage, the fuel is suitable for car engines. To be suitable for jet engines, it should be able to resist freezing until at least minus 45 degrees Celsius. The research team sought to resolve this at a later stage in the fuel’s development.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

The 3 moons project in the Californian desert

 

 

The project of Belgian Jehane RUCQUOI (80) in the Death Valley 

See 3moons-2017

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Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 17.55.48.png

 

jehanetogo@gmail.com

In joy jehane

Consider that we are on similar paths for self growth, ! Love, compassion. Joy ! We are all part of this whole ! Humans, critters, elementals, seeable or not, inhabiting this planet or others.

 

What smallholders in the drylands should know

 

How to grow fresh food in all kinds of recipients that can hold soil

by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)

Grow your vegetables and herbs at home in pots, buckets, bottles, cups, barrels, bags, sacks, whatever can hold soil.  See some of my photos below:

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Massive production of vegetables and herbs in a small space. Pots and buckets on pallets to limit infection. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN P1100559.

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Cherry tomatoes all year long, zucchinis and bell peppers in pots and buckets with a drainage hole in the sidewall. Maximal production with a minimum of water and fertilizer (compost or manure). Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100561

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Zucchinis in a bucket, as simple as can be. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100565.

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Tomatoes and zucchinis, not in the field (where they would be infected), but in buckets and pots. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100568.

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Bell peppers in abundance, not in degraded soil, but in a bucket with a mix of local soil and animal manure. That can be done everywhere, even in Inner Mongolia, the Australian bushland, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Cabo Verde, Arizona, the pampas and in all the refugee camps on Earth. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100579

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Eggplants, tomatoes, zucchinis, marigolds (to keep the white flies away). See the drainage hole in the sidewall. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100581 copy.

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Chilli peppers in a bucket. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100602.

Imagine every family in the drylands, every school, every hospital, every maternity would have a container garden like the one below: wouldn’t you believe that we can alleviate malnutrition and hunger ?  Wouldn’t we have a serious chance to ameliorate the standards of living of all the people living in desertified areas.

Problems ?  What problems ?

Teach the people how to set up a small kitchen garden with some containers and do not forget:

https://containergardening.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/drainage-holes-in-the-sidewall-of-a-container/

They do not have containers ?  Offer them the necessary quantity at the lowest cost, or even for free, because that would be sustainable development in the purest sense.

Let them make their own potting soil by mixing local soil with manure.

Offer them some good quality seeds and teach them how to collect seeds afterwards.

Before rejecting this idea, have a last look at the photo of my experimental garden below and consider the potentialities of this method.

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Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100656, set up to show that production of fresh food with simple and cheap means is so easy that it can be applied all over the world. With some goodwill, of course.

 

Shall we go for the rehabilitation of 2 billion hectares of degraded land in Africa (and how much on the other continents ?), or shall we go for a feasible support of the poorest and hungry people on Earth?

With my warmest wishes for 2017 to you all !

 

 

 

A daunting task to improve the drylands through afforestation for people’s wellbeing

 

Photo credit: China.org.cn

Kubuqi Desert [China.org.cn]

Poverty alleviation: Greening the desert for people’s wellbeing

As noted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, promoting ecological progress is of vital importance to the people’s wellbeing and China’s future; and it remains a daunting task to improve the ecosystem through afforestation. Nearly 30 years ago, the Kubuqi Desert in Inner Mongolia, the seventh largest desert in China, was a barren land with no water, electricity, or future. To alleviate poverty through desertification control, Elion Resources Group (ELION) has successfully afforested an area of over 6,000 square kilometers by means of technological innovation, leading to a 95 percent decrease in sand-dust weather and an increase by six times in precipitation in Kubuqi.

