An invitation to 6 billion non-hungry people on earth

PHOTO Above: Training the local women and young boys for application of the soil conditioner TerraCottem in the community gardens of Niou (Burkina Faso) – Photo WVC 1997-07

Pro-Huerta, a fantastic ‘feeding the people’ programme

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

INTRODUCTION

Many people are looking for success stories of organic family gardening or farming in rural and in urban areas.

Don’t search anymore: here is a splendid testimony of the results booked in Argentina, in a number of other South American countries and in Haiti.

Haiti? Isn’t that the country where food aid was so badly needed after the recent earthquake? Well, read this little story carefully and get aware of the undeniable potentialities of local food production for all these families, since 2005 being enabled to cover some or even most of their food needs thanks to a remarkable programme for self-production of fresh food, already launched in 1990 in Argentina under the name Pro-Huerta.

For me, a breathtaking reading of this interesting publication lies in the sequencing of a number of quotes of the original text.  I have listed them below.

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

The original, heartwarming article, of which an excerpt was reposted by Michael Levenston on the City Farmer News (New Stories From ‘Urban Agriculture Notes’):

http://www.cityfarmer.info/2010/11/02/organic-gardens-feeding-people-from-argentina-to-haiti/

has been published by Jane Regan and Marcela Valente on the IPS-website on Oct. 22, 2010:

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53257

Organic Gardens Feeding People from Argentina to Haiti

Here is my selection of quotes:

  • Neither hurricanes, nor floods, nor an earthquake, nor political instability managed to wipe out the organic gardening initiative, called Pro-Huerta (Pro-Garden), Programme d’Autoproduction d’Aliments Frais (“Self-Sufficient Fresh Vegetable Programme”) or “ti jaden òganik” (Creole for “small organic garden”), underway in Haiti since 2005.
  • The aim of the programme is to promote organic gardens in both cities and rural areas.
  • After the earthquake, some families had their own garden production to fall back on and cover some of their food needs.
  • Some families told us they were glad they didn’t have to stand in line all the time to suffer the humiliation of asking for food.
  • Emerged in 1990, the programme has now in Argentina 630,000 gardens and farms distributed in 3,500 urban and rural settings. The model has also been replicated in other countries of the region, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela.
  • There are all sorts of initiatives all over the region, which either replicate the model or take some elements from it, and there’s also an international course to provide training in other countries.
  • The Haitian experience has been particularly successful because a great deal has been achieved without considerable inputs or efforts.
  • With a 100-metre garden a family can grow enough food to cover its needs, but a space half that size is also good. And community or church plots can be used too.
  • These organic gardens are also sprouting in schools, prisons, community soup kitchens and senior citizen groups.
  • Food is mostly grown for personal consumption, but trade networks have also emerged. This is agro-ecological production: no chemicals are used, pest control is done naturally and the soil is allowed to recover through crop rotation.
  • In Haiti, where some 2.4 million of the country’s nine million people are considered “food insecure” and half the food consumed in the country is imported, these small gardens are making a difference.
  • Pro-Huerta is probably the most successful example of South-South cooperation.
  • Families in Haiti have been trained to produce their own seeds, good seeds. This is an important step towards assuring food security and food sovereignty.
  • Seeds are a flashpoint issue in Haiti. Following the earthquake, the agro-industrial giant Monsanto donated four million dollars worth of hybrid maize and vegetable seeds to the government, sparking outcries and protests, including the burning of mounds of seeds. As it turned out, the seeds were not really donated but offered to farmers for a fee.
  • With programmes like Pro-Huerta, Haitian farmers are helped to improve their own seeds, their nutrition and their economic situation, all at the same time.
  • This fantastic programme deserves to be applied at the global scale. It is the crux of the matter in the combat of hunger and malnutrition.
  • Families, schools, communities, allotments, hospitals, churches, youth associations, senior citizen groups, sports clubs, prisons, …

——————————–

Let’s start with the poorest and most vulnerable families. Let’s start doing it for all those malnourished children.  Please, stop the discussion about the price of providing quality nutrition to children and the problems of transport and distribution. Give these poor families, and in particular the mothers, a chance to put a first step towards self-sufficiency.

It is a real honour for me to invite today 6 billion non-hungry people on earth to sign a petition aiming at achieving such an appealing food aid programme.

