Photo credit: Trish Travel Food
about drought, desertification and poverty in the drylands
COMMENTS OF Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University-Belgium) ON
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 !“.
Photo credit: Treehugger
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
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
Photo credit: WVC 2007-03-containers-P1000714.jpg
by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)
Please read this article at:
Originally published at:
Originally published at:
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
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.
Originally published at:
Photo credit: MSF (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)
Mothers feed their children therapeutic food at MSF’s outpatient therapeutic feeding center in Bokoro, Chad, where MSF teams are responding to a fourth malnutrition crisis in five years.
By Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
University of Ghent – Belgium
Drought and Desertification Consultant
In December 2011, I posted some comments on a publication entitled “UNICEF CHIEF URGES ACTION TO STOP UNFOLDING CRISIS FOR CHILDREN IN THE SAHEL” (https://desertification.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/unicef-chief-urges-action-to-stop-unfolding-crisis-for-children-in-the-sahel-un-news/)
Today, I wonder if any changes in that situation have been registered. Please read my former comments and today’s conclusions.
Which way would you go to stop an unfolding food crisis for children?
A food crisis can be stopped in different ways : with therapeutic food or with locally produced food. The former should certainly be used in cases of acute malnutrition, the latter needs to be more sustainable, e.g. by installing family gardens and school gardens. One can choose between expensive, curing emergency situations that don’t offer a sustainable solution and the much cheaper production of fresh food by the local people themselves. What would you choose?
In the publication mentioned above, UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake “called today on the global community to take action to prevent one million children in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa from becoming severely malnourished.“ He said: “We must begin at once to fill the pipeline with life-sustaining supplies to the region before it is too late.” and “underscored the urgency to act before the ‘lean season’ when food runs out due to inadequate rain or poor harvests, which can start as early as March in some of the countries across the Sahelian belt.“
I fully agree that UNICEF and its partners must be prepared to get sufficient amounts of ready-to-use therapeutic foods to treat severe acute malnutrition. I also agree on “each child has the right to survive, to thrive and to contribute to their societies. “
Indeed, “we must not fail them”!
However, the real question is if the best way of solving the problem of child malnutrition is getting sufficient therapeutic foods to intervene when the need increases. Or, could it be that a well-prepared programme of vegetable and fruit production by the Sahelian families themselves is a better cure?
One may doubt about the feasibility of such a programme, but knowing that UNICEF itself was very successful with its own “Family gardens project for the Sahrawis families in the Sahara desert of Algeria“ (2005-2007), there can’t be any doubt anymore. If family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens can be productive in the Algerian desert, they can certainly be in the Sahel, where a better rainfall offers more chances to use the minimum of water needed (see the well-known best practices).
It should not be extremely difficult to accept that it is better to produce fresh food and fruits for the children in the threatened countries of the Sahel (like everywhere on this world!) than to have to spend billions of dollars at purchasing therapeutic foods for malnourished children.
Yes, “we must not fail them“, and we will surely not fail them by offering them chances to take care of their own kitchen gardens and school gardens.
In the drylands, there are already lots of successful small gardens. One has the necessary knowledge and technical skills to duplicate these “best practices” wherever we want, even in the desert (see Algeria). Who would still hesitate to take initiatives to gradually “submerge” the Sahel with small family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens? And let us not forget the successes booked at the global level with container and vertical gardening.
If there is “a pipeline to be filled”, it should not be filled with food, but with the necessary materials to create small kitchen gardens galore.
Shall we continue to appeal on “solidarity” for raising billions of dollars for responding time after time to the successive periods of food crisis in the drylands? Or shall we, once and for all, spend a minor part of that money on enabling sustainable food production by the local people themselves?
Do we still have to confirm that we admire the nice work of UNICEF for children in real need? But, you Madame, you Sir, which way would you go?
Since the year 2011, a series of initiatives has been taken to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel. However, the food and nutrition situation is not significantly improved.
In March 2012, the World Food Programme published the article “The Malnutrition Threat in the Sahel” (https://www.wfp.org/stories/nutrition-sahel-hunger-crisis-qa),
in which we read: “Recurrent food crises over the past decade have coincided with periods of widespread malnutrition among children. It’s a region where, even in non-emergency years, diets are undiversified and children often don’t receive necessary nutrients.”
In July 2012, we read an article of the Doctors without Borders (MSF): “Malnutrition in the Sahel: One million children treated, but what’s next ?” (http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/field-news/malnutrition-sahel-one-million-children-treated-whats-next), in which MSF nutrition experts Susan Shepherd and Stéphane Doyon discussed the need for long-term solutions to malnutrition in Africa’s Sahel region.
We notice that:
Today, one can rightly ask: Where are those long-term solutions including development, agriculture and treatment of malnutrition ? Is agriculture, including kitchen gardens and school gardens, really seen as a complementary component in the combat of malnutrition?
In May 2015, we read the Echo Factsheet “Sahel: Food and Nutrition Crisis” of the European Commission (Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) – (http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/sahel_en.pdf):
The Sahel continues to face a food and nutrition crisis which is compounded by the erosion of people’s resilience due to the quick succession of the crises, the absence of social services on and the ramifications of conflicts in the region.
As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.7 million extremely food insecure people and 580 000 severely malnourished children in 2014.
The food and nutrition prospects for 2015 have not significantly improved. The past year has seen average harvests and food prices remain high. ……………….
Emergency needs in the Sahel will persist unless the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition are addressed and the resilience of the poorest people is strengthened. ……………..”
It becomes clear that food aid and nutritional programmes are necessary to tackle the emergent needs, but do not address the root causes.
