2016-04 SUCCESS STORIES: FOOD CROPS AND DROUGHT-RESISTANT SPECIES TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION AND POVERTY
by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)
Please read this article at:
by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)
Please read this article at:
Photo credit: Google – Imgres.jpg
Willem Van Cotthem: We keep hoping that success stories and best practices will be applied at the global level. Priority should be given to methods and techniques providing daily fresh food to the hungry and malnourished. It cannot be denied that hunger and malnutrition are constantly undermining the performances of people. Application of existing success stories in local food production (kitchen gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, …) would positively influence the efforts to combat desertification (limiting erosion, stimulating reforestation, etc.). We keep hoping.
Reply: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification “Hi Willem Van Cotthem, would you like to share some success stories you have? We always welcome all to share!”
Reply: Willem Van Cotthem : Hello Friends at the UNCCD Secretariat: It will be my pleasure to select a series of success stories in the literature. However, I am convinced that the UNCCD secretariat has the necessary documentation to compile even a book on this subject (to the best of my knowledge the documents, e.g. presentations at COPs and meetings of CST and CRIC, have been there during my active period in the CST and in Bonn). Please consider a consultancy to achieve top class work that would serve all member countries, the CST and the CRIC. To be presented at the next World Day June 17th 2016.
Photo credit: Ilonka DE ROOIJ
Introduction of new vegetables and fruit species, thanks to free seeds from the SEEDS FOR FOOD action
by Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)
Nobody will deny that growing food crops in container has a lot of advantages. Saving a lot of water is one of the most important ones.
That’s what I was thinking of when I received these nice photos of my friends Ilonka DE ROOIJ and Rafael VAN BOGAERT, enthusiast managers of an interesting project in Casamance, Senegal.
Not only convinced of the positive effect of container gardening on limitation of water consumption, but also of the introduction of some drought-tolerant plant species, like the spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis), they are introducing in Casamance a number of new technologies, e.g. a desalinisation technology developed by Rafael himself, sack gardening, water saving, the “Seeds for Food” action, etc. …
Please have a look at their photos and get convinced of the importance of these “best practices”. They deserve to be multiplied in all the drylands to alleviate drought and to combat desertification (saving water and producing food and fodder).
Photo credit: WVC 2007-03-containers-P1000714.jpg
by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)
Please read this article at:
Originally published at:
Food crops and ornamentals can easily be grown in different types of barrels. It can help people to an important quantity of fresh food and it can embellish the environment.
Ornamental plants, herbs and vegetables can easily be grown in different types of crates. A very nice way to create a small garden, saving water and fertilizer.
Photo credit: MSF (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)
Mothers feed their children therapeutic food at MSF’s outpatient therapeutic feeding center in Bokoro, Chad, where MSF teams are responding to a fourth malnutrition crisis in five years.
By Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
University of Ghent – Belgium
Drought and Desertification Consultant
In December 2011, I posted some comments on a publication entitled “UNICEF CHIEF URGES ACTION TO STOP UNFOLDING CRISIS FOR CHILDREN IN THE SAHEL” (https://desertification.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/unicef-chief-urges-action-to-stop-unfolding-crisis-for-children-in-the-sahel-un-news/)
Today, I wonder if any changes in that situation have been registered. Please read my former comments and today’s conclusions.
Which way would you go to stop an unfolding food crisis for children?
A food crisis can be stopped in different ways : with therapeutic food or with locally produced food. The former should certainly be used in cases of acute malnutrition, the latter needs to be more sustainable, e.g. by installing family gardens and school gardens. One can choose between expensive, curing emergency situations that don’t offer a sustainable solution and the much cheaper production of fresh food by the local people themselves. What would you choose?
In the publication mentioned above, UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake “called today on the global community to take action to prevent one million children in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa from becoming severely malnourished.“ He said: “We must begin at once to fill the pipeline with life-sustaining supplies to the region before it is too late.” and “underscored the urgency to act before the ‘lean season’ when food runs out due to inadequate rain or poor harvests, which can start as early as March in some of the countries across the Sahelian belt.“
I fully agree that UNICEF and its partners must be prepared to get sufficient amounts of ready-to-use therapeutic foods to treat severe acute malnutrition. I also agree on “each child has the right to survive, to thrive and to contribute to their societies. “
Indeed, “we must not fail them”!
However, the real question is if the best way of solving the problem of child malnutrition is getting sufficient therapeutic foods to intervene when the need increases. Or, could it be that a well-prepared programme of vegetable and fruit production by the Sahelian families themselves is a better cure?
