Use drought tolerant Portulacaria afra (spekboom) to combat desertification, e.g. for the Great Green Wall.

 

Photo credit: Google

Figure 3.1: Portulacaria afra Jacq. (spekboom) tree. Notice the skirt of rooted branches

Spekboom multiplication for combating desertification 

by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

Ghent University (Belgium)

One of the most interesting African plant species used to combat desertification, limiting soil erosion, producing a dense vegetation cover and a remarkable number of small, edible leaves (fodder, but also vitamin-rich food for humans), is the Spekboom or Elephant’s Bush (Portulacaria afra).

This plant species is swiftly covering dry, eroding soils and should be recommended to all global projects for alleviation of drought, combat of land degradation and halting of wind erosion.

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Portulacaria afra, variety nana, a hybrid variety easily covering dry soils (Photo credit Google: http://kumbulanursery.co.za/sites/kumbulanursery/files/styles/plant-large/public/plant_pictures/portulacaria_afra_nana.jpg?itok=YLJ5wknw)

My good friend Johan VAN DE VEN of Bamboo Sur was so kind to offer me some rooted cuttings.  These are growing very well in pots and PET-bottles in my garden in Belgium.

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Photo credit Google: Yaiza Playa Blanca – Calle La Caveta – Portulacaria afra 02 ies.jpg (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/Yaiza_Playa_Blanca_-_Calle_La_Caveta_-_Portulacaria_afra_02_ies.jpg)

In order to study different ways  of multiplication of this Spekboom (with succulent branches and leaves), I started taking off small lateral shoots  (cuttings) and planted them in some potting soil in a cake box.  I also planted some of the succulent leaves (see my photos below).

Within the plastic cake box humidity is kept high (condensation of droplets on the cover).  Therefore, I opened the cover from time to time to let some fresh air (oxygen) in.

Quite soon both the cuttings and the separate leaves started rooting.  The cuttings swiftly developed some new leaves.   A month later I transplanted them into small plastic bottles, twice perforated 2-3 cm above the bottom (for drainage, keeping a small quantity of water at the bottom for moistening the bottle’s content and the rootball).

Once fully rooted within the plastic bottle, I cut off the bottom of the bottle to set the lower part of the rootball free.  Then I planted the young Spekboom in a plant pit without taking off the plastic bottle, sitting as a plastic cylinder around the rootball.  That plastic cylinder continued to keep the rootball moistened (almost no evaporation) and it offered  possibilities to water the sapling from time to time, whenever needed.  Irrigation water runs through the plastic cylinder towards the bottom of the rootball, growing freely in the soil (irrigation water directed towards the roots growing into the soil at the bottom of the plant pit).  Thus a high survival rate was guaranteed.

It is clear that multiplication of the Spekboom with rooting cuttings and leaves is very easy.  It is another interesting aspect of this remarkable plant.  I can only recommend a broader use of the Spekboom for reforestation, fodder production and even production of bonsais for enhancement of the annual income (export to developed countries).

Here are some photos of this experiment.

2010-04-06 : A Spekboom cutting planted in potting soil in a PET-bottle is rooting very quickly in my garden in Belgium. (Photo WVC)
2010-04-06 : Massive root development in the bottle, perforated 2-3 cm above the bottom. (Photo WVC)
2010-04-06 : Lateral shoots with succulent leaves (Photo WVC)
2010-04-06 : Small cuttings in the back (lateral shoots) and some leaves planted in potting soil in a plastic cake box. (Photo WVC)
2010-05-23 : Rooted leaves, an easy way to produce a huge number of plantlets of the spekboom starting with one single cutting (Photo WVC)
2010-05-23 : Rooted small cutting (lateral shoot), ready to be transplanted (Photo WVC)
2010-05-23 : Rooted cutting transplanted into potting soil in a plastic bottle,
perforated at 2-3 cm above the bottom (drainage). (Photo WVC)

—————-Considering that people working at the Great Green Wall in Africa (or any other interested group on other continents) are looking for practical solutions to cover as soon as possible huge areas of a desertified region, one is tempted to believe that setting up nurseries to produce a sufficient number of plants should not be a problem (as these plants only need a minimum of water).

