School Feeding in different countries (Google / Friends of WFP)

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October 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

School Feeding in Rwanda: An Interview with Guy Adoua of the United Nations World Food Programme

Rwanda is on the long road to recovery from the 1994 genocide that devastated the African nation. Hunger and poverty still grip the country. The way out of this vicious cycle is food and education. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is helping provide school meals to fight child hunger and promote class attendance. Lets take a closer look at this program with Guy Adoua, a World Food Programme officer in Rwanda.


School Feeding in Sierra Leone: An Interview with Christa Räder of the United Nations World Food Programme

Sierra Leone continues to recover from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2001. The war destroyed most of the country’s socioeconomic and physical infrastructure, and caused unprecedented population displacement. Domestic production of rice, the country’s main staple, currently only meets about 70 percent of the consumption requirements. The remainder needs to be imported at increasingly expensive prices. Located in West Africa, Sierra Leone ranks last out of the 177 countries listed in the latest United Nations Human Development Index. About 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and is vulnerable to food insecurity, while 26 percent cannot even afford the minimum daily calorific requirements. Sierra Leone has one of the highest child malnutrition rates as well. Nine percent of children below five years are acutely malnourished and about 40 percent are chronically malnourished, not able to live up to their physical and mental potential. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Sierra Leone fight hunger and poverty. In the following interview with Christa Räder, WFP Country Director for Sierra Leone, we will look at school feeding programs that combat child hunger.


School Feeding in Burkina Faso: An Interview with Olga Keita of the United Nations World Food Programme

Located in West Africa, Burkina Faso is classified as both a least-developed country, and a low-income and food-deficit country. More than 45% of the population lives below the poverty line. Very food-insecure, with high rates of both chronic and acute malnutrition (respectively 34.6% and 23.1%), the country is subject to recurrent drought, which results in cereal shortfall. The enrollment rate in primary school is one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2007 Human Development Report ranked Burkina Faso 176th out of 177 countries. United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) assistance reaches an average of 450,000 beneficiaries per year in 25 provinces characterized by structural food insecurity, high rates of chronic malnutrition, low school enrollment, low literacy, and low attendance at health centers. WFP school feeding provides meals to rural primary school children located in the arid Sahel Region of Burkina Faso. This region is the most food-insecure part of the country, with low yields and cereal production that sometimes covers only 50% of the population’s needs. The climate is also a challenge, with a rainy season that lasts just three months and temperatures that range from 10° C in December to more than 43° C in March and April. School Gross Enrollment in the Sahel region is the lowest in the country (48.8% vs. 72.5%), with a high gender disparity, especially at the beginning of WFP’s school feeding program in 2003.

(continued) Continue reading “School Feeding in different countries (Google / Friends of WFP)”

India : Kitchen gardens and fruit tree afforestation to combat drought, desertification and poverty (SCAD)

On all continents success stories in the combat of desertification have been booked in different fields of soil management and conditioning, water conservation, harvesting and management, plant production in agriculture and horticulture, afforestation and reforestation. Mitigation of drought, combat of desertification and alleviation of poverty are the main battlefields of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Excellent practices for achieving the Millennium Development Goals have been described. The best of these practices should now be applied at the largest scale in order to “attack” those problems in the most efficient way.

In cooperation with SCAD (Social Change and Development), an Indian NGO in Tamil Nadu (South India), trials on kitchen gardens and afforestation with fruit trees have been set up in January 2008. The main objectives of these trials are :

  • To show that drought and desertification can successfully be combated with the soil conditioning TerraCottem-method.
  • To show that productive kitchen gardens can be installed on poor soils.
  • To show that massive production of vegetables with a minimum of irrigation water and fertilizer is possible.
  • To show that afforestation with fruit trees in the drylands is possible without excessive irrigation.
  • To organize workshops for the local farmers on these technologies and techniques .
  • To organize training sessions for the local Women’s Self Help Groups (SHG).

Thanks to initiatives taken at the level of Rotary Antwerp (Belgium) and Rotary Duisburg (Germany), Dr. Stany PAUWELS and his wife Kiki have conducted a Belgian group of 20 to SCAD Headquarters in Cheranmahadevi in January 2008.

A donation of 500 kg TerraCottem soil conditioner and 40 kg of seeds, collected in Belgium and The Netherlands with the action “Zaden voor Leven – Seeds for Life” (, enabled the setting up of trials at the Agricultural Center SCAD-KVK and at the SCAD headquarters.

