HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THE OTHER DRYLAND COUNTRIES WAIT TO FOLLOW THIS EXAMPLE ?

AND WHAT ABOUT THE GROWTH OF OPUNTIA IN AND AROUND THE REFUGEE CAMPS ?  IT’S A SUCCESS STORY. IT’S COMMON SENSE !

One can eat the Opuntia cactus pads (see “nopales”), drink pad soup, eat the fruits (barbary figs), make jam, use it as fodder for the livestock, ground the seeds to produce an oil, produce cosmetics and medicine against blood pressure and cancer.

Look at the nice picture above. It could have been taken in any desert or desertification affected country. What do you need more to be convinced ?  Well, maybe first read about Morocco’s initiative below !

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

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

Photo credit: BBC NEWS

Women farmers find cactus plants are a real money spinner

Cactus commerce boosts Morocco

By Sylvia Smith
BBC News, Sbouya, Morocco

Opuntia in Yemen - Photo Yemen Times 1799-4117 - - get_img
Opuntia in Yemen – Photo Yemen Times 1799-4117 – – get_img

It is just after dawn in the hills above the Moroccan hamlet of Sbouya and a group of women are walking through the thousands of cactus plants dotted about on the hillside, picking ripe fruits whenever they spot the tell-tale red hue.

But these woman are not simply scraping a living out of the soil.

The cactus, previously eaten as a fruit or used for animal feed, is creating a minor economic miracle in the region thanks to new health and cosmetic products being extracted from the ubiquitous plant.

This prickly pocket of the semi-arid south of the country around the town of Sidi Ifni is known as Morocco’s cactus capital.

It is blessed with the right climate for the 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of land that is being used to produce prodigious numbers of succulent Barbary figs.

Every local family has its own plot and, with backing from the Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme to transform small scale production into a significant industry industry is under way.

Some 12m dirhams ($1.5m) have been pledged to build a state-of-the-art factory that will help local farmers process the ripe fruits.

The move is expected to help workers keep pace with the requirements of the French cosmetics industry which is using the cactus in increasing numbers of products.

_46109458_46107440
Barbary fig (Opuntia ficus-indica, prickly pear) oil is a lucrative market – http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/46109000/jpg/_46109458_46107440.jpg

Lucrative

Izana Marzouqi, a 55-year-old member of the Aknari cooperative, says people from the region grew up with the cactus and did not realise its true benefit.

“Demand for cactus products has grown and that it is because the plant is said to help with high blood pressure and cancer. The co-operative I belong to earns a lot of money selling oil from the seeds to make anti-ageing face cream.”

Read the full article: BBC NEWS

 

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World Day to Combat Desertification

Photo credit: Google – Imgres.jpg

 

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June 

Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are
destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.(See PRESS RELEASE below).

COMMENTS

Willem Van Cotthem: We keep hoping that success stories and best practices will be applied at the global level. Priority should be given to methods and techniques providing daily fresh food to the hungry and malnourished. It cannot be denied that hunger and malnutrition are constantly undermining the performances of people. Application of existing success stories in local food production (kitchen gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, …) would positively influence the efforts to combat desertification (limiting erosion, stimulating reforestation, etc.). We keep hoping.

ReplyUnited Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Hi Willem Van Cotthem, would you like to share some success stories you have? We always welcome all to share!”

       ReplyWillem Van Cotthem : Hello Friends at the UNCCD Secretariat: It will be my pleasure to select a series of success stories in the literature. However, I am convinced that the UNCCD secretariat has the necessary documentation to compile even a book on this subject (to the best of my knowledge the documents, e.g. presentations at COPs and meetings of CST and CRIC, have been there during my active period in the CST and in Bonn). Please consider a consultancy to achieve top class work that would serve all member countries, the CST and the CRIC. To be presented at the next World Day June 17th 2016.

