Surviving the Drought with Jamaican Farmer Field Schools
Since winning the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s YES! Competitionlast year, Shaneica Lester and Anne-Teresa Birthwright now run a knowledge transfer project for small-scale farmers in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. Lester and Birthwright’s program, which focuses on irrigation conservation education, provides farmers with skills and education necessary to combat drought-related issues that impact their lands.
Lester and Birthwright’s Irrigation Farmer Field Schools (IFFS) include lessons on water conservation, understanding climate change, soil and water management, and ecosystem analysis. Through participating in the IFFS program, Jamaican farmers learn about technologies and techniques that can be directly applied to their fields and adapted to suit their needs, providing farmers with agency to decide how to manage their land and allocate their resources.
“We wanted to avoid a top-down approach and instead encourage self-empowerment within rural communities. A participatory approach allows farmers to be a part of their own solution by contributing their knowledge and expertise, as well as their perception and understanding of climate change,” Lester and Birthwright said in an interview with Food Tank.
Small farmers drive Jamaica’s agricultural sector and ensure the nation’s food security. When researching the challenges experienced by small rural farmers, Lester and Birthwright discovered that drought was the primary leading factor causing Jamaicans to quit farming and preventing young people from wanting to farm.
A schoolgarden, one of the best solutions to improve the school meals
FAO joins celebrations for International School Meals Day
International School Meals Day, celebrated around the world today, is a timely reminder of the need to promote healthy eating habits for all children through sustainable policies, including sourcing food from family farmers.
Every day around 370 million children around the world are fed at school through school meals programmes that are run in varying degrees by national governments.
Each programme is different: beans and rice in Madagascar, spicy lentils in the Philippines, vegetable pastries and fruit in Jordan. In some countries it may be a healthy snack, or it could include take-home food such as vitamin A-enriched oil for the whole family.
School meals have proved successful in providing educational and health benefits to the most vulnerable children. School meals boost school attendance, and a full stomach can help students concentrate on their lessons.
Communities, particularly in rural areas, also benefit when family farmers and small and medium enterprises are the main source of healthy food for the schools.
International School Meals Day marks these achievements and helps raise greater awareness of the value of school meals globally.
A generation of well-nourished children
FAO believes that consistent global investments in school meals will lead to a generation of children who develop healthy eating habits and who benefit from a diverse diet. Ultimately this effort will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.
Photo credit: WVC 2005-12-DRARIA WOMEN-41.jpg – with Gérard RUOT (SOS Village d’Enfants Draria, Algeria), Raymond JANSSENS (Representative of UNICEF ALGERIA) and Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)
Within the framework of UNICEF’s project “Family gardens for the Saharawis refugees in S.W. Algeria” in 2005-2007, a workshop was organized in December 2005 to prepare a group of women for the construction of their own kitchen garden in the Sahara desert and in the Village d’Enfants of Draria.. They learned how to apply the water saving and fertilizer saving soil conditioner TerraCottem (www.terracottem.com). With some 2000 small family gardens in the Tindouf area (Algeria) constructed at the end of 2007, UNICEF’s project was a remarkable success.
About brown and green food revolutions, grasses and food crops
by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (University of Ghent, Belgium)
If the lives of a group of people are at stake, “Women and children first” implies that the lives of women and children are to be saved first. If the lives of hungry and malnourished people are at stake, those of women and children are to be taken care of first. That was one of my thoughts after reading Shannon Horst’s article entitled: “Africa needs a brown (not green) food revolution” in The Christian Science Monitor on July 6, 2010 :
Africa’s long-term food security will come from nurturing the soil, not manipulating expensive seeds
First of all I want to confirm that I agree with most, but not all, of Shannon’s excellent points. One of my remarks is that some of her views are too generalized:
I do not believe that all Western initiatives to help Africa risk to cause more damage to that continent. Not all these initiatives are ‘grounded in manipulating seeds and increasing synthetic fertilizers to improve production’.