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Seven Stars Lake Desert Resort and convention complex, built by Elion Resources as part of an effort to turn the desert green and bring create and education and recreation center in the Kubuqi Desert, just south of the Yellow River. – A hotel built by ELION [China.org.cn]
During the process of ecosystem restoration, ELION has blazed a trail in the industrial development simultaneously driven by desertification control and poverty alleviation, while building up a new mechanism that integrates the government policy support, corporate commercial investment and market-oriented participation by farmers and herdsmen.

At this time of the year when forage has to be prepared in pastoral areas, Chen Ningbu no longer needs to worry about the forage for his over 300 sheep this winter, since he has enjoyed a bumper harvest of crops he planted in the sand.

The village where Chen Ningbu lived is located in the Kubuqi Desert and it used to be afflicted by sandstorms throughout the year. Large tracts of grassland and farmland were swallowed then. In the 1990s, average annual income for each person in this area was less than 400 yuan, and the local pillar business, Hangjinqi Saltworks, was also having a hard time, suffering from an annual loss of five million yuan for years.

When the saltworks was on the verge of bankruptcy, ELION stepped in and took over its operation. To save the business, urgent actions against desertification were needed. It was then decided that for each ton of salt sold,  5 yuan should be used in afforestation efforts. However, the survival rate of trees in the arid desert was even under 10 percent.

To solve the problem, ELION used grids made from twigs of bulrushes and the Salix mongolica to protect the trees against strong winds and the sand, effectively increasing the survival rate to 60 percent, but the cost for each acre of trees soared to up to 6,000 yuan.

Read the full article: China.org.cn

SHOULD A FOOD AND FODDER PLANT ALWAYS BE CALLED AN INVASIVE SPECIES ?

 

Photo credit: OPUNTIA BIOGAS ELQUIGLOBALENERGY P9270040_2 copy

Huge plantations of spineless prickly pear for production of biogas.

HOW DO WE REACT IF A FOOD AND FODDER PLANT IS CALLED AN INVASIVE SPECIES ?

THE INVASIVE PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS (OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA), NATURAL FOOD WITH  MEDICINAL PROPERTIES ?

By Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)

2006-12-opuntia-04_2-algiers
2006-12 – Algiers – Spineless Opuntia in a garden is easily handled (Photo WVC Opuntia 04-2)

 

Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill., the Indian fig opuntia or barbary fig is generally known as “the prickly pear cactus”.  

It is an evergreen, cold-tolerant, dense, massive, tangled, trunk-forming (to 15 ft, 5 m), segmented cactus of arid and semi-arid regions, possibly native to Mexico, but a domesticated crop species on all the continents.

It grows with flat, disklike, edible paddles, generally armed with sharp, hard spines and small, hairlike, easily detached (washed off) prickles (glochids).

On all continents there is also a variety (var. inermis) without the hard spines and thus more easy to handle.

The plant is commercially grown as a fruit crop for its large, sweet fruits (the tunas, beles, ficudinnia) and for its young green paddles (cladodes), called nopales.  Mexican natives have used this food for thousands of years.

imagesnopalitos
Edible nopalitos (Origin of the picture unknown)

FOOD and CULINARY USES

Young paddles (nopales) are sliced into strips and eaten with eggs or chili peppers (huevos and tacos).  These are very successful dishes in the Mexican cuisine.

All over the world, fruits are eaten either raw (after washing or burning off the glochids) or as jam and jelly.

The fresh fruit pulp contains vitamin C and betalain pigments with antioxidant properties.  Consumption of prickly pear fruit decreases oxidative damage and improves the antioxidant status in healthy humans.

Extracts are used in pharmaceutical and operational food industries.

In some countries, people use it to make non-alcoholic punches (aguas frescas), or alcoholic wines and liqueurs.

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Farmers prefer to cut the cactus into smaller pieces and supplement with hay or straw. ICARDA – http://www.new-ag.info/en/focus/focusItem.php?a=340

FODDER (https://youtu.be/xsnBWBIek2g)

Cattle is not eating the paddles for their sharp spines, but these can be burned off.  Pads (paddles) are a useful feed supplement in the drylands because of their moisture content and food value.