Windowsill gardening for houses and schools in desertified regions (Willem Van Cotthem)

My friend Martine DAUBREME (Planetfuture) send me this nice photo of her mini-kitchen garden on a windowsill :

2011-04-28 – Mini-kitchen garden on a windowsill. Celery, parsley, spekboom or Portulacaria afra and lettuce. Container types with 2 opposite drainage holes 2,5 cm above the bottom : yogurt pots and a small bottle (Photo Martine DAUBREME)

It’s shocking how simple it is to grow juicy vegetables and a young tree inside the house.  No more drought and desertification problems causing lack of vitamins.  No more irrigation and soil fertilization problems of the soil. Permaculture in a simple pot : eat the vegetables and leave the roots in the pot to decompose, delivering  more organic matter and keeping the pots ready for reception of the next seeds or seedlings.

You combat desertification ?  You mitigate drought ?  You save water ? You need fresh food in a dry place ?

Why don’t you use your imagination and start growing fresh food in all sorts of containers ?  Keep drought and desert outside and transform your room into a greenhouse with extremely simple and indescribably cheap means !

The combat of malnutrition and other health problems will be won with inexpensive containers, inside the houses, inside the classrooms, not with sophisticated food of foreign companies.

If only one wants to change the tune of possible profits !

Five minutes of political will would suffice to start changing the physical condition of the malnourished children of this world.  And don’t forget : it’s so simple that even the kids can grow their own vegetables at home and at school.

Why do people continue to turn their head away ? Who is keeping business running ?

Barrels for refugees and smallholder farmers in the drylands (Willem Van Cotthem)

SOME IDEAS CONCERNING WATER AND FOOD

Conflict situations all over the world, nature catastrophes, climate change (drought and desertification) and wars caused a constantly growing number of refugees and displaced persons. For the residents of temporary refugee camps, but also for people living in drought affected regions, two main problems are :

* Access to water, in particular drinking water.
* Access to fresh food (vitamins, mineral elements).

Start of a family garden in one of the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria. Application of drip irrigation. Having a 200 liter-barrel would enable cultivating sufficient fresh food for the whole family (Photo Philip HITTEPOLE)

1. BARRELS

In arid or semi-arid regions, water is usually collected by women and children, carrying heavy loads over considerable distances to their tents or houses.  Providing availability of drinking water in the immediate neighborhood of the refugee camps has to be seen as an efficient relieve of the burden of carrying water repeatedly from the source to the camp.

In order to offer internally displaced persons (IDPs) easier access to water, the joint United Nations-African peacekeeping force (UNAMID) intends to distribute thousands of 75 liters (4 jerry cans) water  containers (barrels) across the Darfur area, where water is one of the major sources of conflict.

Mr. Ibrahim GAMBARI, Head of UNAMID, declared: “The project is to make life easier and safer for women, and also to underscore the fact that water hasn’t only been a source of conflict; it is also the solution.  It is our hope that their use will not only support former displaced persons, but also help protect civilians as they return to resume their lives.

Fore sure, the distribution of water containers is a very recommendable initiative.  Together with the installation of tents or other shelters, this should be a conditio sine qua non when installing a refugee camp.  Access to water can contribute to solving the conflict.

However, we are convinced that offering a 75 liter-barrel to the refugee families is only a part of the solution to make life in the camps easier, safer and better.  Indeed, besides the need for safe drinking water (4 jerry-cans may be sufficient), we consider it a human necessity to install close to every shelter (tent) a small family garden, e.g. 50 m2, to let the refugees grow their own fresh food.  And therefore, some irrigation water should also be available close to the shelter.

For every family a barrel of 200 liter would solve all the irrigation problems for keeping a small family garden in good shape.

2007-04 – School garden in refugee camp of Dahla (S.W. Algeria). If some barrels were available the children wouldn’t have to bring every morning some water in bottles (Photo WVC)

2. AVAILABILITY OF BARRELS

All over the world, the industry uses barrels or drums of diverse forms and dimensions to transport or ship materials and products.  Those used for liquids are often coated to avoid negative effects of the liquid on the inner wall of the barrel.  Even in agriculture, a number of reservoirs or tanks, mostly in UV-resistant materials, are used to ship products or food.

Eventually, many industrial divisions encounter problems to find a new destination for used barrels, drums and tanks.  These have to be thoroughly cleaned (steamed), taken out of circulation, dumped, recycled or sold as second hand products.  Generally, these actions are too expensive for the industry and thus the barrels are destroyed.

UV-resistant barrels, drums, reservoirs or tanks with a sufficient capacity, e.g. 200 liter, should never be destroyed, but sent to arid or semi-arid developing countries, where they can be used as a water tank, not only in refugee camps, but even by rural families.

