Drought-hit hungry households could easily grow food in containers

Photo credit : WVC P1070394 – 2011-09

Vegetables and herbs grown in 8 weeks time on bottle towers

A simple solution for the global hunger problem

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

Container gardening has become a universal success.  Nowadays people are growing their own fresh food in all sorts of containers (bottles, buckets, pots, bags, sacks, drums, gutters, …).

More and more people are aware of the fact that families do not need a big garden anymore to produce a sufficient quantity of food.  Today, all over the world people are gardening in small spaces, often applying vertical growing systems, e.g. on towers or on pallets.

Growing food in containers on pallets (a vertical garden in a small space) - Photo WVC  P1110546 - 2014-10
Growing food in containers on pallets (a vertical garden in a small space) – Photo WVC P1110546 – 2014-10

In 2010 I have developed my first “bottle towers”, using superposed soda bottles and food grade pots to grow lots of vegetables and herbs.

The success of this simple and cheap technique to help hungry or malnourished people to fresh food and herbs can easily be measured on the basis of numbers of views of my videos, showing how to build the towers (in English and Spanish).

Should you want to convince yourself about the global applicability of this low-tech method and the affordability for all the drought-hit families, please check out my videos:

(1) Building a bottle tower for container gardening  (332,281 views):

https://youtu.be/-uDbjZ9roEQ

(2) HOW TO BUILD A BOTTLE TOWER (142,712 views):

https://youtu.be/HuykRRspWOY

(3) CÓMO HACER LA HUERTA VERTICAL DE BOTELLAS DE PLÁSTICO (2,224,894 views):

https://youtu.be/2mx-lzPz2DM

(4) Cómo cultivar plantas en botellas (258,111 views):

https://youtu.be/HHCThgB2Y8Y

(5) BOTTLE TOWER GARDENS  (1,427,421 views):

https://youtu.be/K9vN2eudWcQ

(6) HOW TO GROW PLANTS IN BOTTLES (196,989 views):

https://youtu.be/3gxmU3YAh6c

(7) Growing food in containers at home (321,100 views):

https://youtu.be/LmcnDH77xNw

(8) Growing plants in a barrel  (268,663 views):

https://youtu.be/2Rkv6rLBomY

Local vegetables R&D for smallholders

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Image credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos

Promoting local vegetables R&D to benefit smallholders

Speed read

  • Smallholders and traders of indigenous vegetables face issues marketing them
  • New post-harvest technologies could help solve the challenges
  • The impact of local vegetables on livelihoods of smallholders should be assessed

Researchers should tackle challenges smallholders face in marketing indigenous vegetables, writes Alberto Leny.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

 

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

 

Grow vegetables in vertical gardens and containers on saline soils

Photo credit: VOA News

A woman in Chandipur village in southwest Bangladesh shows seedlings she grows in pots.(Photo: A. Yee for VOA)

Vertical Gardens Help Bangladesh Farmers Overcome Salty Soil

by Amy Yee

EXCERPT

In Bangladesh, more land is becoming salty and unfit for growing crops. It’s a pressing problem in this densely-populated country where most people farm for a living. But even on saline land, villagers can grow bountiful “vertical gardens” from soil flushed by monsoon rains.

Vegetables grown in the salty soil fail; however, vegetable crops flourish in vertical gardens. Photo: A. Yee for VOA
Vegetables grown in the salty soil fail; however, vegetable crops flourish in vertical gardens. Photo: A. Yee for VOA

In Chandipur village in southwest Bangladesh, lush vines sprouting pumpkins and gourds cover the tin roofs of small homes. This bounty sprouts from an unlikely source: large plastic sacks on the ground and other containers.

Vertical gardening combating salty soil

But for three years, hundreds of villagers have grown “vertical gardens” – essentially vegetables grown from plastic sacks, giant containers made of plastic sheets and bamboo, as well as other receptacles.

Vegetables such as gourds grow in salty soil flushed by monsoon rains and collected in plastic sacks. (Photo: A. Yee for VOA)
Vegetables such as gourds grow in salty soil flushed by monsoon rains and collected in plastic sacks. (Photo: A. Yee for VOA)

Most of Bangladesh is at or below sea level, so the country is highly vulnerable to climate change. Storm surges in coastal areas add to the problem of increasing salinity.

