Best practices in Senegal

Photo credit: Ilonka DE ROOIJ

Introduction of new vegetables and fruit species, thanks to free seeds from the SEEDS FOR FOOD action

 

Growing food crops in container to alleviate drought

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).

1798243_1044496495589181_177397747462836296_n
Casamance, Senegal 2016-02 – Potatoes growing in plastic bags, burried in the dry soil – Photo credit: Ilonka DE ROOIJ 1798243_1044496495589181_177397747462836296_n

12710859_1044496492255848_6834224328241385187_o
Casamance, Senegal 2016-02 – Young plants of the spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis), each grown from one single pad – Photo credit Ilonka DE ROOIJ – 12710859_1044496492255848_6834224328241385187_o.jpg

11083706_1044496555589175_1884473580418555260_o
Casamance, Senegal 2016-02 – The young Opuntias start flowering and will soon produce juicy fruits – Photo Ilonka DE ROOIJ 11083706_1044496555589175_1884473580418555260_o.jpg

How sacks and willows can help to combat desertification and hunger

Photo credit: VVORK

“Hanging Garden”, 2008-09 by Mona Hatoum.

 

Interested in food production in arid regions ?

Interested in combating desertification ?

You want to alleviate hunger and malnutrition ?

 

Click here: Food Wall

The numerous advantages of s​ack gardening and growing drought-tolerant Navajo willows (see below) have been described earlier in postings on my desertification blog. We suggested to combine both methods/techniques (sacks and live trees) in order to solve a number of classical problems: drought, limited quantity of irrigation water, heat, UV-radiation, etc, killing a number of birds with one stone. Mona HATOUM’s splendid artwork and the positive news about gardening people in Nairobi, combating hunger, malnutrition and poverty with “s​ack gardening”​, brought me to the idea that it must be possible to build a vertical vegetable garden as a F​ood Wall of stacked burlap (jute) sacks, filled with a mixture of dirt (or potting soil) and manure. Maybe adding a water absorbent soil conditioner (if cost is not a limiting factor!) can enhance the water retention capacity in the sacks.

The ‘garden-in-a-sack’ concept to alleviate hunger and malnutrition

Photo credit: * Sack – vegetables – Photo Recetas Mierdaeuristhuerto-en-saco.png

Kenyans Attack Food Insecurity with Urban Farms and Sack Gardens

By Lisa Vives

* Sacks - Kibera, Kenya - Photo Avantgardens - 24631_623615430985555_2019559313_n_2.jpg
* Sacks – Kibera, Kenya – Photo Avantgardens – 24631_623615430985555_2019559313_n_2.jpg

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.

* Sacks - cabbage - Photo Pata Gonia - 309392_532589656760851_2003668906_n.jpg
* Sacks – cabbage – Photo Pata Gonia – 309392_532589656760851_2003668906_n.jpg

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

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

 

We need a programme to promote sacks gardening at a global level

Photo credit: Avantgardens

Sacks gardening in Kibera, Kenya

INTRODUCING SACKS GARDENING TO COMBAT HUNGER AND POVERTY

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

 

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.

* Sacks - Malawi - Photo Heifer - MW201204-320-e1365708582234-682x1024.jpg
* Sacks – Vegetables on sacks in Malawi – Photo Heifer – MW201204-320-e1365708582234-682×1024.jpg

 

Despite the hardships of the global recession, one saw an upturn in investment in agriculture, along with promises from world leaders of large additional increases over the next 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”.

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

 

* Sack - Garbagenwealth GoodHealth - 58318_103530029804304_2040917991_n.jpg
* Sacks – Gardening on big bags – Garbagenwealth GoodHealth – 58318_103530029804304_2040917991_n.jpg

 

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.

* Sacks - Photo Crops in pots 386314_302266149815757_262706507105055_825194_1086186138_n.jpg
* Sacks – Students setting up a sack garden in Karachi (Pakistan) -Photo Crops in pots 386314_302266149815757_262706507105055_825194_1086186138_n.jpg

 

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.