Two questions remain :

(1) Will the “Western” and “Eastern” industry agree to make these “useless containers” available for development aid ?
(2) Which existing organization (international or non-governmental) considers this idea valuable enough to set up a structure for collecting and shipping the industrial containers from the developed to the developing world ?

It should be taken into account that these containers , instead of sending them empty, can also be filled with valuable goods for development actions.  We are thinking here at a good example : WFP could ship its  food aid in big barrels.

An organization in developed countries could collect the “useless” barrels in the industry and make them available for development organizations for shipping aid goods to their projects, particularly to those in drought affected regions.

3. INSTALLATION OF SMALL FAMILY GARDENS (30-50 m2)

It has been shown that family gardening is a very efficient tool in the combat of child malnutrition and hunger.  We received many questions about the possible costs of such a garden.  Here are some ideas to help people estimating those costs :

A. Composition of a garden kit

1 barrel of 200 liter for water storage (blue plastic, UV-resistant): see above
5 kg of water-absorbent soil conditioner
1 kg NPK fertilizer
Commercial seeds (10 small packages of different species)
1 spade
1 rake
1 small hand-rake
1 watering can (UV resistant)

B. Additional costs

Transport
Customs
Training fee for local agronomist (1/2 day + local travel)

TO BE PROVIDED BY THE RECIPIENTS ?

Fencing of 30-50 m2 (poles, fence)
Labor (soil treatment, watering)

———–

We are hoping that these ideas can motivate organizations to help refugees and/or  hungry people to a better life by offering them access to water and food, at least starting with a barrel and some necessities for a small garden.

Once again, we don’t need billions of dollars to make poor people healthy and happy !

An invitation to 5 billion non-hungry people on earth (Willem Van Cotthem)


INTRODUCTION

Many people are looking for success stories of organic family gardening or farming in rural and in urban areas.

Don’t search anymore: here is a splendid testimony of the results booked in Argentina, in a number of other South American countries and in Haiti.

Haiti? Isn’t that the country where food aid was so badly needed after the recent earthquake? Well, read this little story carefully and get aware of the undeniable potentialities of local food production for all these families, since 2005 being enabled to cover some or even most of their food needs thanks to a remarkable programme for self-production of fresh food, already launched in 1990 in Argentina under the name Pro-Huerta.

For me, a breathtaking reading of this interesting publication lies in the sequencing of a number of quotes of the original text.  They are listed below.

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

The original heartwarming article, of which an excerpt was reposted by Michael Levenston on the City Farmer News (New Stories From ‘Urban Agriculture Notes’):

http://www.cityfarmer.info/2010/11/02/organic-gardens-feeding-people-from-argentina-to-haiti/

has been published by Jane Regan and Marcela Valente on the IPS-website on Oct. 22, 2010:

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53257

Organic Gardens Feeding People from Argentina to Haiti

Here is my selection of quotes:

Neither hurricanes nor floods, nor an earthquake, nor political instability managed to wipe out the organic gardening initiative, called Pro-Huerta (Pro-Garden), Programme d’Autoproduction d’Aliments Frais (“Self-Sufficient Fresh Vegetable Programme”) or “ti jaden òganik” (Creole for “small organic garden”), underway in Haiti since 2005.

The aim of the programme is to promote organic gardens in both cities and rural areas.

After the earthquake, some families had their own garden production to fall back on and cover some of their food needs.

Some families told us they were glad they didn’t have to stand in line all the time to suffer the humiliation of asking for food.

Emerged in 1990, the programme has now in Argentina 630,000 gardens and farms distributed in 3,500 urban and rural settings. The model has also been replicated in other countries of the region, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela.

There are all sorts of initiatives all over the region, which either replicate the model or take some elements from it, and there’s also an international course to provide training in other countries.

The Haitian experience has been particularly successful because a great deal has been achieved without considerable inputs or efforts.

With a 100-metre garden a family can grow enough food to cover its needs, but a space half that size is also good. And community or church plots can be used too.

These organic gardens are also sprouting in schools, prisons, community soup kitchens and senior citizen groups.

Food is mostly grown for personal consumption, but trade networks have also emerged. This is agro-ecological production: no chemicals are used, pest control is done naturally and the soil is allowed to recover through crop rotation.

In Haiti, where some 2.4 million of the country’s nine million people are considered “food insecure” and half the food consumed in the country is imported, these small gardens are making a difference.

