Women and children first at the table

 

Photo credit: WVC 2005-12-DRARIA WOMEN-41.jpg – with Gérard RUOT (SOS Village d’Enfants Draria, Algeria), Raymond JANSSENS (Representative of UNICEF ALGERIA) and Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)

Within the framework of UNICEF’s project “Family gardens for the Saharawis refugees in S.W. Algeria” in 2005-2007, a workshop was organized in December 2005 to prepare a group of  women for the construction of their own kitchen garden in the Sahara desert and in the Village d’Enfants of Draria..  They learned how to apply the water saving and fertilizer saving soil conditioner TerraCottem (www.terracottem.com).  With some 2000 small family gardens in the Tindouf area (Algeria) constructed at the end of 2007, UNICEF’s project was a remarkable success.

About brown and green food revolutions, grasses and food crops

by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (University of Ghent, Belgium)

If the lives of a group of people are at stake, “Women and children first” implies that the lives of women and children are to be saved first. If the lives of hungry and malnourished people are at stake, those of women and children are to be taken care of first.  That was one of my thoughts after reading Shannon Horst’s article entitled: “Africa needs a brown (not green) food revolution” in The Christian Science Monitor on July 6, 2010 :

Africa’s long-term food security will come from nurturing the soil, not manipulating expensive seeds

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0706/Africa-needs-a-brown-not-green-food-revolution

First of all I want to confirm that I agree with most, but not all, of Shannon’s excellent points.  One of my remarks is that some of her views are too generalized:  

  • I do not believe that all Western initiatives to help Africa risk to cause more damage to that continent.  Not all these initiatives are ‘grounded in manipulating seeds and increasing synthetic fertilizers to improve production’.  
  • It is my sincere conviction that nowadays not all the aid groups ‘put more money, more science, or more business savvy behind the same old approach’.  If this were the case, it would mean that ‘all scientists are looking in the wrong direction’.  If Shannon Horst is a scientist herself, she certainly feels accused as much as I am by that statement.
  • Not all the scientists ‘are focusing on how to grow bigger, more, and disease- and pest-resistant plants’.
  • Not all the scientists ‘focus on how to manipulate the plants rather than how to produce both healthy plants and healthy soil’.

I therefore take for granted that Shannon Horst is aware of the content of my contributions on three of our blogs:

  1. http://desertification.wordpress.com,
  2. http://containergardening.wordpress.com and
  3. http://www.seedsforfoood.org.

p5120032-sos-042006-jard-fa
Women and children preparing their kitchen gardens in Draria (Algiers) at the local “SOS Village d’Enfants”- PHOTO Gérard RUOT – P5120032-SOS-042006-JARD.FA.jpg

While manipulating seeds and increasing application of synthetic fertilizers to enhance plant production can be qualified as ‘looking in the wrong direction’, these two points do not cover fully the content of what is called the Second Green Revolution.  There are no strong arguments to sustain the idea that the totality of this agro-industrial model ‘would further destroy Africa’s soil and water in the long run and exacerbate the problems: food insecurity, bare land, soil erosion, increased drought and then flooding when the rains finally do come; increased pests and invasive plants; and the collapse of the river systems and groundwater stores’.

Even at an overripe apple there may still be some tasty pieces!  

So, let us not blame all the ‘Western’ scientists to be part of what Shannon is seeing as some destructive machinery, called the Second Green Revolution, described as exclusively using technologies to boost farm yields.

Very fortunately, we all know numerous people, men and women, scientists, aid workers, members of international, national and non-governmental organizations, who are not looking in the wrong direction.  They are working continuously hand-in-hand with the rural and urban population on the African continent, like on all the other continents.  By the way, we certainly know many respected scientists, whose research work has been contributing or still contributes to the improvement of the living standards of the poorest human beings.  Many of them developed excellent and constructive methods or models, successful practices and inputs, applied in all kinds of development programs for the welfare of farmers and townspeople.

Grassland or farmland, or both?

Grasslands are dominated by grasses. Grassland with scattered individual trees is called savanna.

Savannas cover almost half the surface of Africa (not 70 %). They are characteristic for warm or hot climates with an annual rainfall from about 50 to 125 cm (20-50 inches), concentrated in 6 or 8 months of the year, followed by a dry period when fires can occur. The soil of a savanna is porous, rapidly draining water. It has only a thin layer of humus, which makes them inappropriate for agriculture.

Farmers sometimes cut down small parts of forests, burn the trees, and plant crops for as long as the soil remains fertile. When the field is abandoned a couple of years later, grasses take over and a savanna can be formed.

Elephants can convert woodland into grassland in a short period of time. Shannon Horst is right in saying that ‘Africa’s once vast, healthy savannas were produced by the hoofs and manure of vast herds of grazing animals and pack-hunting predators’.

