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

SURVIVAL OR VICTORY GARDENS

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-in-guatemala-photo-fincas-buenas-df74f7a7026b4f36e1d0173d27d84106
Food production by local farmers in small family gardens Guatemala – Photo Fincas Buenas – df74f7a7026b4f36e1d0173d27d84106.jpg

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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.

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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

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0706/Africa-needs-a-brown-not-green-food-revolution

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. http://desertification.wordpress.com,
  2. http://containergardening.wordpress.com and
  3. http://www.seedsforfoood.org.

p5120032-sos-042006-jard-fa
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.

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

https://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/women-and-children-first-willem-van-cotthem/

It got 3 comments and was edited today.

 

THREE COMMENTS in 2010

(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:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RPjvNMtE8Q7TH6w3WgnMlRa4AVEEtzg8NpNdLBz_u5s/edit?usp=sharing

 

Just a reminder: The role of urban gardens, family gardens and school gardens.

 

My publication in January 2010:

https://containergardening.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/the-role-of-urban-gardens-family-gardens-and-school-gardens-willem-van-cotthem-irin-fao/

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

The role of urban gardens, family gardens and school gardens (Willem Van Cotthem / IRIN / FAO)

For years we have been promoting family gardens (kitchen gardens) and school gardens, not to mention hospital gardens, in the debate on alleviation of hunger and poverty.  We have always insisted on the fact that development aid should concentrate on initiatives to boost food security through family gardens instead of food aid on which the recipients remain dependent. Since the nineties we have shown that community gardens in rural villages, family gardens in refugee camps and school gardens, where people and children grow their own produce, are better off than those who received food from aid organizations at regular intervals.

2007 – Family garden in Smara refugee camp (S.W. Algeria, Sahara desert), where people never before got local fresh food to eat

Locally produced fresh vegetables and fruits play a tremendously important role in the daily diet of all those hungry people in the drylands.  Take for instance the possibility of having a daily portion of vitamins within hand reach.  Imagine the effect of fresh food on malnutrition of the children.  Imagine the feelings of all those women having their own kitchen garden close to the house, with some classical vegetables and a couple of fruit trees.

No wonder that hundreds of publications indicate the success of allotment gardens in periods of food crisis.  See what happened during World War I and II, when so many  families were obliged to produce some food on a piece of land somewhere to stay alive.  In those difficult days allotment gardens were THE solution.  They still exist and become more and more appealing in times of food crisis.

2008-10-25 – Allotment gardens Slotenkouter (Ghent City, Belgium) at the end of the growing season

There was no surprise at all to read, since a few years that is, about a new movement in the cities : guerilla gardening.  Sure, different factors intervene in these urban initiatives, be it environmental factors (embellishing open spaces full of weeds in town) or social ones (poor people growing vegetables on small pieces of barren land in the cities).

Today, some delightful news was published by IRIN :”Liberia: Urban gardens to boost food security” :

“MONROVIA, 19 January 2010 (IRIN) – Farmers are turning to urban gardens as a way to boost food security in Liberia’s Montserrado County, where just one percent of residents grow their own produce today compared to 70 percent before the war.

………………

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is targeting 5,000 urban residents of Montserrado, Bomi, Grand Bassa, Bong and Margibi counties, to encourage them to start market gardens or increase the amount of fruit and vegetables they grow on their farms. Participants had to have access to tools and some land.  The aim is to improve food security and nutritional status while boosting incomes, said project coordinator Albert Kpassawah. Participants told IRIN they plant hot peppers, cabbage, calla, tomatoes, onions, beans and ground nuts. Health and nutrition experts in Liberia say increasing fruit, vegetables and protein in people’s diets is vital to reducing chronic malnutrition, which currently affects 45 percent of under-fives nationwide.

………………………..