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Variegated Elephant Food (Portulacaria afra) – (Photo credit Google: http://www.budgetplants.com/369-thickbox_default/variegated-elephant-food-portulacaria-afra-variegata-.jpg)

I keep dreaming of successes booked with this nice edible plant species in the combat of desertification.  The day will come that the Elephant bush will be growing in all the drought-affected regions of the world.  Animals will eat from it, but also malnourished children and hungry adults will find it an interesting supplement to their food.

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Portulacaria afra – http://www.ladwp.cafriendlylandscaping.com (Photo credit Google: http://www.ladwp.cafriendlylandscaping.com/PlantMaster/Photos/2287a.jpg)

How patterns in vegetation may serve as harbingers of things to come.

 

Photo credit: Nature

Figure 1: Patchy vegetation characteristic of arid lands in the Reserva Ornitologica de El Planeron in Belchite, northeastern Spain.

Ecology: Signals of impending change

by James B. Grace

An analysis of arid lands around the world shows how patterns in vegetation may serve as harbingers of things to come.

 

Society has an increasing awareness that there are finite limits to what we can expect the planet to absorb and still provide goods and services at current rates1. Both historical reconstructions and contemporary events continue to remind us that ecological regime changes are often abrupt rather than gradual. This reality motivates researchers who seek to discover leading indicators for impending ecosystem change. Berdugo et al.2 report an important advance in our ability to anticipate the conversion of arid lands from self-organized, self-maintaining and productive ecosystems, to a state characterized by disorganization and low functionality. Such conversions have important implications for our understanding of ‘desertification’ — which is a shift from arid to desert-like conditions.

 

Theoretical studies have suggested that patterns in the patchiness of vegetation might indicate how close a system is to making an abrupt change to desert-like conditions3,4,5. Empirical studies, however, have tended to show instead that simply the total cover of vegetation, rather than its arrangement, often foretells the state of the system4,5,6,7,8,9. Berdugo et al.2 combine these competing ideas into one integrated perspective. They show how major environmental drivers, such as aridity, influence both vegetation cover and patchiness, as well as where self-organizing, stabilizing forces in the vegetation are likely to be found.

Read the full article: Nature

Not only rain but also agriculture and human utilization of trees, bushes and land affect the plants recovering.

Photo credit: Science Daily

Drought-tolerant species thrive despite returning rains in the Sahel

Date:
October 19, 2016
Source:
Stockholm University
Summary:
Following the devastating droughts in the 70s and 80s in the Sahel region south of the Sahara desert, vegetation has now recovered. What surprised the researchers is that although it is now raining more and has become greener, it is particularly the more drought resistant species that thrive instead of the tree and shrub vegetation that has long been characteristic of the area. The conclusion is that not only rain but also agriculture and human utilization of trees, bushes and land affect the plants recovering.

 

The expected pattern is that a drier climate favours drought resistant species, and that a wetter climate makes it possible for species that require more rainfall to thrive. A new study, however, shows the opposite effect; that a shift to more drought tolerant species is occurring, even though it’s raining more. This shows that the recent regreening of the Sahel region can not only be explained by the fact that it rains more, which until now has been the dominant explanation.

Read the full article: Science Daily

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
p1100565
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.
p1100579
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
p1100581-copy
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.

p1100656
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 !

 

 

 

Kenya investing in rehabilitation efforts to stave off the threat of desertification.

 

 

Kenya: Greens Drylands to Combat Land Degradation

By Justus Wanzala

Faced with growing degradation that is swallowing large swathes of land in arid and semiarid areas, Kenya is heavily investing in rehabilitation efforts to stave off the threat of desertification.