More than half of coastal areas are affected by salinity, which makes land less productive.

This is a pressing concern for densely populated Bangladesh, which has 156 million people. Vertical gardens are one simple way that people can adapt to climate change and grow food.
WorldFish Center, an international non-profit, introduced vertical gardens in Bangladesh.

 

Read the full article: Voice of America

First help the local people to decent food

Photo credit: WVC 1997

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

Do hungry people need trees or a garden?

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

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

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

Here is my reply to him:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Development project of SOLID OPD (Spanish)

PROYECTO DE DESAROLLO SOLID

Solid OPD es una Organización Privada de Desarrollo que asesora y facilita el desarrollo
sostenible de cadenas productivas y sus actores en la región Ayacucho, Perú.

Modulo-1-produccion-de-plantones-en-vivero1tara

MÓDULO 1 : Manual para productores de tara de la región Ayacucho

Producción de plantones de tara en un vivero familiar

Presentación
La presente cartilla ha sido desarrollada en el marco
del Consejo Regional de la Tara Ayacucho – CORETARA,
por la necesidad de los actores de la cadena productiva
de tara, en especial de los productores, con el objetivo
de fortalecer sus conocimientos y habilidades en
las actividades de manejo agronómico en un vivero,
actividades muy importantes que esperamos se reflejen
en mejores ingresos económicos y mejores condiciones
de vida de las familias productoras.
Esta cartilla contiene conocimientos y experiencias de
profesionales, técnicos y productores de tara en la
región Ayacucho; por eso, practica los procedimientos,
técnicas y recomendaciones en tu chacra para
obtener un producto de calidad.
Las actividades en el vivero permiten al productor realizar
un adecuado manejo agronómico, controlando el
ingreso de luz, agua de riego, reduciendo el ataque de
plagas y enfermedades tanto en el almácigo como en
las camas de crianza, para lograr un mejor crecimiento,
desarrollo y mayores rendimientos de tara.

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)

CAN FOOD CROPS BE GROWN SAFELY IN PLASTIC CONTAINERS? (Willem Van Cotthem)

Some gardeners fear that growing vegetables or herbs in plastic containers (bottles, pots, buckets and the like) could be dangerous because of the supposed leaching of Bisphenol A (BPA), and the “possibility” that this leached BPA could be absorbed by the plants, rendering them  “toxic” for human consumption.

Concerning the possible danger of using plastic containers for plant production, one should be looking for irrefutable scientific proof of the presence of BPA in food crops grown in such containers.  The fact is that, to the best of my knowledge, no such evidence exists in scientific literature.

annelies_wauters_006AGrowing strawberries in bucket towers with support of the Luminus Company (Photo WVC)

Some publications on BPA

(1) What is BPA, and what are the concerns about BPA?

Answer from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bpa/AN01955

BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.  In particular, BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles, and baby bottles and cups. They may also be used in toys and other consumer goods.

………………….

Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA or into your body when you handle products made with BPA. BPA remains controversial, and research studies are continuing. The American Chemistry Council, an association that represents plastics manufacturers, contends that BPA poses no risk to human health.

But the National Toxicology Program at the Department of Health and Human Services says it has “some concern” about the possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. This level of concern is midway on its five-level scale, which ranges from serious to negligible. The Food and Drug Administration now shares this level of concern and is taking steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply by finding alternatives to BPA in food containers.”

(2) Plastic Bottles Release Potentially Harmful Chemicals (Bisphenol A) After Contact With Hot Liquids

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130092108.htm

“Feb. 4, 2008 — When it comes to Bisphenol A (BPA) exposure from polycarbonate plastic bottles, it’s not whether the container is new or old but the liquid’s temperature that has the most impact on how much BPA is released, according to University of Cincinnati (UC) scientists.

Scott Belcher, PhD, and his team found when the same new and used polycarbonate drinking bottles were exposed to boiling hot water, BPA, an environmental estrogen, was released 55 times more rapidly than before exposure to hot water.

“…………….. BPA can migrate from various polycarbonate plastics,” explains Belcher…………but we wanted to know if ‘normal’ use caused increased release from something that we all use, and to identify what was the most important factor that impacts release.”

…………………………….

The chemical–which is widely used in products such as re-usable water bottles, food can linings, water pipes and dental sealants–has been shown to affect reproduction and brain development in animal studies.

“There is a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of very small amounts of BPA in laboratory and animal studies, but little clinical evidence related to humans,” explains Belcher. “There is a very strong suspicion in the scientific community, however, that this chemical has harmful effects on humans.”

…………………….

The UC researchers found that the amount of BPA released from new and used polycarbonate drinking bottles was the same — both in quantity and speed of release — into cool or temperate water.  However, drastically higher levels of BPA were released once the bottles were briefly exposed to boiling water.

…………………………

Belcher stresses that it is still unclear what level of BPA is harmful to humans. He urges consumers to think about how cumulative environmental exposures might harm their health.

“BPA is just one of many estrogen-like chemicals people are exposed to, and scientists are still trying to figure out how these endocrine disruptors–including natural phyto-estrogens from soy which are often considered healthy–collectively impact human health,” he says. “But a growing body of scientific evidence suggests it might be at the cost of your health.”

(3) Ban BPA? No Chance, Says FDA

How you can protect your family from the chemical

By Emily Main (2012-03)

http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/breaking-news-fda-will-not-be-banning-bpa#ixzz2LHddD8Wn

“Much to the chagrin of public health advocates, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just announced its decision not to ban the controversial chemical bisphenol A in baby bottles, canned food, infant formula cans, or any other use in which the chemical comes into direct contact with your food. 

…………………………….
Best BPA-Free Water Bottles  

Here’s what the FDA says about its decision: “The FDA denied the NRDC petition today because it did not provide the scientific evidence needed to change current regulations,” says FDA spokesman Douglas Karas in a prepared statement. “But this announcement is not a final safety determination and the FDA continues to support research examining the safety of BPA.” The agency went on to say that, although they have been studying the effects of BPA for years, none of their existing studies show enough evidence to force them to change their official position on the chemical’s safety.

That’s hardly reassuring to NRDC public health scientists. “BPA is a toxic chemical that has no place in our food supply. We believe the FDA made the wrong call,” says Sarah Janssen, senior scientist at NRDC. “The FDA is out-of-step with scientific and medical research. This illustrates the need for a major overhaul of how the government protects us against dangerous chemicals.”

(4) F.D.A. Makes It Official: BPA Can’t Be Used in Baby Bottles and Cups

By SABRINA TAVERNISE

Published: July 17, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/science/fda-bans-bpa-from-baby-bottles-and-sippy-cups.html?_r=0

“WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups could no longer contain bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen-mimicking industrial chemical used in some plastic bottles and food packaging.

Manufacturers have already stopped using the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups, and the F.D.A. said that its decision was a response to a request by the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association, that rules allowing BPA in those products be phased out, in part to boost consumer confidence.

But the new prohibition does not apply more broadly to the use of BPA in other containers, said an F.D.A. spokesman, Steven Immergut. He said the decision did not amount to a reversal of the agency’s position on the chemical. The F.D.A. declared BPA safe in 2008, but began expressing concerns about possible health risks in 2010.

……………………………

BPA has been used since the 1960s to make hard plastic bottles, cups for toddlers and the linings of food and beverage cans, including those that hold infant formula and soda. Until recently, it was used in baby bottles, but major manufacturers are now making bottles without it. Plastic items containing BPA are generally marked with a 7 on the bottom for recycling purposes.

The chemical can leach into food, and a study of over 2,000 people found that more than 90 percent of them had BPA in their urine. Traces have also been found in breast milk, the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cord blood.

……………………………..

The American Chemistry Council said in a statement that it had asked the F.D.A. to take action because of confusion, stirred by state legislative and regulatory actions, about whether baby bottles and cups for toddlers contain BPA. It said that manufacturers announced years ago that they had stopped using the chemical in those items.”

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

Vertical gardening in small spaces : Towers of bottles and pots producing vegetables and herbs with a minimum of water, simply using local dirt and manure (Photo WVC)
Vertical gardening in small spaces : Towers of bottles and pots producing vegetables and herbs with a minimum of water, simply using local dirt and manure (Photo WVC)

As some people continue to ask me about the safety of growing food crops in plastic containers, I submitted the following question to ResearchGate https://www.researchgate.net/

If BPA or BPS is leaching from plastic containers filled with soil, is this toxic substance absorbed by food crops growing in those containers?

Here are some of the key points from the responses, along with additional comments from me:

Farid El-Daoushy · Uppsala University – Department of Physics and Astronomy
That depends on the organic content of the soils. High organic content can help screening pollutants and toxic compounds from water through chelation. This self-cleaning mechanism of soils with high organic content can act as natural filters and thereby protect plants against pollution”.

Willem Van Cotthem · University of Ghent – Department of Botany
“I would like to know if cultivating food crops in recycled plastic containers poses a potential danger to public health.  If BPA (or BPS) does leach into water (or into the soil solution inside plastic containers), the question remains if the leached BPA can be absorbed by roots growing in the soil within the container.  Of course, if the leaching of BPA (or BPS) into drinks sold in “unsafe” plastic bottles posed a health risk, the use of those bottles would have been banned a long time ago. Since they are still in widespread use, however, one can conclude that it is safe to use them for food crop cultivation as well.

Reed Benkendorf · University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign School of Integrative Biology
Is BPA actually leached from any of these plastics? If so, does humic acid complex it? If not, and BPA is absorbed by the roots, does it pass through the Casparian strip in the endodermis cells? Some plants have a pronounced ability to accumulate toxins in the cortex but do not transport them further.”

David Dunn · commercial horticulture
Many crops are grown in plastic containers of various sorts, especially greenhouse crops with hydroponic and/ or substrate systems, employing more plastics or glass wool and/or with peat mixtures.  Most crops rely on plastics for delivery of water and fertilizer to plants and as mentioned above some organic teas are sometimes used employing highly complex acids, especially in protected cropping which may cause leaching from the plastics employed.  If there is a problem then it needs to be addressed quickly to allay fears of the public.

John Chater · University of California, Riverside Department of Botany and Plant Sciences
BPA is a relatively large (and non-polar) molecule compared to the ions that plants typically are taking up (K+, N03-, Mg++, … ),  so I do not think that the plant will take up the BPA (which has two phenol-groups in the structure).  There is theoretically no way for the soil’s BPA to get into the crop.  Remember, all materials need to pass through the Casparian strip in order to make it through the root’s endodermis and into the vasculature.

Willem Van Cotthem · University of Ghent
It seems difficult, if not impossible, for a large, non-polar molecule like BPA to be absorbed by root-hair cells and transported towards all plant parts. If that were the case, would there not be accumulation somewhere in the plant body?  An additional question is: Does leaching of BPA occur at ambient temperatures in the environment (including full sunshine)? As many food crops (vegetables and herbs) have been grown for decades already in a wide variety of plastic containers it seems that if BPA were leaching and transported into the crops, traces of BPA would commonly be found in the crops, as well as in the humans who consume them. No such evidence exists and no such link has been established. I am still concerned about how the general public seems to draw a connection between the potential presence of BPA in plants growing in plastic containers (“safe” and “unsafe” plastics), and the potential presence of BPA in drinks sold in plastic bottles.”

Peter Knop · Ticonderoga Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
I am surprised that no one has mentioned the enormous amount of plastic used in row cropping and the millions of tons of produce grown on such plastic. It totally dwarfs hydroponics or other container grown crops. Maybe the term “container” includes these, as for the bottom of the raised beds the entire root system is exposed to this plastic mulch. This leads to another interesting problem: some of these mulches are biodegradable and their chemicals, like binders, become part of the soil.  Aren’t they dangerous?

Willem Van Cotthem · University of Ghent
Indeed, heaps of plastic sheets are used in agri- and horticulture, even biodegradable ones. If all those plastics, or only the “unsafe” ones, are leaching dangerous, toxic elements into the environment, we are probably “doomed”.

Debi Sharma · Indian Institute of Horticultural Research
If leaching of BPA is higher at higher temperatures then it is a matter of concern especially in tropical conditions.”

++++++++++++++++++++

Combating malnutrition with vertical gardening in bottle towers.  Masses of food on a few square feet with only a bit of water.  Can you do better ?  Then show us. (Photo WVC)
Combating malnutrition with vertical gardening in bottle towers. Masses of food on a few square feet with only a bit of water. Can you do better ? Then show us. (Photo WVC)

Based on the responses I have received to the question I have put to ResearchGate, no clear proof has been provided that BPA or BPS is leaching into the soil in which plants are growing, or that BPA or other toxic substances are absorbed into those plants.

Is it really dangerous to grow food crops in plastic containers? 

Let us have a look at a recent publication in Science Daily(2013/02):

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130217084541.htm

A scientific analysis of 150 studies in which human beings have been exposed to “low dosages of BPA” shows that “in the general population, people’s exposure may be many times too low for BPA to effectively mimic estrogen in the human body.

The analysis of 130 toxicity studies of BPA showed:

“………………….that a small fraction of the “low doses” used in these studies are within the range of human exposures, with the vast majority being at least 10 to thousands of times higher than what humans are exposed to daily. In addition, the range of concentrations spans from upwards of 10 grams per kilogram of weight per day down to 100 picograms per kilogram of weight per day (a picogram is one millionth of a gram).

Unfortunately, the low dose moniker has been used by some to promote the importance of selected toxicity studies, for example, in arguments to ban BPA,” said Teeguarden. “For BPA and all chemicals, we need more accurate language to present these findings so the public and scientists in other disciplines can understand how human exposures compare to exposures in laboratory studies reporting toxicity.

Although I am more convinced than ever that it is safe to grow plants in plastic containers, I would still like to obtain conclusive answers to the following two questions:

(1) Is BPA (or BPS), within ambient environmental temperatures (even in sunshine), really leaching in any notable concentrations from the plastic bottles, pots or buckets in which we grow our fresh food?

(2) If so, are plants absorbing it in such concentrations that eating them poses a danger to public health?

Expecting that one day we will be able to find the answers based on long-term, independent scientific studies, I continue for now to promote my bottle tower method (http://youtu.be/JtbOREs2kIo) as a particularly effective way to combat malnutrition, hunger and poverty in developing countries.

Growing fresh food in recycled containers on a bottle rack in The Philippines.  A technique that can be by all the hungry people of this world (Photo Jojo ROM)
Growing fresh food in recycled containers on a bottle rack in The Philippines. A technique that can be by all the hungry people of this world (Photo Jojo ROM)

As long as all the specialists-experts of the world scrutinize every day the production and sales of food and drinks in plastic containers, as long as they allow millions of people to eat and drink from plastic containers, I will continue to believe that the fresh food we produce in the same containers constitutes no direct danger for public health.

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’ “.

Drought-resistant, perennial, heirloom Everglades tomato for all the drylands (You Tube)

VIDEO seen at :

http://youtu.be/vxAi3CfD6rE

Rare Perennial Everglades Tomato Grows all Year in South Florida

John from http://www.growingyourgreens.com/ goes on a field trip to Southern J Ranch in West Palm Beach, Florida to share with you the Everglades tomato, a rare, wild current-sized tomato that grows and fruits year round in South Florida. After watching this episode you will learn more about not only the Everglades tomato that grows like a weed in South Florida, but also the Bhut Jolokia aka Ghost Pepper, one of the hottest peppers in the world. In addition, you will learn about just a few of the edible plants and trees that Southern J offers at their nursery.

(continued)

 

 

Are these five media innovations really working to reduce hunger ? (WorldWatch Institute / Willem Van Cotthem’s comment)

Read at :

Five Media Innovations that Help Feed the Planet

“Worldwatch researchers offered a diverse selection of sustainability posts last week. In this one, we discussed five media innovations that are working to reduce hunger around the world. In this post, we discussed new environmental initiatives in China, including a Working Plan to Control Greenhouse Gas Emissions, to achieve the country’s energy and carbon emission intensity targets. And in this entry, we discussed the Jordan Valley Permaculture Program, which is using permaculture to re-green the Dead Sea Valley in Jordan.”

(continued)

Robert Engelman
President
Worldwatch Institute
http://www.worldwatch.org/

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

Five Media Innovations That Help Feed the Planet

http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/five-media-innovations-that-help-feed-the-planet/

By Isaac Hopkins

As modern technology is adopted in widespread regions of our planet, it can provide poor people with access to many forms of media. Innovations like the internet and satellite technology are changing the face of food system solutions in even the poorest countries.

Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five forms of media that can use the power of information to combat hunger.

1. Television: Access to television is expanding all over the planet. ……………….

2. Videos: Airing informational programs may not always be the most efficient way to put television sets to work to feed people. …………………..

3. Community Websites: The foundation of successful and sustainable growth in food production is communication. …………………..

4. News Media Partnerships: News media, from local papers to international corporations, wield incredible power through the information that they distribute. ………………

5. Mobile Phones: ……………….  “With subscription services like daily weather and crop market updates, major service providers are utilizing this emerging form of media to aid farmers in making smart decisions.”

Isaac Hopkins is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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

MY COMMENT  (Willem Van Cotthem)

Needless to confirm that (1) television, (2) videos, (3) websites, (4) news media partnerships and (5) mobile phones may “wield an incredible power through the information that they distribute.

But, how are they helping to feed the planet ?

(1) Television : “……………. so thousands of Kenyans have learned a new method of increasing production by watching a soap opera!

(2) Videos : ” …………….. farmer-to-farmer videos go beyond traditional training videos by fully explaining the techniques and why they work.

(3) Community websites : ” …………….. Individual communities have begun to implement websites that foster open transfer of ideas and innovation throughout the community“.

(4) News Media Partnerships : ” ……………..  They are working to directly link farmers, researchers, and policy-makers, so that they can quickly implement and scale up innovations and policies that will provide food security for these countries. ………. an “important information hub on agricultural related issues.”

(5) Mobile Phones : “………………  With subscription services like daily weather and crop market updates, major service providers are utilizing this emerging form of media to aid farmers in making smart decisions”

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

For decades already international and national efforts have been produced and trillions of dollars have been spent at combating hunger, but more than 1 billion impoverished people are still living constantly in a situation of hunger or malnutrition.

It goes without saying that many members of the international community have a considerable interest in helping to feed the planet :

  • through soap operas at television,
  • through a choice of videos on low- and high-tech farming techniques,
  • through community websites for the poorest,
  • through partnerships between policy-makers, researchers and farmers to implement and scale up innovations providing food security,
  • through messages on weather forecast and market opportunities on the mobile phones of the 1 billion hungry.

Maybe I overlooked something in this fairy tale about all these poor people having a television set, a computer and a mobile phone ?  Maybe I don’t understand how these hungry people are getting something to eat before they are watching the soap opera or the videos at their television set ?  Aren’t they hungry anymore when sitting at night in front of their computer to study the community website ?  Who’s paying for the use of their cheap mobile phones to listen to the weather forecast or to read SMS messages about the market and banking conditions in their village ?

Please tell me where my reasoning is wrong when I am thinking that a kitchen garden for every family, a school garden for every school, a hospital garden for every medical center, bottle towers on every balcony in the cities or in every small backyard, are dramatically stronger tools to combat hunger than “innovations like the internet and satellite technology… changing the face of food system solutions in even the poorest countries by providing communities with important information.

I remain convinced that the most valuable information on food system solutions is totally useless for a person with an empty stomach.

Instead of offering these poor hungry people technological innovations, for which they will have to pay, we should teach them how to grow their own food at home and give their children decent, vitamin-rich meals, instead of a handful of carbohydrates with some sauce.

A constantly growing number of people, both in rural and in urban areas, is showing that container gardening is the highway to a better food-secure future.  That’s the good news for the media.

2011 : Bottle tower gardening, the most affordable technique to grow food at home for every person on earth (Photo WVC)

2011 : Lettuce, celery, any vegetable, any herb can be grown in containers, recycled bottles, pots, buckets, sacks, ... That's combating hunger in every backyard or house, on all the continents, in villages, towns and cities, everywhere (Photo WVC)

Sustainable food production / Duurzame Voeding (Tim JOYE-LNE Flanders / Willem VAN COTTHEM)

In Dutch : Sustainable food production (duurzame voeding)

by Tim JOYE – LNE Flanders

http://vimeo.com/34511416

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