Jamaican Farmer Field Schools and drought


Photo credit: Foodtank

Surviving the Drought with Jamaican Farmer Field Schools

Since winning the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s YES! Competitionlast year, Shaneica Lester and Anne-Teresa Birthwright now run a knowledge transfer project for small-scale farmers in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. Lester and Birthwright’s program, which focuses on irrigation conservation education, provides farmers with skills and education necessary to combat drought-related issues that impact their lands.

Lester and Birthwright’s Irrigation Farmer Field Schools (IFFS) include lessons on water conservation, understanding climate change, soil and water management, and ecosystem analysis. Through participating in the IFFS program, Jamaican farmers learn about technologies and techniques that can be directly applied to their fields and adapted to suit their needs, providing farmers with agency to decide how to manage their land and allocate their resources.

“We wanted to avoid a top-down approach and instead encourage self-empowerment within rural communities. A participatory approach allows farmers to be a part of their own solution by contributing their knowledge and expertise, as well as their perception and understanding of climate change,” Lester and Birthwright said in an interview with Food Tank.

Small farmers drive Jamaica’s agricultural sector and ensure the nation’s food security. When researching the challenges experienced by small rural farmers, Lester and Birthwright discovered that drought was the primary leading factor causing Jamaicans to quit farming and preventing young people from wanting to farm.

Read the full article: Foodtank

School meals and ending hunger

Photo credit: WVC 2003 SCHOOLGARDEN-SAL CABO VERDE 02.jpg

A schoolgarden, one of the best solutions to improve the school meals

FAO joins celebrations for International School Meals Day

International School Meals Day, celebrated around the world today, is a timely reminder of the need to promote healthy eating habits for all children through sustainable policies, including sourcing food from family farmers.

Every day around 370 million children around the world are fed at school through school meals programmes that are run in varying degrees by national governments.

Each programme is different: beans and rice in Madagascar, spicy lentils in the Philippines, vegetable pastries and fruit in Jordan. In some countries it may be a healthy snack, or it could include take-home food such as vitamin A-enriched oil for the whole family.

School meals have proved successful in providing educational and health benefits to the most vulnerable children. School meals boost school attendance, and a full stomach can help students concentrate on their lessons.

Communities, particularly in rural areas, also benefit when family farmers and small and medium enterprises are the main source of healthy food for the schools.

International School Meals Day marks these achievements and helps raise greater awareness of the value of school meals globally.

A generation of well-nourished children

FAO believes that consistent global investments in school meals will lead to a generation of children who develop healthy eating habits and who benefit from a diverse diet. Ultimately this effort will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.

Read the full article: FAO

You may also read:



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:

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


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.

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 !




Bottle towers for alleviating malnutrition


Photo credit WVC P1080581.JPG

Planting seedlings of vegetables and herbs in the recycled plastic bottles.


It’s so simple and easy. Why wouldn’t hungry and malnourished people build some themselves ?

One of the best practices for development cooperation.

See: Building a bottle tower for container gardening


Soon after planting the seedlings, young vegetables and herbs are growing quickly and harvesting can start, e.g. lettuce leaves at the right. – * Bottle Towers WVC 322133_101112709993771_100002851261908_2439_2626124_o.jpg
Bottle towers standing upright on pallets. – * Bottle towers on a pallet – Photo WVC – P1080463.JPG
Bottle towers with strawberries.Underneath each tower a bottle is collecting the surplus of irrigation water, loaded with nutrients. That water can easily be recycled by pouring it on top of the tower. – * Bottle towers – strawberries – Photo Pauline Nelson – 565435_283588941760201_1896170039_n.jpg
Wouldn’t it be nice if parents could offer these strawberries to their kids in the drylands ? – * Bottle towers – strawberries – Photo Pauline Nelson – 565290_283588961760199_1317560849_n.jpg
Strawberries, herbs and lettuce growing against the wall. That’s one of the best practices to combat malnutrition – * Bottle towers – Phpto Sendanatura Jimdo – – sembrando-en-pet.jpg
Different vegetables growing on bottle towers – * Bottle towers – Photo Scuola Dantelafalda – DSCN2839.JPG
Massive production of vegetables – * Bottle towers – Photo Scuola Dantelafalda – DSCN2837.JPG
This is not a dream, but reality: food aid in its purest form. This water saving method can be multiplied all over the world, even in the driest places. – * Bottle towers – Photo Scuola Dantelafalda – DSCN2514.JPG

See our video:

Building a bottle tower for container gardening


Plastic bottles stacked into a bottle tower can be recycled to set up a vertical kitchen garden at home. The bottle towers are used for container gardening of vegetables and herbs. How to build such a tower is shown in different steps.