PRESS RELEASE
UNCCD’s Monique Barbut Calls for Long‐Term Solutions Not Just Quick Fixes To Drought Bonn, Germany, 22/02/2016 –
“Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People. This is the slogan for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June. I am calling for solidarity from the international community with the people who are battling the ravages of drought and flood. Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which is expected to affect up 60 million people by July. In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labor to recover, especially when the land is degraded.
What’s more, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilize communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long‐term security threats.
“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007‐2010. It is tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” Barbut said.
Ms Barbut made the remarks when announcing the plans for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification, which will take place on 17 June.
“I hope that World Day to Combat Desertification this year marks a turning point for every country. We need to show, through practical action and cooperation, how every country is tacking or supporting these challenges at the front‐end to preempt or minimize the potential impacts of the disasters, not just at the back‐end after the disasters happen,” she stated.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 17 June as the observance Day to raise public awareness about international efforts to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
Ms Barbut thanked the Government and People of China, for offering to host the global observance event, which will take place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“China has vast experience in nursing degraded lands and man‐made deserts back to health. This knowledge can and should benefit initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall, the re‐ greening in southern Africa and the 20 X 20 Initiative in Latin America. We can create a better, more equal and climate change‐resilient world,” she noted.
“I also call on countries, the private sector, foundations and people of goodwill to support Africa  when the countries meet later in the year to develop concrete plans and policies to pre‐ empt, monitor and manage droughts,” Ms Barbut stated.
The 2016 World Day campaign is also advancing the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September last year. The Goals include a target to achieve a land degradation‐neutral world by 2030. That is, a world where the land restored back to health equals to, or is more than, the amount degraded every year.
For more information on the Day and previous events, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐campaigns/WDCD/Pages/default.aspx
For background information and materials for the 2016 Observance, visit: For information about the Global Observance event, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐ campaigns/WDCD/wdcd2016/Pages/default.aspx
Contact for World Day to Combat Desertification: Yhori@unccd.int
For Media information: wwischnewski@unccd.int

IRC New Roots newly resettled refugees to grow food in community gardens and on urban farms

Photo credit: Food Tank

Resettled refugees grow food as part of the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Program.
Susanna Byrd

 

Refugees Grow Roots in the United States

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a non-profit organization helping refugees rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Every year, the IRC works with thousands of displaced people, whose lives have been shattered by war and oppression, to find new homes, jobs, healthcare and educational opportunities in 24 cities in the United States. The IRC New Roots program provides newly resettled refugees with opportunities to grow food in community gardens and on urban farms. New Roots assists resettled refugees in finding land, supports participants to hone their food production skills, and is building marketing and food access opportunities in several communities around the country.

Aley Kent, an IRC National Technical Advisor for Food Security and Agriculture, and Elizabeth Moore, Farm Manager of the New Roots Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia, spoke with Food Tank about the important role of food production in the refugee resettlement process.

Food Tank (FT): How did the New Roots program begin?

Aley Kent (AK): Around 2005, a staff member working in the San Diego office was talking to some Somali women about options for them in the U.S. A lot of them did not have your typical job readiness skills that most employers look for in this country. However, the women were saying, “We want to farm! Is there a place that we can grow food? We want our kids to understand our roots. Can you help us do that? Maybe we can make money that way!” So, the idea of New Roots was born.

FT: How is New Roots an important piece of the resettlement process?

 

Grow food on an A-riser or a H-riser to alleviate malnutrition

Photo credit: 

* Wooden Riser A-form – Photo Jojo ROM – 283225_4230820167045_1991451138_n.jpg

One of the best practices: The A-riser or the H-riser

By Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium)

My good friend Jojo ROM (Davao City, The Philippines) is one of the famous experts on container gardening.  He was one of the first to construct in his own backyard an A-riser on which he grew (and still grows) vegetables and herbs in different types of containers.

It has been clearly shown that this is one of the best practices to grow vegetables and herbs in the smallest space.  As container gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening (mostly in bad soils !), this successful method deserves to be promoted at the global level, in particular in an environment with poor soils, e.g. in the drylands.

One of the applications to be strongly recommend is: construction of risers for the refugee camps, where people never have sufficient space or the necessary means to install a kitchen garden for their family.  Imagine the refugees’ joy being enabled to grow fresh food close to their tents: interesting time spending, being busy for a nice part of the day, and producing their own fresh food, herbs and mint for their tea.

Impossible you say ?  Have a look at the pictures below and convince yourself that minimal investment in risers loaded with containers will automatically yield a maximal food production.

You want to forget about the refugee camps ?  OK !  But please remain convinced that risers can be installed in small backyards and even on a flat roof, all over the world, also in your own neighbourhood.

Now then, enjoy the pictures !

