And what if they would get some help to install container gardening at home ?


Photo credit: Asianet.Newsable

Malnutrition deaths haunt tribal children in Attappady

By Team Asianet Newsable

  • On Saturday, five month old infant died of heart ailment and underweight related complications
  • Health workers say that over 3000 tribal children are anemic and require immediate attention
  • Deaths related to malnutrition came down from 58 in 2013 to 14 in 2015

Six cases of infant death and at least 10 neonatal deaths were reported from the tribal belts of Attappady since January, 2016


Despite claims by the state government of efforts to prevent poverty and malnutrition in the tribal belts of Attappady in Palakkad, child deaths continue to stalk the region.

The latest in the list is a five-month-old girl who died on Saturday owing to heart ailments and complications related to underweight. The child, belonging to Sholayar tribal belt, was admitted to Government Medical College, Thrissur.

Another tribal child, 12-year-old Manikandan, belonging to Swarnapirivu tribal colony, died of anaemia on 19 September. Health officials confirm that malnutrition and anaemia affect people in the tribal belt irrespective of age and undernourishment is prominent among children.

They also said that over 3,000 children are anaemic and requires immediate attention. As many as six infant deaths were reported from the tribals belts of Attappady this year.

Read the full story: Asianet.Newsable

Desertification and container gardening



Container gardening as a tool in the drylands

One of the most interesting aspects of the combat of desertification is the quest of the best practices (water saving, improvement of soil, successful reforestation, production of food crops, limiting erosion, etc.).

One of these best practices consists in the application of container gardening.

One can find a panoply of variants of this method or technique at :

Check the daily update for tips to be applied in the combat of desertification.

Time to teach them how to grow their own fresh food instead of keeping them dependent on food aid.


COMMENTS OF Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University-Belgium) ON

Nearly 385 million children live in extreme poverty – UNICEF

Today I read this interesting article on UNICEF’s alarming message about child poverty, in which I find :

“The report dubbed: “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Children revealed that in 2013, 19.5 per cent of children in developing countries were living in households that survived on an average of $1.90 a day or less per person, compared to just 9.2 per cent of adults.

It said globally, almost 385 million children are living in extreme poverty.

According to the report, children are disproportionately affected, as they make up around a third of the population studied.


UNICEF and the World Bank Group are calling on governments to routinely measure child poverty at the national and sub-national levels and focus on children in national poverty reduction plans as part of efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030.”

Source: GNA”.

Children are more than twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty, according to a new analysis from the World Bank Group and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF). –

As a header of this remarkable text we find this scaring picture above, showing anxious children keeping up an empty plate: NOTHING TO EAT AND QUEUING FOR SOME FOOD.

Once again it shows that there is an urgent need to teach all schoolchildren in developing countries how to grow fresh food at home and at school (e.g. in a schoolgarden).

Of course, a lot of them need an urgent supply of nutritive meals.  That means that emergency programs are acceptable and very useful.

But it is not by sending loads of nutritive cookies (or other healthy meals) that one will change a single thing at this disastrous situation.  Yes, we will save starving children, but the 350 million children living in extreme poverty need more than a food aid meal a day.

We urgently have to change our food aid strategies to make them sustainable (see the new goals):

(1) Keep on going with emergency actions where needed;

(2) Set up educative programs to teach the children successful methods and simple techniques to grow their own daily rations of vitamins, micronutrients and mineral elements (fresh edible crops).

Impossible to believe that people concerned would not know a thing about the existence of these essential methods and techniques.  Since years they are fully described and illustrated.  It suffices to check some data (photos, texts, videos) on the internet, e.g.

Let us never forget that UNICEF itself has set up in 2005 a very successful program, called “Family Gardens for the Saharawis refugees in the S.W. of Algeria“, that unfortunately was stopped at the end of 2007 after showing that even in the Sahara desert families were (still are !) able to grow vegetables and herbs in their own garden.  The French would say: “Il faut le faire !”.