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

 

* Sacks - potatoes - Photo Farm Curious - 81135230757539134_dRGYJxyM_f.jpg
* Sacks – Potatoes and other vegetables on plastic and burlap sacks – Photo Farm Curious – 81135230757539134_dRGYJxyM_f.jpg

 

Previously, women in densely populated cities 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.

 

* Sacks (big bags) Treehugger vacant-lot-lfa.jpg
* Sacks – An urban garden on big bags –  Treehugger vacant-lot-lfa.jpg

 

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.

 

* Sack - veggies - Photo Terry Schreiner - 574890_3304491894160_1114278384_n.jpg
* Sack – Onions and herbs on a plastic sack – Photo Terry Schreiner – 574890_3304491894160_1114278384_n.jpg

 

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.

 

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

 

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 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.

 

Imagine all the people … (John LENNON).

Sack gardening does not require much space and vegetables can be grown according to demand and taste (New Agriculturist)

Read at :

http://www.new-ag.info/en/research/innovationItem.php?a=2982

Organic sack gardening in Bangladesh

Living in Vabanipur village in Bangladesh’s Malulavi Bazaar District, Ainob Bibi has struggled to feed her four children. Without land, and living close to Hakaluki Haor – a large wetland area in eastern Bangladesh that is flooded for five to six months of the year – Bibi could not grow vegetables or other crops. After hearing about a new ‘sack gardening’ technology from the NGO Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Bibi started with five sacks containing green spinach seedlings. After only 20 days she harvested six kilos, harvesting another five kilos a week later. Today she also grows naga chilli, which she can sell. By growing different vegetables, Bibi is able to supply her own family and earn money. As a result, a number of her neighbours have also taken up the practice.

Maximising space

Vegetables are an essential source of nutrition for a sound and healthy body, but in Bangladesh two out of every three children born are underweight due to malnutrition; millions also suffer from night blindness, each year vitamin A deficiency (VAD) affecting 300,000 people. Malnutrition also reduces a person’s ability to do sustained work. In Kenya and Uganda, the French NGO Solidarités developed ‘sack gardening’ where tall, earth-filled sacks sprout kale, spinach, herbs and onions from the tops and sides. In 2010, with help from Solidarités, the ‘garden-in-a-sack’ concept was introduced in Sylhet, Maulvi Bazar, Brahmanbaria and Dhaka districts by FIVDB.

In Bangladesh, most poor people, like Bibi, don’t have enough land to cultivate vegetables conventionally. Sack gardening does not require much space and vegetables can be grown according to demand and taste. The bags are also easy to move, which is important for families living on ‘char’ lands (flood prone areas) and riverbanks, who are often forced to move as villages are inundated.

(continued)

A simple question about hunger, a difficult answer (Willem Van Cotthem)

Today, all over the developed world, important parts of the population are combating the economic crisis and in particular the food crisis by switching to production of fresh food. Produced at home, even in the smallest quantities, this “own fresh food” plays a considerable  role in the well-being of families, in particular of children.  Container gardening, vertical gardening, bottle towers, gardening on risers, balconies or windowsills, hydroponics, aquaponics, gardening in self-watering buckets, bags, sacks, crates, boxes, pots, guerilla gardening, edible forests, …, it are all different initiatives taken to alleviate  hunger and malnutrition problems.

Day after day, messages and photos or videos on the internet confirm that people feel the need to produce  their own fresh food, even in the smallest available space, e.g. a balcony on the 17th floor in the city.  It is marvelous to notice that most of these “novice farmers or gardeners” proudly announce the successes of their first experiments and the swift progress made thanks to “lessons learned” and “exchange of information”.

Thanks to these personal initiatives of private gardening, the most vulnerable part of the population in developed countries is less affected by the food crisis, in particular by the high food prices.

Therefore, I feel the need to formulate a very simple question :

“If a large group of people in developed countries, affected by the actual crises and suffering from hunger or malnutrition because of the high food prices, is successfully setting up actions to produce an important part of their own food, why don’t we teach the billion hungry people, mostly living in developing countries, to do the same ?”.