FAO assists primarily by providing seeds and training in techniques such as conserving rainwater and composting. The organization does not provide fertilizer, insecticides or tools – a concern to some participants. “You cannot grow cabbage without insecticide. It doesn’t work,” Anthony Nackers told IRIN.  Vermin, insects and poor storage destroy 60 percent of Liberia’s annual harvest, according to FAO.  And many of the most vulnerable city-dwellers – those with no access to land – cannot participate at all, FAO’s Kpassawah pointed out. But he said he hopes the project’s benefits will spread beyond immediate participants, since all who take part are encouraged to pass on their training to relatives, neighbours and friends.  And there is ample scope to expand techniques learned from cities to rural areas, he pointed out. Just one-third of Liberia’s 660,000 fertile hectares are being cultivated, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

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Let us express our sincere hopes that FAO will soon be able to show to all aid organizations that sufficient food production can be secured by the population of any developing country.  What is possible in urban areas of Liberia can be duplicated in any other country.  What can be achieved in urban gardens, can also be done in rural family gardens.  Why should we continue to discuss the alarming problem of those vulnerable children suffering or even starving from chronic malnutrition, if  school gardens can be a good copy of the successful urban gardens in Liberia?

Don’t we underestimate the role container gardening can play in food production (seehttps://containergardening.wordpress.com) and the pleasure children can find in growing fruit trees and vegetables in plastic bottles.  Pure educational reality !

We count on FAO to take the lead : instead of spending billions on “permanent” food aid, year after year, it would be an unlimited return on investment if only a smaller part would be reserved to immediate needs in times of hunger catastrophes, but the major part spent at the world-wide creation of urban and rural family gardens.

We remain in FAO’s save hands. We wonder what keeps United Nations to envisage a “Global Programme for Food Security” based on the creation of kitchen gardens for the one billion daily hungry people who know that we have this solution in hand.  Let us spend more available resources on “Defense”, the one against hunger and poverty!

Yardfarming

 

Photo credit: Treehugger

CC BY 2.0 Jennifer C

 

Yardfarmers follows 6 young Americans as they move back home to farm their parents’ yards

Derek Markham

by Derek Markham

So you think you can farm (your parents’ backyard)? An upcoming reality TV show plans to shine a light on yardfarming, with a twist.

Reality TV is so … predictably drama-filled and scripted. There, I said it. I don’t want to take anyone’s guilty pleasure away from them, so keep on keepin’ on, but consider tuning in to what might be the most interesting urban farming reality show ever (OK, so maybe it’s the only one, but still …) next spring.

Yardfarmers, which was created by Erik Assadourian, a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute and a sustainability researcher and writer, aims to follow six young Americans as they move back in with their parents to grow food in their parents’ yards and/or other neighborhood greenspaces. It’s an intriguing proposition, and one which may help to bring urban farming and backyard farming out from under the Portlandia hipster umbrella and put it back in the forefront of conversations about sustainability and food systems.

While the casting for the first season of Yardfarmers is now closed, applications for the 2017 season are still being accepted, with the short list of requirements consisting of affirmative answers to the following four questions:

  • Are you a young American between the ages of 21 and 30ish?
  • Do you live with your parents or would you consider moving back in with them?
  • Do you want to try to convert your parents’ lawn (and neighborhood greenspaces) into a workable yardfarm–one that can sustain you and your family either nutritionally or financially or both?
  • Do you want some guy with a camera following you around while you try to do this for nine months?!?

Here’s the trailer for Yardfarmers:

Read the full story: Treehugger

How to address the root causes of food insecurity and child malnutrition ?

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.

Is the food crisis for children still unfolding ?

By Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

University of Ghent – Belgium

Drought and Desertification Consultant

http://desertification.wordpress.com

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?

1997-12-02-General view 02 of a community garden in Niou (Burkina Faso) - (Photo WVC).
1997-12-02-General view 02 of a community garden in Niou (Burkina Faso) – (Photo WVC).

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?