* Wooden Riser - A-form - Photo Jojo ROM - 942231_10200263483608038_661084805_n
* Wooden Riser – A-form with bottles – Photo Jojo ROM – 942231_10200263483608038_661084805_n
* Riser - Bottles, Tetrapots - Photo Jojo ROM - 299197_2027431123696_1181604134_31907234_795222_n
* Riser – with bottles and tetrapots – Photo Jojo ROM – 299197_2027431123696_1181604134_31907234_795222_n
* Bamboo Riser with clay pots - Photo Victor S. Cabag (Philippines)  - 10422170_10201509648703265_4177847876384089747_n
* Bamboo Riser with clay pots – Photo Victor S. Cabag (Philippines) – 10422170_10201509648703265_4177847876384089747_n
* Riser with jugs - Photo Berlin ramos Sadler - 528880_3501510093823_1437046645_n
* Riser with jugs – Photo Berlin Ramos Sadler – 528880_3501510093823_1437046645_n
* Riser -with bottles, canisters and tetrapots - Photo Almar B. Autida430068_2870346474042_1121267916_32155811_1625702319_n
* Riser with bottles, canisters and tetrapots – Photo Almar B. Autida – 430068_2870346474042_1121267916_32155811_1625702319_n
* Riser - bottles and jugs - Photo Berlin Ramos Sadler - 549094_3575738549488_607260712_n
* Riser with bottles and jugs – Photo Berlin Ramos Sadler – 549094_3575738549488_607260712_n
* Riser with different containers - Photo Fe Mondejar - 66729_373215606134201_1286771557_n
* A simple riser with different containers – Photo Fe Mondejar – 66729_373215606134201_1286771557_n
*  An impressive riser for massive food production - Photo Almar B. Autida - 10255663_10201730750126773_1525730629288922985_n
* An impressive riser for massive food production – Photo Almar B. Autida – 10255663_10201730750126773_1525730629288922985_n
* Riser A-form with canisters and tetrapots - Photo Almar B. Autida - 578325_3062890287517_1121267916_32233687_1268465493_n
* Riser with canisters and tetrapots – Photo Almar B. Autida – 578325_3062890287517_1121267916_32233687_1268465493_n
* Riser with jugs - Photo Ako Si Arvin - 9999_363495210436408_1949884367_n
* Riser with jugs – Photo Ako Si Arvin – 9999_363495210436408_1949884367_n
* Riser - different containers with flowers - Photo Berlin Ramos Sadler - 538869_3628175340375_1965966353_n
* Riser – different containers with flowers – Photo Berlin Ramos Sadler – 538869_3628175340375_1965966353_n
* Riser - H-form -Photo Big Bug Creek Farm Store and Garden Center - 971804_565714960118122_175305211_n
* Riser – H-form – Photo Big Bug Creek Farm Store and Garden Center – 971804_565714960118122_175305211_n
* Philippinos constructing a metal riser - A-form - 12003284_1255229017836495_6671859800920701771_n
* Constructing a metal riser – A-form – in The Philippines -12003284_1255229017836495_6671859800920701771_n
 * Constructing a metal riser - A-form - in The Philippines -11218075_1255229134503150_2797106863206369602_n
* Constructing a metal riser – A-form – in The Philippines -11218075_1255229134503150_2797106863206369602_n

————————-

Still not convinced about the great value of this method to alleviate malnutrition and hunger ?  Please, send us your better idea.

Family gardens in the Algerian Sahara desert

Photo credit: Willem Van Cotthem

2007-01-SMARA-TV-P1000589 

One of the family gardens in Smara refugee camp

Some people seem to have forgotten Peter KENWORTHY’s 2012-article:

https://stiffkitten.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/un-unsustainability-in-the-tindouf-refugee-camps/

UN UNSUSTAINABILITY IN THE TINDOUF REFUGEE CAMPS

but we didn’t. So, here it is :

The UN says that it seeks sustainability in its work and programmes, that it seeks “integration of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in policy-making at international, regional and national levels”.

And the UN’s Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says on its website that “UNICEF has worked from its founding on nutrition programming aimed at fulfilling every child’s right to adequate nutrition,” because “good nutrition benefits families, their communities and the world as a whole.”

But these principles have seemingly not been applied in the Tindouf refugee camps. Here approximately 150.000 Saharawis have been in a desert exile for 35 years, since their homeland, Western Sahara, was invaded by Morocco.

Over the last 25 years, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has spent many millions of dollars on keeping the Saharawis in the camps from starvation – although malnutrition in the camps is still widespread and WFP funds for the camps are decreasing.

According to the WFP, “opportunities for self-reliance in the harsh, isolated desert environment where the [Tindouf refugee] camps are located are extremely limited, forcing the refugees to rely on international assistance for their survival. Malnutrition rates remain high, with acute malnutrition at a critical level of 18.2 percent, chronic malnutrition at 31.4 percent and underweight at 31.6 percent.”