Pro-Huerta is probably the most successful example of South-South cooperation.

Families in Haiti have been trained to produce their own seeds, good seeds. This is an important step towards assuring food security and food sovereignty.

Seeds are a flashpoint issue in Haiti. Following the earthquake, the agro-industrial giant Monsanto donated four million dollars worth of hybrid maize and vegetable seeds to the government, sparking outcries and protests, including the burning of mounds of seeds. As it turned out, the seeds were not really donated but offered to farmers for a fee.

With programs like Pro-Huerta, Haitian farmers are helped to improve their own seeds, their nutrition and their economic situation, all at the same time.

————————————————————————

This fantastic programme deserves to be applied at the global scale. It is the crux of the matter in the combat of hunger and malnutrition.

Families, schools, communities, allotments, hospitals, churches, youth associations, senior citizen groups, sports clubs, prisons, …

Let’s start with the poorest and most vulnerable families. Let’s start doing it for all those malnourished children.

Please, stop the discussion about the price of providing quality nutrition to children and the problems of transport and distribution of food aid. Give these poor families, and in particular the mothers, a chance to put a first step forward towards self-sufficiency.

It is a real honour for me to invite today 5 billion non-hungry people on earth to sign a petition aiming at achieving such an appealing food aid programme.

Let’s join our hands.  Let’s join our hearts.

Willem Van Cotthem

Cinq jardins scolaires à Boumerdès (Algérie) – School gardens in Algeria

ENGLISH ABSTRACT

Unicef Algeria and SOS Children’s Village of Draria (Algiers) signed an agreement to construct school gardens in the region of Boumerdès (N. Algeria). These gardens will deliver food for the school restaurant and improve the attention of the children for their environment.

——————

Dans le Quotidien d’Oran du 17 janvier 2007, la journaliste Nouria B décrit l’accord signé entre UNICEF ALGERIE et SOS Village d’Enfants de Draria (Alger). Voici le contenu de son article “Création de cinq jardins dans des écoles“:

Cinq jardins seront créés dans cinq établissements scolaires de la wilaya de Boumerdès en vertu d’un accord de partenariat signé, hier, entre le Bureau d’Algérie du Fonds des Nations Unies pour l’Enfance (Unicef) et SOS village de Draria. Ce projet-pilote, selon Raymond JANSSENS, représentant de l’Unicef, vise à améliorer et diversifier les menus servis dans des cantines scolaires et à lutter contre les carences nutritionnelles. Entrant dans le cadre de la création des clubs de l’environnement dans les écoles, cette expérience servira également à inculquer l’amour de l’environnement et de la terre chez les enfants. Ce projet initié en accord avec le Ministère de l’Education nationale répond un peu à la démarche consistant à introduire des activités diversifiés dont l’enseignement et la sensibilisation des élèves par rapport à l’importance de l’environnement.

On vise à produire des aliments de bonne qualité et l’on invite les directeurs des autres écoles à contribuer à la propagation de cette expérience“, dira Raymond Janssens.

Continue reading “Cinq jardins scolaires à Boumerdès (Algérie) – School gardens in Algeria”

Gardens in the desert – Jardins dans le désert

MESSAGE IN ENGLISH + FRANCAIS (voir plus loin)

Within its Nutrition Programme, UNICEF ALGERIA launched in 2006 a splendid project, called “Family gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis“. These camps are located in the region of Tindouf (S.W. Algeria).

I will try to show the success stories of this project by inviting you to have a look at a series of pictures with legends about the small gardens created in different camps. Please do not forget that these gardens are constructed in the Sahara desert, with all its possible constraints (climate, availibilty of water, soil, salinity etc.).

Have a look at the following URL and double click on the pictures to see the enlarged version and the legend:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24356485@N00/sets/72157594524730196/

Interesting isn’t it ?

——————————————————————-
Dans le cadre de son Programme Nutrition, UNICEF ALGERIE vient de lancer en 2006 son projet “Jardins Familiaux dans les camps des réfugiés Sahraouis“. Ces camps se trouvent dans la région de Tindouf (S.W. Algérie).

Je veux essayer de vous montrer les cas de succès de ce projet en vous invitant à voir une série de photos et de légendes concernant ces petits jardins créés dans différents camps. Veuillez ne pas oublier que ces jardins ont été construits dans le désert Sahara, avec toutes ses contraintes possibles (climat, disponibilité de l’eau, sol, salinité etc.).