One may doubt about the feasibility of such a programme, but knowing that UNICEF itself was very successful with its own “Family gardens project for the Sahrawis families in the Sahara desert of Algeria“ (2005-2007), there can’t be any doubt anymore. If family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens can be productive in the Algerian desert, they can certainly be in the Sahel, where a better rainfall offers more chances to use the minimum of water needed (see the well-known best practices).
It should not be extremely difficult to accept that it is better to produce fresh food and fruits for the children in the threatened countries of the Sahel (like everywhere on this world!) than to have to spend billions of dollars at purchasing therapeutic foods for malnourished children.
Yes, “we must not fail them“, and we will surely not fail them by offering them chances to take care of their own kitchen gardens and school gardens.
In the drylands, there are already lots of successful small gardens. One has the necessary knowledge and technical skills to duplicate these “best practices” wherever we want, even in the desert (see Algeria). Who would still hesitate to take initiatives to gradually “submerge” the Sahel with small family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens? And let us not forget the successes booked at the global level with container and vertical gardening.
If there is “a pipeline to be filled”, it should not be filled with food, but with the necessary materials to create small kitchen gardens galore.
Shall we continue to appeal on “solidarity” for raising billions of dollars for responding time after time to the successive periods of food crisis in the drylands? Or shall we, once and for all, spend a minor part of that money on enabling sustainable food production by the local people themselves?
Do we still have to confirm that we admire the nice work of UNICEF for children in real need? But, you Madame, you Sir, which way would you go?
Since the year 2011, a series of initiatives has been taken to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel. However, the food and nutrition situation is not significantly improved.
In March 2012, the World Food Programme published the article “The Malnutrition Threat in the Sahel” (https://www.wfp.org/stories/nutrition-sahel-hunger-crisis-qa),
in which we read: “Recurrent food crises over the past decade have coincided with periods of widespread malnutrition among children. It’s a region where, even in non-emergency years, diets are undiversified and children often don’t receive necessary nutrients.”
In July 2012, we read an article of the Doctors without Borders (MSF): “Malnutrition in the Sahel: One million children treated, but what’s next ?” (http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/field-news/malnutrition-sahel-one-million-children-treated-whats-next), in which MSF nutrition experts Susan Shepherd and Stéphane Doyon discussed the need for long-term solutions to malnutrition in Africa’s Sahel region.
We notice that:
Today, one can rightly ask: Where are those long-term solutions including development, agriculture and treatment of malnutrition ? Is agriculture, including kitchen gardens and school gardens, really seen as a complementary component in the combat of malnutrition?
In May 2015, we read the Echo Factsheet “Sahel: Food and Nutrition Crisis” of the European Commission (Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) – (http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/sahel_en.pdf):
The Sahel continues to face a food and nutrition crisis which is compounded by the erosion of people’s resilience due to the quick succession of the crises, the absence of social services on and the ramifications of conflicts in the region.
As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.7 million extremely food insecure people and 580 000 severely malnourished children in 2014.
The food and nutrition prospects for 2015 have not significantly improved. The past year has seen average harvests and food prices remain high. ……………….
Emergency needs in the Sahel will persist unless the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition are addressed and the resilience of the poorest people is strengthened. ……………..”
It becomes clear that food aid and nutritional programmes are necessary to tackle the emergent needs, but do not address the root causes.
If “in a region where, even in non-emergency years, diets are undiversified and children often don’t receive necessary nutrients” (WFP), we are tempted to think that creation of family gardens and school gardens will be a strong tool to address these root causes of food insecurity and child malnutrition. If families and schools, and why not the hospitals, grow their own fresh food, using existing, successful techniques to limit irrigation water consumption, the malnourished people would get their daily ration of diversified healthy food, full of minerals and vitamins.
Let us imagine for a moment that the decision-makers can convince all the key players in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition to reach hands to enact a true change by combining the traditional programmes of offering nutritious rations to supplement the normal diet with a programme of offering ways and means to install a kitchen garden for every family, for every school, for every hospital.
Wouldn’t that be a long-term solution that tackles the root causes, a “break out of this emergency response model and start developing a longer-term approach.”?
We believe it is !
Photo credit: WVC
Local training in gardening techniques in the Sahara desert (refugee cam:p in S.W. Algeria) – Engineer Taleb Brahim teaching a woman and her children.