Ten thousands of shady tunnels in all the drylands: only a dream ?



Tunnels of drought-tolerant plants in the drylands to combat desertification and feed people and livestock.

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

When I tell people that this is feasible, they ask me if it’s only a dream.  And yet, it would be easy to construct ten thousands, even one hundred thousands of living tunnels.  It suffices to choose available wooden species (trees and shrubs), native or adapted to the region.  Here is a non-limited series of examples for the drylands of Africa, but one can certainly make a list of Asian, Australian or American species too:

Acacia sieberiana var.woodii (Paperbark),

Acacia baileyana (Bailey’s Acacia)

Olea europaea subs. africana (Wild olive),

Moringa oleifera (Moringa)

Brachylaena discolor (Wild silver oak),

Salix matsudana var. Navajo (globe willow),

Combretum spp. (Bushwillow)

Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak)

Cussonia paniculata (Highveld cabbage tree),

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Rosea’ (Crape Myrtle ‘Rosea’)

Ligustrum (Privet)

Hymensporum flavum (Sweetshade Tree)

Vachellia drepanolobium (Whistling thorn),

Populus (Cottonwood)

Sutherlandia frutescens (Cancer bush),

Coleonema pulchellum (Confetti bush),

Portulacaria afra (Elephant bush),

Acanthosicyos horrida (Nara Plant)

Rhus lancea (African Sumac)

In 2003, I brought home from Arizona a couple of cuttings of the drought-tolerant Navajo willow (Salix matsudana var. Navajo) and planted them in my garden in Belgium.  They were rooting and growing extremely quickly (as Belgium is far from being a dryland).  Today in 2016, they reach a height of 14 meter.  In April 2011, I started building a teepee with cuttings of my “Belgian” Navajo willows. It soon became a nice “living hut”, which brought me to the idea that it would be possible to construct “living tunnels” with similar cuttings of drought-tolerant trees or shrubs.

Photo WVC: P1080833.JPG – 2012-08-17 – My teepee in Belgium

Without exaggeration I can tell that I always get a sort of happy feeling under the canopy of trees or in a tree tunnel. Most trees can easily be sculpted by pruning into many forms, thus altering their growth.  One of these forms is a tunnel.  One can use it as an excellent construction for a shady walk, but my thoughts are oriented upon an application as a fantastic location for family gardening (a kitchen garden) in the drylands.

Let us have a look at some examples and thereby imagine that a family in the drylands could use these as a “garden”, where, in the shadow inside the tunnel vegetables and herbs, even fruits, can be grown to feed the family.

Google: http://www.northwaleswildlifetrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/willow_tunnel_barmouth_1.2_17.jpg
Google: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/c5/6d/4d/c56d4d086a837dd99490c7f9f2f3d9fe.jpg
Google: The first buds shooting on the cuttings – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/74/d7/7e/74d77ef8ba227d12d4f60019ac693b6e.jpg
Google: http://www.naturalfencing.com/images/additional2/169_resized.jpg
Google: living willow tunnel – mike dodd artworks mike dodd artworks604 × 400Search by image I created a serpentine living willow tunnel for the exhibition ‘Fauna and Flora’ at Burghley Sculpture Garden, Burghley House, Lincs, UK. – http://mike-dodd.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/5-604×400.jpg
Google: http://www.rickneal.ca/travelblog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Willow-Walk.jpg
Google: http://www.schoolscapes.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/8109-01-720×800.jpg
Google: https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2740/4256103075_05557f932e_z.jpg?zz=1
Google: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-85auYauO7Dw/UTTOiK-pgYI/AAAAAAAASCk/P8xMC5NAxi8/s1600/DSC01955.JPG
Google: https://baileyinterior.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/greenery-tunnel.jpg
Google: Many years after planting the tunnel is still an ideal place to grow fresh food in the shade. – http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_SnirMVbJI_U/TLXA6_T2MGI/AAAAAAAAAeo/9SErfgm1Ucg/s1600/Aberglasney+Tunnel.jpg
Google: A dream ? No Sir, reality ! – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/5e/f3/8c/5ef38c23577b8e6bc7a5f5d2fc4db76f.jpg

Now, let this be a dream for nomadic people: living houses here and there along the track.  Nevertheless, even this dream can be realized !