More trials and a workshop for farmers were organized by SCAD.

SCAD Engineers and Administrators, under the able leadership of Dr. Cletus BABU, President of SCAD, and his wife Amali, produced the following report on the results of this project in February – June 2008. Interesting observations have already been made.

All people concerned are now looking forward for interesting conclusions of these trials. They will certainly contribute to the sustainable development of the farmers and the many Women’s Self Help Groups, living in the drylands of Tamil Nadu.

Kitchen gardens and orchards with different species of fruit trees are very promising tools in the combat of drought, desertification and poverty.

Continue reading “India : Kitchen gardens and fruit tree afforestation to combat drought, desertification and poverty (SCAD)”

Combating desertification with homestead gardening (Willem)

Today, we have read with great interest an article published by the Bangladesh’s Independent News Source THE NEW NATION :

Homestead gardening becoming popular in Barind area by BSS, Rajshah

Let us have a quick look at some of the salient points :

  1. Marginal farmers and the poor people in the vast region are mostly engaged in gardening around their homesteads in both summer and winter seasons by making the best use of spaces around their homes with production of different fruits and vegetables.
  2. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) have been providing all-out cooperation with necessary training and required inputs to the farmers to grow fruits and vegetables for their own consumption and extra earning by selling those.
  3. Use of vacant spaces for producing fruits and vegetables has been seen as potential means for gradual development in the life of downtrodden in the region.
  4. Implementation of various types of need-based programmes offers the farmers possibilities to produce traditional fruits and vegetables round the year.
  5. The On-Farm Research Division (OFRD) of BARI has established crop museums at different areas in the region, which have created a positive impact, encouraging a large number of farmers to grow such fruits and vegetables as well as other crops by using the modern method.
  6. BARI is providing required inputs and quality seeds to the growers of different types of vegetables.
  7. The farmers are also planting different fruit-bearing trees.
  8. The method of growing these fruits and vegetables has increased resource utilisation side by side with enhancing use of modern varieties of vegetable crops and quality seeds in the farming ground.
  9. Women of farmers’ families are increasingly getting involved in the respective productive ventures.——————-

    2008-03 : India/Tamil Nadu : SCAD-project : Preparation of family gardens around the house. (Photo SCAD).

    2008-05 : India/Tamil Nadu : SCAD-project : The first remarkable successes. (Photo SCAD).

    2008-04 : India/Tamil Nadu : SCAD-project : Training and capacity building of farmers by SCAD/KVK engineers. (Photo SCAD).

    2008-05 : India/Tamil Nadu : SCAD-project : Field preparation with soil conditioning. (Photo SCAD).


    I am really impressed! The Bangladesh article above is confirming my deepest conviction that homestead gardening (the creation of family gardens and school gardens) is one of the best tools to combat desertification and to alleviate poverty, in particular for the poor rural people in the drylands.  Therefore, let me invite all potential donors, development banks, United Nations Agencies, service clubs and private investors to consider application of these success stories at the largest scale. Many pearls make a nice necklace!

    The “miracle” of seeing small family gardens and school gardens already flourishing a few months after their creation with a minimal investment should be the clearest signal for anyone of us that this is “not a miracle”, but pure logic. These small “green pearls” do not have the well-known inconveniences of the huge, and extremely costly big projects and programmes. They can be managed by the local people themselves and do never become a “ruin” after the donor has left.

    Why do we recognize that some methods are “the best practices”, if we do not apply them at the largest scale? Why, dear ladies and gentlemen? Silence is never a symphony!

Ethiopia : Thousands of children threatened by drought (Google / CCTV)

Read at : Google Alert – drought

Thousands of children threatened by drought in Ethiopia


Source: | 06-02-2008

Famine in southern Ethiopia is threatening the lives of thousands of children, as the lack of rain has caused poor harvests. People are travelling long distances in search of water. In southern Ethiopia, starving children are arriving daily at hospitals, health centers and churches. UNICEF says 6 million Ethiopian children under the age of 5 may be at risk of malnutrition. Another group estimates 3.4 million of Ethiopia’s more than 80 million people will need food relief from July to September, in addition to 8 million regularly receiving assistance.