It goes without saying that the paddles of the spineless variety (var. inermis) constitute an extremely interesting fodder for a lot of animals, particularly in the drylands (http://www.new-ag.info/en/focus/focusItem.php?a=340).

Dried pads or strips thereof can be ground.  Cactus meal can also be used as feed supplement.

MEDICINAL USES (https://www.drugs.com/npp/prickly-pear.html)

Prickly pears have been carried on ships to prevent scurvy. The fruits are a dietary supplement to decrease oxidative stress or to increase low blood lipid levels. Fruits without seeds are used as a laxative.

Opuntia contains many alkaloids.  Stems are antispasmodic, diuretic and emollient.

The flowers are astringent, used to reduce bleeding and to treat gastro-intestinal tract problems, especially diarrhea, and an enlarged prostate gland.

An extract of the prickly pear plant has a moderate effect on reducing hangover symptoms, apparently by inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators.

DYE PRODUCTION (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochineal)

A sessile, parasitic, scale insect (Dactylopius coccus) lives on Opuntias and produces carminic acid.  Extraction of this acid from the insect’s body and eggs leads to the production of the cochineal red dye for food colouring and cosmetics, a very valuable export product.

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Opuntia in a hedgerow – Photo Kenya – BOF Research 002_2.JPG

HEDGEROWS (CACTUS CURTAINS)

Opuntia ficus-indica forms dense, tangled, bushlike structures, used as barrier hedges (hedgerows).

BINDING MATERIAL IN ADOBE

It is used as a binding and waterproof ingredient in adobe, a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and fibrous or organic material (sticks, straw, and/or manure), shaped into bricks.  Cactus juice from paddles and stems is commonly used as an additive to “earthen plaster”.
IS THIS CACTUS A REAL PEST ?

 

The prickly pear cactus covered with spines is generally considered as a noxious weed, an invasive pest species, because its uncontrolled growth causes ecological damage.

However, the question remains if this is also the case for its spineless variety (var. inermis).

Considering that “nopales” (young Opuntia pads) are commonly eaten as a vegetable in Mexico, Brazil and other S. American countries and that in this part of the world thousands of hectares are cultivated as “nopales plantations”, it becomes difficult to keep this spineless variety classified as a noxious invasive species.  In these countries, a real cactus industry has developed that seemingly does not harm the local ecology at all.

As this cactus grows remarkably with a minimum of water, one could wonder if the introduction of the spineless variety, with all its positive characteristics and advantages listed above (food, fodder, medicinal uses, adobe, hedgerows, …), still has to be considered as a factor causing ecological damage in desertlike environments.

Here is an interesting challenge : would it be preferable to keep the mostly barren, non-cultivated soil uncovered and submitted to erosion or would one rather opt for using this spineless cactus variety to :

 

  • Cover large parts of the barren soil with living, edible plants (see nopales);
  • Grow hedgerows around small gardens;
  • Create natural anti-erosion barriers;
  • Offer juicy fodder to the cattle.

 

 

Looking forward for comments.

======================================

See also:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1iDsE7wC3-tLrbvYsqYe5t4VUEWekaGpdy27rV0p25_A/edit?usp=sharing

FAMILY GARDENS IN ALGERIA – Part 1

 

VIDEO

 

Uploaded on Feb 8, 2011

The project “Family gardens in the Saharawis refugees camps of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria” has been very successful (2005-2007). Today, the refugees continue the construction of new gardens with the help of NGOs and individual sponsors. A series of videos will show that it is rather easy to offer to all the families in the camps the possibility to produce fresh food. (To be continued)

Sand converted into fertile soil

 

Photo credit: China.org

A 1.6-hectare sandy plot in Ulan Buh Desert in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China, has been transformed into fertile land. [Photo/www.cqnews.net] 

Chinese scientists convert sand into soil with new method

Xinhua, September 5, 2016

Chinese scientists announced they have converted sand into fertile soil using a new method they developed, which they hope to use to fight desertification.