The answer to this question seems to be a very difficult one.

My Chinese friends are telling me : “Don’t bring that hungry man a fish that he will eat in one day, but teach him how to fish and he will eat all year long“.

As Chinese is not my mother tongue, I translated it into : “Don’t bring the hungry people rations of nutritious food that they will eat in one day, but teach them how to grow their own fresh food and they will eat all year long”.

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

Purely by coincidence I found today these 3 publications confirming that food production has become a very hot topic all over the world.  Please read :

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/keralas-growing-obsession-with-vegetable-farming-in-homes-the-caravan/

and

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/sack-gardening-does-not-require-much-space-and-vegetables-can-be-grown-according-to-demand-and-taste-new-agriculturist/

Captions of photos :

  • “By growing different vegetables, Ainob Bibi is able to supply her own family and earn money”
  • “Sack gardening does not require much space”
  • “Sack gardening has also empowered women, who most often organise and take care of the gardens”

and

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/vietnam-cut-the-countrys-malnutrition-rate-in-half-by-investing-in-small-scale-farming-cnn/

2012 : And the result of growing vegetables and herbs in bottle towers (Photo WVC)
Fresh food galore in a small space : The result of growing vegetables and herbs in bottle towers (Photo WVC)

Sack gardening to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty (New Agriculturist)

Read at :

http://www.new-ag.info/en/research/innovationItem.php?a=2982

Organic sack gardening in Bangladesh

Living in Vabanipur village in Bangladesh’s Malulavi Bazaar District, Ainob Bibi has struggled to feed her four children. Without land, and living close to Hakaluki Haor – a large wetland area in eastern Bangladesh that is flooded for five to six months of the year – Bibi could not grow vegetables or other crops. After hearing about a new ‘sack gardening’ technology from the NGO Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Bibi started with five sacks containing green spinach seedlings. After only 20 days she harvested six kilos, harvesting another five kilos a week later. Today she also grows naga chilli, which she can sell. By growing different vegetables, Bibi is able to supply her own family and earn money. As a result, a number of her neighbours have also taken up the practice.

Maximising space

Vegetables are an essential source of nutrition for a sound and healthy body, but in Bangladesh two out of every three children born are underweight due to malnutrition; millions also suffer from night blindness, each year vitamin A deficiency (VAD) affecting 300,000 people. Malnutrition also reduces a person’s ability to do sustained work. In Kenya and Uganda, the French NGO Solidarités developed ‘sack gardening’ where tall, earth-filled sacks sprout kale, spinach, herbs and onions from the tops and sides. In 2010, with help from Solidarités, the ‘garden-in-a-sack’ concept was introduced in Sylhet, Maulvi Bazar, Brahmanbaria and Dhaka districts by FIVDB.

In Bangladesh, most poor people, like Bibi, don’t have enough land to cultivate vegetables conventionally. Sack gardening does not require much space and vegetables can be grown according to demand and taste. The bags are also easy to move, which is important for families living on ‘char’ lands (flood prone areas) and riverbanks, who are often forced to move as villages are inundated.

(continued)

REACH-ing for good projects to REALLY tackle child hunger and malnutrition (Willem Van Cotthem)

Let us read attentively some paragraphs (or parts thereof) of the former posting on this blog (UN News) :

RIO+20: UN AGENCIES SAY TACKLING CHILD HUNGER CRUCIAL TO ACHIEVING ‘THE FUTURE WE WANT’ (June 28, 2012)

  1. United Nations agencies today stressed the need to tackle child hunger and undernutrition in the pursuit of sustainable development, highlighting a joint initiative (REACH) that offers practical and effective approaches to combat this problem in the most affected countries.
  2. Under the REACH initiative, the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have committed to a renewed effort against child hunger and undernutrition.
  3. …the main causes of child undernutrition – food insecurity, poor health and inappropriate care – are all known and preventable.
  4. … governments and other actors know why nutrition interventions are necessary and there is evidence for what works, when and where.
  5. “The greatest challenge, however, is how to scale up programmes so that they can have a real impact, and this is where the REACH approach can provide direction,”
  6. The whole idea is to share knowledge to come up with good projects that really tackle the issues and do it in a very un-bureaucratic way.