Google: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/f7/f1/5c/f7f15cbdae5fd029d089eeceb1f0fbde.jpg

From survival to victory !


PHOTO CREDIT: WVC – 2002-07-OUALIDIA – MOROCCO 22 copy.jpg

Local farmers discussing the results of a scientific experiment on enhancement of food production by application of the soil conditioner TerraCottem


By Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM – Ghent University, Belgium

In 2012 I read an article published by Dean FOSDICK in The Seattle Times, entitled: ‘Survival gardens’ can help save cash

Patches deliver high yields from small spaces and produce wholesome foods that store well

Food production by local farmers in small family gardens Guatemala – Photo Fincas Buenas – df74f7a7026b4f36e1d0173d27d84106.jpg


I took note of the following important parts in this interesting article:

(1) Many cash-strapped families are turning to “survival gardens” to help dig out from the recession.

(2) ‘They were called ‘victory gardens’ during the world wars because they helped ease shortages, ‘…… ‘We call them ‘survival gardens’ now because they help families cut spending.’

(3) The term is part of a larger do-it-yourself trend toward growing more backyard veggies and eating locally grown food.

(4) Survival gardens are used mainly to raise the kind of produce that you can grow for less than what you would pay at a grocery store – …………..

(5) People new to gardening can get help from county extension offices, churches and community groups. Some offer training, others provide growing sites and a few distribute supplies — all for little or no charge.

(6) Survival gardens can do more than put fresh, nutritious food on the table, ……….  ‘Families have told us they sell some of their overage (from the starter kits) to pay bills and get medicines,’ ……….

(7) …………sells ‘survival seed’ packets, and said their sales have more than doubled in the past year. Each package contains 16 easy-to-grow heirloom vegetables, from beets to pole beans, cabbage to sweet corn. They come triple-wrapped in watertight plastic, designed to increase storage life.

(8) ………… gardening with seed is one way to save on food dollars, particularly if it’s the right kind of seed.


The fact that more than 800 million people on this world are hungry or malnourished is generally attributed by the international media to the economic crisis (the food crisis), all those poor people supposed to be unable to afford the expensive food at the market. That’s probably why nowadays “Many cash-strapped families are turning to “survival gardens” to help dig out from the recession”.

During World Wars I and II, not the food prizes, but simply the lack of food caused huge hunger problems.  All the war-affected countries reacted on these emergencies in exactly the same way: by offering the hungry population small spaces or allotments for gardening.  Those allotment gardens or ‘victory gardens‘ helped ease the food shortages, people eating their locally grown food.  Do you know that most of those allotment gardens still exist all over the world and that millions of people still avoid malnutrition and hunger, producing fresh vegetables and fruits in their ‘victory garden’?  A success story, don’t you think?

I appreciate very much the term ‘survival gardens‘ used in this Seattle Times’ article, as these small patches really help families to cut spending by producing food in a cheaper way than the one at the market or the grocery store.

The applicability of this ‘survival garden strategy‘ at the global level is clearly shown (see above) by:

(5) People new to gardening can get help from county extension offices, churches and community groups. Some offer training, others provide growing sites and a few distribute supplies — all for little or no charge.

If county extension offices, churches and community groups can help these people, it should also be easy for international organizations and foundations to do this – all for little or no charge – for the 800 or more million hungry people of this world.

Let us keep in mind that ‘Survival gardens can do more than put fresh, nutritious food on the table, ...’, but that families can also enhance their annual income by taking their ‘overage’ of vegetables or fruits to the market, particularly in developing countries.

To offer a ‘survival or victory garden‘ to all the hungry families of this world, it’s such a noble task that no one can ever believe that aid organizations remain blind for the value of the experience of World Wars I and II, the extraordinary success of allotment gardens or ‘victory gardens’ to alleviate hunger and child malnutrition in times of crisis.

May the light come for hungry adults and undernourished children ….! From survival to victory !

Women and children first at the table


Photo credit: WVC 2005-12-DRARIA WOMEN-41.jpg – with Gérard RUOT (SOS Village d’Enfants Draria, Algeria), Raymond JANSSENS (Representative of UNICEF ALGERIA) and Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)

Within the framework of UNICEF’s project “Family gardens for the Saharawis refugees in S.W. Algeria” in 2005-2007, a workshop was organized in December 2005 to prepare a group of  women for the construction of their own kitchen garden in the Sahara desert and in the Village d’Enfants of Draria..  They learned how to apply the water saving and fertilizer saving soil conditioner TerraCottem (www.terracottem.com).  With some 2000 small family gardens in the Tindouf area (Algeria) constructed at the end of 2007, UNICEF’s project was a remarkable success.