It is my sincere conviction that nowadays not all the aid groups ‘put more money, more science, or more business savvy behind the same old approach’. If this were the case, it would mean that ‘all scientists are looking in the wrong direction’. If Shannon Horst is a scientist herself, she certainly feels accused as much as I am by that statement.
Not all the scientists ‘are focusing on how to grow bigger, more, and disease- and pest-resistant plants’.
Not all the scientists ‘focus on how to manipulate the plants rather than how to produce both healthy plants and healthy soil’.
I therefore take for granted that Shannon Horst is aware of the content of my contributions on three of our blogs:
While manipulating seeds and increasing application of synthetic fertilizers to enhance plant production can be qualified as ‘looking in the wrong direction’, these two points do not cover fully the content of what is called the Second Green Revolution. There are no strong arguments to sustain the idea that the totality of this agro-industrial model ‘would further destroy Africa’s soil and water in the long run and exacerbate the problems: food insecurity, bare land, soil erosion, increased drought and then flooding when the rains finally do come; increased pests and invasive plants; and the collapse of the river systems and groundwater stores’.
Even at an overripe apple there may still be some tasty pieces!
So, let us not blame all the ‘Western’ scientists to be part of what Shannon is seeing as some destructive machinery, called the Second Green Revolution, described as exclusively using technologies to boost farm yields.
Very fortunately, we all know numerous people, men and women, scientists, aid workers, members of international, national and non-governmental organizations, who are not looking in the wrong direction. They are working continuously hand-in-hand with the rural and urban population on the African continent, like on all the other continents. By the way, we certainly know many respected scientists, whose research work has been contributing or still contributes to the improvement of the living standards of the poorest human beings. Many of them developed excellent and constructive methods or models, successful practices and inputs, applied in all kinds of development programs for the welfare of farmers and townspeople.
Grassland or farmland, or both?
Grasslands are dominated by grasses. Grassland with scattered individual trees is called savanna.
Savannas cover almost half the surface of Africa (not 70 %). They are characteristic for warm or hot climates with an annual rainfall from about 50 to 125 cm (20-50 inches), concentrated in 6 or 8 months of the year, followed by a dry period when fires can occur. The soil of a savanna is porous, rapidly draining water. It has only a thin layer of humus, which makes them inappropriate for agriculture.
Farmers sometimes cut down small parts of forests, burn the trees, and plant crops for as long as the soil remains fertile. When the field is abandoned a couple of years later, grasses take over and a savanna can be formed.
Elephants can convert woodland into grassland in a short period of time. Shannon Horst is right in saying that ‘Africa’s once vast, healthy savannas were produced by the hoofs and manure of vast herds of grazing animals and pack-hunting predators’.
Some activities are seen as environmental concerns regarding savannas: poaching, overgrazing and clearing of the land for crops. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that people aiming at a Second Green Revolution would ever plan to turn all those grasslands (half of Africa!) into crop fields, risking the creation of another Dust Bowl or the collapse of all the grasslands.
As savannas are covering half of the African continent, the rural populations of these savannas are indeed ‘pastoralists or agropastoralists who do not farm’, although many of them do have a small garden. Do we really suspect the international organizations or the big agri-business to plan the transformation of these pastoralists into farmers?
If half of the rural populations of Africa are pastoralists, the other half must be farmers. If half of the continent is covered with savannas, the other half of Africa’s landscape must be farmland in tropical or temperate climate, humid, semi-humid, arid or semi-arid climate zones.
I can’t believe that neither ‘Millions have already been spent by US and European aid organizations throughout Africa on unsuccessful farming programs’, nor that ‘these approaches to increasing food security focus on production without considering the social, economic, and biological consequences’.
To the best of my knowledge, many successful programs and projects with contributions of numerous famous international scientists, with expertise in their different disciplines and belonging to highly qualified institutes, have been set up in collaboration with the very best national experts, to improve agricultural and horticultural practices in almost every African country. It is not even thinkable that all these programs merit the qualification ‘destructive’.