A team of researchers from Chongqing Jiaotong University has developed a paste made of plant cellulose that, when added to sand, helps it retain water, nutrients and air.

A 1.6-hectare sandy plot in Ulan Buh Desert in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China, has been transformed into fertile land, yielding rice, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and sunflowers, after being treated by the new method.

A forthcoming issue of the English-language journal “Engineering,” published by the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), will publish the research by the Chongqing scientists Yi Zhijian and co-author Zhao Chaohua.

The new method will hopefully help turn desert areas into an ideal habitat for plants, said Yi.

The plants in the sandy test plot needed about the same amount of water as those grown in regular soil, but required less fertilizer and bore higher yields, according to estimates by experts.

Read the full article: China.org

FAMILY GARDENS IN ALGERIA

 

 

MY VIDEOS ON THE FAMILY GARDENS IN ALGERIA

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

University of Ghent (Belgium)

Family gardens in Algeria – 2005  – https://youtu.be/fpaqJx8oxTw

Review of the installation mission of the UNICEF-project on “Family gardens in the Saharawis refugees camps” and on some training sessions on the use of the soil conditioner TerraCottem.

FAMILY GARDENS IN ALGERIA – Part 1: https://youtu.be/ZEuXXTVB9-4

The project “Family gardens in the Saharawis refugees camps of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria” has been very successful (2005-2007).  Today, the refugees continue the construction of new gardens with the help of NGOs and individual sponsors. A series of videos will show that it is rather easy  to offer to all the families in the camps the possibility to produce fresh food.  (To be continued)

Family gardens in Algeria – Part 2 : https://youtu.be/ELIWmbyM7_8

Second part of a series of videos on the project “Family gardens in the Saharawis refugees camps of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria“.  Today, the refugees continue the construction of new gardens with the help of NGOs and individual sponsors.

Malnutrition et potagers au Sahara 2007-1 : https://youtu.be/W2VrJJpgIAg

Malnutrition et potagers au Sahara 2007-2 : https://youtu.be/wmyqUYZsDfs

Projet de l’UNICEF Algérie, en coopération avec SOS Kinderdorf Draria-Alger, pour la réalisation de quelques milliers de jardins de famille en plein désert du Sahara (dans les camps des réfugiés Saharaouis près de Tindouf (S.W. Algérie).  Résultats spectaculaires avec un minimum d’efforts et d’investissement.

Malnutrition and family gardens in the Sahara desert 2007-1 : https://youtu.be/NUTQOGeDsK4

Malnutrition and family gardens in the Sahara desert 2007-2 : https://youtu.be/pXDAKTM1gZM

Malnutrition and family gardens in the Sahara desert 2007-3 : https://youtu.be/NizSR5Jk3-I

Family gardens in refugees camps 2007-10B : https://youtu.be/P3zPfm3LwUY

Family gardens in refugees camps 2008-2009 : https://youtu.be/79BwvyTZD5I

UNICEF project in the Sahara desert to combat child malnutrition in the Saharawis refugees camps (S.W. Algeria) by offering a small kitchen garden to every refugee family.  Minimal efforts and investment for a maximal and sustainable result.

Family gardens in refugees camps 2010-2011  : https://youtu.be/xOD-fLdGWwQ

It has been shown very clearly that family gardens contribute significantly to solving problems of hunger and malnutrition in refugees camps. Local production of fresh food with vitamins and mineral elements is essential for the health of refugees, in particular for their children. What is possible in the Sahara desert, can be applied in all the refugees camps.

