25,000 die each day

Photo credit:

Community garden in Niou (Prov. Kourweogo, Burkina Faso) in 2009 – Project Committee Maastricht-Niou and TC-Dialogue Foundation (Belgium) started in 1988. – Soil conditioned with TC – Photo Willemien 2009 Niou Jardin Communautaire P2250398 copy 2.


Although success stories to alleviate hunger exist, 25,000 die each day – (bewing)

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

published at: https://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/03/31/469/

In Bewing http://bewing.wordpress.com/2007/03/28/25000-die-each-day/#comment-693:


“About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds, as you can see on this display. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.”

Senegal Toubacouta 2002-02
Senegal Toubacouta 2002-02

2002-02 : Toubacouta (Senegal) – Community garden for women in the Sahel region – Excellent production with only half of the normal quantity of irrigation water – Look at the dark, healthy, continuously moistened soil. –

Project TC-Dialogue with Philippe BEKAERT and Alain GOETGHEBUER (sponsors, Belgium) – Keur Bou Natte – Photo WVC 2002.

2003-03 Espargos-Pretoria-06 copy
2003-03 Espargos-Pretoria-06 copy.jpg

Project of TC-Dialogue Foundation – Evaluation mission 2003-03 with Etienne Van Steenberghe and Marc PIlle : Cabo Verde (Isla do Sal – Escola Pretoria) – Splendid school garden – Former schoolyard transformed into a “garden of Eden”, producing fresh vegetables for the lunches at school, thanks to the application of the TerraCottem (TC) soil conditioner. See the happy children ?  

Photo WVC 2003-03 Espargos-Pretoria-06 copy.jpg


P1000569 copy 1
P1000569 copy 1.jpg

UNICEF Project with TC-Dialogue Foundation 2005-2007: Saharawis refugee camp of Smara (S.W. Algeria) – Sahara desert sand transformed into a magnificent family garden (25 m2, sufficient to feed the family). Soil conditioner TerraCottem applied in october 2006; first vegetables (red beetroot and carrots) harvested in november 2006. For the first time all the family members can eat fresh vegetables from their own garden. –

Photo WVC P1000569 2007 Smara TV4.JPG.


Hunger and famine belong to the most shocking and disastrous phenomena on this world. We all get really touched when seeing hungry children, mostly in the drylands, where poverty of the rural people is one of the basic reasons for this plague.

Therefore, it is striking that very positive results, obtained since the nineties with creation of community gardens for women (Burkina Faso, Senegal), school gardens (Cabo Verde, Burkina Faso) or small family gardens (Algeria), do not seem to convince international or national authorities to invest seriously in these easy to duplicate “best practices” to alleviate hunger and poverty.

If local farmers, mostly women, can produce more crops with half of the normal volume of irrigation water, simply by applying one single time a soil conditioner, why don’t we invest more in the multiplication of vegetable gardens for villagers and school children?

Have a look at my blog <www.desertification.wordpress.com>, see what we have done with UNICEF ALGERIA for the creation of family gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis people in the Sahara desert, and you will be convinced that a nice solution for the hunger problem exists.

It suffices to apply it to break the downward spiral. I know that the rural population in the drylands lacks the money to buy enough food and being constantly malnourished, is becoming weaker and often sick. Fabulous amounts of money have been and are continuously spent on very diverse, ambitious, but sometimes non-sustainable programmes and projects. What if we would invest in the creation of kitchen gardens and school gardens, offering the rural people and their children a nice opportunity to produce their own food, even within a period of 2-3 months? Production of fresh food, full of vitamins and mineral elements, makes them increasingly more able to work, which then makes them even less hungry and a bit wealthier (possibility to bring vegetables to the local market).

I see no easier and better way to create an upward spiral. And remember, seeing is believing. That’s what the Saharawis have been telling us after registering the first successes with their new gardens and trees in the Algerian Sahara desert.  Why only here, in the most difficult circumstances ?  Why not in all the drylands ?