On the other hand, I gladly take Shannon’s point on the interesting aspects of Allan Savory’s work on the role of livestock for animal husbandry. My high esteem and appreciation go to his remarkable findings.
However, I must admit that I have a lot of difficulties to understand how Savory’s findings on
‘educating local people in practices that blend some older pastoral knowledge and techniques of animal herding with new understanding of how grazing animals, soils, plants, and organisms coevolved and function in a healthy state’ are applicable on Africa’s 50 % of farmland, an ‘ecosystem’ that is so completely different from grassland that the two impossibly can be compared.
Finally, I want to congratulate Shannon for her closing remark:
‘Does this mean we should not support technological innovation? Of course not.
But what we must do is find and support those technologies that not only solve a problem or achieve an objective, but also maintain or enhance the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.
If we accept that farmland and grassland are two different entities, with their own intrinsic finality, having a natural tendency to pursue their own good, one should treat them differently according to the traditional (local) knowledge. That knowledge can be optimized by combining it with modern technologies, aiming not only at improving the live of ALL the rural people, farmers and herders, but also that of the urban people, who will participate in the success of a revolution, be it a brown or a green one, ‘enhancing the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.
Honestly, considering all this, I strongly believe that one should first improve the live of women and children in Africa. Women deserve it to get a better live, because they play a key role in the ‘social, financial, and biological fabric’. Children deserve it, because they carry the future of a continent in themselves. Therefore, child malnutrition is a real shame.
The most important challenge for Africa is to improve food security, both on farmland and on grassland. I am convinced that container gardening will play an important role in the achievement of that food security goal. All over this beautiful continent women and children should sit first at the table and their daily fresh food on that table will undeniably come from their own kitchen garden and/or school garden, if only we really want to change nutrition as rapidly as the climate.
This text has already been posted on my desertification blog in 2010:
“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.
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.”
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.https://www.facebook.com/groups/221343224576801/.
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 !“.
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.
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.
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 (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!
Community garden in Niou (Prov. Kourweogo, Burkina Faso) in 2009 – Project Committee Maastricht-Niou and TC-Dialogue Foundation (Belgium) started in 1988. – Soil conditioned with TC – Photo Willemien 2009 Niou Jardin Communautaire P2250398 copy 2.
Although success stories to alleviate hunger exist, 25,000 die each day – (bewing)
Commented by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)
“About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds, as you can see on this display. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.”
2002-02 : Toubacouta (Senegal) – Community garden for women in the Sahel region – Excellent production with only half of the normal quantity of irrigation water – Look at the dark, healthy, continuously moistened soil. –
Project TC-Dialogue with Philippe BEKAERT and Alain GOETGHEBUER (sponsors, Belgium) – Keur Bou Natte – Photo WVC 2002.
Project of TC-Dialogue Foundation – Evaluation mission 2003-03 with Etienne Van Steenberghe and Marc PIlle : Cabo Verde (Isla do Sal – Escola Pretoria) – Splendid school garden – Former schoolyard transformed into a “garden of Eden”, producing fresh vegetables for the lunches at school, thanks to the application of the TerraCottem (TC) soil conditioner. See the happy children ?
Photo WVC 2003-03 Espargos-Pretoria-06 copy.jpg
UNICEF Project with TC-Dialogue Foundation 2005-2007: Saharawis refugee camp of Smara (S.W. Algeria) – Sahara desert sand transformed into a magnificent family garden (25 m2, sufficient to feed the family). Soil conditioner TerraCottem applied in october 2006; first vegetables (red beetroot and carrots) harvested in november 2006. For the first time all the family members can eat fresh vegetables from their own garden. –
Photo WVC P1000569 2007 Smara TV4.JPG.
Hunger and famine belong to the most shocking and disastrous phenomena on this world. We all get really touched when seeing hungry children, mostly in the drylands, where poverty of the rural people is one of the basic reasons for this plague.
