Community garden (Horticulture) in Burkina Faso

Together with my team of the University of Ghent and in cooperation with the Dutch Committee Maastricht-Niou, I have set up different development projects in Burkina Faso since 1988. Reforestation and creation of community gardens for women have been the main topics (see other postings).

In 1997, we started the application of the soil conditioner TerraCottem (TC), as a project of the Belgian TC-DIALOGUE Foundation (see the website http://www.tcdialogue.be). In the community garden for women of the village of Niou (Kourweogo Province, Burkina Faso), some 2500 square meter of the vegetable garden were treated with that water saving soil conditioner. A smaller part of the garden remained untreated (control plot).

Capacity building
1997-07 Capacity building in the garden : members of the local women’s association Gueswende got information about TC-application and its role (Photo Monique Van Endert 1997)

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Successful reforestation in Burkina Faso

In 1988, I was invited by the Dutch Committee Maastricht-Niou to carry out a reforestation project with my team of the University of Ghent (Belgium) in the village of Niou (Kourweogo Province, Burkina Faso). I will describe the success of that project later. Today, attention is paid to a similar reforestation project, set up in 1988 together with the Canadian Cooperation in Arbolle (Passoré Province, Burkina Faso).

It was decided to plant seedlings of a number of tree species with different dosages of TerraCottem soil conditioner (TC) on a clayey soil, completely barren in 1988 due to heavy deforestation by the local villagers during the preceeding years.

Start project
Hard clayey field completely denuded, due to firewood collection

First, plant pits were created and the excavated soil was mixed with different dosages of TC to study the optimal dosage under these local conditions. Some plant pits functioned as control plots (no TC was added to the local soil).

1988-07 Participation of local people in plant pit preparation
1988-07 Participation of local people in plant pit preparation

At the start of the project in July 1988, the young saplings were 40-50 cm high on average. Thanks to some good rains during the rainy season (June-October), the hydrogels of the TC soil conditioner could stock a large quantity of water and they delivered this water gradually to the growing young trees during the 8 months long dry season. Thereby, the saplings continued their growth without any need for irrigation.

In December 1988, six months after planting, the growth of the individual trees was measured to compare growth differences due to a difference in TC-dosage.

Measuring growth
1988-12 Measuring growth of individual trees

Very soon, it became quite clear that TC had an interesting positive effect on tree growth. A dosage of 100 g of TC per plant pit showed to be close to optimal in these conditions. Due to our activities on the field, the soil was scarified by trampling and seeds of grasses and other weeds germinated and developed into a sparse vegetation cover.

Young acacias
1988-12 Young trees already show differences in outgrowth

Acacia nilotica saplings developed remarkably well, in particular with the optimal dosage of 100 g TC per plant pit.

Acacia nilotica
Acacia nilotica saplings continued to grow in the dry season without any irrigation

In April 1989, we returned to the project to carry out new measurements. What a splendid view it was ! Almost all trees, except the control ones (without TC in the soil), were still brightly green with developing young leaves, a very exceptional situation during the dry season. Some saplings had disappeared, not because of the drought, but destroyed by locusts and termites.

tree growth
1989-04 Green saplings in the dry season

In July 1990, two years after the start of the project, the original barren field was already transformed into a green area. Young trees were developing, accordingly to the dosage of TC in the plant pit. Another interesting aspect was the development of different species of weeds around the individual trees. Indeed, seeds of these weeds were blown in by the wind and those falling on the plant pit surface found relatively humid conditions in which they could germinate and grow (see green disks around the trees).

Young wood
1990-07 Two years after plantation, the young trees were developing splendidly without any supplementary irrigation or fertilization

Some of the Acacia nilotica trees already had exceptional dimensions. It was almost unbelievable that these trees had grown to a height of more than 2 meters without any additional treatment. The only thing we did, was to plant the seedlings in July 1988 with a certain dosage of TC and let the rain make the TC functioning as a reservoir of water and nutrients. Such a growth was never seen before in these circumstances.