Some activities are seen as environmental concerns regarding savannas: poaching, overgrazing and clearing of the land for crops. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that people aiming at a Second Green Revolution would ever plan to turn all those grasslands (half of Africa!) into crop fields, risking the creation of another Dust Bowl or the collapse of all the grasslands.

As savannas are covering half of the African continent, the rural populations of these savannas are indeed ‘pastoralists or agropastoralists who do not farm’, although many of them do have a small garden.  Do we really suspect the international organizations or the big agri-business to plan the transformation of these pastoralists into farmers?

If half of the rural populations of Africa are pastoralists, the other half must be farmers. If half of the continent is covered with savannas, the other half of Africa’s landscape must be farmland in tropical or temperate climate, humid, semi-humid, arid or semi-arid climate zones.

I can’t believe that neither ‘Millions have already been spent by US and European aid organizations throughout Africa on unsuccessful farming programs’, nor that ‘these approaches to increasing food security focus on production without considering the social, economic, and biological consequences’.

To the best of my knowledge, many successful programs and projects with contributions of numerous famous international scientists, with expertise in their different disciplines and belonging to highly qualified institutes, have been set up in collaboration with the very best national experts, to improve agricultural and horticultural practices in almost every African country.  It is not even thinkable that all these programs merit the qualification ‘destructive’.

On the other hand, I gladly take Shannon’s point on the interesting aspects of Allan Savory’s work on the role of livestock for animal husbandry. My high esteem and appreciation go to his remarkable findings.

However, I must admit that I have a lot of difficulties to understand how Savory’s findings on

‘educating local people in practices that blend some older pastoral knowledge and techniques of animal herding with new understanding of how grazing animals, soils, plants, and organisms coevolved and function in a healthy state’ are applicable on Africa’s 50 % of farmland, an ‘ecosystem’ that is so completely different from grassland that the two impossibly can be compared.

Finally, I want to congratulate Shannon for her closing remark:

‘Does this mean we should not support technological innovation? Of course not.

But what we must do is find and support those technologies that not only solve a problem or achieve an objective, but also maintain or enhance the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.

If we accept that farmland and grassland are two different entities, with their own intrinsic finality, having a natural tendency to pursue their own good, one should treat them differently according to the traditional (local) knowledge.  That knowledge can be optimized by combining it with modern technologies, aiming not only at improving the live of ALL the rural people, farmers and herders, but also that of the urban people, who will participate in the success of a revolution, be it a brown or a green one, ‘enhancing the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.

Honestly, considering all this, I strongly believe that one should first improve the live of women and children in Africa.  Women deserve it to get a better live, because they play a key role in the ‘social, financial, and biological fabric’.  Children deserve it, because they carry the future of a continent in themselves.  Therefore, child malnutrition is a real shame.

The most important challenge for Africa is to improve food security, both on farmland and on grassland.  I am convinced that container gardening will play an important role in the achievement of that food security goal.  All over this beautiful continent women and children should sit first at the table and their daily fresh food on that table will undeniably come from their own kitchen garden and/or school garden, if only we really want to change nutrition as rapidly as the climate.

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

This text has already been posted on my desertification blog in 2010:

https://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/women-and-children-first-willem-van-cotthem/

It got 3 comments and was edited today.

 

THREE COMMENTS in 2010

(1) Carole Gonzalez:

Wow, that is interesting. My “yes – but” – is that growing food plants in containers in villages is an adjunct to improving the grasslands.  There is much to be said for a paleo diet.  I am diabetic and must follow it to be healthy. Some but not much fruit, mostly green vegetables and meat must compose my diet.  I am looking to send Patrick Harry in Malawi some seeds of trees that grow well under arid circumstances and produce fruit without much or any care.

(2) Frank Ziddah:

“Tons of “super” seeds of rice, maize, cassava and other local staples in various parts of Africa are made available by international development agencies every now and then. The problem with their programmes is that those agencies and their regional or local partners fail to effectively market and convince farmers [mostly educated] to make the switch. Hence, a year or so later adoption and usage rates are not surprisingly [very] low. In short, their efforts fail. Going forward I would suggest a 2-prong approach: better soils + better seeds. “

Frank Ziddah: Having read the post at Scribd, I must agree to your concluding remarks “the most important challenge for Africa is to improve food security,” using solutions suited to Africa’s soil and ecosystem.

(3) Tony Simeone: Very informative exchange that clearly articulates your interest and philosophy on land use – AND recipients of benefits.

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

See also:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RPjvNMtE8Q7TH6w3WgnMlRa4AVEEtzg8NpNdLBz_u5s/edit?usp=sharing

 

Time to teach them how to grow their own fresh food instead of keeping them dependent on food aid.