2007 - One of the family gardens in a refugee camp in S. W. Algeria (Photo WVC)
2007 – One of the family gardens in a refugee camp in S. W. Algeria (Photo WVC)

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.

1998-02-A school garden in Niamey (Niger) - (Photo WVC).
1998-02-A school garden in Niamey (Niger) – (Photo WVC).

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:

  1. One million severely malnourished children will be treated this year (2012)  in the countries of the Sahel, according to UNICEF. Every year, the region faces a hunger gap between June and October, depending on the country, a time period between the depletion of the previous year’s food stocks and the next harvest. Malnutrition rates always hover near warning level in this mostly desert region, but during the hunger gap, the number of cases spikes and hundreds of thousands of children become at risk of death. “
  • “One million children suffering from severe malnutrition will be treated this year by governments and aid organizations across the Sahel. How should we interpret this number? *Susan Shepherd: It’s both a failure and a success. The failure is that each year, countries within the Sahel will face recurrent, large-scale nutritional crises that are growing even worse in some countries. One million malnourished children—that’s an enormous figure. But the most important take away from this year is how all of the aid actors—governments, United Nations agencies, and NGOs—have managed the crisis. Because of this, the major success is that for the first time, one million malnourished children will be treated in the Sahel, and the vast majority of these one million children will recover.”
  • How can we break the cycle? * Stéphane Doyon: Today, the management of this nutritional crisis is done in emergency mode. When we speak of an emergency, we are mostly referring to humanitarian interventions. This is where we run into one of the major challenges to enacting true change: for governments, these models of humanitarian action are difficult to repeat and to sustain over the long term. Therefore, we have to break out of this emergency response model and start developing a longer-term approach. Another challenge lies in understanding what exactly malnutrition is: a medical problem, related to a lack of food that satisfies the particular needs of children. Countries which have successfully addressed the problem of childhood malnutrition include nutrition in health systems. Long-term solutions should therefore include medical responses; development, agriculture and treatment of malnutrition are all complementary.

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):

Key messages  

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 !

It’s all about people, not about money and power

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.

IFAD’S MESSAGE

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.

Make women and children your partners in progress - Photo Monique van Endert - 1997-12 Folder TCD (Photo MvE)
Make women and children your partners in progress – Photo Monique van Endert – 1997-12 Folder TCD (Photo MvE) – Training of women: Application of the soil conditioner TerraCottem in a community garden in Niou (Burkina Faso)

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.

Help us reach 500,000 people, on one day, with one message by signing up today to this Thunderclap.

Help us spread this message

For the last two weeks, we have been spreading the message online that investing in rural people is key to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Tomorrow is the final day of the campaign, and we are almost halfway to our goal!

Help us spread the word today by simply clicking the red Facebook and Twitter buttons on the page in the link.

http://bit.ly/1it1d04

Your support makes a huge difference to our goal of reaching  thousands of people.  

On Friday, September 25th, we will flood the social channels with this powerful message:

Achieving the sustainable development goals means investing in rural people and building a better world for us all.

HOW TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT:

Click the link (http://bit.ly/1it1d04) and support via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. Also, spread the word to your friends and followers to do the same.

At 3 pm CEST this Friday, we’ll speak with one voice.

Internet or food: first things first

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Mobile broadband. Photo: ITU/M.Jacobson-Gonzalez

LET FIRST THE BILLION OF HUNGRY PEOPLE MAKE THEIR CHOICE

by Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium)

Today I read a remarkable story sent by the UN News Centre :
Billions of people in developing world still without Internet access, new UN report finds
——————
Let me copy a few sentences :
(1) Broadband Internet is failing to reach billions of people living in the developing world, including 90 per cent of those living in the poorest nations, according to a new United Nations report that offers country-by-country data on the state of access around the globe. The State of Broadband, produced by the UN Broadband Commission and released today, reveals that 57 per cent of the world’s people remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.
 