Aid agencies have rushed in to try and save the lives
of children who are mainly at risk. (Photo:

Emiliano Lucero, field doctor, said, “In this area we are nurturing stabilization center for malnutrition programme that doctors without borders have in the Roopi area. We are doing the feeding of the children with different phases of month. We have a lot of children right now. Slowly by slowly, we are trying to improve their medical condition.” Local officials are visiting the areas hardest hit to prepare for a government response.

Abadula Gemeda, chief administrator of Oromia Regional State, said, “I came here to observe the level of famine created following the severe drought in the area. Though the problem was prevailing for a few months, we have already started working on short and long term solutions.”

United Nations agencies estimate Ethiopia needs 197 million US dollars to meet the food shortfall.

Local doctors have reported more than 400 children suffering from malnutrition. UNICEF estimates 126-thousand children are severely malnourished, and only 33-thousand are receiving treatment.

Editor:Liu Fang


Terrible droughts in Africa are not new and so is working on short and long term solutions. Technologies and methods have been developed to combat desertification (land degradation) and to improve food production with a minimum of irrigation water. Successes have been booked producing food crops in the most harsh conditions. Those “best practices” are well-known, e.g. UNICEF ALGERIA has constructed a large number of small family gardens in the refugee camps in the Sahara desert, thus offering fresh food to the children at a regular base.

Investment in such “cheap” little gardens has proven to be a remarkable short term solution, delivering vegetables and fruits within a couple of months, but also an excellent long term solution, being a firm step forward towards sustainable development.

Such a solution can be applied in every dryland country. The basic condition is that a limited quantity of irrigation water is present and the right modern technology is combined with the right traditional, local method of food production. What UNICEF did in the Sahara desert is applicable in most of the drylands, and one does not need millions of dollars for that. Let us simply give it just a try and, if it works, if those children are really helped, let us look for opportunities to apply it at a larger scale. For it is time for action !

The “World Food Crops Seedbank” (WFCS) : combating malnutrition and hunger (Willem / Susan Ji Young Park)

With some Belgian friends, I am involved in the creation of the “World Food Crops Seedbank” (WFCS).

Wikipedia tells us that “a seedbank stores seeds as a source for planting in case seed reserves elsewhere are destroyed. It is a type of gene bank. The seeds stored may be food crops, or those of rare species to protect biodiversity. The reasons for storing seeds may be varied. In the case of food crops: many useful plants that were developed over centuries are now no longer used for commercial agricultural production and are becoming rare. Storing seeds also guards against catastrophic events like natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, or war.

We would like to incorporate a more practical aspect in the definition of a “seedbank” : it can also be a “bank” where seeds of all food crops (those generally used for food production) are deposited and stocked temporarily before sending them to people who cannot afford to buy commercial seeds and thereby are forced to live in recurrent conditions of malnutrition or even hunger. We think at people in the drylands, suffering from drought and desertification, and those in the refugee camps of this world, generally dependent upon food aid programs, like that of the WFP.

The main objective of our “WORLD FOOD CROPS SEEDBANK (WFCS)” is to invite all goodwill people to save the seeds of all kinds of food crops (vegetables and fruits) that are usually thrown in the garbage bin or on the compost heap, and to send the washed and thoroughly dried seeds to one of the branches of the WFCS. Under supervision of experts the right species of seeds, adapted to the specific environmental conditions, are then send to people in need. Thus, what was saved from the garbage bin is now becoming the source of new plantlife and basic food products, full of vitamins and mineral elements. Particularly the children are welcoming this new initiative with enthusiasm, e.g. when creating school gardens or small family gardens in the hostile environment they are living in.

Besides their role in food production, family gardens can also function as green spots in an ocean of sands and dunes (see the young olive tree and the palm tree) – (Français : A part de leur rôle dans la production de l’alimentation, les jardins de famille peuvent aussi former un endroit vert dans un océan de sables et dunes (voir le jeune olivier et le palmier).

Nicely growing tomatoes in a family garden. People use what ever locally available materials for supporting tomatoes. (Français : Des belles tomates dans un jardin de famille. Les gens utilisent tout ce qui est disponible pour construire les supports).

Even Radish was introduced in the refugee camps, thanks to the efforts of some good people from all over Europe. (Français : Même des radis ont été introduit dans les camps des réfugiés, grâce aux efforts de quelques bons Européens).

In August 2007, we started this collecting of seeds in Belgium. It soon became a remarkable success with a growing number of people, schools and schoolchildren sending regularly envelops and boxes of seeds. Thanks to many contributions of the media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television) this initiative is now supported by people in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, and recently by enthusiastic people in Canada and California (see also with an English chapter).