We keep looking forward for the global application of such a fresh food production program, using these basic, simple ways of growing food at home and at school.  That would be the real, sustainable food aid. “Il faut le vouloir !“.

A ‘permanent’ kitchen garden in the White House


Photo credit:  Treehugger

Public Domain Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon

The White House will now have a ‘permanent’ kitchen garden

Derek Markham (@derekmarkham)
Living / Lawn & Garden

A $2.5 million donation to the National Park Foundation will keep Michelle Obama’s Kitchen Garden legacy alive for years to come.

In “it’s about time” news, the White House may be getting a ‘permanent’ kitchen garden on the premises, which is intended to build on and develop the initiative started by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009. Using the national symbol of governance to educate and inspire people to grow some of the their own food is a laudable effort, and one which has a lot of potential.

“This garden represents the transformational change we’ve seen in just the past six and a half years, as well as our collective hopes for growing a healthier nation for our children.” – First Lady Michelle Obama

It will be a legacy of Michelle Obama’s time in the White House, a manifestation of her “crazy idea that what if we planted a garden on the White House lawn to start a conversation about where our food comes from and how it impacts our children’s health” that began to take root even before President Obama was first elected. This Kitchen Garden could serve the future residents of that dwelling for many years to come by providing fresh local homegrown produce, and could also serve as an educational and outreach tool that furthers the original goal.





Uploaded on Feb 8, 2011

The project “Family gardens in the Saharawis refugees camps of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria” has been very successful (2005-2007). Today, the refugees continue the construction of new gardens with the help of NGOs and individual sponsors. A series of videos will show that it is rather easy to offer to all the families in the camps the possibility to produce fresh food. (To be continued)

Allowing young children to learn through gardening and tending livestock


Photo credit: Treehugger

© Aut-Aut Architecture

Could nursery school farms be the way of the future?

by Katherine Martinko

An award-winning design blends traditional nursery school classrooms with a working farm, allowing young children to learn through gardening and tending livestock.

Imagine if the nursery school of the future were a farm, complete with vegetable gardens and animals, the tending of which would be part of a child’s daily routine. This glorious concept isn’t as far removed from reality as you may think. In fact, such a design, titled “Nursery Fields Forever,” was the first-prize winner of a recent architecture competition in which competitors were asked to design an ideal nursery school for the city of London, England, based on the following:

“[Nursery schools and primary schools] intend to provide a grounding for the child to start school, offering a range of structured educational experiences based on learning through play. A new kind of kindergarten design encourages kids to be their silly selves. What does a school do with 4- and 5-year-old kids? How should be the nursery of the future? How children should spend their days in these structures?

A group of four young architects from Italy and the Netherlands created the winning proposal. “Nursery Fields Forever” is a working farm that taps into young children’s natural attraction to plants and animals. Rather than having to take kids out into nature – something that’s difficult in urban settings – the kids would already be in a natural setting.

Read the full article: Treehugger

Climate change, land use and global food demand.


Photo credit: * Containers in greenhouse – veggies – Photo Lemuel A. Molina – 282925_524481317575915_1703501653_n.jpg

Climate change means land use will need to change to keep up with global food demand, say scientists

September 20, 2016
University of Birmingham
Without significant improvements in technology, global crop yields are likely to fall in the areas currently used for production of the world’s three major cereal crops, forcing production to move to new areas, new research suggests.

Read the full article: Science Daily

Journal Reference:

  1. T.A.M. Pugh, C. Müller, J. Elliott, D. Deryng, C. Folberth, S. Olin, E. Schmid, A. Arneth. Climate analogues suggest limited potential for intensification of production on current croplands under climate change. Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 12608 DOI:10.1038/ncomms12608


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

It would be very interesting if research could be set up on the possible role to be played by CONTAINER GARDENING in the global food demand within the framework of climate change.

To what extend could “container gardening” contribute to food security for hungry families ?

