Container gardening for food production, combating desertification and gardening in urban areas

Here are some general ideas on CONTAINER GARDENING, more and more successful for food production in the drylands, for combating desertification and for growing plants in urban areas.

Unlimited possibilities

When the ability to garden is limited by different factors, like available space or drought in the drylands, then consider container gardening. The simple concept of growing plants in pots or even in plastic bottles or plastic shopping bags, offers a variety of ways to enjoy gardening and produce plants in the most difficult circumstances. All you are looking for is: some containers (see below), the right growing medium, the right choice of plants (seeds, seedlings or young plants) and a window, a balcony, a porch or an open area, preferably with a sunny and a shady part. In these mini-gardens one can easily control the type and condition of the soil and pest control is easier since one can isolate the infected plants.

2007-03 Decapitated bottle2007-03 Bottle with parsley2007-03 2 bottles2007-03 : 4 bottles
Container gardening in plastic bottles : (1) Top of bottle sits over hole in bottom of bottle, (2) Bottle filled with growing medium and parsley seedling planted, (3) Lettuce and cauliflower growing on a bottle, (4) Vegetables growing on bottles of different sizes.

Containers will offer the joy of growing plants in an area where traditional gardening is impossible, e.g. in desert-like areas. Even when space is limited, like in urban areas, one can grow plants anywhere: on a windowsill, a doorstep, a balcony, a stair or a patio, even a rooftop, in hanging baskets or in old buckets. They all can provide enough space for an attractive and even productive (e.g. for vegetables) display.

One can also grow different plant species in one single container in ecological relationships. Container gardening makes observation easy and, whenever necessary, containers can easily be moved around. They can be positioned as screens, serve as windbreaks, brighten a room or create shade.

A well-planned container garden can be attractive (ornamentals) as well as useful (vegetables, fruits, herbs), e.g. to produce fresh food in the drylands or to combat desertification.

2007-03 Bottle collection
Vegetable production in plastic bottles

Taking good care of it will result in a beautiful and functional display, but whenever deciding to give it a try: start small.

Smaller gardens result in lower costs. Initial costs for container gardening may be a bit higher, but once all the necessary materials are purchased, costs are extremely limited: less growing medium, less fertilizer, fewer plants.

Container gardening is only limited by lack of imagination.

Continue reading “Container gardening for food production, combating desertification and gardening in urban areas”

Co-compost in Agriculture (dgAlert / CIRUPA)

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Environment and Development on the Development Gateway

CIRUPA: Use of Co-compost in Irrigated and Rainfed Peri-Urban Agriculture Organisation – SANDEC EAWAG

The rapid increase of the urban population in developing countries and the challenge of urban food security paved the way to specialised agricultural systems in urban and peri-urban areas. Farmers now focus on the demand of urban markets and cultivate scarce open urban plots, generally close to water sources. As production is input and output-intensive, marginal tropical soils, normally allowing a production cycle of 2-3 seasons, are cultivated for 10-20 years. This can only be achieved through the combined use of organic and mineral fertilisers. Since the availability of manure may be limited, use of enriched co-compost, produced from the biological treatment of municipal solid waste and faecal sludge, is an option to mitigate the shortage of organic soil amendments.

Continue reading “Co-compost in Agriculture (dgAlert / CIRUPA)”

My comment to “Hunger and water burden”

In the former message, entitled “Hunger and water burden“, published by Wagdy SAWAHEL on April 13th on the SciDev.Net, the author mentions :

If developing countries are to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to eradicate hunger, cropland must continue to expand and massive amounts of additional water will be required for food production, according to a study. However, researchers say countries in savannah regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, could reduce their water requirement through better water policies and more efficient irrigation techniques“.

I want to confirm and repeat that the most logical and simplest way to reduce water requirements is to stock rain water where it belongs, namely in the rooting zone of the soil. It suffices to improve the water stocking capacity of the upper 20-30 cm of the soil by mixing to it a granular soil conditioner like TerraCottem.

Indeed, in these upper 30 cm most of the absorbant roots of the crops are present, so that stocking rain or irrigation water there for a longer period offers a lot of considerable advantages for agriculture/food production and plant growth in general.