Nowadays, we are officially structuring the WFCS in order to facilitate the creation of a worldwide network of national branches or even state branches within a single country. The first enthusiastic reactions of people abroad are very encouraging.

For a first impression go to the website “Park This, My Life in Food” of Mrs. Susan Ji Young Park in Pasadena, California :

who is currently supporting our action within schools in the USA.

Should you want to participate in our action, send your dried seeds of food crops to the Belgian branch of the WFCS

p/a Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

Beeweg 36

Additional branches of the WFCS will be created quite soon in different countries. We will announce that creation through the website of the WFCS (coming up soon).

Sincere thanks in the name of so many people living in the most difficult situation.

American and Canadian interest in “Seeds for Life” project (Willem)

In August 2007, I launched the new project “Seeds for Life” in Belgium ( ; with an English page). Quite soon, it became a real success, people sending me at regular intervals the seeds they collected from the fruits they had been eating (melon, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, avocado, cherimoya, pomegrenate, etc.). Later on we collected also leftovers of all kinds of vegetable seeds. We transfered already many kg of seeds to two projects :

* UNICEF’s project to construct small family gardens and school gardens in the refugee camps of the Saharawis in S.W. Algeria.
* SCAD project in Tamil Nadu (South India), in cooperation with Rotary Club of Antwerp (Belgium).

The remarkable success of this action is continuously growing, more and more seeds being sent by people from Belgium, but also from other European countries, like The Netherlands, France and Portugal.

Recently, seeds were sent by Astrid GORDON from POWELL RIVER, British Columbia (Canada) and by Farid ZADI, an Algerian Chef from the Californian School of Culinary Arts, PASADENA, USA. It feeds my hope that this initiative can easily grow into an international aid action.

For a better understanding, please read my latest reply to an email message of Farid ZADI :

Dear Farid,

Receiving your new message I spend some time to have a closer look at your different websites or blogs. I deduce from it that you are an Algerian Chef at the California School of Culinary Arts (Bravo !). Congratulations for your nice and interesting blogs, through which I was taken back to excellent memories of my different missions to Algiers and the Tindouf area (tasteful tagines and chorbas). Being a botanist myself, I was intrigued by the forum on Jaqui’s “mystery fruit”. Was that mystery ever solved? Could I get some seeds of it ?

As you know, I am collecting seeds of tropical fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Our objective is to grow them in the family gardens and school gardens of the UNICEF-project in the refugee camps of the Saharawis (Tindouf area). Many of them are germinating and contribute directly to the public health, in particular that of the children (UNICEF’s concern). Nowadays, I receive daily quantities of seeds from different Western European countries and they are sent to Tindouf by the Algerian Embassy in Brussels, a most gentle act of sympathy with our action agreed upon by His Excellency, your Ambassador.

UNICEF hopes to construct a family garden for every family in the different camps, where some 30.000 families are living in the desert for already 30 years now. Today, some 1500 gardens are functional and construction of many more is on its way. We first intended to continue this action until the end of 2008, but some regrettable events in your beautiful country are slowing down our progress. Therefore, it will be necessary to prolong our efforts over a longer period, until a sufficient number of gardens exist in which the people themselves can grow vegetables and fruits. From these they can save the seeds for their compatriots in the camps (self-sufficiency). That is “sustainable development” in the real sense : we save seeds that would otherwise go to the garbage bin, the Saharawis are cultivating fresh food and fruits from them and they are saving the seeds for  additional gardens. Isn’t that splendid ?

Actually, I am preparing the creation of an International Foundation “SEEDS FOR LIFE”, through which all developed countries could contribute to the formation of a “WORLD SEED BANK”. This BANK could then deliver specific seeds of food crops and fruits to “development projects” of international organizations (UNO) and NGOs. It would be a fantastic way to recycle the seeds, normally landing in the garbage bins and on compost heaps. I call it a very simple way to help hungry people in need, like those in all the refugee camps in the world, especially the poor rural people in the drylands. I hope that important decision-makers of this world will help us to realize my dream.

One of the extremely nice steps in the realization of that dream can be played by youngsters. It seems that your wife already understood those extraordinary possibilities by involving your children’s school into a valuable educational “long-term school project”. I would like to know more about that initiative ! I hope extension to other American schools will be feasible.