A suggestion for the interested colleagues ?

When will every school in developing countries have a school garden ?



Back to School: Local school gardens help kids

There are several school gardens in the Marathon County area and it could be helping your kids more than you think. The National Gardening Association found that school gardens will help students eat more fruits and vegetables and improve their social skills by working with others.

The Hatley Elementary School and Community Garden has expanded over past couple of years and more recently the school received a grant to purchase a green house helping kids like Caleb Breyton even more.

“I like to pull weeds and I like to pick the plants,” said Caleb Breyton in the garden.

The fifth grader works hard as he gets his knees and hands dirty while picking green beans and other veggies. Caleb not only likes to garden, but enjoys eating the growing plants too. Since being in the garden he says he has eaten more veggies and found a new produce he loves, which is kale.

The 4th graders start by growing seeds in the green house and then in June students will move what they’ve grown into the garden. All grades K-5 will work with the produce. It’s something Fischer says helps them learn even more than staying in the classroom.

Read the full article: WSAW

Small-scale kitchen gardens and container gardening are the most efficient tools to provide fresh food


Sacks gardening in urban and rural areas

Published on 25 Feb, 2010 12:22 pm

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

In every developing country people are suffering from the high food prices. More than billion people are hungry every day. The creation of small-scale kitchen gardens and container gardening are the most efficient tools to provide fresh food to rural farmers and urban people. Growing food in sacks is an interesting variant of container gardening.

Smallholders and rural producers have a vital role to play in overcoming global hunger and poverty, and new and varied partnerships are needed, with particular emphasis on the interests of women, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on February 17th, 2010.  He also confirmed that the growing international recognition of the role of agriculture and rural development in poverty reduction is helping to build the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. Despite the hardships of the global recession, last year saw an upturn in investment in agriculture, along with promises from world leaders of large additional increases over the next three years, he said, thereby underscoring that “we need to continue creating diverse and innovative partnerships that can help people and communities achieve greater productivity, nutritional health and self-reliance. In this respect we must give pre-eminence to the interests of women, who juggle their time between food production, processing, marketing, child care and balancing the household budget”.

* Sack - onion - Photo Ville Farm - 625641_134848003355532_1593377365_n
* Sack – onion – Photo Ville Farm – 625641_134848003355532_1593377365_n.jpg

In every developing country people are suffering from the high food prices.

Taking into account that most of the rural women in the drylands spend the major part of their daily life with small-scale agricultural activities, it goes without saying that, when creating diverse and innovative partnerships that can help people and communities achieve greater productivity, the best return on investment will come from the creation of small kitchen gardens close to their houses.

There is no need to offer them some financial resources.  Funding to start up a family garden can be done as a “micro-credit”, not with a certain sum of money, but in the form of the necessary materials and equipment. Success stories have shown that, in rural areas, offering a family garden to women is the easiest and most efficient way to combat hunger and poverty.

* Sacks - garbage - Photo Crops in pots Treehugger 404459_315544111821294_262706507105055_858274_1606004967_n
* Sacks – garbage – Photo Crops in pots Treehugger 404459_315544111821294_262706507105055_858274_1606004967_n

However, in urban areas the situation is quite different. With their extremely low income and having barely a patch of arable land, almost all the urban families are confronted with some form of hunger and malnutrition.  In Kibera, Nairobi (Kenya), hundreds of residents of the slums have adopted a new form of intensive gardening: growing vegetables and herbs in sacks.

* Sacks - Kibera, Kenya - Photo Avantgardens - 24631_623615430985555_2019559313_n
* Sacks – Kibera, Kenya – Photo Avantgardens – 24631_623615430985555_2019559313_n.jpg

Previously, women in densely populated cities mostly planted vegetables on small plots of barren land. Nowadays, the novel form of gardening in sacks or all kinds of containers can be introduced in every urban area.  Indeed, as finding even small patches of arable land in a city or a town is becoming almost impossible, sacks or other containers, taking up less space than small-scale gardens, are an interesting solution for food production.