Visitez l’URL suivant et cliquez deux fois sur une photo pour la voir en agrandissement et avec la légende:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24356485@N00/sets/72157594524730196/

Intéressant, non ?

Interesting comments – Commentaires intéressants

De retour de ma mission en Algérie, je trouve quelques commentaires concernant mon message “Jardins familiaux dans le désert Sahara en Algérie“. Je m’empresse de vous les transmettre.

Back home from my mission to Algeria, I found some comments onmy message “Jardins familiaux dans le désert Sahara en Algérie“. I can’t resist forwarding them to you all.

1. Mouzaoui Abdelmoumene (Services des Forêts à Tindouf) – January 29, 2007

Merci Monsieur le Professeur Willem VAN COTTHEM,
Merci Taleb BRAHIM et les autres ingénieurs Sahraouis, et
Merci Unicef Alérie pour le travail dont j’ai moi même constaté les fruits lors de mes sorties aux camps des réfugiés Sahraouis.

Sans oublier les contributions des Services des Forêts de Tindouf, dont je fais partie, je félicite surtout les femmes Sahraouies pour l’adhésion aux projets initiés par Unicef Algérie. C’est l’effet direct du conditionneur de sol TerraCottem, porteur d’espoir.

2. Said – January 29, 2007

Assalamo Aalaikom,

Je suis un jeune ingénieur agronome, mais vivant à l’autre côté de la frontière (territoires occupés). J’avoue que votre expérience est assez remarquable et j’encourage l’ingénieur Taleb à y mettre son savoir-faire pour que chaque maison et chaque tente dans les camps de Tindouf aient leur jardin potager. Je pense à des techniques d’économie d’eau comme : le palissage… Bon courage !

3. Salek – January 30, 2007

C’est un travail remarquable qui démontre la viabilité de ce genre de travail dans les campements de réfugiés Sahraouis à Tindouf. La volonte et l’encouragement des ingénieurs Sahraouis vont aider la population Sahraouie de survivre malgré les difficultés et les contraintes de l’exil… Bravo et bonne continuation.

Un Sahraoui de l’autre coté sous l’occupation Marocaine.

Looking back to the future

SUCCESS STORIES OR BEST PRACTICES IN THE COMBAT OF DESERTIFICATION

In December 2002, coming home from CRIC 1 of the UNCCD (see the website UNCCD dot int and a series of interesting documents concerning the UN Convention on desertification), I decided to launch the creation of a network of individuals interested in desertification and poverty.

If you look for a newsletter (a bulletin) concerning these problems, please contact Miss Laetitia VERDIER at the UNCCD secretariat in Bonn, who is now publishing the newsletter, through her e-mail address: Lverdier ad unccd dot int.

Today, I went back to the first newsletters to freshen up my memories about those early days and can not resist offering you a short review of our first communications on the subject of success stories and best practices. Indeed, we can learn a lot from this early exchange of ideas. I hope you will enjoy “Looking back to the future” and see it as a renewed start towards more efficient actions in the field. Because that is what the poor rural people in the drylands are looking for: ACTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION AND TO ALLEVIATE POVERTY.

Please have a look back at some of the messages exchanged !

1. THE VERY START
TC-CCD NETWORK “PEOPLE FOR ACTION”
2002-12-03 – INFO 001

Dear Friends,

One of the important messages and conclusions of UNCCD’s CRIC1 in Rome (11-22/11/2002) was that there is an urgent need for exchange of information within a network of individuals interested in the desertification problems. Many of us enjoyed very much the presentations of case studies and the ensuing discussions, although seemingly there was no time for in-depth analysis or exchanges of views on the situation in other countries. Nevertheless, CRIC1 certainly was a real success!

Most of the participants will remember that single sentence, repeatedly coming up in different interventions from the podium and the floor: “There is no more time for talking, this is time for action!“. I had a couple of times the privilege and the pleasure of reminding my friends that “REAL ACTION” could be launched by selecting a small number of success stories (best practices) and applying these in small scale projects, but in a large number of countries in all regions. The TPNs seem to be an excellent forum for setting up such comparative initiatives (see the pilot projects of the Asian TPN3 on sand dune fixation and rangeland management to be launched pretty soon). It goes without saying that we still need to exchange a lot of ideas on the way such actions could be optimally planned.

Willem Van Cotthem

REACTIONS ON THAT INVITATION

2. Namsrai SARANTUYA n_sarantuya@yahoo.com

Congratulations with your great ideas to create such networking among individuals interested in the desertification problems! I think, first of all, we need human networking /it is CAPACITY!/ for achieving a real success in prevention and combating desertification in our countries.