(2) “The 2030 Agenda recognizes the power of new technologies to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide, to develop knowledge societies – we must do everything to support States in reaching these goals, especially developing States,” Ms. Bokova noted. “This calls for stronger efforts by governments and all actors, in ensuring access, use and affordability – it requires also greater work to build the capacities of all women and men to make the most of all new opportunities,” she added. According to the report, the Internet is currently only accessible to 35 per cent of people in developing countries. The situation in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is particularly critical, with over 90 per cent of people without any kind of Internet connectivity.
———————————————
So, the priority is that all actors should produce “stronger efforts in ensuring access, use and affordability of new technologies” ?
I can’t resist thinking: “LET FIRST THE BILLION OF HUNGRY PEOPLE MAKE THEIR CHOICE” between (1) access to the internet or (2) access to a small family (kitchen) garden (and not dependence on daily food aid by one of the organizations).
It is quite possible that many malnourished youngsters will prefer to have a mobile phone (with batteries and a monthly invoice).
Two questions remain:
 “Do we produce stronger efforts to get a healthy population in developing countries or a hungry one that has access to the internet ? “
and
“Who will pay for the daily use of the new technologies, if not the hungry people themselves ?”.
It requires less work to build the capacities of all women and men to apply the best practices to produce their own fresh and healthy food, full of vitamins, e.g. in their container garden (a wealth of success stories available).

Back in 2010 : success stories of organic family gardening

Photo credit WVC P1000601 – 2007-01

Family garden in a refugee camp in S.W. Algeria

An invitation to 5 billion non-hungry people on earth

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

INTRODUCTION

Many people are looking for success stories of organic family gardening or farming in rural and in urban areas.

Don’t search anymore: here is a splendid testimony of the results booked in Argentina, in a number of other South American countries and in Haiti.

Haiti? Isn’t that the country where food aid was so badly needed after the earthquake? Well, read this little story carefully and get aware of the undeniable potentialities of local food production for all these families, since 2005 being enabled to cover some or even most of their food needs thanks to a remarkable programme for self-production of fresh food, already launched in 1990 in Argentina under the name Pro-Huerta.

For me, a breathtaking reading of this interesting publication lies in the sequencing of a number of quotes of the original text.  They are listed below.

School garden in Gambia - Photo credit: Hélène CLYBOUW - 2011_1210december3Gambia20110149
School garden in Gambia – Photo credit: Hélène CLYBOUW – 2011_1210december3Gambia20110149

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

The original heartwarming article, of which an excerpt was reposted by Michael Levenston on the City Farmer News (New Stories From ‘Urban Agriculture Notes’):

http://www.cityfarmer.info/2010/11/02/organic-gardens-feeding-people-from-argentina-to-haiti/

has been published by Jane Regan and Marcela Valente on the IPS-website on Oct. 22, 2010:

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53257

Family garden in Guatemala - Photo credit : 2014-12-28 Photo Jay Jackson, Guatemala) - 1979727_10152718304357923_1216222789_n
Family garden in Guatemala – Photo credit : 2014-12-28 Photo Jay Jackson, Guatemala) – 1979727_10152718304357923_1216222789_n (vertical gardening in bottle towers.

Organic Gardens Feeding People from Argentina to Haiti

Here is my selection of quotes:

Neither hurricanes nor floods, nor an earthquake, nor political instability managed to wipe out the organic gardening initiative, called Pro-Huerta (Pro-Garden), Programme d’Autoproduction d’Aliments Frais (“Self-Sufficient Fresh Vegetable Programme”) or “ti jaden òganik” (Creole for “small organic garden”), underway in Haiti since 2005.

The aim of the programme is to promote organic gardens in both cities and rural areas.

After the earthquake, some families had their own garden production to fall back on and cover some of their food needs.

Some families told us they were glad they didn’t have to stand in line all the time to suffer the humiliation of asking for food.