 

COMMENTS OF Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University-Belgium) ON

Nearly 385 million children live in extreme poverty – UNICEF

http://citifmonline.com/2016/10/08/nearly-385-million-children-live-in-extreme-poverty-unicef/

Today I read this interesting article on UNICEF’s alarming message about child poverty, in which I find :

“The report dubbed: “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Children revealed that in 2013, 19.5 per cent of children in developing countries were living in households that survived on an average of $1.90 a day or less per person, compared to just 9.2 per cent of adults.

It said globally, almost 385 million children are living in extreme poverty.

According to the report, children are disproportionately affected, as they make up around a third of the population studied.

…………………….

UNICEF and the World Bank Group are calling on governments to routinely measure child poverty at the national and sub-national levels and focus on children in national poverty reduction plans as part of efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030.”

Source: GNA”.

download19
Children are more than twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty, according to a new analysis from the World Bank Group and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF). – http://citifmonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/download19.jpg

As a header of this remarkable text we find this scaring picture above, showing anxious children keeping up an empty plate: NOTHING TO EAT AND QUEUING FOR SOME FOOD.

Once again it shows that there is an urgent need to teach all schoolchildren in developing countries how to grow fresh food at home and at school (e.g. in a schoolgarden).

Of course, a lot of them need an urgent supply of nutritive meals.  That means that emergency programs are acceptable and very useful.

But it is not by sending loads of nutritive cookies (or other healthy meals) that one will change a single thing at this disastrous situation.  Yes, we will save starving children, but the 350 million children living in extreme poverty need more than a food aid meal a day.

We urgently have to change our food aid strategies to make them sustainable (see the new goals):

(1) Keep on going with emergency actions where needed;

(2) Set up educative programs to teach the children successful methods and simple techniques to grow their own daily rations of vitamins, micronutrients and mineral elements (fresh edible crops).

Impossible to believe that people concerned would not know a thing about the existence of these essential methods and techniques.  Since years they are fully described and illustrated.  It suffices to check some data (photos, texts, videos) on the internet, e.g. https://www.facebook.com/groups/221343224576801/.

Let us never forget that UNICEF itself has set up in 2005 a very successful program, called “Family Gardens for the Saharawis refugees in the S.W. of Algeria“, that unfortunately was stopped at the end of 2007 after showing that even in the Sahara desert families were (still are !) able to grow vegetables and herbs in their own garden.  The French would say: “Il faut le faire !”.

We keep looking forward for the global application of such a fresh food production program, using these basic, simple ways of growing food at home and at school.  That would be the real, sustainable food aid. “Il faut le vouloir !“.

How to address the root causes of food insecurity and child malnutrition ?

Photo credit: MSF (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Mothers feed their children therapeutic food at MSF’s outpatient therapeutic feeding center in Bokoro, Chad, where MSF teams are responding to a fourth malnutrition crisis in five years.

Is the food crisis for children still unfolding ?

By Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

University of Ghent – Belgium

Drought and Desertification Consultant

http://desertification.wordpress.com

In December 2011, I posted some comments on a publication entitled “UNICEF CHIEF URGES ACTION TO STOP UNFOLDING CRISIS FOR CHILDREN IN THE SAHEL” (https://desertification.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/unicef-chief-urges-action-to-stop-unfolding-crisis-for-children-in-the-sahel-un-news/)

Today, I wonder if any changes in that situation have been registered.  Please read my former comments and today’s conclusions.

Which way would you go to stop an unfolding food crisis for children?

1997-12-02-General view 02 of a community garden in Niou (Burkina Faso) - (Photo WVC).
1997-12-02-General view 02 of a community garden in Niou (Burkina Faso) – (Photo WVC).

A food crisis can be stopped in different ways : with therapeutic food or with locally produced food. The former should certainly be used in cases of acute malnutrition, the latter needs to be more sustainable, e.g. by installing family gardens and school gardens. One can choose between expensive, curing emergency situations that don’t offer a sustainable solution and the much cheaper production of fresh food by the local people themselves.  What would you choose?

In the publication mentioned above, 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 on “each child has the right to survive, to thrive and to contribute to their societies.

Indeed, “we must not fail them”!

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?

2007 - One of the family gardens in a refugee camp in S. W. Algeria (Photo WVC)
2007 – One of the family gardens in a refugee camp in S. W. Algeria (Photo WVC)

One may doubt about the feasibility of such a programme, but knowing that UNICEF itself was very successful with its own “Family gardens project for the Sahrawis families in the Sahara desert of Algeria“ (2005-2007), there can’t be any doubt anymore.  If family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens can be productive in the Algerian desert, they can certainly be in the Sahel, where a better rainfall offers more chances to use the minimum of water needed (see the well-known best practices).