————

Now, let us understand the essence of this message :

  • Acknowledging the need to tackle child hunger, WFP, UNICEF, FAO and WHO have committed to a renewed effort : the REACH initiative.
  • Seemingly, the main causes of child hunger and malnutrition are all known and preventable.
  • All key actors know why nutrition interventions are necessary.
  • They all know what works, when and where.
  • Remains to scale up their programmes with direction provided by REACH, so that they have a real impact.
  • Therefore, the key actors will share knowledge (un-bureaucratically) to come up with good projects that really tackle the issues.

————–

As we all know what works, when and where, it seems to me that we do not have to share a lot of knowledge for years, not even for months.  We even know what to do today.

We do not have to scale up existing (expensive ?) programmes, in order to have a real impact.  On the contrary, we should use the available resources and means to replace those huge, but rather inefficient programmes by a multitude of very efficient small projects (an advice already given since decades).

We can use the lessons learned from the best practices to come up with good projects that really tackle hunger and malnutrition.

Let us follow Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s advice and join our efforts to promote small-scale farming, in which women play a very important role, at the largest scale.  It has been shown over and over again that all the women of this world can become “experts” in food production, simply by offering them a small kitchen garden for their family (see UNICEF’s project on family gardens in the Sahara desert of S.W. Algeria).

One of the hundreds of family gardens in a refugee camp in the Sahara desert of S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project) – (Photo WVC)

If it has been possible in the past to provide fresh food in a sustainable way to thousands of people living in the desert, and this within the shortest period of  some months, it should be possible for WFP, UNICEF, FAO and WHO to REACH a consensus over good projects for urban gardening, family gardening, container gardening, vertical gardening and other successful techniques of which we all know the lessons learned very well (see sack gardening in Nairobi and in the refugee camps of Dabaab).

May these international organizations work hand in hand with the national governments and other key actors, like the NGOs, to find the best lay-out for such good gardening projects, directly profitable for the hungry and malnourished children.

Hopefully, they will agree to do this in “a very un-bureaucratic way“, because “TACKLING CHILD HUNGER IS CRUCIAL TO ACHIEVING ‘THE FUTURE WE WANT’ “.

Vertical gardens and mini greenhouses (SPORE)

Read at :

http://spore.cta.int/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&lang=en&id=2064&catid=12

Field report from Kenya

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Field report from Kenya

Two simple technologies are helping urban dwellers to grow fresh produce in very small spaces. The result is more varied diets for families and extra income from the sale of surplus output.

With a population of one million, Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, is one of the largest informal settlements in Africa. It is also one of the unhealthiest, with open sewers spilling raw sewage into the narrow alleyways. Now urban farming is helping to improve diets through hygienic agricultural practices in limited spaces.

The main technique used is ‘sack gardening’. Also known as vertical gardening, the simple system consists of a 90 kg sack filled with soil. Up to 50 plants can be grown in this small space, producing vegetables for sale and household consumption.

Sack gardening has proved so successful in Kibera that Olympic High School is buying vegetables from its students, helping them offset fees for books and tuition. The children grow kale and spinach, with support from NGO Solidarités International, which provides farmyard manure and soil. Water for irrigating the vegetables is sourced from the school’s borehole.

(continued)

 

What comes first: Strategies for combating climate change or for creating gardens to produce food for children? (Willem VAN COTTHEM / MediaGlobal / UNICEF)

Let me recommend to read very attentively the former posting on this blog :

UNICEF: Children most vulnerable to climate change

http://www.mediaglobal.org/2011/12/02/unicef-children-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change/

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized,.

Matthew McKinnon, Head of the Climate Vulnerability Initiative at DARA International, told MediaGlobal how the impact of climate change is already evident.