With only a small budget, NGOs can easily start up a sacks gardening project with a small number of women and later extend invitations to more women, and even schools, to join the group.  This seems to be a fantastic way for almost every urban family or school to have access to affordable vegetables, herbs and fruits.

Wherever needed, a short training in sacks gardening can be planned. Women and children can learn in the shortest time these simple gardening techniques of container gardening, in particular those of water harvesting, soil fertilization and adequate irrigation.

As sacks gardening can provide a sustainable source of vegetables and fruits, one can foresee a growing success of this novel form of gardening both in rural and in urban areas. NGOs and foundations can help women and schools to fence their gardening plots and to store irrigation water (not drinking water).

With a limited number of sacks of vegetables family members or school children do not fear to be hungry.  It would be a remarkably easy way of food production in refugee camps, where every family could have a small number of sacks close to the tent.

The success of similar projects in developing countries on all continents should encourage NGOs, foundations, banks and international agencies like FAO, WFP and UNHCR to invest in this efficient way of combating hunger and poverty.

If there is really a growing international recognition of the role of agriculture and rural development in poverty reduction, helping to build the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, along with promises from world leaders of large additional increases over the next three years, like Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said, then it should not be so difficult to set up a programme to promote sacks gardening at a global level.

Combating hunger and child malnutrition with container gardening


Container gardening against hunger and child malnutrition in 2016

Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

University of Ghent (Belgium)

Formerly published at:


These are some interesting quotes from an article published by Dean FOSDICK for the Associated Press: Container gardens for vegetables are growing in popularity :


(1) Two of the hottest trends in gardening are containers and cultivating fresh food, and savvy families are beginning to combine the two. They’re growing their vegetables in pots.

(2) “It’s so easy to put a tomato into a pot. It almost grows itself,” Crawford says. “It’s a whole different ballgame than putting one in the ground. There’s less weeding involved and fewer insects to fight. Container gardens are more productive and involve less work.” (Pamela Crawford, a landscape architect who has written four books about container gardening. Her latest is “Easy Container Combos: Vegetables and Flowers” (Color Garden Publishing, 168 pp., 2010).

(3) “I’ve been able to harvest as many as 236 small spicy peppers all at once from four plants in a 16- to 20-inch container,” Crawford says, referring to habaneros. “I’ve also been able to get my fill of tomatoes from a pot that included a few ornamental sweet potato vines with their large root systems. It’s amazing how little ground space plants need to be productive. They can tolerate being crowded.

(4) “I’ve had good experience with clay pots and plastic pots,” says Joseph Masabni, an assistant professor and horticulturist with Texas A&M University. “If you live in a hot area, I don’t recommend black or dark containers. They can overheat plants. I prefer clay because it breathes if it isn’t coated. (Plant) roots are never starved for oxygen.

(5) Vegetable gardening in containers is also a good way to involve children.

(6) “Older people who are still gardeners at heart but who live in apartments also can grow their fill of vegetables or small fruiting shrubs in pots,” he says.




MY COMMENT (Willem Van Cotthem)

No one denies that container gardening is “an easier ballgame” than growing plants in the ground, particularly in the drylands. There are many advantages in avoiding plant growth in a poor dryland soil by using a better substrate in containers (improved soil without any pests, bigger water retention capacity by limiting evaporation, less weeds, more oxygen, etc). Most people are not aware of the fact that plants can do with limited ground space, even grown in competition with other species in a container.

Not only “savvy families” are beginning to combine container gardening and cultivating fresh food. It is more and more recognized that this type of gardening is a key for combating hunger and child malnutrition.  Indeed, everyone on this globe, in rural areas and in urban ones, can grow his own fresh vegetables and some fruits in all kinds of containers (pots, bottles, boxes, bags…).