We started in the Algerian refugee camps. We were already successful after 3-4 months, which is remarkable for a development project. Other donors, like a Belgian Rotary Club, showed their interest in this simple and practical initiative. They offered us a chance to apply the same action in Southern India (Tamil Nadu), where the same positive results have been booked after 3-4 months again. That project is now extending.

All this shows that opportunities exist to apply our method to all drylands of the world (on all continents). Later on, development aid organizations could easily apply for help of the “SEEDS FOR LIFE” Bank. Networking at the global level, to involve all interested development organizations must be feasible with a real minimum of investment (collection of “waste” seeds, selection and treatment of those seeds, transfer of those seeds to development projects).

I don’t see why this should not work ! With the help of goodwill people all over the world, we can make this world significantly better. Indeed, if one can limit malnutrition and hunger, one is taking the causes of social unrest and conflicts away. It would be a dramatic improvement of the marvelous actions of UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). I wonder if the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation would be interested in supporting such a global action.

Anyway, Dear Farid, thanks for your the real interest you and your wife have shown already.

You deserve my sincere thanks and warm regards,



May this posting contribute to the awareness building of many goodwill people all over the world. Together we stand stronger ! Send your spare seeds of fruits and all kinds of vegetables to my personal address :

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
Beeweg 36
B-9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium)

I reach hands to any organization or person wanting to contribute to my “SEEDS FOR LIFE” action.  You are all most welcome !

Microcredits or microloans of a soil conditioner (Google / Magharebia / Willem)

Read at : Google Alert – Algeria

Algeria to increase microcredits for young entrepreneurs

Algeria’s Ministry of National Solidarity plans to raise the number of microcredits granted to young Algerian entrepreneurs to more than 100,000 by the end of 2008, local press quoted minister Djamel Ould Abbes as saying on Saturday (March 15th). Speaking at a meeting aimed at evaluating the work of the National Agency for Microcredit Management (Angem), Abbes said the move was expected to ensure social stability for some 150,000 families. Ould Abbes said the agency has been instructed to quickly establish a list of eligible beneficiaries, including young graduates, widows, housewives, rural women, poor families and the families of victims of the national tragedy. Abbes also said the government has instructed banks to reduce the waiting period for a decision to no more than three months for individuals who submit an application.



Microfinancing and microfranchising are used more and more to alleviate poverty, e.g. helping poor people to start a small business with a minimal credit and acceptable payback conditions.

When speaking about poverty of rural people, microcredits for a small business seem generally reserved for the creation of little shops.

However, my personal experience with small projects in the drylands tells me that offering a small quantity of a water stocking soil conditioner to farmers is one of the most important steps towards sustainable development. Indeed, the farmer (or his wife) is thereby enabled to treat a family garden for the production of vegetables with a minimal quantity of irrigation water. The higher yield is partly used for the family, partly taken to the market, thus enhancing annual income. A certain percentage of this supplementary income can then be used for purchasing an additional quantity of the soil conditioner, again enhancing the volume of the harvested vegetables and fruits and the ensuing annual income, etc.

Therefore, I can only recommend to foresee in any system of microfinancing a possibility to offer to rural people “microloans of a small quantity of soil conditioner“, e.g. 20 kg as a start. For every farmer family, such a microloan can be the start of a swift positive change in standards of living. It suffices to apply the water stocking soil conditioner in the family garden, e.g. 20 kg for 200 square meter to see crop production enhancing with only a minimal irrigation, and to take a part of the significantly grown quantity of vegetables and fruits to the market. More annual income offers more means to pay back the microloan. As the soil conditioner remains active in the soil for a longer period, e.g. several years, it continuously stocks rain or irrigation water, even capillar moisture in the rooting zone and it fertilizes gradually the topsoil while accelerating mineralization. Thereby, the production of crops remains significantly higher during a long period. The farmer’s family can gradually expand the kitchen garden, produce more and more crops for the market and get higher and higher income. Isn’t this sustainable development ?

Let me recommend to think seriously about applying MICROLOANS OF A SOIL CONDITIONER for alleviation of poverty in the drylands. It is a simple, practical and very efficient way to help the rural poor. I am convinced that this method can easily be applied by NGOs, playing an effective role as the intermediate link between the producer of a soil conditioner and the local farmer family. Any comments ?