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 malnourished children.

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

1998-02-A school garden in Niamey (Niger) - (Photo WVC).
1998-02-A school garden in Niamey (Niger) – (Photo WVC).

In the drylands, there are already lots of successful small gardens.  One has the necessary knowledge and technical skills to duplicate these “best practices” wherever we want, even in the desert (see Algeria).  Who would still hesitate to take initiatives to gradually “submerge” the Sahel with small family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens?  And let us not forget the successes booked at the global level with container and vertical gardening.

If there is “a pipeline to be filled”, it should not be filled with food, but with the necessary materials to create small kitchen gardens galore.

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

Do we still have to confirm that we admire the nice work of UNICEF for children in real need? But, you Madame, you Sir, which way would you go?

——————-

Since the year 2011, a series of initiatives has been taken to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel.  However, the food and nutrition situation is not significantly improved.

In March 2012, the World Food Programme published the article “The Malnutrition Threat in the Sahel(https://www.wfp.org/stories/nutrition-sahel-hunger-crisis-qa),

in which we read: “Recurrent food crises over the past decade have coincided with periods of widespread malnutrition among children. It’s a region where, even in non-emergency years, diets are undiversified and children often don’t receive necessary nutrients.”

In July 2012, we read an article of the Doctors without Borders (MSF): “Malnutrition in the Sahel: One million children treated, but what’s next ?(http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/field-news/malnutrition-sahel-one-million-children-treated-whats-next), in which MSF nutrition experts Susan Shepherd and Stéphane Doyon discussed the need for long-term solutions to malnutrition in Africa’s Sahel region.

We notice that:

  1. One million severely malnourished children will be treated this year (2012)  in the countries of the Sahel, according to UNICEF. Every year, the region faces a hunger gap between June and October, depending on the country, a time period between the depletion of the previous year’s food stocks and the next harvest. Malnutrition rates always hover near warning level in this mostly desert region, but during the hunger gap, the number of cases spikes and hundreds of thousands of children become at risk of death. “
  • “One million children suffering from severe malnutrition will be treated this year by governments and aid organizations across the Sahel. How should we interpret this number? *Susan Shepherd: It’s both a failure and a success. The failure is that each year, countries within the Sahel will face recurrent, large-scale nutritional crises that are growing even worse in some countries. One million malnourished children—that’s an enormous figure. But the most important take away from this year is how all of the aid actors—governments, United Nations agencies, and NGOs—have managed the crisis. Because of this, the major success is that for the first time, one million malnourished children will be treated in the Sahel, and the vast majority of these one million children will recover.”
  • How can we break the cycle? * Stéphane Doyon: Today, the management of this nutritional crisis is done in emergency mode. When we speak of an emergency, we are mostly referring to humanitarian interventions. This is where we run into one of the major challenges to enacting true change: for governments, these models of humanitarian action are difficult to repeat and to sustain over the long term. Therefore, we have to break out of this emergency response model and start developing a longer-term approach. Another challenge lies in understanding what exactly malnutrition is: a medical problem, related to a lack of food that satisfies the particular needs of children. Countries which have successfully addressed the problem of childhood malnutrition include nutrition in health systems. Long-term solutions should therefore include medical responses; development, agriculture and treatment of malnutrition are all complementary.

Today, one can rightly ask: Where are those long-term solutions including development, agriculture and treatment of malnutrition ?  Is agriculture, including kitchen gardens and school gardens, really seen as a complementary component in the combat of malnutrition?

In May 2015, we read the Echo Factsheet “Sahel: Food and Nutrition Crisis” of the European Commission (Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) – (http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/sahel_en.pdf):

Key messages  

The Sahel continues to face a food and nutrition crisis which is compounded by the erosion of people’s resilience due to the quick succession of the crises, the absence of social services on and the ramifications of conflicts in the region.  

As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.7 million extremely food insecure people and 580 000 severely malnourished children in 2014.  

The food and nutrition prospects for 2015 have not significantly improved. The past year has seen average harvests and food prices remain high. ……………….

Emergency needs in the Sahel will persist unless the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition are addressed and the resilience of the poorest people is strengthened. ……………..”

It becomes clear that food aid and nutritional programmes are necessary to tackle the emergent needs, but do not address the root causes.

If “in a region where, even in non-emergency years, diets are undiversified and children often don’t receive necessary nutrients” (WFP), we are tempted to think that creation of family gardens and school gardens will be a strong tool to address these root causes of food insecurity and child malnutrition.  If families and schools, and why not the hospitals, grow their own fresh food, using existing, successful techniques to limit irrigation water consumption, the malnourished people would get their daily ration of diversified healthy food, full of minerals and vitamins.