If “in a region where, even in non-emergency years, diets are undiversified and children often don’t receive necessary nutrients” (WFP), we are tempted to think that creation of family gardens and school gardens will be a strong tool to address these root causes of food insecurity and child malnutrition. If families and schools, and why not the hospitals, grow their own fresh food, using existing, successful techniques to limit irrigation water consumption, the malnourished people would get their daily ration of diversified healthy food, full of minerals and vitamins.
Let us imagine for a moment that the decision-makers can convince all the key players in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition to reach hands to enact a true change by combining the traditional programmes of offering nutritious rations to supplement the normal diet with a programme of offering ways and means to install a kitchen garden for every family, for every school, for every hospital.
Wouldn’t that be a long-term solution that tackles the root causes, a “break out of this emergency response model and start developing a longer-term approach.”?
We believe it is !
Photo credit: WVC
Local training in gardening techniques in the Sahara desert (refugee cam:p in S.W. Algeria) – Engineer Taleb Brahim teaching a woman and her children.
Tomorrow 193 world leaders will come together to commit to 17 Sustainable Development Goals that could end extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Three-quarters of the world’s poor people live in rural areas, and many don’t have enough food to eat. Nearly 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.
We want the world to know that rural people, when given the right tools and opportunities to thrive as smallholder farmers, are critical to ending poverty, feeding the world and protecting the planet.
Help us reach 500,000 people, on one day, with one message by signing up today to this Thunderclap.
Help us spread this message
For the last two weeks, we have been spreading the message online that investing in rural people is key to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Tomorrow is the final day of the campaign, and we are almost halfway to our goal!
Help us spread the word today by simply clicking the red Facebook and Twitter buttons on the page in the link.
Your support makes a huge difference to our goal of reaching thousands of people.
On Friday, September 25th, we will flood the social channels with this powerful message:
Achieving the sustainable development goals means investing in rural people and building a better world for us all.
HOW TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT:
Click the link (http://bit.ly/1it1d04) and support via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. Also, spread the word to your friends and followers to do the same.
At 3 pm CEST this Friday, we’ll speak with one voice.
Photo Credit: Hélène Clybouw
School garden in Sambel Kunda (The Gambia)
by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium)
Suppose some donors want to help the schools of your country by offering them a present to contribute to the development of the pupils or students.
Suppose you are responsible for the choice between :
(1) a hardware kit for your students to build and operate their own weather station
(2) a school garden.
Now then, take into account
(1) that the kits teach students a lot of things about weather data
(2) that the school garden provides fresh food and fruits for the students.
(3) that the sustainability of the global project is an determinative factor, seen the importance of the investment for all the schools.
And now the decision is yours.
Photo credit: KCET
Gardening at school and at home can provide young people with learning opportunities, lasting skills, and positive, memorable experiences. But perhaps most importantly, gardening can help foster healthy lifestyles and encourage healthy eating with more nutritious foods — something that communities like South El Monte and El Monte urgently need.
Alleviating Suburban Poverty with School and Community Gardens
Across the 12.4 square miles that collectively make up the El Monte and South El Monte area is a population of 133,591. In this culturally vibrant space, where you can easily get a delicious bowl of phở or pozole, lay suburban poverty and what some would call a food desert.
Healthy food access can be difficult and complex for low-income communities, which can result in poor health outcomes. These issues are directly tied to poverty which, interestingly, is most present not in urban cities, as one might assume, but increasingly in the suburbs. According to the authors of “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” more people live below the poverty line in suburbs than in the country’s big cities. And according to the U.S. Census, one in four people in El Monte and one in five people in South El Monte live in poverty.
Moreover, according to the Los Angeles Department of Health, one of three children and one of three adults in the El Monte and South El Monte area are obese. Obesity is tied into the choices we have and the choices we make about food. Yet what happens when we don’t or seemingly don’t have choices?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food deserts are “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” For many, it’s difficult to think of communities like El Monte and South El Monte as food deserts because there are a few grocery stores, not to mention countless liquor stores that sell snacks and limited food items. However, just because Superior Grocer and Shun Fat Supermarket are in the community does not mean that there is a high consumption of fresh and healthy foods. In many stores, there are more chip varieties than apples. Many dietitians and medical doctors believe that access to unhealthy food can be equally bad as poor access to fresh and healthy foods. Yet, they also tell us that it’s not about depriving ourselves of what we love, but rather moderation. In a community where chamango and boba are cross-cultural staples, it is important to celebrate our food while embracing new ways to learn about healthy food as a community. The authors of “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America” express the importance of communities in leading the way for collaborations and solutions by tapping into their collective strengths and objectives.
Read the full article: KCET
Photo credit : Hélène CLYBOUW
School garden in The Gambia
by PATTI NAGAI
I’m working with a local elementary school that wants to start a garden for the kids. They have put together a list of supplies, but don’t really have a firm plan. Can you give some guidance on what steps they should take? — Al, Racine.
School gardens can be immensely powerful in helping teach youth about our environment, growing food, protecting pollinators, and about many other science, math and health topics. Gardens affect overall well-being, providing measureable improvements in mental, emotional and physical health. We know from countless research projects over many years in locations all over the world that gardening, and being in the garden, are healthful and potentially healing.
But gardens take planning and maintenance. And well-being is not accomplished through frustration of having a garden with no plan and no help. One of the first things I caution people about is to plan the garden and its uses very carefully, and think about long-term care. Don’t start too large; it is much better to have a successful container garden than a half-acre of overgrown weeds. Many schools do a tremendous amount of learning using container gardens; it is a great way to begin. Think big with your long-term vision of learning; start small with the physical garden itself.
Read the full article: The Journal Times
You must be logged in to post a comment.