Acacia nilotica
1990-07 I was so happy seeing these fantastic two years old trees

The general aspect of the plantation was changing gradually. Not only the young trees were continuously growing all year long, but the originally barren soil became slowly covered with grasses and other weeds. This “nature restoration” was an important secondary effect of the soil conditioning with TC.

Acacias growing
1990-07 Quickly changing general outlook of the plantation

In July 1994, six years after the start of the project, a splendid young wood was formed. Tree canopies were closing and the vegetation cover on the surface was also closing more and more. Of course, the flowering plants started to attrack numerous animal species : insects, birds, mice, squirrels etc. Biodiversity enhanced significantly.

Wood 01
1994-07 Splendid young wood in 6 years time

In 1998, 10 years after plantation, nothing can be seen anymore of the original barren area : a remarkable success was booked with this reforestation project. Trees were already several meters high and the vegetation on the surface became very dense.

Wood 10 years
1998-12 Remarkable success of the reforestation project

It is nice to know that since 1998 the same successes were booked with TC-reforestation projects in many other countries.

Here is an important comment on my article:

Martin H. Staplesays:March 20, 2007 at 20:00 

Stumbled across this page entirely by chance this evening (20.03.2007) while searching for something else – what a brilliant project! What has the response of the local people and the authorities been? Have there been no problems with people foraging for firewood, or with grazing goats etc.?
Success stories like this deserve to be made much more well-known.

Testing TerraCottem (TC) at the Ministry of Forestry in Beijing 1999 (P.R.China)

Since 1995, the soil conditioner TerraCottem (TC) has been tested intensively in many locations in the P.R. China. It was successfully used for reforestation, horticulture, agriculture, landscaping, sports turf and some other specific applications, like growing flowering plants in containers and pots.

Map
Tests with our soil conditioner TerraCottem (TC) located on the map of China (1999)

A nice test case was the one at the Ministry of Forestry (Hepingli Dongjie, Beijing) were magnificent lawns were installed in front of the main entrance.

Lawns 02
Beautiful lawns in front of the Ministry of Forestry

These are brilliantly green for the major part of the year and there is no need for intensive irrigation in the hottest and driest periods, thanks to the water and fertilizer stocking soil conditioner TC mixed with the substrate at a rate of 100 g TC per square meter.

Lawns 01
Perfect landscaping with TerraCottem soil conditioner (TC)

Years after the installation of these lawns in the city center of Beijing, the overall landscaping effect of these lawns is still perfect. Technicians confirm the important water and fertilizer saving role of the TC, even after many years.

Growing conifer seedlings in Spain

I already reported on an interesting experiment on growing tree seedlings, set up in Zanona (Cadiz/Andalucia/Spain). You may find this message in the November 2006 postings under Archives.

In May 1995, we showed the effect of the soil conditioner TerraCottem (TC) on seedlings of conifers. Seedlings were acquired in a nursery. Half of them were kept as control plants, the other half were treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioner (TC) at a dosage of 5 g TC per kg of potting soil. All plants got the same small volume of water at the same moment, so that a certain hydric stress was created for the seedlings under very dry conditions in this area of Southern Spain.

Six weeks later the dimensions of the seedlings were compared : length of the stem, length and volume of the root system.

Growing conifer seedlings in Spain


Already after a few weeks, a remarkable difference is observed between the TC-treated seedlings (left) and the control ones (right)

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Success with TC in Australia

When preparing for the Olympic Games in 2000, the authorities of the City of Sydney decided to create a dramatic change in certain parts of the city by introducing spectacular plantations of trees, shrubs and flowering plants. To name only two wellknown areas in the city center that turned completely green in a very short period : Cockle Bay Wharf and Darling Harbour. The secret for this fantastic success : the use of TerraCottem soil conditioner (TC) in the containers at the waterside of Cockle Bay Wharf and on the roof top of Darling Harbour, where a huge hanging garden was created.