Let us imagine for a moment that the decision-makers can convince all the key players in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition to reach hands to enact a true change by combining the traditional programmes of offering nutritious rations to supplement the normal diet with a programme of offering ways and means to install a kitchen garden for every family, for every school, for every hospital.

Wouldn’t that be a long-term solution that tackles the root causes, a “break out of this emergency response model and start developing a longer-term approach.”?  

We believe it is !

How one can combat hunger and malnutrition in the desert

Photo credit: Martin Dewhurst

Engineer Taleb Brahim in one of the food producing gardens in the Sahrawi camps (Algeria)

Family gardens in refugee camps in the Sahara desert (S.W. Algeria)

Messages and photos published by Martin DEWHURST (UK) on Facebook

Small scale food production in the Sahrawi refugee camps, south west Algeria. In the July the average daytime temperature is 45°C.  - Photo Philip Hittepole - https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpt1/v/t1.0-9/12112271_10153723290555844_4717751630392217978_n.jpg?oh=f47b818591fef4afc2d5528b2f87d4d2&oe=5695D8DE
Small scale food production in the Sahrawi refugee camps, south west Algeria. In  July the average daytime temperature is 45°C. – Photo Philip Hittepole – https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpt1/v/t1.0-9/12112271_10153723290555844_4717751630392217978_n.jpg?oh=f47b818591fef4afc2d5528b2f87d4d2&oe=5695D8DE

There are a number of remarkable things about these gardens … where they are in the Sahara desert, the dedication involved in establishing the gardens, the lack of available resources, the difference the fresh food makes to families living with a constant threat of malnourishment.

Localised Food Growing in the Sahrawi refugee camps, South West Algeria. - Photo Philip Hittepole - https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xta1/v/t1.0-9/12122404_10153708485495844_807527384646669399_n.jpg?oh=06e8b65409137b33eb7f9c73d61c45ee&oe=568576D3
Localised Food Growing in the Sahrawi refugee camps, South West Algeria. – Photo Philip Hittepole – https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xta1/v/t1.0-9/12122404_10153708485495844_807527384646669399_n.jpg?oh=06e8b65409137b33eb7f9c73d61c45ee&oe=568576D3

 

Vegetable growing in the Sahrawi refugee camps, South West Algeria. (Dr. Willem Van Cotthem led the initial UNICEF funded "Family Garden Programme" in the camps) - Photo Philip Hittepole - https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/11990694_10153664767110844_6757289647486191923_n.jpg?oh=87d9fd29fd361979c2673d879a450a50&oe=56974400&__gda__=1456167604_68c0ed932731befbf95beedb034ee570
Vegetable growing in the Sahrawi refugee camps, South West Algeria. (Dr. Willem Van Cotthem led the initial UNICEF funded “Family Garden Programme” in the camps) – Photo Philip Hittepole – https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/11990694_10153664767110844_6757289647486191923_n.jpg?oh=87d9fd29fd361979c2673d879a450a50&oe=56974400&__gda__=1456167604_68c0ed932731befbf95beedb034ee570

A small child peeks from behind the sacks of dry food distributed in the Laayoune camp, South West Algeria. - Photo: Dominik Sipinski - Article here: http://www.joinmagazine.co.uk/article/a-permanent-crisis-in-the-desert/ - https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xft1/v/t1.0-9/11109666_10153449833530844_2918553993613655361_n.jpg?oh=95c08463cb5220695bf56ea0849cf96e&oe=5696E2C0
A small child peeks from behind the sacks of dry food distributed in the Laayoune camp, South West Algeria. – Photo: Dominik Sipinski – Article here: http://www.joinmagazine.co.uk/article/a-permanent-crisis-in-the-desert/
https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xft1/v/t1.0-9/11109666_10153449833530844_2918553993613655361_n.jpg?oh=95c08463cb5220695bf56ea0849cf96e&oe=5696E2C0

Sahrawi refugee camp. Photo by Olivia Wimmer part of a series entitled "Borrowed Land"  http://olivve.com/work/sahrawi-architecture/ - https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtl1/v/t1.0-9/11951878_10153622287195844_3320971379922172524_n.jpg?oh=d5bc1e59c49a2172174fcbfe52dceb87&oe=568DEB72
Sahrawi refugee camp. Photo by Olivia Wimmer part of a series entitled “Borrowed Land”
http://olivve.com/work/sahrawi-architecture/https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtl1/v/t1.0-9/11951878_10153622287195844_3320971379922172524_n.jpg?oh=d5bc1e59c49a2172174fcbfe52dceb87&oe=568DEB72

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

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

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

Food shortages in South Sudan

Photo credit: UN News Centre

A child sips on therapeutic milk at a hospital in Juba, South Sudan, where nearly one million children are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Photo: UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

South Sudan: UN agency warns of catastrophic food shortages if conflict continues

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan is sharply reducing food supplies and slowing humanitarian access to people in need, the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) said today, urging warring groups in the country to follow up quickly on the ceasefire deal agreed on Monday.