Tomorrow 193 world leaders will come together to commit to 17 Sustainable Development Goals that could end extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Three-quarters of the world’s poor people live in rural areas, and many don’t have enough food to eat. Nearly 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.
We want the world to know that rural people, when given the right tools and opportunities to thrive as smallholder farmers, are critical to ending poverty, feeding the world and protecting the planet.
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* Wooden Riser A-form – Photo Jojo ROM – 283225_4230820167045_1991451138_n.jpg
By Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium)
My good friend Jojo ROM (Davao City, The Philippines) is one of the famous experts on container gardening. He was one of the first to construct in his own backyard an A-riser on which he grew (and still grows) vegetables and herbs in different types of containers.
It has been clearly shown that this is one of the best practices to grow vegetables and herbs in the smallest space. As container gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening (mostly in bad soils !), this successful method deserves to be promoted at the global level, in particular in an environment with poor soils, e.g. in the drylands.
One of the applications to be strongly recommend is: construction of risers for the refugee camps, where people never have sufficient space or the necessary means to install a kitchen garden for their family. Imagine the refugees’ joy being enabled to grow fresh food close to their tents: interesting time spending, being busy for a nice part of the day, and producing their own fresh food, herbs and mint for their tea.
Impossible you say ? Have a look at the pictures below and convince yourself that minimal investment in risers loaded with containers will automatically yield a maximal food production.
You want to forget about the refugee camps ? OK ! But please remain convinced that risers can be installed in small backyards and even on a flat roof, all over the world, also in your own neighbourhood.
Now then, enjoy the pictures !
Still not convinced about the great value of this method to alleviate malnutrition and hunger ? Please, send us your better idea.
Photo credit : * Barrel – Chinese cabbage – Photo Novotopia – 549117_401115436604368_1339359550_n.jpg
by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (University of Ghent, Belgium)
I have read the message:
AS DROUGHT DEEPENS IN ETHIOPIA, UN AND PARTNERS URGE SCALING UP OF AID
(1) “United Nations humanitarian agencies are calling for increased assistance to an estimated 2 million people affected by drought in the Horn of Africa country, …”.
(2) “Water is being transported by truck to drought-hit residents”.
(3) “UN aid agencies, working with national authorities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are also distributing food to households in need and providing health care, veterinary services and livestock feed”.
(4) “The Ethiopian Government has requested an additional $75 million for humanitarian assistance this month and in May, while UN agencies and their partners have called for more resources to meet increasing needs and expand operations in the coming months to avoid gaps in aid delivery”.
(5) “High global food and fuel price rises have raised the cost of buying and importing essential commodities, including food”.
Trying to help with some modest, constructive suggestions, I refer to one of my former postings: “Barrels for refugees and smallholder farmers in the drylands” (Willem Van Cotthem) – Posted on April 28, 2011
SOME IDEAS CONCERNING WATER AND FOOD
In Darfur (Sudan), the joint United Nations-African peacekeeping force (UNAMID) intended to distribute thousands of 75 liters (4 jerry cans) water containers (barrels). I found this an excellent idea, because it is an efficient relieve of the burden for women and children of carrying water repeatedly from the source to the house.
Transporting water by truck to drought-hit people is only one part of the solution, offering a barrel to stock a certain quantity of water in or close to the house is the other “necessary” one.
As “UN aid agencies, working with national authorities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are also distributing food to households in need and providing health care, veterinary services and livestock feed”, I guess that it must be possible to ship these goods (food, livestock feed …) in bigger barrels (100 to 200 liters).
I already suggested before that such barrels are available in the industry, where they are used for transporting liquid or solid products. Often these barrels are not recycled and thus, they should be available at the lowest cost.
Logic tells me that it should be possible for the UN-organizations concerned to set up a structure to use these “useless” barrels as containers for shipping goods to drought-hit residents and leave them with the families, using them as water containers.
Could a part of the funds requested by the Ethiopian government and a part of the “resources to meet increasing needs and expand operations in the coming months to avoid gaps in aid delivery” be allocated to start up the use of UV-resistant barrels for aid delivery?
Taking into account that “High global food and fuel price rises have raised the cost of buying and importing essential commodities, including food” it seems again logic to me that it would be much cheaper to produce some food locally instead of “buying and importing” it.
Impossible because of the drought, you think? Let me suggest again reading some of my messages on container gardening, published recently on my websites and Facebook pages :
As one doesn’t need large quantities of water to grow vegetables and herbs in very cheap containers (pots, bottles, cans, sacks, …), it is quite feasible for all the drought-hit people to grow fresh food at home. School children can do the same at school. And they love to do so!