 

 

Bacterial meningitis in Africa

 

 

Hot desert storms increase risk of bacterial meningitis in Africa

University of Liverpool

Jean-Francois Jusot, Daniel R. Neill, Elaine M. Waters, Mathieu Bangert, Marisol Collins, Laura Bricio Moreno, Katiellou Lawan Lawan, Mouhaiminou Moussa Moussa, Emma Dearing, Dean Everett, Jean-Marc Collard, Aras Kadioglu.

“Airborne dust and high temperatures are risk factors for invasive bacterial disease.”

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.04.062

Summary

Exposure to airborne dust and high temperatures are significant risk factors for bacterial meningitis, a new study has found. The Sahel region of West Africa has the highest number of bacterial meningitis cases in the world. Previous studies have suggested that climate factors play a role in outbreaks, but little was known about the specific impact of climate on bacterial meningitis and how it caused disease.

Read the full article: Science Daily

Fruits and seeds preservation of desert plants

 

Photo credit: CGIAR

The newly published manual containing unique information and description of 120 plant species from 13 taxonomical families of flowering plants.

New book on fruits and seeds preservation of desert plants in Central Asia

by Sherzod Shoasilov

Central Asia is an arid to semi-arid region with more than half of its territory covered by deserts, grasslands, and shrublands with sparse vegetation. In this context, the desert and semi-desert plant communities represent a valuable reserve of fodder, forage, medicinal and edible plants. Among them, halophytes (‘salt loving plants’) can be used as a tool for desalination and restoration of salt affected lands. For example, they could be used to ameliorate saline soil, to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems, or be cultivated on a commercial scale for specific end uses. By developing such strategies, unused or marginal lands can be brought under cultivation, and existing agricultural lands made more productive, which will open a new door to sustainable crop production.

The fruits and seeds (germplasm) are vessels for these species’ genome, and preserving them is essential in a stressed desert environment that is more susceptible to climate change, desertification and land degradation. Given the right conditions, disappearing species can be preserved for future generations through seed banks. Therefore, good knowledge of fruit morphology, germplasm conservation and seed germination techniques is necessary for creating seed conservation and production schemes for salt, drought, and heat-tolerant plants. Their use in saline land reclamation requires information on salt tolerance of mature plants, seeds and seedlings, and knowledge of their germination strategies under saline environments.

However, there are few publications on the biology and ecology of seeds and fruit morphology of desert flowering plants in Central Asia, making it difficult to plan their use in restoration and land improvement programs.

Read the full article: CGIAR

Plant the Desert Willow Tree

Photo credit: Google 

Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow, Southwest Desert Flora

http://homegarden.todayquestions.com/940574-05693559/?title=How+to+Propagate+the+Desert+Willow+Tree

How to Propagate the Desert Willow Tree (Chilopsis linearis, not a willow tree, Salix)

502d00c4884fd.image
http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/kdhnews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/2/76/27649137-76e7-573d-9661-fb9f6a74d927/502d00c4884fd.image.jpg

Desert willow, or desert catalpa, is a member of the trumpet creeper family. The desert willow can reach 30 feet in height with a spread of 25 feet. This is an excellent plant to start from cuttings and grow in your yard, as the flowers are very fragrant. The 1- to 1 1/2-inch flowers are funnel shaped. Desert willows are hardy in zones 6 to 11. The desert willow prefers to grow in full sun and does not require a lot of moisture.

    • 1

      Fill a 2-inch pot with a potting medium comprised of equal parts peat moss and perlite.

    • 2

      Cut off a semi-woody stem from a desert willow tree in May or June. Take a cutting that is 4 to 8 inches long. Semi-woody stems will snap when bent.

    • 3

      Remove the leaves and any buds from the lower portion of the stem. Leave 1 inch of the lower part of the stem bare.

    • 4

      Stick the cut ends of the desert willow into a glass of water. Remove one cutting and shake the water off.

    • 5

      Place the cut, wet end of the desert willow into rooting hormone.

    • 6

      Stick a pencil into the potting medium to make a hole. Place the end with rooting hormone into the hole.