The day will come …



Arganiers en Algérie – Argan trees in Algeria

Photo WVC 2007-04 Oued Elmaa Argan P1010148 copy.jpg

An argan wood in Algeria

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

Please read this article at:


Originally published at:


Family gardens in the Algerian Sahara desert

Photo credit: Willem Van Cotthem


One of the family gardens in Smara refugee camp

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



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


The Great Green Wall in Algeria

Photo credit: Planet@risk

Localization of the Green Dam in Algeria

The Green Dam in Algeria as a tool to combat desertification

by SAIFI, Merdas, BOULGHOBRA, Nouar, FATTOUM, Lakhdari

Abstract — Desertification is a major risk that threatens the arid and semi arid regions throughout the globe. With continued population growth, desertification exacerbates while natural areas regress as a result of rapid urbanization, increase of cultivated land areas, overgrazing, and deforestation. This adds to the effects of climate change.

Green Dam reforestation with Aleppo pine in the locality of El Hamel. - https://planet-risk.org/index.php/pr/article/viewFile/171/319/1412
Green Dam reforestation with Aleppo pine in the locality of El Hamel. – https://planet-risk.org/index.php/pr/article/viewFile/171/319/1412

Algeria as many countries is not safe from this risk. Indeed, agronomists and ecologists report that Alfa grass cover has reduced while the quality of the grasslands itself is becoming increasingly degraded. To tackle this serious risk, the Algerian authorities developed the Green Dam project as a massive reforestation program aiming to safeguard and to develop of the pre-Saharan areas.

Read the full article: Planet&risk


The link between desertification and climate change

Photo credit: Google

An olive grove in the Mascara Region, Algeria (Photo UNEP)

Algeria: IPCC Adopts Algeria’s Proposal On Desertification, Climate Change

Algeria’s proposal on the elaboration of a special report on the link between desertification and climate change have been recently accepted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The announcement of accepting Algeria’s proposal was made in the meeting of the 41st session of IPCC held from 24 to 27 February at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi (Kenya).

This proposal was supported by several countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Mali, Chad, Switzerland and Spain.

Read the full article: allAfrica


The Algerian green days

Photo credit: Willem Van Cotthem – WVC 2007

Argan (Argania spinosa) trees in S.W. Algeria

Algeria: Environment – Associations Launch 10,000 Tree Planting Program

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers)


The Algerian green days, a tree planting operation on the Corniche of Ain Benian, west of Algiers, was launched Saturday by the associations Nass El Kheir and El Wafa for planting 10,000 shrubs nationwide.

The president of the Association El Wafa, Maamar Birouk, told APS that this operation, which was coordinated with Algiers Agriculture Directorate aims at planting 200 shrubs in five places located near the beach of El Djamila, while similar operations will concern other parts of the town of Ain Benian.

Read the full article: allAfrica



Algerian dams close to full

Photo credit: Google

Water Quality Improvement Project, Tichi-Haf Dam, Algeria

Algeria: Country’s Dams 80 Percent Full


The filling rate of Algeria’s 65 dams has exceeded 80 percent, the highest rate ever reached during the first week of February since the independence, said Thursday the Ministry of Water Resources.

Echorouk Online - 65 Dams to Provide 77.08% of Water for Algerians in this Summer - http://static.echoroukonline.com/ara/files/2012_barrage_eau_489213782_405790754.jpg
Echorouk Online – 65 Dams to Provide 77.08% of Water for Algerians in this Summer – http://static.echoroukonline.com/ara/files/2012_barrage_eau_489213782_405790754.jpg

The additional water inflow, following the heavy rainfall in the north of the country from 1 to 8 February, exceeded 855 million cubic metres, bringing up the filling rate of dams nationwide to 80.04%, “a record level since the independence during this period of the year,” said the source.

Eighteen dams are 100 percent full, while about thirty others are 95 percent full, the source added.

Read the full article: allAfrica