Emerged in 1990, the programme has now in Argentina 630,000 gardens and farms distributed in 3,500 urban and rural settings. The model has also been replicated in other countries of the region, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela.

There are all sorts of initiatives all over the region, which either replicate the model or take some elements from it, and there’s also an international course to provide training in other countries.

The Haitian experience has been particularly successful because a great deal has been achieved without considerable inputs or efforts.

With a 100-metre garden a family can grow enough food to cover its needs, but a space half that size is also good. And community or church plots can be used too.

These organic gardens are also sprouting in schools, prisons, community soup kitchens and senior citizen groups.

Food is mostly grown for personal consumption, but trade networks have also emerged. This is agro-ecological production: no chemicals are used, pest control is done naturally and the soil is allowed to recover through crop rotation.

In Haiti, where some 2.4 million of the country’s nine million people are considered “food insecure” and half the food consumed in the country is imported, these small gardens are making a difference.

Pro-Huerta is probably the most successful example of South-South cooperation.

Families in Haiti have been trained to produce their own seeds, good seeds. This is an important step towards assuring food security and food sovereignty.

Seeds are a flashpoint issue in Haiti. Following the earthquake, the agro-industrial giant Monsanto donated four million dollars worth of hybrid maize and vegetable seeds to the government, sparking outcries and protests, including the burning of mounds of seeds. As it turned out, the seeds were not really donated but offered to farmers for a fee.

With programs like Pro-Huerta, Haitian farmers are helped to improve their own seeds, their nutrition and their economic situation, all at the same time.

School garden in Niamey (Niger) - Photo credit WVC 1998-02-école-07
School garden in Niamey (Niger) – Photo credit WVC 1998-02-école-07

This fantastic programme deserves to be applied at the global scale. It is the crux of the matter in the combat of hunger and malnutrition.

Families, schools, communities, allotments, hospitals, churches, youth associations, senior citizen groups, sports clubs, prisons, …

Let’s start with the poorest and most vulnerable families. Let’s start doing it for all those malnourished children. 

Please, stop the discussion about the price of providing quality nutrition to children and the problems of transport and distribution of food aid. Give these poor families, and in particular the mothers, a chance to put a first step forward towards self-sufficiency.

It is a real honour for me to invite today 5 billion non-hungry people on earth to convince the decision makers to enable such an appealing food aid programme.

Let’s join our hands.  Let’s join our hearts.

Willem Van Cotthem

SCAD’s home gardens for food security and nutrient deficiencies

Photo credit: Google

Kitchen Garden

An effective tool for household food security

in SCAD Newsletter Vol. 2 March 2015

Kitchen gardens or home gardens have the potential to improve household food security besides serving effectively to alleviate the micro nutrient deficiencies, quite a common phenomenon in rural areas. Raising different vegetables, fruits and medicinal plants on available land in and around the house premises is the easiest way to ensure access to healthy, fresh and poison-free food. This is especially important in rural areas where people have limited income-earning opportunities and the economically poor have less or no access to healthy food markets.

Mal nourishment and nutrition deficiency disorders are common among rural women and children. In order to improve nutrition and enhance household food security, SCAD initiated kitchen garden promotion in a striking manner. This programme encouraged home gardening to provide both food and income besides nutrition education for the families of malnourished children. The kitchen gardens were established with a simple and low-cost approach of providing 8-10 different types of vegetable seed packets. The seeds are carefully selected to yield greens, tubers, fruits and vegetables. It was observed that when the households understood the nutritional and economic benefits of home gardening, the impact of establishing and utilizing productive home gardens was larger. These efforts gave the household members a sense of being involved in the programme and an incentive to improve child feeding practices.

A well-developed home garden has the potential to supply most of the non-staple food that a family needs every day of the year. Keeping this in mind, comprehensive training packages, especially to suit the requirement of the women, have been prepared for people living in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli regions and are widely disseminated. SCAD’s Rural Development Division in conjunction with the SCAD Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) actively collaborate with the agricultural departments to procure quality seeds and train the field level extension staff, farmers, women ́s groups and school teachers in gardening techniques.