    • 7

      Water the stem cutting to make the potting medium moist. The moist potting medium will help hold the cutting in place.

    • 8

      Cut a piece of thin but strong wire so that when inserted into the pot it will be taller than the cutting. Place the wire close to the middle of the pot.

       

      Desert Willow
      Photo credit Google : Desert Willow | James Cowlin Photo -http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get2/I000090geWEASPGU/fit=1000×750/Desert-Willow-1.jpg
    • 9

      Place the cutting into a plastic bag. Seal the bag with a twist tie and rest it on top of the wire to help hold the bag up and off the cutting.

    • 10

      Place the pot in a warm, bright place, but not in direct sunlight.

    • 11

      Fill a sprayer bottle with warm water and mist the cutting daily. The potting medium cannot dry out or the cutting will not root. It should take a month or longer for the desert willow to form roots.

    • 12

      Transplant the cutting when roots have formed. To test to see if roots have formed, gently pull on one of the cuttings, but do not pull it out of the medium. If there is resistance, it usually means the cutting has rooted. Fill 4-inch pots with potting soil and transplant the willows into the pots.

    • 13

      Place the pots back in a bright, warm location, making sure to mist the cuttings every day.

    • 14

      Harden the cuttings off by placing them in a shaded place outdoors at least two months before planting them in the fall.

 

HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THE OTHER DRYLAND COUNTRIES WAIT TO FOLLOW THIS EXAMPLE ?

AND WHAT ABOUT THE GROWTH OF OPUNTIA IN AND AROUND THE REFUGEE CAMPS ?  IT’S A SUCCESS STORY. IT’S COMMON SENSE !

One can eat the Opuntia cactus pads (see “nopales”), drink pad soup, eat the fruits (barbary figs), make jam, use it as fodder for the livestock, ground the seeds to produce an oil, produce cosmetics and medicine against blood pressure and cancer.

Look at the nice picture above. It could have been taken in any desert or desertification affected country. What do you need more to be convinced ?  Well, maybe first read about Morocco’s initiative below !

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

==============================================================

Photo credit: BBC NEWS

Women farmers find cactus plants are a real money spinner

Cactus commerce boosts Morocco

By Sylvia Smith
BBC News, Sbouya, Morocco

Opuntia in Yemen - Photo Yemen Times 1799-4117 - - get_img
Opuntia in Yemen – Photo Yemen Times 1799-4117 – – get_img

It is just after dawn in the hills above the Moroccan hamlet of Sbouya and a group of women are walking through the thousands of cactus plants dotted about on the hillside, picking ripe fruits whenever they spot the tell-tale red hue.

But these woman are not simply scraping a living out of the soil.

The cactus, previously eaten as a fruit or used for animal feed, is creating a minor economic miracle in the region thanks to new health and cosmetic products being extracted from the ubiquitous plant.

This prickly pocket of the semi-arid south of the country around the town of Sidi Ifni is known as Morocco’s cactus capital.

It is blessed with the right climate for the 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of land that is being used to produce prodigious numbers of succulent Barbary figs.

Every local family has its own plot and, with backing from the Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme to transform small scale production into a significant industry industry is under way.

Some 12m dirhams ($1.5m) have been pledged to build a state-of-the-art factory that will help local farmers process the ripe fruits.

The move is expected to help workers keep pace with the requirements of the French cosmetics industry which is using the cactus in increasing numbers of products.

_46109458_46107440
Barbary fig (Opuntia ficus-indica, prickly pear) oil is a lucrative market – http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/46109000/jpg/_46109458_46107440.jpg

Lucrative

Izana Marzouqi, a 55-year-old member of the Aknari cooperative, says people from the region grew up with the cactus and did not realise its true benefit.

“Demand for cactus products has grown and that it is because the plant is said to help with high blood pressure and cancer. The co-operative I belong to earns a lot of money selling oil from the seeds to make anti-ageing face cream.”

Read the full article: BBC NEWS