Cockle Bay Wharf became green in some weeks
Cockle Bay Wharf became green in some weeks before the Olympic games

TerraCottem soil conditioner was applied to solve the problems of regular watering of the containers with trees, shrubs and ornamental plants, used to embellish the waterfront at Cockle Bay. The potting soil in the containers was mixed with TC at a dosage of 5 g TC per kg of substrate. As TC stocks water and nutrients, it limits the need for regular irrigation in a significant way. As it also stimulates root growth and microbiological activities in the substrate, it improves plant growth in a spectacular way, whilst reducing water and fertilizer consumption.

Darling Harbour
Rooftop garden at Darling Harbour, divided into the five continents.

For the same need of limiting the volume of irrigation water and fertilizers, the City of Sydney decided to mix TC soil conditioner with the substrate on the rooftop (also less weight !). A number of weeks after planting and seeding with typical species of the 5 continents, this rooftop garden became a splendid success. It is visited every year by tenthousands of visitors.

A birdseye view on Darling Harbour rooftop garden
A birdseye view on Darling Harbour rooftop garden

These two success stories with TerraCottem soil conditioner in landscaping projects of a city like Sydney show that TC can be used in extreme conditions for saving water and fertilizer. What was realized within the “concrete desert” of this city, can also be achieved in other cities of the world and in all desertlike areas of the drylands.

Greening of a rooftop or an avenue is submitted to the same irrigation problems as a reforestation project or a vegetable garden in the drylands. TC can be used as an effective tool in the combat of desertification.

Success with TC in Algeria

Young Prosopis TC-treated
Just reaching to our knees ! : Young Prosopis treated with TC in presence of the Minister of Public Health of the R.A.S.D. (center) and the Representative of Unicef Algeria, Mr. Raymond Janssens (right).

In 2005, Unicef Algeria invited me as a scientific consultant to study possible improvement of the living conditions in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis people in Southern Algeria (Sahara desert), looking for ways to enhance local food production. The main objective was to look for new possibilities to grow vegetables in small family gardens in the refugee camps in the desert with a minimum of brackish water, taken from the subsoil.

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Success story with Opuntia in Brasil

Opuntia plantation
Nice Opuntia plantation, excellent yield in a short period

Planting spineless varieties of Opuntia can be very rewarding, not only to combat desertification, but also to produce fodder for animals. These varieties are growing quickly with a minimum of water in the drylands, like the ones in the very dry Nordeste of Brasil (see pictures).

Rows of Opuntia
Rows of cacti contribute to limit soil erosion

Cacti normally have a wide appeal to growers of ornamental plants, but they have only few economic uses. However, many cacti produce edible fleshy fruits (raw, jam, syrup). Some species are used in living hedges or even for furniture. Commercial plantations of the “prickly pear” Opuntia are found in Brasil, Mexico and California.

Rows 2
Rows on the contour lines

The disk- or racketlike, superposed parts of the Opuntia stems can be used as fodder. Goats, sheep and cows eat the fresh disks, cut into slices. One can also have the sliced disks sundried, grinded to flour and mixed with a bit of water for animal consumption.

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Success story with TC in Spain

An interesting experiment

In May 1995 an experiment was set up in Zanona (Cadiz/Andalusia/Spain) to show the effect of the soil conditioner TerraCottem (TC) on seedlings of conifers.

A number of seedlings was acquired in a nearby nursery. Half of them were kept as control plants, the other half were treated with TerraCottem soil conditioner (see http://www.terracottem.com) at a dosage of 5 g TC per kg of potting soil. All plants were watered in the same way (all the same day, all the same small volume of water to create a certain hydric stress for the seedlings under very dry conditions in the area).

Success story with TC in Spain
Comparison of TC-treated conifer seedling (left) with control one (right).

Continue reading “Success story with TC in Spain”

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