I am looking forward to receive from time to time your messages and also contribute in different ways in information sharing between members of the network.

Dr.Sarantuya, from Mongolia

3. Dana PIETSCH

Yes, of course we are thinking too much in our “private-family-horizon”, but can you actually tell me how to pass on information and data if there are so many problems to start field work? Where to fly to if I can’t even find wings on my body? I’m really glad that there are people like you, reminding us of what we talked about… but I’m in the wrong position. I don’t know what kind of helpful information I can give you. Of course, if I can present any results, I’ll share them with the Yemeni Institutions as well as with a Network to Combat Desertification.

4. SAHEL DEFIS saheldefis@free.fr

Thank you for the new challenge, and for the attached information. It was indeed a great pleasure working together at CRIC 1 in Rome. It is really gratifying to having people always on the move at the helm. Yes, indeed, let’s work closer together on desertification, or better, on anti desertification activities on the ground. As indicated verbally in Rome, SAHEL DEFIS has tested a bag of TerraCottem in Northern Burkina where we work with villagers in Djomga. The first trial on a small vegetable garden was a success, as compared to cattle manure and to another product that we have also been testing with Japanese partners. The work was not conducted in a very scientific manner, but the results were satisfactory.

Tahirou DIAO

5. NGO BIOS (MOLDOVA) – 4 Dec.2002

We were happy to hear from you and to realize that, while we are all thinking things over and getting slowly started, you have already undertaken an excellent practical step. But we do agree with you that the Rome meeting was a success and it needs all of our efforts to make it a greater success in the future.

The network you have so generously initiated is an important endeavour and we will support it any way we can and we will certainly appreciate our being on the mailing list.

We were impressed with all your interventions during the Rome CRIC and the creative ways of drawing the full attention of the audience. It is a rare art.

We, in our NGO, discussed the ways to assist the Convention and we have some interesting ideas. We have even provided to Mr. Marcos Montoiro, NGO Liaison Officer of the Convention, an outline of a case study we could present at a future convention event on some very practical things we have done in one or two villages, starting with the villages almost drowned in garbage, with utterly degraded pastures, the trees of the village forest in process of full destruction, huge gullies and coming to gradual improvements in the vineyards and orchards and creation of entertainment.

6. TC-CCD NETWORK “PEOPLE FOR ACTION” NEWSLETTER
2002-12-13
INFO 004

Dear Friends, Chers Amis,

Our network for information exchange on all aspects of combating desertification (UNCCD), caring for biodiversity (UNCBD), acting for sustainable development and alleviating poverty, has got a new name: “PEOPLE FOR ACTION”.

Indeed, this network is not just one of those many initiatives to submerge people with (sometimes useful) information. It is strictly oriented towards ACTION.
Therefore, I would like to ask all members of the network to send me by preference information on:

* Successful traditional methods to combat land degradation (soil improvement, water harvesting, plant and animal production etc.)
* Successful modern technologies to combat desertification
* Successful combinations of traditional and modern methods
* Successful projects (soils, water, plants, animals, socio-economy, gender,
poverty, biodiversity, etc.), especially those of the NGOs.

Of course, I will also appreciate all kind of information on interesting activities in your country our region. That is the reason why I have included in this INFO 04 messages from the CBD Secretariat (thanks to Juliane ZEIDLER), from and to Edison WOTHO (Botswana), from the CBO Friends of Mpigi Forests (Uganda) and some general messages from “Development Gateway” (for which I recommend your subscription) and from the LINKAGES UPDATE (another subscription to be recommended!).

Should you want to share your information, ideas and data with our network members, please do not hesitate and send me an e-mail with the message you want to convey. I will be more than happy to forward it.

Our Belgian TC-Dialogue Foundation looks forward to link all “PEOPLE FOR ACTION”, aiming at improvement of the standards of living of all people living in the drylands. We know that we (and they!) can count on you.

Willem Van Cotthem

PS. Que mes amis francophones ne désespèrent pas! Je promets d’incorporer aussi tous leurs messages dans la langue de Molière. A eux de jouer!

7. Edison WOTHO

Dear Willem,

Indeed you are a true friend of nature. Personally, I have high regards for you since working with you from AHTEG on CBD. Your ideas are very useful and practical. I agree with you that action speaks louder than words. Hopefully the scientists should demonstrate their findings on the ground. It is important that we come with practical programmes and projects to answer the needs of the poor communities who live in the dryland ecosystems.