Therefore, it is striking that very positive results, obtained since the nineties with creation of community gardens for women (Burkina Faso, Senegal), school gardens (Cabo Verde, Burkina Faso) or small family gardens (Algeria), do not seem to convince international or national authorities to invest seriously in these easy to duplicate “best practices” to alleviate hunger and poverty.
If local farmers, mostly women, can produce more crops with half of the normal volume of irrigation water, simply by applying one single time a soil conditioner, why don’t we invest more in the multiplication of vegetable gardens for villagers and school children?
Have a look at my blog <www.desertification.wordpress.com>, see what we have done with UNICEF ALGERIA for the creation of family gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis people in the Sahara desert, and you will be convinced that a nice solution for the hunger problem exists.
It suffices to apply it to break the downward spiral. I know that the rural population in the drylands lacks the money to buy enough food and being constantly malnourished, is becoming weaker and often sick. Fabulous amounts of money have been and are continuously spent on very diverse, ambitious, but sometimes non-sustainable programmes and projects. What if we would invest in the creation of kitchen gardens and school gardens, offering the rural people and their children a nice opportunity to produce their own food, even within a period of 2-3 months? Production of fresh food, full of vitamins and mineral elements, makes them increasingly more able to work, which then makes them even less hungry and a bit wealthier (possibility to bring vegetables to the local market).
I see no easier and better way to create an upward spiral. And remember, seeing is believing. That’s what the Saharawis have been telling us after registering the first successes with their new gardens and trees in the Algerian Sahara desert. Why only here, in the most difficult circumstances ? Why not in all the drylands ?
One world: New Zealand/Algeria – Un monde unique: La Nouvelle Zélande/Algérie
MESSAGE FROM THE ANTIPODS
I just received this nice message from Jenny LITCHFIELD (New Zealand, 2007):
That’s very kind of you to write. Thank you. Your Desertification link has been added to my blog. Your project reports are fascinating to read. I had no idea such work existed in this arid region – perhaps, unfortunately, that’s a reflection of how remote New Zealand is. The impression I get is that essentially we want the same things for our families and loved ones. My heart goes out to the women in Algeria and I admire their endeavours to provide healthy fresh food for their children with your support. My gardening messages are informed by practical gardening experiences, personal observations, knowledge passed on from older people I have known, intuition, a strong sense of ecological values, reflection and lots of reading. I love to engage children in the environment in naturally occurring ways. I am a specialist teacher of learning and behaviour in secondary schools and understand only too well the basic human needs of children and youth must be met in order that they might learn in ways that have meaning to them and in ways that are relevant to their lives. Kind regards, Jenny.”
Well Jenny, that’s the way I love to cooperate with likeminded people from all over the world. It shows how close our minds are, right across oceans and frontiers, as if New Zealand and Algeria are neigbours of Belgium. Our minds should never be divided by political or religious barriers. We should never hesitate to help people living in conditions much worse than ours. Development cooperation is one of the nicest things on earth: we are able to share our experience and expertise with the people in the developing world to make their standards of living better too. And gardening is one of the nicest and most practical fields . Let us not be selfish ! Sharing our knowledge and transferring our cost-effective and affordable technologies should be considered as one of the important step towards effective development aid. Therefore, let us try to translate our experience into simple and practical methods, easily applicable in the developing world, where human beings are counting upon our contributions. Sincere thanks, Willem.
Voici un message de Jenny LITCHFIELD (Nouvelle Zélande). Elle trouve les rapports sur nos projets dans les régions arides fascinants. En fait, nous voulons tous et toutes la même chose pour nos familles et ceux qui nous sont chers. Le coeur de Jenny bat pour les femmes de l’Algérie et les efforts qu’elles produisent pour obtenir une nourriture saine pour leurs familles, avec l’aide de l’UNICEF. Professeur à l’enseignement secondaire, Jenny comprend très bien les besoins de base des enfants.