Using plastic bags as cheap grow bags (A. SCHRADER / Willem)

Last year I published a message on “Cheap grow bags“, containing some of my ideas about using plastic bags as very cheap containers :

More and more advertisements on so-called grow bags are found on the internet. These are plastic bags, used as containers, filled with a quality substrate (potting soil with a good mineral and organic content). One recommends to purchase these grow bags in a green center or nursery. Of course, there is always a price tag on each of these grow bags.

However, we all know that numerous simple plastic bags (white, blue, black, etc.), used everywhere on all continents as shopping bags, constitute a heavy burden on the environment. Generally, these bags are thrown in the garbage bins, but in many developing countries they are simply littered and fly around in the streets. You will find many of them hanging in the trees as if it were huge blue, white and black flowers.

Here is my idea : why don’t we use them as cheap grow bags? We can easily fill them up with soil (possibly improved with some animal manure), close them tightly and cut some small holes (slits) for drainage in the bottom part. Seedlings or seeds can be put in small holes on top of the bag (number to be decided in function of the adult plant’s dimensions).

For climbing plants (like tomatoes, peas or beans) a cage or deepee can be put over the bag.

All kinds of vegetables, or even young trees can be grown on such cheap plastic bags. One can even imagine that school children use this system in the school yard, creating a school garden even on a concrete surface, thus helping to get rid of all that plastic in the streets or the environment. The kids would thus help to keep the environment cleaner, growing vegetables at school to supplement their lunches with vitamins and mineral elements.

Therefore, cheap plastic grow bags can be used as a simple didactic tool to create a sort of school garden in the school yard or along the wall of the classrooms. Millions of plastic bags all over the world would not be littered anymore, but taken to school to create productive gardens. Vegetables and young trees can thus be grown with a minimum of water, because the soil in the grow bags will be kept moistened for a longer time (less evaporation).

Young fruit trees, grown by the kids at school in those cheap grow bags, could be taken home at the end of the school year and planted close to their house. It suffices to dig a plant pit, put the plastic grow bag with the young tree in the pit, cut the bag open at 4 sides, bend the plastic completely open and fold the plastic under the rootball, fill up the plant pit with local soil, water the plant pit thoroughly and let the roots grow out.

The young fruit tree will continue its growth and we get rid of the buried plastic. Isn’t that nice ?

I wonder if you will set up an experiment with a couple of plastic grow bags. I am looking forward to read your comments and, hopefully, nice results (with some pictures?).


Last week I received an interesting comment from Alfred SCHRADER :

> Author : Al Schrader

> Comment:
> Yeah, it works great.
> I’m growing beets right in the bag.

> Al

Today, Al added :”So far the results are unbelievable. But I’ve only been doing it for a month. The bag holds moisture, but the small holes allow the beets to “breathe”. Instead of requiring several gallons of water per week, only a few ounces per month are needed, because the bag almost eliminates evaporation losses. And the small opening with only the beet tops exposed limits weeds to almost zero. This could work very well in desert areas. Al “.


This short comment shows how promising the use of very simple plastic shopping bags for growing food crops or young trees can be for rural people in the drylands. I really do hope that this method will be applied at the largest scale in the future, not only because of its value as contribution to food security, but also because it will invite people not to litter those shopping bags anymore (pollution of the environment) ! Food production with a minimum of water and protection of the environment in one single action. Don’t you think this is a “best practice” ?  And why shouldn’t the schools give the example ?

Women for peace and gender equality in Africa (IISD)

Read at : Linkages Update


At the occasion of the High-Level Policy Dialogue on National Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, held on 6-8 February 2008, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW) launched two new projects in Africa. The projects aim to support the implementation of resolution 1325, by calling for the full and equal participation of women in all peace and security initiatives, and calling for gender mainstreaming in the context of armed conflict, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction. The projects will assess the situation of women in peace and security areas, while promoting awareness among policy-makers, the security sector and civil society for a national consensus building process and development of a national agenda. One project will be carried out in Burundi and Liberia, with support from the Government of Austria, and another one will be in Somalia, with support from the Government of Italy.

Link to further information
UN-INSTRAW website

Mali : Rural women process and sell shea butter (Google / Farm Radio Weekly)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Developing Countries Farm Radio Network.