Without such commitment, the country’s conflict areas face potentially catastrophic food shortages, UNICEF warned, pointing to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) group of experts’ report, which is released this week, and to its own latest nutrition survey, which supports the IPC’s findings.

“UNICEF needs access to remote areas made inaccessible because of the fighting,” the agency’s Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch, said. “This is where the crisis is forming. Both parties to the ceasefire need to reach a long-term settlement or face a growing food crisis by the end of the dry and lean season.”

Mr. Veitch said UNICEF and its partners are starting to see large numbers of people on the move in conflict areas because of food shortages. At least 229,000 children are estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition in South Sudan – a number that has doubled since the start of the conflict just over a year ago.

“We remain on edge, and any increase in violence will see supply routes cut, markets disrupted and humanitarian access denied. This would be catastrophic for acutely malnourished children and could quickly lead to high levels of mortality.”

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Hunger and global climate change

Photo credit: IPS

A major challenge in the path of putting an end to hunger in Africa is global climate change, which is affecting arable land and destroying the harvest of farmers all over the continent.

Credit: Tinso Mungwe

Ending Hunger in Africa

Droughts, floods and other environmental disasters make it even more difficult for those exposed to sustain their livelihoods or even think about increasing their agricultural productivity.

Addis Ababa — While Africa’s economies are among the world’s fastest growing economies, hundreds of millions of Africans are living on or below the poverty line of 1.25 dollars a day, a principal factor in causing widespread hunger.

One of the key issues discussed at the 24th African Union Summit which ended here on Jan. 31 was food security within the broader of framework of development towards Agenda 2063 – an agenda that touches on many aspects of where Africa should be 50 years from now.

Food security is an important component of Agenda 2063 and with hunger one of the continent’s most pressing concerns, the agenda focuses on social and economic transformations necessary for its elimination, such as providing people with the needed skills and creating jobs to improve incomes and thus the livelihoods of people.

Droughts, floods and other environmental disasters make it even more difficult for those exposed to sustain their livelihoods or even think about increasing their agricultural productivity.

On the agricultural front, the emphasis is being placed on scaling up food production and making it easier for intra-Africa trade to take place so that food imports can be reduced.

The overall objective is to end hunger throughout Africa within the next decade.

Read the full article: IPS

A fruitful diary in 2008, and now … ?

Photo credit: WVC 2007-01

UNICEF’s Representative Raymond JANSSENS and his delegation visiting one of the hundreds of family gardens in the refugee camps of S.W. Algeria (Sahara desert)

THE DIARY OF : “Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis”

by Willem Van Cotthem

See more: European Tribune

Six years after publishing my contribution at the EUROPEAN TRIBUNE,  I am still reading with great interest the comments in the diary. However, enchanted by so many positive reactions in 2008, I remain wondering why this message has not been leading to new initiatives in the field.

UNICEF’s project of “Family gardens in the refugee camps of the Saharawis in S. W. Algeria” was a remarkable success in 2005-2007. Why was it stopped ?

The diary about my posting in the European Tribune in 2008 was extremely fruitful.  And now ?

Here are some interesting comments:

gardening against the actual food crisis (4.00 / 5)
Sounds like this story could be relatedIndependent – Malawi’s farming revolution sets the pace in Africa

A green revolution taking place in the fields of Malawi has, in three years, turned a nation that was once reliant on international aid to feed half its population into a food exporter. In doing so, it has set an example for other developing countries struggling to feed themselves. But it has done it all against the express wishes of Britain, the United States and the World Bank – its largest donors.

Malawi suffered a catastrophic drought in 2005. The World Food Programme estimated that five million people – out of a population of 12 million – needed food aid and many villages reported people dying of starvation.

A new government, led by Bingu wa Mutharika, believed the problem was straightforward. Farmers were using seeds that were highly susceptible to disease and weevils, and too few were using fertiliser. If farmers could afford high-yield maize seeds and fertiliser, the government argued, they would be able to grow enough food. At a cost of £30m, the government launched a subsidisation scheme. With a state coupon, the price of a bag of fertiliser fell from 6,500 kwacha (£23) to 900, while a 2kg bag of hybrid maize seed dropped from 600 kwacha to 30.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 02:39:34 PM EST

Re: gardening against the actual food crisis (4.00 / 5)
Thanks Helen.  You are completely right : the recent “Green Revolution”in the drylands of Malawi is at least partly due to small-scale horticulture by the rural population.  NGOs play a very important role in this (r)evolution.  Their successes should inspire donors, and not only the largest ones, to provide substantial financial aid for duplication of these “best practices” at the largest national and even international scale.Food aid can only be a temporary relief, because it is never eliminating the causes of the drought catastrophe. Think at my variant of the Chinese proverb : “Don’t bring these people food, teach them how to grow it”.