About brown and green food revolutions, grasses and food crops

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

If the lives of a group of people are at stake, “Women and children first” implies that the lives of women and children are to be saved first. If the lives of hungry and malnourished people are at stake, those of women and children are to be taken care of first.  That was one of my thoughts after reading Shannon Horst’s article entitled: “Africa needs a brown (not green) food revolution” in The Christian Science Monitor on July 6, 2010 :

Africa’s long-term food security will come from nurturing the soil, not manipulating expensive seeds


First of all I want to confirm that I agree with most, but not all, of Shannon’s excellent points.  One of my remarks is that some of her views are too generalized:  

  • I do not believe that all Western initiatives to help Africa risk to cause more damage to that continent.  Not all these initiatives are ‘grounded in manipulating seeds and increasing synthetic fertilizers to improve production’.  
  • It is my sincere conviction that nowadays not all the aid groups ‘put more money, more science, or more business savvy behind the same old approach’.  If this were the case, it would mean that ‘all scientists are looking in the wrong direction’.  If Shannon Horst is a scientist herself, she certainly feels accused as much as I am by that statement.
  • Not all the scientists ‘are focusing on how to grow bigger, more, and disease- and pest-resistant plants’.
  • Not all the scientists ‘focus on how to manipulate the plants rather than how to produce both healthy plants and healthy soil’.

I therefore take for granted that Shannon Horst is aware of the content of my contributions on three of our blogs:

  1. https://desertification.wordpress.com,
  2. http://containergardening.wordpress.com and
  3. http://www.seedsforfoood.org.
Women and children preparing their kitchen gardens in Draria (Algiers) at the local “SOS Village d’Enfants”- PHOTO Gérard RUOT – P5120032-SOS-042006-JARD.FA.jpg

While manipulating seeds and increasing application of synthetic fertilizers to enhance plant production can be qualified as ‘looking in the wrong direction’, these two points do not cover fully the content of what is called the Second Green Revolution.  There are no strong arguments to sustain the idea that the totality of this agro-industrial model ‘would further destroy Africa’s soil and water in the long run and exacerbate the problems: food insecurity, bare land, soil erosion, increased drought and then flooding when the rains finally do come; increased pests and invasive plants; and the collapse of the river systems and groundwater stores’.

Even at an overripe apple there may still be some tasty pieces!  

So, let us not blame all the ‘Western’ scientists to be part of what Shannon is seeing as some destructive machinery, called the Second Green Revolution, described as exclusively using technologies to boost farm yields.

Very fortunately, we all know numerous people, men and women, scientists, aid workers, members of international, national and non-governmental organizations, who are not looking in the wrong direction.  They are working continuously hand-in-hand with the rural and urban population on the African continent, like on all the other continents.  By the way, we certainly know many respected scientists, whose research work has been contributing or still contributes to the improvement of the living standards of the poorest human beings.  Many of them developed excellent and constructive methods or models, successful practices and inputs, applied in all kinds of development programs for the welfare of farmers and townspeople.

Grassland or farmland, or both?

Grasslands are dominated by grasses. Grassland with scattered individual trees is called savanna.

Savannas cover almost half the surface of Africa (not 70 %). They are characteristic for warm or hot climates with an annual rainfall from about 50 to 125 cm (20-50 inches), concentrated in 6 or 8 months of the year, followed by a dry period when fires can occur. The soil of a savanna is porous, rapidly draining water. It has only a thin layer of humus, which makes them inappropriate for agriculture.

Farmers sometimes cut down small parts of forests, burn the trees, and plant crops for as long as the soil remains fertile. When the field is abandoned a couple of years later, grasses take over and a savanna can be formed.

Elephants can convert woodland into grassland in a short period of time. Shannon Horst is right in saying that ‘Africa’s once vast, healthy savannas were produced by the hoofs and manure of vast herds of grazing animals and pack-hunting predators’.

Some activities are seen as environmental concerns regarding savannas: poaching, overgrazing and clearing of the land for crops. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that people aiming at a Second Green Revolution would ever plan to turn all those grasslands (half of Africa!) into crop fields, risking the creation of another Dust Bowl or the collapse of all the grasslands.

As savannas are covering half of the African continent, the rural populations of these savannas are indeed ‘pastoralists or agropastoralists who do not farm’, although many of them do have a small garden.  Do we really suspect the international organizations or the big agri-business to plan the transformation of these pastoralists into farmers?