Rural women process and sell shea butter

This week’s script provides more insight into the work of women who process shea nuts. It talks about The Fakocouru Women’s Binkadi Association in Mali, a group of 850 women who make shea butter. The labour-intensive process of producing shea butter provides the women with income and a useful product for their homes. The script also explains how, by making use of shea nuts, the association helps to preserve the shea trees and thereby fight desertification. You can find the full script below or read it online at:


Exchanging seeds and other tips (Mother Earth Living)

Today I was sending the following comment to Mother Earth Living, hosted by the editors of the very interesting Mother Earth News magazine, “The Original Guide to Living Wisely (warmly recommended, also for the Mother Earth Living Tips!):

As a botanist and honorary professor of the University of Ghent (Belgium), I am currently helping UNICEF ALGERIA with a project called “Creation of family gardens and school gardens in the Saharawi refugee camps in the Sahara desert of Algeria”. More than 1000 small family gardens were created in 2007 (see website with photos . In August, I launched an action in Belgium for the collection of seeds of tropical and sub-tropical fruit species, like melon, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, avocado, sweet pepper, chilipepper, tomato, pommegranade, tamarind, etc. Many compatriots are sending me the seeds of the fruits they consumed, otherwise going to their garbage bin. All these seeds are nowadays going to the refugee camps, helping to produce some vegetables and fruits for these poor people and children. I wonder if some readers of Mother Earth News would like to help UNICEF by sending seeds of vegetables and fruits to my address : Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM – Beeweg 36 – B9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium). The seeds are sent to the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria with the help of the Algerian Embassy in Brussels. Thanks for your attention to this humanitarian action. To all of you : Merry Christmas and a very green 2008, also for the family gardens in the desert. Willem

I was sending this comment after reading Mother Earth Living’s

Swap Seeds This Season

by Tabitha Alterman
If you’re getting eager to start your garden, you’re probably already stockpiling seed catalogs and making wish lists. But before you order a long list of seeds from the catalogs, you might want to try acquiring seeds through fun and easy seed swaps. You can save a little money this way, and it’s a great excuse to get together with other local gardeners. Plus you’ll be joining the efforts of gardeners worldwide to preserve plant diversity and keep many heirloom garden plants around for generations to come. The traditional model of a seed swap is an informal local get-together, usually in early spring, where gardening neighbors all bring extra seeds saved from previous seasons — along with any surplus seedlings they won’t be able to use that year — and trade these valuable goods among themselves. Who had the juiciest tomatoes last year? You’ll want a few seeds from those plants. You started too many broccoli seedlings in your backyard greenhouse? Why not spread the love around? Continue reading “Exchanging seeds and other tips (Mother Earth Living)”

Back from my mission in Algeria

Dear visitors of my blogs,

It took me a while to tackle all the classical problems of a longer absence : correspondence, reports to write, reply to emails, etc. But now I am back at my blogs and hope to catch up as soon as possible.

For now, let me tell you something about the success of our UNICEF project in Algeria “Construction of family gardens and school gardens in the refugees’ camps of Tindouf (S.W. Algeria – Sahara desert)“.

The Sahrawi people are extremely motivated to get their small gardens ready as soon as possible. From 208 gardens in 2006, the number of gardens grew to more than 1200. These gardens are treated with our soil conditioner TerraCottem (<>) to stock a maximum of saline irrigation water in the upper 20-30 cm of sandy soil. Seeds of vegetables are provided by UNICEF ALGERIA. Young trees are offered by the Forestry Services of Tindouf. Local schools are also participating in the project. Follow-up is assured by a Technical Committee and several agronomists.

In August 2007, I launched an action of seed collection in Belgium. With the help of the media (newspapers, radio, television), I invited my compatriots to send me the seeds of tropical fruits, which are normally thrown in the garbage bin (melon, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, avocado, sweet pepper etc.). There was a massive and remarkably positive reaction of the Belgians ! For the first time, someone is not asking money for development cooperation, but only garbage seeds.

I received already more than 100 kg of seeds, half of which were already taken to the refugee camps on my last trip, or send by the Algerian Embassy for use in Algerian school gardens (another nice UNICEF project, called : “Schools, Friends of the children”).

It is really fantastic to see, for the first time in 30 years in these camps of the Sahrawis, vegetables growing in small desert gardens. What a splendid contribution to human health in those extremely difficult conditions ! This is the best way to provide continuously fresh food and fruits with vitamins and mineral elements, in particular for the children.

You look for success stories ? This is one of the best ! I will soon show you some more pictures.

Team with UNICEF seeds   Family garden Layoun  Family garden Layoun 2  watermelons in Dahla

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Unicef team and Sahrawis engineers carrying seeds from UNICEF / Some of the family gardens at the end of October 2007.

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