Botswana as you know, is a semi-arid country with very erratic rainfall patterns. Our advantage lies on the small population, which has over the years been very practical in managing their environment. As a NFP, I am sometimes frustrated by the lack of resources to complement their efforts. Though our NAP is yet to be finalized, its key elements are now part of the Ninth National Development Plan (NDP9). The NFP office continues to discuss with the civil society best practices of addressing this problem. I was particularly touched by the Youth Programme in Lesotho. However my problem is that the project seems not to have room for self-sustainability.

Of our four (4) small projects, I believe the agro-forestry project is doing very well, but as you know water is a major limiting factor in this country. In addition we a very thin in capacity and in this regard I would appreciate to know if the Government of Belgium would be of any assistance in terms of developing the people I work with on the project.

The developing country Parties require resources to implement some of their noble ideas. The people down there are hungry and need assistance. I personally believe in doing. Results! Results! Results! That should be our slogan at UNCCD. When we talk of alternative livelihoods, we should come up with microprojects because that is the answer to combating desertification and poverty. Too many macroprogrammes, such as NEPAD, will not answer the needs of people living and driving their livelihoods from the drylands.

Once again, I thank you Prof for your great vision and I hope that all will be up to the challenge. One day we should sit down and reflect on your great dream as presented at the interactive dialogue in CRIC 1. My worry is that even NGOs do not reach the people. The projects they introduce are temporary in nature and do not provide a long-lasting solution. Botswana is prepared to make a difference, resources permitting. This why I am eager to personally attend a course on accessing GEF resources.

8. MY ANSWER TO EDISON

My dear friend Edison,

Sincere thanks for your appreciation. I hope our little network will bring all likeminded people together and create possibilities to exchange ideas about the success stories in combating desertification and alleviating poverty. Because one thing is sure: WE KNOW HOW TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION.

It goes without saying that alleviation of poverty and mitigation of drought will never happen in our nice conference rooms, but in the field. A lot of people have shown in the past, through a number of small projects, which can be the best practices in water harvesting, soil conditioning, agroforestry, cash crop production, marketing of Third World products etc.

It is up to us to set up comparative trials with these best practices, in order to decide which of them will offer the best results in all different regions. Of course, not every single method will be applicable in all different circumstances and locations. We have to adapt our traditional methods and modern technologies to the local situations, but we can do it quite easily.

The classical question is: Where to find the necessary resources?

If only we could spend less resources at conferences, seminars, round tables etc., if only we could spend less at huge, and often non-sustainable programmes, maybe then we could save more money for a first series of serious tests of comparative studies of success stories in all regions (and later on in all countries).

But for me the real problem is not the lack of money. It is the human choice of priorities!

Like I said at CRIC1 in Rome, when we speak about possibilities to apply an excellent modern technology like TerraCottem (TC), automatically we get the question: “How much does it costs?”. Or: “Do you have a detailed cost-benefit-analysis?”. We all know that TC brings a solution for water harvesting, for soil improvement and for enhancement of plant production. We all know that TC improves standards of living of poor people in the drylands. Since 1988 it has been proven that TC is one of the success stories in the combat of desertification. Yet, people are still asking about its prize, not about its long-lasting positive effects, so that investment in it should be spread over ten years or more.

But for guns, bullets, land mines, bombs and missiles, destroying life all over the world (and mostly of the poorest), nobody seems to ask these questions about prizes and cost-benefit analysis. I know that the comparison is not a valid one and that at the international level other rules and laws play a dominant role. But I will continue to find it a real shame that WE COULD WIN THE COMBAT AGAINST DESERTIFICATION AND WE COULD ALLEVIATE POVERTY, if only we would stop fighting and would use those financial resources to apply the best practices all over the world.

Maybe, this wish will never come true. But please, let people never ask me again about the prize of TC or any other method to combat desertification, or I will give them the outcome of my cost-benefit-analysis of one bomb and one single missile.

Dear Edison, have a peaceful end of the year and a successful 2003. And let
us continue to work together, hand-in-hand, all of us, people wanting to combat desertification and poverty.

Willem Van Cotthem

(to be continued)

Jardin scolaire et “Club Vert” exemplaire à Draria (Alger)

Lors d’une mission pour UNICEF ALGERIE, j’ai eu le plaisir de visiter une école à Draria, près d’Alger, où le Club Vert de l’école à réalisé un jardin scolaire qui mérite d’être appelé “exemplaire”.