But until it was abruptly terminated in late 2007, UNICEF ran a successful and seemingly sustainable family garden project in the camps. The project saw 1200 family gardens constructed in extremely adverse agricultural conditions, vegetables and fruit trees being produced by means of minimum water and fertilizer input, using special water-stocking soil conditioners, and agricultural techniques taught to the participating families and school children.

“Any neutral observer will understand that there is a dramatic difference between shipping food aid to the refugee camps for 35 years, as has the WFP, and creating local food production in a sustainable way, as has the UNICEF project,” says Botany Professor Willem Van Cotthem, who was a UN scientific consultant on the gardens project from 2005 to 2007.

Van Cotthem is still puzzled why the UN suddenly ended the project. “The enthusiasm about the successes with the family gardens in the camps was unprecedented,” he says. “All the Saharawi ministers and the President himself expressed their hope that UNICEF would continue that magnificent project until every refugee family had its own garden.”

And the reason for the terminations of the project was not a lack of information of the project’s accomplishments, he insists, nor any misgivings about its achievements. “Staff members of UNICEF, UNHCR and the World Food Programme visited the camps several times to observe the progress made. Medical doctors and consultants of UNICEF repeatedly confirmed that the consumption of fresh food and fruit had a very positive effect on the level of malnutrition.”

Small-scale family gardens that produce fresh food are widely accepted as being an important part of a successful food production, and subsequently on the nutritional intake of desert populations such as in the Tindouf refugee camps, and they are also a cheaper and more sustainable way of supplying food than shipping it from abroad, Van Cotthem insists.

“A growing production of vegetables and fruits forms the embryonic stage of a potential local market development in the camps,” he says. “And training the refugees in agricultural and horticultural techniques, as a group of experts and technicians did, is a rewarding investment in knowledge and skills that is applicable in any future situation, even if the dispute with Morocco gets settled and the refugees return home.”

According to Van Cotthem, the reason given for terminating the project was an Al-Qaeda-executed terrorist attack on a UN building in Algiers that killed over 60 people, including 17 UN staff members – an attack UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called an “abjectly cowardly strike.” “And if lack of funds is the reason for stopping the garden project,” says Van Cotthem, “then one cannot understand why a project for sustainable development of local food production is stopped in favour of shipping food.”

And Van Cotthem is adamant that the results of this omission, on top of food aid cutbacks, are and will be disastrous. “Malnutrition will enhance and hunger will be looming. Already in 2007-08 the level of food stocks in the camps was catastrophic. But the international organisations are fully in a position to compensate the reduction in shipped food by offering the Saharawis the chance to develop a maximum number of gardens.”

In the mean time, the Saharawis themselves and private initiatives such as the “Be Their Voice” –programme, which runs small-scale family gardens, have attempted to fill the gap left by the UN. But as the Saharawis are strapped for cash and NGO-driven programmes rely mostly on private donations to a mostly unknown refugee crisis, the capacity and scope of such projects is by no means sufficient.

Read More:

Willem Van Cotthem’s website

The case for Western Saharan independence

Chronic food and malnutrition crisis in the Sahel

Photo credit: UN NEWS Centre

Drought has affected residents of the Mbera refugee camp, Mauritania, in the Sahel region of Africa.

Photo: WFP/Justin Smith

UN, partners seek $2 billion to help millions of people across Africa’s Sahel region

EXCERPT

The United Nations and its partners today launched an appeal for nearly $2 billion to provide vital humanitarian assistance to millions of people in nine countries across Africa’s Sahel region.

Some 145 million people in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal live in a region that is constantly challenged by chronic food and malnutrition crises, and is vulnerable to climate change, droughts and unpredictable rainfall.

The Sahel humanitarian appeal for 2015, launched today in New York and totalling $1.96 billion, is part of a regional multi-year strategy to respond better to the chronic challenges in the region by emphasizing early intervention and forging closer partnerships with governments and development actors.

Over 20 million people in the region are short of food, 2.6 million of whom need life-saving food assistance now; and nearly six million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2015.

Violent conflict and insecurity have worsened over the last 12 months in many of the countries. As a result, 2.8 million people have been uprooted from their homes, over one million more than this time last year.

Read the full article: UN NEWS Centre

Strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis

Photo credit: Eng. Taleb Brahim 2008-04

Vegetable production in a family garden

UNICEF project

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis

by Willem Van Cotthem – University of Ghent (Belgium)

EXCERPT

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

Read the full article : European Tribune

and

https://containergardening.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/alleviating-food-crisis-with-small-gardens/