Many city dwellers, thinking they are excluded from gardening, will appreciate the reward of vegetable gardening in a condo or apartment.  For them, container gardening can open up a new world of producing their own food.

Clay pots being too expensive for people in developing countries is a wrong argument, sometimes used against container gardening.  There are plenty of plastic pots and bottles, plastic and metal boxes, plastic shopping bags and woven bags everywhere.  One sees them littered all over the world.  So, why not using them for food production?

In Belgium, I am growing continuously plants in bottles and pots, thus reducing irrigation for at least 50 %.  My plants do not need special care: I can leave them for weeks and weeks without “labouring my garden”.  See my blog:


Growing vegetables and herbs in bottle towers (Photo WVC P1070019) –


P1110745 copy

My experimental pallet garden to grow food crops in different containers on a vertical structure (Photo WVC P1110745 copy)


The same experimental pallet garden 3 years later. Massive plant production in pots and buckets on the vertical pallet structure (Photo WVC P1120204)

Today (2010/05/17), I was reading at the blog of AfricaFiles (Africa InfoServ <>) the article No. 23615: Africa can feed itself: green revolution takes root” – See also: <;.

Under Summary & Comment I found: “Kofi Annan poses challenges for Africa’s Green Revolution and gives recent examples of success, supported by AGRA. He emphasizes the importance of smallholder farmers and “partnerships”, skips over the controversial issue of GMOs, and encourages the spread of best practices in farming, marketing and finance for agriculture. But first he summarizes the current connections between climate change, water scarcity, poverty and other factors which lead to Africa being currently „the only continent unable to feed itself.” J.Stamp.

I cannot agree more with Mr. Kofi ANNAN, emphasizing the importance of smallholder farmers and encouraging the spread of best practices in farming.  I am profoundly convinced that container gardening is one of these best practices for smallholder farmers, particularly in all areas affected by drought and desertification, be it in rural areas or in the cities.  With this type of gardening there is even no need for drip irrigation!

If “Africa really is the only continent unable to feed itself“, “partnerships” should be encouraged to apply container gardening at the largest possible scale by farmers and citizens, but also by their children at school.  In doing so, Africa will soon be able to feed itself.  Hunger and child malnutrition will be banned forever from that beautiful continent.

Why don’t we set up a large-scale test in one of the areas affected by hunger to show once again what is already known?  Why continuously importing expensive food if every single person can produce it very easily at home? Let us not forget that there is also a certain pride when one knows that one can grow his own fruits and vegetables, not being dependent anymore on food aid from international organizations or NGOs.

That reality is “jumping into our eyes”.  Let us not close them now for that reality!

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


My publication in January 2010:

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.


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 (see 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!

Hurrah for allotments

In January 2010 I wrote:

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

Benefits of growing your own food in allotment gardens (Sheffield Univ. / Willem Van Cotthem)

Read at : Sheffield Univ. – Environment Division


Producers of ‘home grown’ food can gain psychological and physiological benefits through physical activity and improved nutrition, as well as through self empowerment, engaging with nature, and participating in communal activities. Lack of physical activity and low intake of fruit and vegetables is linked to poor health, but little is known about how the health benefits of physical exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption relate to their environmental setting. Studies of these benefits have often focused on particular social groups such as the elderly or those with mental illness.



The paragraph above describes the major benefits of growing your own food in allotment gardens.  Key words are :

  1. Physiological benefits: physical activity, improved nutrition, improved health
  2. Psychological benefits: self empowerment, engagement with nature, participation in community.

In fact, these benefits also go for family gardens (kitchen gardens), school gardens and hospital gardens.  One can imagine that extraordinary improvement in nutrition and health can be achieved if people in the drylands and in refugee camps would be enabled to grow their own food, be it in allotment gardens or in community gardens.

I remain confident that international aid organizations and NGOs, sooner or later, will set up programmes and projects to install these types of gardens to combat hunger and malnutrition and to assure food security in hostile environments.

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