C’est bien de ce trouver à la même longeur d’ondes!
Photo credit : Ellen Meulenveld – 20A Ellen eerste reeks 393 copy.jpg – Creation of a school garden in Gambia
To grow out of poverty in small groups
This morning, January 12, 2007, I read the following abstract at the “Development Gateway” :
1. NEW HIGHLIGHT: Group approach to poverty reduction
“The poor (destitute, isolated, risk averters with low-income and poor infrastructure) can grow out of poverty provided their basic rights are re-stored and other civil society opportunities are made available to them. One successful approach to grow out of poverty is to organize poor into small groups, then organizations and finally federations or networks.
Why group approach to poverty reduction has been successful?
– Groups bring solidarity, strength, mutual help, pooling their resources, empowerment, emergency help, remove being helpless and takes them out of isolation
– Like minded people to share experiences, problems and successes
– Poor can learn from and adapt to their piers
– Seeing progress made by their piers make them progressive
The group approach also provides several benefits to the poverty reduction worker such as bringing the poor together, pooling of learning resources, higher efficiency of training, more accessible, etc. So much so all successful poverty reduction initiatives are based on group principles.”
I couldn’t help thinking at our multiple initiatives with the Belgian TC-Dialogue Foundation, with which we organized humanitarian projects within the framework of combating desertification and alleviating poverty.
First of all, it should be clear that desertification is strongly linked to poverty. Indeed, it are generally the poorest rural people in the drylands suffering the most of drought and desertification. That is why we have mostly been setting up community gardens for women and school gardens.
In both cases our main objectives correspond completely with the point of view expressed in the Development Gateway abstract above : “One successful approach to grow out of poverty is to organize poor into small groups“.
The general impression is that groups are formed by one or more people from outside the village community, e.g. non-governmental organizations. However, small groups should be formed by the local people themselves to meet their needs and expectations. Nevertheless, outsiders can facilitate the group formation process without influencing to much the actual formation, which is the exclusive responsibility of the local people.
When setting up a community garden for women, the organization of the village community into small groups takes place almost automatically. Instead of growing food crops (vegetables) in traditional, small individual gardens, scattered over the area around the villages, all women of the small group (20-40 women) can work together in the same community garden, constructed around one or two wells. You see the advantages ? Women organized in a small group will have more opportunities to embark on diverse efficient situations and income generating activities : availability of water for each woman, daily social contacts in the garden, motivation to produce a maximum of food, possibility to set up a cooperative system for purchases of equipment, seeds, fertilizer etc., for marketing their products (cash income) and other income earning activities.
Formation of small groups provides more access to different rural services, such as knowledge sharing, training in agricultural practices, health care etc. It will be very interesting to assess later on the advantages and the sustainability of women’s associations constructed around community gardens.
Women in a small group can save more money than those working as individuals. Working in a cooperative system, group savings may help to overcome urgent needs, e.g. through provision of micro-credits. In a cooperative, women can make their work more efficient and improve their daily living standards. Many organizations agree that the formation of small groups of rural women is vital to alleviate global poverty. At a later stage, linking of smaller groups into larger organizations or federations (networking) will offer the women more bargaining power.
Moreover, we are taking into consideration that regrouping individual areas for cultivation into one single community garden is also a very positive measure taken to limit the destruction of natural habitats. Traditionally, individual gardens are installed at the “best” places (availability of water, fertility of the soil, limited distance to the house, etc.). In most cases, this results in a gradual destruction of the “best parts” of the environment around the village. Therefore, a community garden is also protecting the environment in many ways.
The end result of having rural women working in smaller groups in community gardens will be that they are able to move out of poverty much quicker than as an individual and all this in a sustainable way. Therefore, community gardens are an excellent tool for sustainable rural development and poverty reduction. The same goes for school gardens, where youngsters can practice working in small teams (e.g. classes) for better achievements and a better future.