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem Beeweg 36 – B 9080 Zaffelare (Belgium)

by willem vancotthem (willem.vancotthem@gmail.com) on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 03:34:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardens (4.00 / 3)
Welcome to ET, Willem.I tend to agree with you that small farming (and, why not, urban etc gardening, about which I have a diary in preparation, with application to Europe)is likely to feed people more and better than large-scale industrial plantation enterprises.

But can you tell us why the drought management techniques you propose could not be used by big farms as well as small?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 03:59:37 PM EST

Re: Family gardens, school gardens and urban garde (4.00 / 2)
Hello afew.  Small-scale gardening in rural or urban areas is more effective for the poor, hungry people than the industrial farms, for different reasons.  It is determined by daily actions at their own level and not by sophisticated mechanization or high-tech production schemes.  Return on investment is always significantly higher, because investment in simple horticultural tools and materials is low and production is always close to the kitchen, without intermediary transport and stocking costs.The drought management techniques I mentioned (water stocking soil conditioners) can certainly be used by big farms too.  However, it is my personal experience that it is very difficult to convince industrial farmers to change their traditional farming methods (e.g. use of mineral fertilizers and fine-tuned irrigation systems).  Investment in “new” soil conditioners seems only possible after years of experimentation.  But the day will come …

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem Beeweg 36 – B 9080 Zaffelare (Belgium)

by willem vancotthem (willem.vancotthem@gmail.com) on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 03:50:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: Family gardens, school gardens… (none / 0)
Can someone provide some numbers on family/urban/school garden productivity? It’s important to get a handle on this, in terms of kilocalories per day on an annualized basis.Adult diets are around 2000 kilocalories per day (about 2.3 kilowatt-hours, if you prefer those units for some inscrutable reason — about like a 100 W light bulb).

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 05:08:28 PM EST

Re: Family gardens, school gardens… (none / 0)
The range of climates, micro-climates, technological level, cultivar availability, weather patterns, land use patterns, farming/gardening practices – to name a few – of urban areas, considered globally, make it impossible to determine useful comparative statistics.In general, horticultural techniques yield more food value per land area and diverse agricultural production operations (many different crops and mixed-use areas) yield the highest food value.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. — Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 01:28:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: Family gardens, school gardens… (4.00 / 2)
Hello technopolitical.  I take the point of the next comment below : it is almost impossible to make valuable statistics on comparative horticultural productivity because of the dramatic differences in location, climatic variation, soil quality etc.Data on adult diets and the number of kilocalories or joules are undeniably important. However, one should also take into account that the daily consumption of fresh food (vegetables and fruits) plays an extremely important role in public health, particularly for children, because of a significant enhancement in vitamins and mineral elements. Having a small family garden or a school garden will perhaps not solve ALL the food problems of the rural or urban poor, but it certainly will avoid a number of classical diseases and hunger.

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem Beeweg 36 – B 9080 Zaffelare (Belgium)

by willem vancotthem (willem.vancotthem@gmail.com) on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 04:04:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: Family gardens, school gardens and urban garde (none / 1)
Thank you Prof. van Cotthem for this diary.

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.

This is exciting information as it implies a means to halt the desertification of sub-Sahara Africa, a path to reclaiming land lost to desertification, as well as the developing world’s food crisis.

A triple win.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. — Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 01:45:21 AM EST

Re: Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardens (4.00 / 2)
Sincere thanks ATinNM. With my team at the University of Ghent (Belgium), I have developed this water and fertilizer stocking soil conditioner.  In more than 20 years it has shown its benefits for horticulture, agriculture and forestry in the drylands.  Several humanitarian projects in Africa and Asia have been remarkably successful.  Actual projects in Algeria (Tindouf area) and India (Tamil Nadu) show the same positive results.The question remains : why is it so difficult to convince the donors to invest in large-scale application of this cost-effective technology. Like you said, it is “a means to halt the desertification of sub-Sahara Africa, a path to reclaiming land lost to desertification, as well as the developing world’s food crisis.”

When will this message be understood ?

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem Beeweg 36 – B 9080 Zaffelare (Belgium)

by willem vancotthem (willem.vancotthem@gmail.com) on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 04:34:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Getting funding to distribute TerraCottem (4.00 / 3)
Thank you for this informative and inspiring article.willem vancotthem: why is it so difficult to convince the donors to invest in large-scale application of this cost-effective technology.