Charles Sunkuli, secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, says a programme targeting 5.1 million hectares of degraded and deforested land for restoration by 2030 was launched in September 2016. He added that Kenya is increasing its forest cover from the current seven percent to a minimum of 10 percent.

High levels of poverty, low water availability, deforestation and land degradation are fuelling conflicts among communities in East Africa.

“We have introduced an equalisation fund to help communities living in dry and degraded lands eke out at a living and participate in rehabilitation initiatives,” said Sunkuli.

He was speaking in Nairobi during the Fifteenth Session of the Committee of Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which concluded last week.

Afforestration, he noted, will mainly be done in the country’s arid and semiarid areas which make up 80 percent of Kenya’s land cover, although other areas of the country to are being targeted too.

To succeed in its ambitious endeavour, Sunkuli said Kenya is implementing a programme to promote drought-tolerant tree species such Melia volkensii (locally known as Mukau) in the country’s vast drylands to increase forest cover.

Read the full article: allAfrica

Sustaining the resilience of farming systems in different agro-ecologies

 

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Participants at the workshop. Photo: Jerome Jonah, ICRISAT

STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING RESILIENT FARMING SYSTEMS FOR THE SEMI-ARID REGIONS OF WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA

Stakeholders reviewed, consolidated and charted pathways for sustaining the resilience of farming systems in different agro-ecologies of the semi-arid regions of West and Central Africa, at a workshop in Nigeria.

The presentations addressed the functioning and the integration of the drivers of resilience and components of effective technology packaging and delivery with the overall aim of increasing production and productivity of the farming systems.

The discussions provided an avenue for prioritizing research extension, policy and options for funding to attain large-scale impact across the region. From the deliberations the following trends and research gaps were noted:

  • Growing demand for crop-livestock products in WCA
  • Changes in the structure of the demand for food which are driven by increased per capita income and rapid urbanization resulting in change in diets and preferences
  • Price volatility of major agricultural produce and natural resources associated with marketing of agricultural produce
  • Challenges of managing pastoralism and dealing with issues of conflicts between pastoralism and farmers
  • Climate change is a major issue impacting agricultural production and attainment of food security
  • Inadequate synergy between research and policy and low participation of women and youth in agricultural extension, thereby limiting service delivery to women in key value chains.

The workshop recommendations for addressing the above issues included:

Read the full article: ICRISAT

Rural Women in Drylands (CGIAR)

 

Photo credit: CGIAR

International Day of Rural Women on 15th October

Development and environmental sustainability in rural drylands of the developing world is – without doubt – underpinned by the critical role that women play in agriculture, food and nutrition security, household incomes, health and wellbeing, education, as well as other cultural and socio-economic aspects of life. Yet, women are often excluded from decision-making processes and denied access to critical resources.

At the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, we believe rural dryland communities can thrive only when all members are empowered equally to contribute to and benefit from sustainable agricultural livelihoods. To mark the upcoming International Day of Rural Women on 15th October, I am pleased to invite you to explore:

  • Key Gender Research Studies and Highlights from Dryland Systems work over the past year.
  • Two publication reviews of recent gender-responsive studies on Smallholder Goat Production and Marketing: A Gendered Baseline Study in Mozambique, and on Gender Dynamics in Water Governance Institutions in Zimbabwe.
  • An Exposure photo story on Rural Women in Drylands: Their Success – Our Future, showcasing the multifaceted roles and contributions of rural women in dryland communities.
  • A blog story by Dr. Dina Najjar, gender specialist at ICARDA describing her research insights on the wages and working conditions of landless women and men in the agricultural sector in Morocco.
  • An interview with Mrs. Bezaiet Dessalegn, livelihoods and development specialist at ICARDA, who recounts her experience with key challenges to integrating gender in the research process and to achieving gender parity in agriculture and science.

Read the full article: CGIAR

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