Read the full text in SCAD’s Newsletter

Social Change And Development (SCAD)

105/A1 North By Pass Road, Vannarpettai, Tirunelveli – 627 003, Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Email: scb_scad@yahoo.com / Web: http://www.scad.org.in

Vertical gardening, successes on saline soils

Photo credit: Scientific American

Gardening on towers and sacks. Photo: Amy Yee

Vertical Gardens Beat Soil Made Salty by Climate Change

Saltwater is shrinking Bangladesh’s arable land, but a simple approach of planting crops in containers shows surprising success

By Amy Yee

EXCERPT

The soil in Chandipur village in southwest Bangladesh has become increasingly salty because of incursions of seawater. The situation became particularly acute in the aftermath of Cyclone Aila in 2009, which brought storm surges that broke embankments and flooded farmland. After 2009 vegetable crops planted in the ground there yielded only meager returns—if they didn’t fail completely.

Sack gardening in Uganda - eggplants - Photo Vermicomposters - African_Gardens_Uganda_bag_garden_Douglas copy.jpg
Sack gardening in Uganda – eggplants – Photo Vermicomposters – African_Gardens_Uganda_bag_garden_Douglas copy.jpg

But for the past three years hundreds of villagers have enjoyed the bounty of so-called vertical gardens—essentially crops grown in a variety of containers in backyards and on the rooftops of their humble homes. Despite their modest size, these gardens produce quite a bit.

Working with local nonprofits WorldFish trained about 200 villagers in four districts in saline-affected areas of southwestern Bangladesh to make vertical gardens. Others not in the program have copied their neighbors’ designs after seeing how well they worked. WorldFish plans to expand the program to include 5,000 people over the next two years.

Sack gardening - onion - Photo Ville Farm - 625641_134848003355532_1593377365_n copy.jpg
Sack gardening – onion – Photo Ville Farm – 625641_134848003355532_1593377365_n copy.jpg

Growing the vertical gardens is a relatively straightforward process. Villagers harvest soil after the rains, around November, and use it later during planting season. They put the soil into containers and mix it with fertilizer made of dried water hyacinth, soil, coconut husks and cow manure. The containers range from plastic rice and concrete sacks to large, specially constructed “towers” made of simple plastic sheets encased by bamboo rings.

Gardening on garbage big bags - Photo Crops in pots Treehugger 404459_315544111821294_262706507105055_858274_1606004967_n copy.jpg
Gardening on garbage big bags – Photo Crops in pots Treehugger 404459_315544111821294_262706507105055_858274_1606004967_n copy.jpg

To prevent waterlogging, the containers are raised off the ground on bricks and filled with brick chips that improve water circulation and drainage. Small holes are cut into the sides where short-rooted vegetables such as Indian spinach and tomatoes can grow. Long-rooted vegetables such as gourds grow on top. These sacks can produce up to eight kilograms of vegetables in one season with an investment of 100 to 150 taka (about $1.30 to $2) per bag. The tower variety of container measures more than 1.2 meters across and can produce more than 100 kilograms of vegetables. One tower requires an investment of about 900 to 1,000 taka (around $11.50 to $13.00) to buy materials and seeds. WorldFish provides seeds and some materials to villagers in the first year.

Read the full article: Scientific American

 

First help the local people to decent food

Photo credit: WVC 1997

Photo taken at the start of the community garden photographed 12 years later by Willemien (see photo of 2009-02 in Niou). At the first training session, the local women learn how to apply the soil conditioner TerraCottem.

Do hungry people need trees or a garden?