If half of the rural populations of Africa are pastoralists, the other half must be farmers. If half of the continent is covered with savannas, the other half of Africa’s landscape must be farmland in tropical or temperate climate, humid, semi-humid, arid or semi-arid climate zones.

I can’t believe that neither ‘Millions have already been spent by US and European aid organizations throughout Africa on unsuccessful farming programs’, nor that ‘these approaches to increasing food security focus on production without considering the social, economic, and biological consequences’.

To the best of my knowledge, many successful programs and projects with contributions of numerous famous international scientists, with expertise in their different disciplines and belonging to highly qualified institutes, have been set up in collaboration with the very best national experts, to improve agricultural and horticultural practices in almost every African country.  It is not even thinkable that all these programs merit the qualification ‘destructive’.

On the other hand, I gladly take Shannon’s point on the interesting aspects of Allan Savory’s work on the role of livestock for animal husbandry. My high esteem and appreciation go to his remarkable findings.

However, I must admit that I have a lot of difficulties to understand how Savory’s findings on

‘educating local people in practices that blend some older pastoral knowledge and techniques of animal herding with new understanding of how grazing animals, soils, plants, and organisms coevolved and function in a healthy state’ are applicable on Africa’s 50 % of farmland, an ‘ecosystem’ that is so completely different from grassland that the two impossibly can be compared.

Finally, I want to congratulate Shannon for her closing remark:

‘Does this mean we should not support technological innovation? Of course not.

But what we must do is find and support those technologies that not only solve a problem or achieve an objective, but also maintain or enhance the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.

If we accept that farmland and grassland are two different entities, with their own intrinsic finality, having a natural tendency to pursue their own good, one should treat them differently according to the traditional (local) knowledge.  That knowledge can be optimized by combining it with modern technologies, aiming not only at improving the live of ALL the rural people, farmers and herders, but also that of the urban people, who will participate in the success of a revolution, be it a brown or a green one, ‘enhancing the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.

Honestly, considering all this, I strongly believe that one should first improve the live of women and children in Africa.  Women deserve it to get a better live, because they play a key role in the ‘social, financial, and biological fabric’.  Children deserve it, because they carry the future of a continent in themselves.  Therefore, child malnutrition is a real shame.

The most important challenge for Africa is to improve food security, both on farmland and on grassland.  I am convinced that container gardening will play an important role in the achievement of that food security goal.  All over this beautiful continent women and children should sit first at the table and their daily fresh food on that table will undeniably come from their own kitchen garden and/or school garden, if only we really want to change nutrition as rapidly as the climate.


This text has already been posted on my desertification blog in 2010:


It got 3 comments and was edited today.



(1) Carole Gonzalez:

Wow, that is interesting. My “yes – but” – is that growing food plants in containers in villages is an adjunct to improving the grasslands.  There is much to be said for a paleo diet.  I am diabetic and must follow it to be healthy. Some but not much fruit, mostly green vegetables and meat must compose my diet.  I am looking to send Patrick Harry in Malawi some seeds of trees that grow well under arid circumstances and produce fruit without much or any care.

(2) Frank Ziddah:

“Tons of “super” seeds of rice, maize, cassava and other local staples in various parts of Africa are made available by international development agencies every now and then. The problem with their programmes is that those agencies and their regional or local partners fail to effectively market and convince farmers [mostly educated] to make the switch. Hence, a year or so later adoption and usage rates are not surprisingly [very] low. In short, their efforts fail. Going forward I would suggest a 2-prong approach: better soils + better seeds. “

Frank Ziddah: Having read the post at Scribd, I must agree to your concluding remarks “the most important challenge for Africa is to improve food security,” using solutions suited to Africa’s soil and ecosystem.

(3) Tony Simeone: Very informative exchange that clearly articulates your interest and philosophy on land use – AND recipients of benefits.


See also:







Do not hesitate to join our Facebook Group on “CONTAINER GARDENING AND VERTICAL GARDENING”.

Don’t hesitate: more than 73.000 members joined us already !

Empowering families through food sufficiency at the household level



Mati City promotes home gardening in barangays

Riser with bottles in Jojo ROM’s garden in Davao City, The Philippines, producing enough vegetables and herbs for the family needs – * Riser – vegetables – Photo Jojo ROM – 971622_10200263484728066_974390336_n.jpg

DAVAO CITY- The City of Mati in Davao Oriental is advocating home gardening and nature farming with the establishment of green communities in the different barangays in the city. One aspect of the program is promoting urban container gardening among homeowners in the city.