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Hunger and water burden (SciDev.Net)

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La lutte contre la faim se confronte aux besoins en eau
Selon certains chercheurs, les pays en développement doivent accroître de façon massive leur fourniture en eau potable s’ils veulent atteindre l’Objectif de Développement du Millénaire de lutte contre la faim. [Texte complet en Anglais] 

UN hunger targets may increase water burden

Wagdy Sawahel
13 April 2007
Source: SciDev.Net

More water is needed for food production if the MDG is to be met

If developing countries are to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to eradicate hunger, cropland must continue to expand and massive amounts of additional water will be required for food production, according to a study.

However, researchers say countries in savannah regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, could reduce their water requirement through better water policies and more efficient irrigation techniques.

Continue reading “Hunger and water burden (SciDev.Net)”

Family garden in Aussert (1) – Jardin familial à Aussert (1) / UNICEF

UNICEF ALGERIA constructs family gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis (region of Tindouf – S.W. Algeria) to supplement the daily food with fresh vegetables and fruits. The gardens are treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioner. The first results are very promising. See my pictures of a garden in Aussert (april 2007), where the main problems are the lack of water and the strong Sahara desert winds.


UNICEF ALGERIE construit des jardins familiaux dans les camps des réfugies Sahrouis (région de Tindouf – S.W. Algérie) pour offrir un supplément en nourriture par des légumes frais et des fruits. Les jardins sont traites au conditionneur de sol TerraCottem. Les premiers résultats sont très prometteurs. Voir mes photos d’un jardin à Aussert (Avril 2007). Les plus grands problèmes sont le manque d’eau et les vents forts du désert Sahara.

2007-04 Aussert
2007-04 : Lady-owner of the garden, engineer Lamine and Mrs. H’lala, a representative of the Sahraouis Women’s Union in the garden / La propriétaire du jardin, l’ingénieur Lamine et une représentante de l’Union des Femmes Sahraouis dans le jardin

2007-04 Aussert
2007-04 : Red beetroot, some other vegetables and some barley / Betteraves rouges, quelques autres légumes et un peu d’orge

2007-04 Aussert
2007-04 : Some green peas / Des petits pois verts

2007-04 Aussert
2007-04 : Onions / Des oignons

2007-04 Aussert
2007-04 : In the little greenhouse some tomatoes and here and there watermelons, melons and courgettes: that’s what is making these people already a bit happier and less fatalistic / Dans la petite serre des tomates, ici et là des pastèques, des melons, des courgettes: cela rend déjà les gens un peu plus heureux et moins fatalistes.

Integrated soil management / Gestion intégrée de la fertilité des sols (NIGMA / ICRA)

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© ICRA: International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture
Centre International pour la Recherche Agricole orientée vers le développement

Field study Burkina Faso 2003 – Etude de terrain Burkina Faso 2003


Diffusion des stratégies de gestion intégrée de la fertilité des sols dans le ZoundwéogoHost Partner(s):

International Center for Soil Fertility Management and Agricultural Development – Africa Division (IFDC)

Other Partners/Stakeholders: Unité de Gestion de la Fertilité des Sols (UGFS), Programme de Développement Local du Zoundwéogo (PDL/Z)

Topic: Integrated soil fertility management

Location: Centre-South, Burkina Faso

ICRA Working Document Series number: 112

Background: IFDC’s Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) model in Burkina Faso aims at increasing productivity through agricultural intensification. is based on combining locally available amendments with chemical fertilisers. The programme is focused on maize, as there is a high market demand for this crop. However, IFDC experience shows that ISFM is a panacea for soil fertility problems and should not be rigidly applied. It needs to be adapted to local needs and opportunities for intensification. ICRA and IFDC have carried out 2 other joint studies in Togo. All aim at helping IFDC better focus its activities.

Objectives: Analyse the potential for adoption and diffusion of the Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) model in the Centre-South region of Burkina Faso. The perception of local farmers to ISFM will be determined as will the impact of ISFM on soil fertility and of introducing maize into the local farming system. Proposals will be developed to better link the diverse stakeholders involved with the management of soil fertility in the region.