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

Four years ago, a friend has sent a message, in which a short paragraph got my special attention:

The …………………… (name) Movement started a project in the Senegal many years ago. I participated in the information campaign. The field workers planted about 20.000 Acacia trees. Visiting the project one year later they saw that all the little trees dried out.  The local people answered that they had not enough water for the trees; they used it for their cows and goats.  But how could we plant 20.000 trees with …………. (name of a technology)?  It would be too expensive!

Here is my reply to him:

Dear Friend, You are completely right.  All those big projects are doomed to be unsuccessful, simply because a number of limiting factors (like water) will always hinder the achievement of the goals.

Instead of spending all the good money at reforestation without taking care of the hunger and poverty of the local people, foreign aid should concentrate on agro-forestry, creating small family gardens and surround these with fruit trees (these are TREES too).

Photo credit: Willemien Maastricht
Photo credit: Willemien Committee Maastricht-Niou

2009-02 – Burkina Faso, Niou village, Jardin des Femmes: community garden combined with mango trees, created in 1997 by the Belgium TC-Dialogue Foundation in cooperation with the Committee Maastricht-Niou for the local village women’s association Gueswende.

We should not look first at economic return on our investment, e.g. planting trees and shrubs for biofuel, but first of all eliminate hunger and diseases in a region, which is a conditio sine qua non to count on the collaboration of the local population at bigger reforestation projects in the future.

How can we ever justify that we ‘help‘ the local people if our main objective is to gain ‘something’ for ourselves?

For me, there is only one solution: first help the local people to decent food and then see how they can really help us to create return on investment.

Photo credit: Willemien Committee Masstricht-Niou
Photo credit: Willemien Committee Masstricht-Niou

2009-02 Burkina Faso: Jardin Kabouda, a community garden created with the support of the Committee Maastricht-Niou. A splendid example of combating hunger, child malnutrition and poverty.

Unfortunately, it has been and still is always business as usual, even for some international organizations, surviving thanks to the unsolved problems like hunger, child malnutrition and poverty, for which billions of dollars are repeatedly collected, without changing much at the grassroot level.

I get tears in my eyes, thinking at all those poor people out there, seeing how billions are spent year after year at what is called combating the problems.

Hunger, child malnutrition and poverty should be combated in the field itself, at the grassroot level, by offering people a chance to grow their own fresh food and fruits in a private family (kitchen) garden or in a community garden (see photos above).

We will never win that war if we continue to ship only food (the ammunition) to the frontline, not the necessary weapons (a fence, fertilizers, seeds, …) to create small gardens, the ideal platform for self-sufficiency.

For sure: victory can be ours!  Let us make the right strategic move.

 

Combating malnutrition on your windowsills

Photo credit: Fe MONDEJAR – 2013-04 

Why keeping dependent on food aid ?

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

It’s shockingly simple to grow juicy vegetables and herbs in containers inside the house, e.g. on windowsills.  No more the outdoors drought and desertification problems; no more irrigation difficulties or soil fertilization problems, causing lack of vitamins and mineral elements, origin of chronic hunger.

Fresh food production indoors in a simple pot or bottle: eat the freshly picked vegetables and herbs and leave the roots in the container to decompose, thus delivering more organic matter and keeping the containers ready for reception of the next seeds or seedlings.

You combat desertification? You save water? You need fresh food in a dry region?

Why don’t you use your imagination and start growing fresh food in all sorts of containers inside your house ?  Leave drought and desertification outside and transform your room into a lush greenhouse with extremely simple and indescribably cheap means !

The combat of malnutrition and other health problems can easily be won with inexpensive containers, inside the houses, inside the classrooms, not with sophisticated food purchased at foreign companies.

If only one wants to change the tune of possible profits !

Five minutes of political will suffice to start improving the physical condition of the malnourished children of this world.  And don’t forget : it’s so simple that even the kids can grow their own vegetables at home and at school.  Just teach them how to do and they will take care of their own future.  They will be prepared to become instructed adults with a lot of skills to avoid dependency on food aid.

Why do some people continue to turn their head away ? Who is keeping business running ?

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