Jojo ROM, an expert on container gardening in his own kitchen garden with risers in Davao City, Philippines) – * Riser – Radish and carrot – Photo Jojo ROM – 215853_1728582652671_1181604134_31573102_4686613_n_2.jpg

From January to May of this year, three homeowners association were chosen as pilot areas to undergo Urban Container Gardening (UCG) activity cycle 1. A total of 77 homeowners voluntarily enrolled to participate and 48 of them adopted the program marking a 62% success rate.

The homeowners association include Sambuokan Homeowners Association, Macambol Homeowners Association and Fatima Sudlom Home Farmers Association.

Self-sufficiency by home gardening in containers on risers – * Riser for massive food production – Photo Almar B. Autida – 10255663_10201730750126773_1525730629288922985_n.jpg

The urban container gardening is institutionalized thru the city mayor’s Executive Order 42 which establishes Green Communities with agri-based industry based components for youth, women and other organized associations adopting the 4H club and the rural improvement club strategies, creating the technical working group providing funds therefor.

Riser with a fish pond underneath for irrigation of the contairs with water enriched by the fish – * Riser with pond – Photo Jojo ROM – 154253_1533125726370_5655386_n.jpg

Vice-Mayor Glenda Rabat-Gayta says that empowering families through food sufficiency in the household level is the main goal. The benefits of this simple gardening in the backyard are strengthening family relationships, incurring savings, income augmentation, entrepreneurial opportunities, promoting agri-tourism and solid waste management.

Read the full article: Philippine Information Agency

Useful plant species diversity and food security



Useful plant species diversity in homegardens and its contribution to household food security in Hawassa city, Ethiopia

by Reta Regassa


The study was conducted on homegardens of Hawassa city, Southern Ethiopia with the aim of documenting useful plant species; identifying the internal and external household factors related to useful plant species diversity in and around home gardens and examining its contribution to household food security and income generation. A random sample of 120 homegardens from eight sub-cities of Hawassa city was used to collect useful plant species data. Techniques used were focus group discussion, semi-structured interviews, home garden tour, market survey, free listing, priority ranking, and preference ranking. A total of 258 useful plant species were documented, of which 47.29% were ornamental plants, 29.75% food plants, and 15.89% medicinal plants. Fabaceae was the dominant family represented by 9 genera and 20 species, followed by Euphorbiaceae and Asteraceae with 17 and 16 species each respectively. Homegarden size of the study area ranged from 220 to 1235 m2 with a mean size of 571 m2. The age of homegarden is ranged from 15 years old to 55 years old with a mean aged of 28. The number of species in the homegarden ranges from 10 to 45 with the mean of 23. The study indicates that home gardens are contributing to food security, income generation and livelihoods in Hawassa city through production of ornamental, food plants, fodder, medicinal, timber and construction. The study recommended that the management of useful plant species in homegardens will be scaled up and further expanded and assisted by agricultural extensions in urban areas in Ethiopia.

Read the full article: Academic Journals


Recommended: Tunnels in the drylands


Photo Pinterest mosiac+002.jpg

A tunnel of willow cuttings

Growing living tunnels with drought-tolerant trees to create possibilities to grow fresh food for each family in the drylands

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

A living tunnel – Photo Pinterest baltimore+002.jpg 



On all continents people are looking for success stories or best practices to combat desertification and to alleviate malnutrition or hunger.

Don’t we agree that food aid is not a sustainable solution.  Year after year one is looking for growing support to ship food to people in need all over the world.  Clearly, this will never stop because the causes of hunger and malnutrition are not halted.

But what if we could offer to the suffering people some solutions to grow their own food, even in the desert ?  Well, some success stories prove that this is possible.

Take for instance the possibility to grow drought-tolerant trees, e.g. some willow species, in the drylands.

Not too difficult to imagine how people in the drylands could grow their own fresh food in such a tunnel. Yes, they can ! – Photo Pinterest baltimore+006.jpg

My recommendation is quite simple: grow these drought-tolerant trees in the form of a tunnel (see pictures) and thus create a location in which one can permanently grow vegetables and herbs.

You think the soil can be a problem ?  Avoid that problem by growing fresh food in containers (sacks, bags, buckets, tubes, tubs, …)

You think water supply can be a problem ?  Water saving techniques offer lots of chances to grow food with a minimum of water (see examples at https://www.facebook.com/groups/221343224576801/).

The biggest difficulty to take this important step towards a better future : MAN.


%d bloggers like this: