Thousands of living greenhouses to combat desertification (Willem Van Cotthem)


A greenhouse or glasshouse is a structure in which generally plants are grown. It ranges in size from a small shelter to a large building.

Different materials, such as glass or plastic, are normally used for the roof and the walls. Incoming sunshine is heating the interior where some of the energy can be trapped.

Temperature and humidity inside a greenhouse can be controlled to create adequate and balanced conditions for plant growth.  Thereby, infertile land can be turned into arable areas: plant production is improved and some crops can be grown throughout the year.

Proper ventilation is an important factor in the success of a greenhouse:

  • Regulating the temperature
  • Providing fresh air for photosynthesis
  • Preventing pests

A greenhouse should get as much light as possible, except in a desert-like environment where too much light (irradiation) can be harmful for plant growth.


2011 - The living greenhouse in a tipi-form, grown out of branches of the Navajo willow (Photo Martine DAUBREMé)

Trying to take into account most of the factors above, I constructed a “living greenhouse” in the form of a conical  “tipi” (teepee), planting branches (poles) of the Navajo willow (Globe willow) in my Belgian garden.

A tipi, used by some American nomadic tribes, is a conical tent traditionally made of wooden poles covered with animal skins. It provides warmth in winter, shelter during rains, and it is cool in the heat of summer. Tipis are disassembled when a tribe decides to move and reconstructed quickly when settling in a new area.

Contrary to these movable tents of the nomadic tribes, my “living greenhouse” is fixed on the spot, the willow poles having quickly rooted and ramified.


(Salix matsudana ‘Navajo’)

This round-headed, upright branching ‘Globe willow’ is related to the corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’).  It is a hardy, large, deciduous tree, native to northeastern China, growing fast and reaching 15 meter (50 feet) in height.

In the southwestern United States, the ‘Navajo’ cultivar has been selected for its drought-tolerance and storm damage-resistance.  It is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, even to the desert.

Particularly for that reason I used this lime green variety of the Globe Willow to construct my living greenhouse.

Semi-hardwood cuttings and hardwood cuttings are used for rapid propagation, e.g. in xeriscaping.  I grew it from a small semi-hardwood cutting into a splendid 30 ft (9 meter) high, globe-shaped, upright branching tree in 9 years time.  It is said to be a long-lived tree species It already resisted several years of winter frost in my own garden without any damage.

As it is possible to get willow poles easily rooting in the drylands, or even in a desert, one is in a position to create anywhere living tipis or tunnels in which:

  • The sunlight will be filtered;
  • There will be light shadow;
  • There will be more humidity in the air;
  • One could grow vegetables or saplings in such a tipi or tunnel.

Aiming at creating in the drylands shady spaces, to be used as a living greenhouse (or in which people could rest!), I have set up this experiment called “tipi living greenhouse”:




It convinced me that the Navajo willow merits full attention for its application potentials in all the drylands of this world.

With a minimal investment one could set up (ten) thousands of willow tipis or tunnels, thus offering people in drought-affected areas a chance to create shady spaces in which vegetables and tree saplings can be grown.

Who wouldn’t want to spend some time in such a mini-oasis ?  Who wouldn’t be happy if aid organizations would start multiplying living greenhouses in all the drylands to combat desertification, to mitigate the effects of drought, to alleviate poverty?

That’s precisely what living greenhouses are meant for !

If it’s not hunger relief, it’s health (Good News Network / Willem Van Cotthem)

Here again there is a nice example of the importance of a school garden.

School Turns Abandoned Field into Organic Farm, Growing Ton of Produce for Cafeteria

By Good News Network

Just eight months ago, a one-acre plot at the Denver Green School was an unused athletic field, but now that land has come to life with food-bearing vegetation.

“We have harvested over 3,000 pounds of produce from this ground,” said Megan Caley, a coordinator for Sprout City Farms, which partnered to create the garden.

“Kids are eating healthier,” said Frank Coyne, of the public school. “They are excited to eat the tomatoes on the salad bar, they are excited to eat the cucumbers.”


Sprout City Farms and the Denver Green School formed a partnership that has set records and delivered organic veggies directly to the cafeteria, a first for the State of Colorado.


MY COMMENT (Willem Van Cotthem)

If the international aid organizations seem to be reluctant to invest in such a programme to produce fresh food for schoolchildren, why would the non-governmental organizations not do it ?

It really makes a big difference and even with less resources a dramatic amount of good work can be done everywhere, even in the most remote areas.

This is sustainable food aid !


Which way would you go to stop an unfolding food crisis for children ? (Willem Van Cotthem)

Did you read my former posting on this blog ?


Yes?  Then you know that 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 that “each child has the right to survive, to thrive and to contribute to their societies.

Indeed, “we must not fail them” !

Nice children in the Sahara desert getting healthier food with vitamins and micronutrients thanks to UNICEF’s family gardens (Photo WVC)

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 successful with its own “Family gardens project for the Sahrawis families in the Sahara desert of Algeria“, there can not be any doubt anymore.  If family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens can be productive in the desert, they can certainly be in the Sahel, where a better rainfall offers more chances to use the minimum of water needed.

Many families in the Sahara desert avoid malnutrition of their children by producing fresh vegetables and fruits in their small UNICEF garden (Photo WVC)

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 children already malnourished.

Yes, “we must not fail them“, and we will surely not fail them by offering them chances to take care of their own family gardens and school gardens.

There are in the drylands tenthousands of successful small gardens.  We have the necessary knowledge and technical skills to duplicate these “best practices” wherever we want, even in the desert.  Who would still hesitate to take initiatives to gradually “submerge” the Sahel with small family gardens and school gardens ?

If there is a pipeline to be filled, it should be filled with the necessary materials to create family gardens and school gardens.

Shall we continue to appeal on “solidarity” for raising billions of dollars for responding to the successive crisis periods 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 ?

You Madame, you Sir, which way would you go ?

Do I still have to confirm that I admire the nice work of UNICEF for children in real need ?

UNICEF ALGERIA representative Raymond JANSSENS, tool in hand, visiting one of the family gardens in the Sahara desert.  Wherever a kitchen garden flourishes, there is no more child malnutrition ! (S.W. Algeria) – (Photo WVC)

Needing food ? Grow it yourself on your balcony or rooftop (Jojo ROM / Willem VAN COTTHEM)

Seen at Jojo Rom’s Facebook :

Home Farmers Club (Urban Container Gardening Enthusiasts)

Jojo ROM (Davao, The Philippines) is a gardener becoming more and more famous for his remarkable successes with URBAN CONTAINER GARDENING.  Growing vegetables and fruit trees in bottles, pots, sacks, crates, etc., Jojo showed how easy it is to react upon the food crisis with simple tools.

Since many years, Jojo ROM produces all kinds of vegetables and fruits in his small backyard, but also on the balcony of the first floor and on the rooftop of his house.

He posted a series of interesting photos on Facebook (link above), showing that any family, not only those having a backyard, but also those living in an apartment or having a rooftop can easily produce a sufficient quantity of fresh food to alleviate hunger and malnutrition or to provide the necessary quantity of vitamins and mineral element for all the family members.

By re-posting these photos I hope to motivate people to start their own container garden at home.  I am strongly convinced that URBAN CONTAINER GARDENING (UCG) in backyards, on balconies and rooftops is one of the best methods to fight the food crisis, having a direct positive effect on public health and even on annual income by avoiding the high food prizes.  Jojo ROM’s nice work is highly commended.

It goes without saying that RURAL CONTAINER GARDENING (RCG) has the same positive effect on the standards of living of rural people.

I recommend to all fans of container gardening (UCG and RCG) to also try “bottle tower gardening“, as this technique has a lot of advantages, particularly production of a maximum of food in a minimal space (see :

Wishing a lot of success to you all !




“Thank you Willem, I’m always inspired to go on with this project despite surging ocean of challenges. I also would like to congratulate everyone in this group for trying UCG. If we practice this at home we are in one bandwagon to battle hunger and doing the ecological sanitation starting from our own backyard through composting. If we do this we are no longer negotiating starting from zero ground.  Government’s support to this project is always possible as long as we never forget our counterpart. Love, not leave agriculture, it is still the basic way of life… good food leads to good thinking and thanking about the resources provided to us by our creator. Great is the work of Willem who relentlessly supports the effort of the Filipinos.”


Balcony gardening : vegetables in bottles on the balcony edge (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : eggplants and other vegetables in bottles (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : eggplants fruiting (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : bell peppers fruiting (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : okra fruiting (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : Chinese cabbage (pechay) – (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : Chinese cabbage (pechay) in bottles –  (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : lettuce in bottles (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : Calamondin citrus tree (Calamansi) – (Photo Jojo ROM)


Rooftop gardening : Different vegetables in containers (Photo Jojo ROM)
Rooftop gardening : String beans and other vegetables (Photo Jojo ROM)
Rooftop gardening : Carrots from the roof to the kitchen (Photo Jojo ROM)
Rooftop gardening : Bitter melon production (Photo Jojo ROM)
Rooftop gardening : String beans, cucumber and bitter melon (Photo Jojo ROM)
Rooftop gardening : Radishes (Photo Jojo ROM)

Seeds for The Gambia 2011

Please see my newest video :

Seeds for The Gambia 2011

Seeds of vegetables and fruits are collected for the “Seeds for Food”-action in Belgium. Those seeds are offered to development projects all over the world. The Gamrupa Foundation (The Netherlands) took seeds to The Gambia in 2011, where they where used in two school gardens. Thus, children have fresh food at a daily base, a nice initiative to alleviate malnutrition.

Combating malnutrition in the drylands: How to build a bottle tower for container gardening ? (Willem Van Cotthem / Gilbert Van Damme)

Please have a look at my new video :

Building a bottle tower for container gardening

2011- My friend Gilbert VAN DAMME who helped me to set up this bottle tower kitchen garden (Photo WVC)

A simple method to produce fresh food for every family in the drylands, particularly interesting to provide vitamins and mineral elements to the malnourished children.  Saving water while producing masses of vegetables and herbs.

2011 - Plenty of fresh vegetables and herbs for the daily meals produced with a minimum of water in the vicinity of the house. An inexpensive dream for poor families in drought-affected areas ? No, a reality to be achieved by recycling discarded bottles. Who wouldn't like to have such a garden ? It's affordable to every single hungry person on earth, even in the refugee camps. (Photo WVC)

Plastic bottles stacked into a bottle tower can be recycled to set up a vertical kitchen garden at home. The bottle towers are used for container gardening of vegetables and herbs. How to build such a tower is shown in different steps in my video (see link above).

How to ensure food security for all the hungry of this world ? (Willem Van Cotthem)

Let us read again attentively the former posting on this blog :


Let us first underscore the main issues :

  1. A flagship report states that “small, import-dependent countries, particularly in Africa, are especially vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity
  2. The United Nations agencies working to combat hunger today called for action to ensure long-term food security.
  3. Our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by half in 2015 are challenged.
  4. Even if the MDG were achieved by 2015 some 600 million people in developing countries would still be undernourished …………….. and  suffering from hunger on a daily basis which is never acceptable“.

Therefore, “The entire international community must act today and act forcefully to banish food insecurity from the planet“.

2007-02 - Beautiful, but malnourished children in a Saharawi refugee camp (Tindouf area, S.W. Algeria) - (Photo WVC)

My first question is : “Who are these 600 million people suffering permanently from hunger?“.

No one will deny that most of them live in the developing world, not in developed countries.  We can deduce from it that the entire international community should concentrate its forceful actions to banish food insecurity from that part of the planet, where “small, import-dependent countries, particularly in Africa, are especially vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity“, not from the developed countries where food is even wasted.

Before thinking at reducing food waste in developed countries “through education and policies“, before thinking at reducing “food losses in developing countries by boosting investment in the entire value chain, especially post-harvest processing“, before even thinking at engaging in the combat of “high and volatile food prices, major contributing factors in global food insecurity“, the entire international community and in particular the United Nations agencies concerned should focus on the daily situation of the most vulnerable and poorest of those 600 million hungry or malnourished people.

It is my strongest believe that such a focus would clearly show that investment in the large-scale agricultural sector (to enhance food production and to improve “food security in the long run“) is not the sector in which we should preferentially “act forcefully to banish food insecurity“.  On the contrary, if the number of hungry people has still been growing from 850 million to an estimated 925 million in 2010, our actions should be focused in the first place on the hungry themselves, not on those who have to subsidized and supported to produce efforts to improve food security in the long run.

2007-02 - A small kitchen garden in the Sahara desert suffices to produce sufficient fresh food to improve the health of the family. What is possible in the Sahara should be possible in all the developing countries. (Photo WVC)

My second question is therefore: “Shall we continue to invest in large-scale industrial agriculture, aiming at enhancing food export potentials to stimulate the economy, “incentives for increased long-term investment in the agricultural sector“, or shall we really act forcefully to help the hungry people and their malnourished children to at least one decent daily meal ?

With 925 million hungry people in 2010, the international community can not afford to consider actions that would possibly improve food security in the long run.  Time has come to start as soon as possible actions that offer ALL THE HUNGRY PEOPLE, WHEREVER THEY LIVE, a chance to produce their own fresh food.

Maybe you belong to that group of people who think that such a world initiative is totally impossible ?  Well, open your eyes widely and look at what is going on all over the world today.  People who can’t afford the high food prices, the hungry of this world, are waiting no longer for the aid organizations to offer them food, they start growing fresh food themselves, in different ways, in different places, with minimal means, but with maximal results :

  1. Allotment gardening (the Victory gardens of the hungry people during the two World Wars 1914-1918 and 1940-1945, but still a growing success at world scale, especially now).
  2. Community gardening.
  3. School gardening.
  4. Container gardening at home (in recycled, discarded pots, bottles, buckets,  barrels,  gutters, in a small yard, on the balcony, on the deck, …).
  5. Sack gardening (multi-storey gardening like in some refugee camps).
  6. Urban gardening (in open spaces, replacing weeds by vegetables, rooftop gardening, …).
  7. Vertical gardening (on racks, on trellises, against walls, on stairs, in bottle towers, …).
  8. Permaculture.
  9. Even guerilla gardening in the cities !

Denying this multitude of splendid successes booked by the hungry people themselves is refusing to recognize that inexpensive, but very efficient solutions are at hand to save the lives of millions of children and unfortunate people.  Why aren’t we giving them a helping hand at almost no cost ?  Why would we invest in the far future, if we can offer them a more decent life today ?  Making people healthier and stronger is also a form of investment in the far future !

It suffices to look at the evidence of thousands of already published photos and videos, illustrating the efficiency of all these simple gardening methods, applied by the most vulnerable people without consistent help of the international community, to realize what the effect could be of a possible UN-supported program to offer every single hungry family a small kitchen garden (see my photo above).  It should not remain a dream.

Let the UN agencies not offer them A FISH anymore, but teach them HOW TO FISH !  For food security can better be achieved by the hungry themselves, if only we decide to give them that helping hand.

Their nice dinner menu is figuring the gardening techniques mentioned above.

I’m Dancing and Singing in the Drought (Willem Van Cotthem)

You probably know I’m not the actor Gene KELLY, that’s why I’m not dancing and singing in the rain, but in the drought.

The reason for my optimistic mood today is quite simple :  there are so many remarkable reports published on successful, sustainable, cheap, efficient methods and techniques to grow fresh food in containers, in family gardens, in allotments, in community gardens, in vertical gardens etc., that I get the strongest believe that everyone, every family, every community living in the most harsh environments in Africa, Asia and South America, can definitely ban hunger and malnutrition, with a little bit of help, of course.

That’s why “I’m dancing and singing“, just like Gene KELLY, not in the rain, but in the drought.  And I hope that one day those one billion hungry people will dance with us.

The title song for that celebrated film musical Singin’ in The Rain (1952) was originally created by lyricist Arthur Freed and composer Nacio Herb Brown for MGM’s Hollywood Revue of 1929.

I couldn’t resist changing a few words to express “my glorious feelin’ ” about all those opportunities we have to offer hungry and malnourished children and adults a better life.  So, here I go :

“I’m singing in the drought
Just singing in the drought
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy in thought
I’m laughing at skies
So bright up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the drought
I’ve a smile on my face
I walk down the ford
With a happy thought
Just singin’,
Singin’ in the drought”


You get me ? Let’s dance and sing together, because “with a little help of my friends” (Ringo STARR) we can make this world better.

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends,
Oh, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

Forget the billions of dollars for long-term food aid.  Keep those for emergency cases.

And with a little help of our friends, let’s teach those people in need how to grow vegetables and fruits in containers, buckets, used barrels, pots, whatever can contain some potting soil.

Because we will really help them towards sustainable development !

Malnutrition and vegetables (Farm Radio International)

Read at :

Radio Scripts

Package 93, Script 3
April 2011

A community fights malnutrition with local leafy vegetables

We eat to live. Without food, we would go hungry. But hunger is not only about not having enough to eat; it is also about what you eat. “Hidden hunger’’ occurs when people suffer from micronutrient malnutrition. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Unlike macronutrients such as calcium and magnesium, they are needed in smaller amounts. Nevertheless, they are essential for good health. Millions of people, typically those who live in rural areas, eat staple foods such as maize, cassava and sweet potato. While these fill their stomachs, they cannot by themselves provide people with enough micronutrients.

Scientists have started to develop crops with higher levels of micronutrients. While these efforts are underway, there are many indigenous African leafy vegetables with high levels of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. But these local vegetables are being underutilized due to lack of knowledge.



Once upon a time UNICEF launched a project in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (Willem Van Cotthem)

With great attention I have read the former posting on this blog :


This UN-message informed us that :


The refugee situation is growing with some 10,000 arriving every week in Dadaab on the border between Somalia and Kenya. Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp.

“The threat of disease on already weakened young children is of particular concern and UNICEF is urgently setting up child immunization campaigns. UNICEF, government agencies, NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and other UN agencies will be working in the vital areas of water, food and sanitation in the coming days to ward off a massive emergency,” said the agency.

“However funding shortfalls, and in some areas the denial of access, threaten to disrupt these essential services. UNICEF is asking for $31.9 million for the coming three months to provide life-saving support to the millions of affected children and women.”


2007 : A nice family garden in one of the refugee camps in the Algerian Sahara desert (Photo WVC)

In 2005, UNICEF ALGERIA launched the project : “Family gardens in the refugee camps of the Saharawis in S.W. Algeria”, for which I had the honour to be chosen as the scientific consultant.

2007 : Evaluation mission of a Unicef delegation to the family gardens project (Photo WVC)

Between 2005 and 2007, some 1500 small family gardens were successfully installed in these refugee camps in the Sahara desert (see  photos).  The RASD government was extremely happy with the results obtained in only a few months by this UNICEF-project and strongly requested UNICEF ALGERIA to continue its efforts to enhance gradually the number of kitchen gardens, through which the refugee families are enabled to produce their own fresh food (carrots, onions, tomatoes, red beetroots, zucchinis, garlic, beans, peas, herbs, turnips, radishes, lettuce …).

2007 : Massive production of fresh food in one of the family gardens of the UNICEF project (Photo WVC)

Plans were developed to create a large seed production center to provide the necessary seeds to all the families, and to revalidate a large date palm plantation to distribute date saplings to the refugees.

To the greatest surprise of all people involved, this remarkable project (fresh food production in the desert !) was suddenly stopped by UNICEF at the end of 2007.

2007 = Red beetroots, carrots, garlic, zucchinis growing in the desert and irrigated with a minimum of brackish water (Photo WVC)

Up to now, even their own scientific consultant was never informed about the reasons why.  Even if UNICEF had possibly its good reasons not to continue that beautiful and very efficient project, a more decent attitude for correctly informing the people involved in the project could be expected.  It left those people with bitter memories.

It goes without saying that the Saharawis refugees, without the help of UNICEF, continued to create new family gardens with the support of some friends and NGOs.

2007 : A television team, attracted by the UNICEF successes, visited the extraordinary gardens (Photo WVC)

In the light of this situation, please read the last paragraphs of the UN News-message mentioned above :

“WFP, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the British-based Oxfam agency today issued a <“”&gt; joint appeal for a more resilient and longer-lasting response to the drought and other “slow-onset” humanitarian crises.

The three agencies asked the international community to commit to longer-term, longer-lasting solutions, such as sustainable food assistance, support for small farmers, and support for policies and investments that address core challenges such as climate change adaptation, preparedness and disaster risk reduction and management, rural livelihoods, productive infrastructure, production and marketing, institutions and governance, conflict resolution, pastoralist issues and access to essential health and education. “


If I may suggest a longer-term, longer-lasting solution for the malnutrition problem of children, wherever they live, even in the desert, then evaluate the successes of UNICEF’s project in the Algerian refugee camps and opt for the creation of family gardens or community gardens.


The irrefutable evidence of the FAO : decisive victory for city gardening in the war on hunger and poverty (Willem Van Cotthem)

Citizens of Ghent/Belgium (here in the allotments Slotenkouter) produce enough vegetables for the family all year long (Photo WVC)
Neighbours in allotments all over the world are motivating each other to improve their yield (Photo WVC)


For many years already we have been promoting family (kitchen) gardens and allotment gardens (the “VICTORY GARDENS” of World War I and WW. II) as the most efficient tool to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty (see a short list of former postings below).

It goes without saying that the voice of individuals or small groups, e.g. NGOs, is barely heard.  Nevertheless, the number of publications on successes booked with community gardens, urban gardening, allotments, family gardening and many other aspects of food production in urban areas is more than impressive. Even “guerilla gardening” can be seen as the expression of an urgent need to give urban gardening the chances it deserves.

And now the day has come ! Will it be a D-Day ?

In a message of June 10, 2011 the UNNews announces :


With great pleasure we read :

“A five-year United Nations urban horticulture programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has more than doubled its output of vegetables, turned profits, increased nutrition and employed thousands – some at four and five times the income they made previously, according to a report issued today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The $10.4 million FAO plan, financed by Belgium and implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development since 2000, has assisted urban growers in five cities – Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Mbanza-Ngungu, Kisangani and Likasi – to produce 330,000 tons of vegetables annually, up from 148,000 in 2005-2006, FAO said in a <““>press release.

Less than 10 per cent of the vegetables produced by the project are consumed by beneficiaries. The remainder, constituting more than 250,000 tons of produce, is sold in urban markets and supermarkets, for up to $4 a kilo for the major vegetables produced: tomatoes, sweet peppers and onions, for a surplus value of about $400 million, FAO said.

“This programme has increased per capita daily intake of micronutrients: different types of greens, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables, and as such is enormous help in the fight against malnutrition, especially amongst children and breast-feeding women in cities,” said Remi Nono-Womdim, an agricultural officer for FAO.

An estimated half of children in the DRC are chronically undernourished.

The FAO said the programme has also helped provide employment for 16,000 small-scale market gardeners, and to 60,000 people more in jobs linked to the horticulture business.

Farmers have seen their incomes increase dramatically,” FAO said. “On average, in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi for example, [the] annual income of each farmer has increased from around $500 in 2004 to $2,000 in 2010 and in Likasi it rose from $700 to $3,500. There have been similar increases in other cities.”

“It helped that many of the new city dwellers were rural immigrants who already had basic knowledge of crop production,” said Mr. Nono-Womdim. There were also sizeable areas of fertile land available, especially around Lubumbashi.

The FAO said the project in the DRC “is a flagship model of how to help cities grow their own nutrients and micro-nutrients to keep pace with growing demand.”

“The global number of urban dwellers is now higher than those living in rural areas. With the fastest growing cities situated in the developing world, vegetable growing in towns, cities, suburbs and shanty towns is essential to improving nutrition and food security in poor countries,” FAO said.

“The great thing is we have shown this goal can be reached, what we need to do now is scale-up production in the DRC and in other parts of Africa,” said Mr. Nono-Womdim.

It goes without saying that all this is clearly the best news about combating hunger, malnutrition and poverty we heard in years.

It has been so frustrating to read continuously that billions (trillions ?) of dollars were needed to alleviate the children’s malnutrition and the hunger of a billion people every year.

It was so “illogical” that aid organizations continued to impose views on “the necessity to deliver commercial food packages or food baskets at a regular base” and to ship these loads of food continuously from North to South and from West to East, without considering the proven possibilities to grow fresh food locally, e.g. in community gardens, allotments, family gardens and the like.

Today, the UN-organization FAO has delivered the irrefutable evidence that the earthships’s course has to be changed as soon as possible : our food aid strategy should be heading to a new CAPE OF HOPE in the SEA OF FAMILY GARDENING with its capital the CITY GARDENS.

Even the blind should hear this message !

May God  bless the FAO and my country Belgium for that wonderful “City Garden Programme” in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the stepping stone project towards a world without hunger.  I couldn’t dream of a nicer present for “Father’s Day”.

by Willem Van Cotthem


Please read also :

Women can play a very important role in the management and sustainability of a city garden (Photo WVC)
Benefits of a city garden: increased vegetable production, improved nutrition,, enhanced profits, employment of jobless people, an healthy occupation, social events (Photo WVC)
Some even participate in university research work on soil conditioning and fertilizing (Photo WVC)

New garden in desertified Sambel Kunda (The Gambia) – (Helena CLYBOUW)

My friend Helena announced the creation of a new garden at the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust in Sambel Kunda.

This project is partly sponsored by “Heart for Gambia” (Belgium)

Helena sent me some photos taken by Heather Armstrong :

2011-04 : Former horse stables, nowadays a guesthouse with offices (Photo Heather ARMSTRONG)
2011-04 : Declan's rondavel with some ornamental plants around (Photo Heather ARMSTRONG)
2011-04 : Close to the rondavel some banana trees are planted (Photo Heather ARMSTRONG)
2011-04 : The new garden in Sambel Kunda (Photo Heather ARMSTRONG)
2011-04 : Different vegetables are doing very well (Photo Heather ARMSTRONG)
2011-04 : The water tank for irrigation of the garden (Photo Heather ARMSTRONG)
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