Outputs: The study found that while farmers understood and were willing to try the ISFM model, adoption was low because of problems of access to both credit and fertilisers. It also illustrated that the assumption that increased income would result from increased maize production was false as little maize was marketed. Proposals for improved integration between stakeholders and to improve access to credit are made and should assist in the promotion of the model

Continue reading “Integrated soil management / Gestion intégrée de la fertilité des sols (NIGMA / ICRA)”

Agronomist’s garden in Smara (Algeria) / Jardin d’un agronome a Smara (Algérie)

Engineer Taleb BRAHIM is the focal point of UNICEF’s project in the refugee camps, situated in the Tindouf region (S.W. Algeria) in the Sahara desert. With this project UNICEF aims at constructing small family gardens for the Sahraouis refugees (people of the Western Sahara), in order to enable families to produce fresh food with vitamins and mineral elements during the autumn and spring seasons.

In his own family garden Taleb is experimenting with a large number of plant species to study their adaptation to the local climate and other environmental conditions. Applying the soil conditioner TerraCottem to stock the minimal available irrigation water in the upper zone of the soil, he is really booking many successes. Here are some pictures showing the excellent plant development in extremely difficult circumstances.


L’ingénieur Taleb BRAHIM est le point focal du projet d’UNICEF dans les camps des réfugiés, situés dans la région de Tindouf (S.W. Algérie) au désert du Sahara. Ce projet a pour objectif la construction de jardins de famille pour les réfugiés Sahraouis (population du Sahara Occidental), afin de permettre aux familles de produire de la nourriture fraîche avec des vitamines et des éléments minéraux pendant les saisons d’automne et de printemps.

Dans son jardin de famille a lui Taleb essaie de cultiver un grand nombre d’espèces de plantes pour étudier leur adaptation au climat local et les autres conditions environnementales. En appliquant le conditionneur de sol TerraCottem pour emmagasiner le minimum d’eau disponible dans la zone supérieure du sol, il a connu déjà beaucoup de réussite. Voici quelques images montrant le développement excellent des plantes dans des circonstances extrêmement difficiles.

2007-04 Smara P1000824
2007-04 : General view on the entrance of Smara / Vue générale sur l’entrée de Smara

2007-04 Smara P1000825
2007-04 : Part of Smara / Partie de Smara

2007-04 Smara P1000826
2007-04 : Small garden with different vegetables (drip irrigation every 3 days) / Petit jardin avec légumes différents.

2007-04 Smara P1000827
2007-04 : Vegetables and flowers / Légumes et fleurs

2007-04 Smara P1000828
2007-04 : Hylocereus, a cactus edible for animals / Hylocereus, un cactus comestible pour les animaux

2007-04 Smara P1000829
2007-04 : Mesembryanthemum, a succulent plant / Mesembryanthemum, une plante succulente

2007-04 Smara P1000830
2007-04 : Fig cuttings / Boutures de figuier

2007-04 Smara P1000831
2007-04 : Young plants protected by a windbreak / Jeunes plantes protégées par un coupe-vent

2007-04 Smara P1000832
2007-04 : Young Albizia tree / Jeune pied d’Albizia

2007-04 : A series of plants along the fence / Une série de plantes le long du grillage

2007-04 Smara P1000834
2007-04 : Nice plants under a Prosopis tree / Belles plantes sous un arbre Prosopis

2007-04 Smara P1000835
2007-04 : Cuttings of ivy in bottles and grape cuttings / Boutures de lierre dans les bouteilles et boutures de vignes

2007-04 Smara P1000837
2007-04 : One would never think that this is in the Sahara desert / On ne s’imaginerait pas que ceci se trouve dans le désert Sahara

2007-04 Smara P1000838
2007-04 : Mesembryanthemum and young watermelon plants / Mesembryanthemum et jeunes plantes de pastèques

2007-04 Smara P1000839
2007-04: Young watermelon, young Washingtonia palm and Mesembryanthemum / Jeune plante de pastèque, jeune palmier Washingtonia and Mesembryanthemum













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