“In Asia, Central and South Asia are the most vulnerable regions; in the Pacific, it is the small island developing states. Both areas are affected by more extreme weather, by effects on human health, by sea-level rise, by desertification (especially India and China), by economic damages to the agricultural sector and effects for natural resources, such as water and biodiversity.”

Geoffrey Keele, Communications Specialist with UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, explained to MediaGlobal the specific harms children face in light of these changes.

“The leading killers of children worldwide are highly sensitive to climate changes,” he says. “For example, higher temperatures have been linked to increased rates of malnutrition, cholera, diarrheal disease and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. Yet children’s underdeveloped immune systems put them at far greater risk of contracting these diseases and succumbing to their complications.”

And Mr. Keele explained that the rising occurrence of extreme weather events might hamper long-term agricultural production. “This could lead to higher food prices and a corresponding increase in malnutrition rates in a region where one in every four children is already stunted due to poor nutrition.” Moreover, such events may divert children from activities like going to school in order to aid in household tasks or pursue work to earn wages, thus deepening their vulnerability.

It is common knowledge that child malnutrition is one of the worst plagues for humanity.  Therefore, it is quite understandable that, if climate change is hampering long-term agricultural production, leading to higher food prices and increase in malnutrition, this is also determining UNICEF’s strategies for helping the children to better nutrition.

However, when reading that Mr. McKinnon, concerning the Durban Summit to bolster financing and advance the fight against climate change, said : “We hope that the Durban Summit will plug the funding gap between 2013-2019 with explicit developed country commitments for annual increases in climate finance from current levels to progressively attain the $100 billion“, we are tempted to put a number of question marks.

Should we rather use $100 billion for climate finance than for improving child nutrition ?

Putting the question is answering it !

No wonder that I am immediately thinking at that splendid low-budget UNICEF project “Family gardens for the Saharawi refugees in the region of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria“, where in 2005-2007 almost 2000 small family gardens have been built, providing fresh vegetables and fruits for the refugee families, in particular the children.

Food production in the Sahara desert : if this low-cost project is possible in a desert, we must be able to feed all the children of this world (Photo Philip HITTEPOLE) / Taleb BRAHIM)

No one denied the importance of this beautiful UNICEF initiative for the children’s health, not even the staff members of the WFP in Tindouf.

We were all terrified when suddenly, at the end of 2007 and without any explanation, UNICEF stopped this successful project.  Fortunately, the Saharawi refugees themselves found the necessary force to continue the efforts step-by-step.

Instead of building upon the lessons learned about inexpensive food production in the Sahara desert for deciding upon strategies to decrease rates of child malnutrition, UNICEF is now hoping for “explicit developed country commitments for annual increases in climate finance from current levels to progressively attain the $100 billion“.

Let me invite you all to quickly estimate how many family gardens, community gardens, school gardens, allotments, urban container and vertical gardens could be build with $100 billion.

And yet, in certain circles, climate finance seems to become more important than financing sustainable infrastructures for improving child nutrition.

See what the poor people in the slums of Nairobi did : creating their own sack gardens ! See what aid organizations did to provide fresh food in the refugee camps of Dabaab : sack gardening. See what many people in flooded areas in Asia do : container gardening, even in hanging containers. See what urban families do on their balconies : bottle tower gardening.  Remember what  hungry people did in World War I and II : creating Victory Gardens (allotments) in open urban spaces.  Be also aware of those spontaneous actions for food production called “guerilla gardening“.

Bottle tower gardening : production of maximal food with minimal water, recycling discarded bottles and pots at the lowest cost. That is sustainably combating malnutrition and hunger (Photo Willem VAN COTTHEM and Gilbert VAN DAMME)

Is all this only ringing my own bell ?

So, what will come first : climate financing or food production financing (and not “food aid” because that is not a sustainable solution; it should be linked at emergencies) ?

Time has come to decide : will we use our scarce financial resources to combat malnutrition and hunger or to combat rising temperatures, mostly due to industrial activities?

Since 2008 continuously wondering why UNICEF stopped its marvelous family gardens project in Algeria, I feel my temperature rising.

Please cool me down with a decent answer !

 

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