It goes without saying that I strongly believe in the positive outcome of these two recommendations:
I cross my fingers.
Photo credit: Takepart
Residents of the Kibera slum in Kenya tend to vegetables planted in sack gardens. (Photo: Tony Karumba/Getty Images)
Growing food in sacks uses fewer resources and less labor and provides high yields too.
Some people have the talent to take a simple idea and adapt it into a solution with far-reaching benefits. Take Veronica Kanyango of Zimbabwe, a grassroots organizer who works in home-based health care and hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. She’s managed to take a couple of bags full or dirt and turn them into an agrarian movement.
Using bags of the sort you stuffed yourself in for a race on field day—which are filled with manure, soil, and gravel—sack gardening or farming has been successfully adopted in areas of Africa where agriculture faces distinctly different challenges. It’s proved an effective way to grow food in regions with drought as well as areas prone to flooding, in rural communities and in urban slums. At the Grassroots Academy coordinated by the Huairou Commission in the spring of 2014, Pritchett said, the concept exploded.
“Of all the practices in the room, that’s the one people were most excited about. There’s not a high cost to get started, you’re not waiting on someone to give you seed funding. You could grab a sack and do that tomorrow,” she said.
Read the full article: Takepart
Photo credit: * Sack – vegetables – Photo Recetas Mierdaeuristhuerto-en-saco.png
By Lisa Vives
In the midst of one of Africa’s largest slums, vegetables are growing.
It began as a French initiative to support jobless youth after a spasm of post-election violence in 2008 – and feed them at the same time.
The ‘garden-in-a-sack’ concept, introduced by the NGO Solidarites International, makes it possible to grow food in small spaces and save money for other purchases. In Mathare, Kiambiu and Kibera slums, with close to 3 million inhabitants, Solidarités has brought sack-gardening to about 22,109 households, directly benefitting over 110,000 people.
The upright urban farms in Kibera consist of a series of sacks filled with manure, soil and small stones that enable water to drain. From the tops and sides of these sacks, referred to as multi-story gardens, Kibera farmers grow kale, spinach, onions, tomatoes, vegetables and arrowroot which sprout from the tops and sides.
Today, Kibera has thousands of sack gardens spread across 16 villages in the slum, according to Douglas Kangi, principal agricultural officer on the Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Project at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Across Africa, informal growing operations are expected to become critical in the coming years. With a constant stream of people leaving the farms for the cities, the continent’s urban population is set to top 700 million by 2030 up from 400 million today and 53 million in 1960, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
City farming, either in sacks or on small bits of land, has taken root in Cameroon, Malawi and Ghana with 25 to 50 percent of all city households said to be engaged in food cropping. In Malawi, 700,000 city dwellers have home gardens. In Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, some schools have their own gardening programmes.
Read the full text: IPS
Photo credit : WVC P1070394 – 2011-09
Vegetables and herbs grown in 8 weeks time on bottle towers
by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium)
Container gardening has become a universal success. Nowadays people are growing their own fresh food in all sorts of containers (bottles, buckets, pots, bags, sacks, drums, gutters, …).
More and more people are aware of the fact that families do not need a big garden anymore to produce a sufficient quantity of food. Today, all over the world people are gardening in small spaces, often applying vertical growing systems, e.g. on towers or on pallets.
In 2010 I have developed my first “bottle towers”, using superposed soda bottles and food grade pots to grow lots of vegetables and herbs.
The success of this simple and cheap technique to help hungry or malnourished people to fresh food and herbs can easily be measured on the basis of numbers of views of my videos, showing how to build the towers (in English and Spanish).
Should you want to convince yourself about the global applicability of this low-tech method and the affordability for all the drought-hit families, please check out my videos:
(1) Building a bottle tower for container gardening (332,281 views):
(2) HOW TO BUILD A BOTTLE TOWER (142,712 views):
(3) CÓMO HACER LA HUERTA VERTICAL DE BOTELLAS DE PLÁSTICO (2,224,894 views):
(4) Cómo cultivar plantas en botellas (258,111 views):
(5) BOTTLE TOWER GARDENS (1,427,421 views):
(6) HOW TO GROW PLANTS IN BOTTLES (196,989 views):
(7) Growing food in containers at home (321,100 views):
(8) Growing plants in a barrel (268,663 views):