In the article about that Helen referenced above, it says that Malawi’s largest donors (Britain, the United States and the World Bank) initially refused to fund Malawi’s “revolutionary” program that provided subsidies to farmers to buy high-yield seeds and fertilizer.  However, upon seeing the results, “international donors [including Britain], after early scepticism, now support the scheme”.

willem vancotthem: Several humanitarian projects in Africa and Asia have been remarkably successful.  Actual projects in Algeria (Tindouf area) and India (Tamil Nadu) show the same positive results.

What is the visibility of these programs to the decision makers in large donor organizations and bureaucracies?  Do you have anyone inside them to champion the use of your soil conditioner?

Also, have you approached deep-pocketed private donors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation?  It seems probable that some of these large charitable organizations would be very interested in supporting you.  And assuming the results of these pilot projects continue to be positive with only minimal (if any) harmful side-effects, then such major philanthropies may also have the connections and/or influence on governments to persuade them to use TerraCottem on a more wide-scale basis (in addition, obviously, to the money to fund them).

A language is a dialect with an army and navy.

by marco on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 06:07:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: Getting funding to distribute TerraCottem (none / 0)
Dear Marco.  You are completely right : international and private donors, even deep-pocketed ones, are well-known. They could (should) be interested in providing funds for large-scale application of “success stories”.  However, this picture changes as soon as “a good idea” is “commercialized”.  The soil conditioner TerraCottem, which I developed at the University of Ghent (Belgium), showed its potentialities all over the world : plants can be grown easily and successfully with a minimum of water and fertilizer.  So far, so good for our nice idea !  But from here to convince donors to finance larger quantities of such a “commercial” product (produced by a spin-off company of the Ghent University) is far more difficult.  That small TerraCottem company is not in a position to fund large programs at the global level.  Thus the money should come from donors.  The question is : will they contribute to the prosperity of a business company, even if that soil conditioner can help to solve the problems of drought, desertification and poverty ?  We all know that TerraCottem can be one of  the best tools to make the life of poor rural or even urban people quickly better by making small kitchen garden very productive.  But who wants to purchase such a commercial product for humanitarian projects ?  It will need serious lobbying and introduction of numerous files.  And I am not a lobbyist !  Who is interested ?

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem Beeweg 36 – B 9080 Zaffelare (Belgium)

by willem vancotthem (willem.vancotthem@gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 06:20:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: Family gardens, school gardens (none / 0)
welcome, professor!i enjoyed this diary, it is heartening to hear such good news from Academia, especially about issues as important as this.

i have seen consumer houseplants soil conditioners before, how is Terracottem different?

i have read in organic gardening magazines that simple rock dust adds great fertility to food gardening. i am thinking of going to the local quarry and getting a load to test out.

i have not heard of anyone doing this in my area, so they will probably give quite a funny look!

(rock dust is touted for its helping the longterm uptake of important nutirtional minerals in food crops, a bit OT from the thread about water retention, but similar enough not to be too much of a distraction, i hope).

if this works, wouldn’t it be a relatively inexpensive way to help the poor eat better from their own gardens, and wouldn’t it be smart to get this program running with the last of the fossil fuels we are burning so profligately? rock dust is heavy, and there’s only so much donkeys can carry!

thanks for adding your voice and reports of your good work to ET, we are fortunate to have more authoritative info on soil science joining us here. other than the quality of air we breathe and water we drink, (obviously very connected to the amount we waste on inefficient crop watering), what else can be more relevant to our continued survival as a species?

“We can all be prosperous but we can’t all be rich.” Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 03:17:24 AM EST

Re: Family gardens, school gardens (none / 0)
Dear melo.  Thanks for your appreciation of my work on the soil conditioner TerraCottem, which is a compound of more than twenty different substances, working in synergy to produce more biomass with less water and less fertiliser.  In this it differs from most of the available soil conditioners, which are mostly single products, consisting of one or two chemical substances.  TerraCottem’s most important objective, apart from other application possibilities, is to help poor rural and urban people to more fresh food with a minimum of water and fertiliser.  Small kitchen gardens can be made in almost every free space, even on roofs.  One can also switch to container gardening in almost every kind of container (flower pots, bottles, barrels, old wheelbarrows, yoghurt pots, etc.).  One can find a lot of applications of container gardening on my blog containergardening.wordpress.com.  You are right in saying that rock dust can be used as a good fertiliser for poor soils.  Indeed, rocks contain a number of fertilising mineral elements and rock dust, mixed with a poor soil (e.g. sand) will certainly contribute to the enhancement in dosage of certain, but not all mineral elements.

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem Beeweg 36 – B 9080 Zaffelare (Belgium)

by willem vancotthem (willem.vancotthem@gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 06:37:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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