Le Club Vert des écoles est une initiative algérienne (si je ne m’abuse de Mr. le Ministre de l’Environnement et de l’Aménagement du Territoire Cheif RAHMANI, qui est aussi le Président de l’Assiciation Déserts du Monde). Elle a pour objectif principal de motiver les jeunes à prendre soin de l’environnement.

Le Club Vert de l’école visitée à Draria à pris réellement ses tâches à coeur. Dès l’entrée dans la cour de l’école, j’ai eu le sentiment de me trouver dans une enceinte qui respire pleinement le respect pour la nature et l’environnement. La cour “verte” est plantée d’une multitude de plantes ornementales. Les murs de l’école sont décorés de beaux dessins. Un système de poubelles pour le tris de déchets et le recyclage y est installé.

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Espèce intéressante : Argania spinosa

Voici une espèce végétale qui peut jouer un rôle assez important dans la lutte contre la désertification dans certaines régions semi-arides, par exemple dans les pays maghrébiens. Elle est connue sous quelques noms vernaculaires : arganier, argane, argan, bois de fer.

Mes amis les forestiers de Services de la Conservation des Forêts à Tindouf (S.W.Algérie) s’intéressent particulièrement à la production de jeunes pieds de l’arganier (Argania spinosa (L.) Skeels), qui appartient à la famille des Sapotacées. Nous avons l’intention de contribuer à la plantation de l’arganier dans la région de Tindouf, notamment dans les camps des réfugiés Sahraouis au S.W. de l’Algérie, car c’est une plante qui est adapté parfaitement à l’aridité.

L’arganier est une espèce d’arbre endemique de la plaine du Souss au S.W. du Maroc, où l’huile d’arganier est très populaire. Il y couvre près de 900.000 hectares. L’espèce est aussi présente en Algérie, mais sa dispersion y est plus restreinte.

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Poverty reduction through group approach

I read this morning at the “Development Gateway” on poverty the following abstract :
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1. NEW HIGHLIGHT: Group approach to poverty reduction
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The poor (destitute, isolated, risk averters with low-income and poor infrastructure) can grow out of poverty provided their basic rights are re-stored and other civil society opportunities are made available to them. One successful approach to grow out of poverty is to organize poor into small groups, then organizations and finally federations or networks.

Why group approach to poverty reduction has been successful?
– Groups bring solidarity, strength, mutual help, pooling their resources, empowerment, emergency help, remove being helpless and takes them out of isolation
– Like minded people to share experiences, problems and successes
– Poor can learn from and adapt to their piers
– Seeing progress made by their piers make them progressive

The group approach also provides several benefits to the poverty reduction worker such as bring the poor together, pooling of learning resources, higher efficiency of training, more accessible, etc. So much so all successful poverty reduction initiatives are based on group principles.”

I couldn’t help thinking at our multiple initiatives with the Belgian TC-Dialogue Foundation, with which we organized humanitarian projects within the framework of combating desertification and alleviating poverty. First of all, it should be clear that desertification is strongly linked to poverty. Indeed, it are generally the poorest rural people in the drylands suffering the most of drought and desertification. That is why we have mostly been setting up community gardens for women and school gardens.

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Renforcement de capacités à SOS Kinderdorf d’Alger

En Décembre 2006, j’ai assisté à une réunion de renforcement de capacités, organisée par UNICEF ALGERIE à SOS Village d’Enfants (SOS Kinderdorf) à Draria, près d’Alger. Il s’agissait d’une réunion avec une délégation des écoles de Boumerdès (Algérie du Nord). L’objectif principal était d’informer les délégués de Boumerdès sur les potentialités de la méthode TerraCottem pour le conditionnement des sols, en vue d’un projet de construction de jardins scolaires à Boumerdès même. Les objectifs spécifiques étaient la démonstration des effets du TerraCottem (TC) dans le jardin de SOS Village d’Enfants à Draria et dans le jardin scolaire d’une école à Draria.

La délégation des écoles de Boumerdès et de l’UNICEF ALGERIE, celle-ci sous la conduite de Mr. Raymond JANSSENS, Représentant d’UNICEF, ont reçu un aperçu général de l’organisation SOS Village d’Enfants par Mr. Gérard RUOT, Directeur. Ensuite, j’ai eu le plaisir de pouvoir décrire la méthode TerraCottem, la composition de ce conditionneur de sol (un mélange de granulés et de poudres) et ses avantages pour la culture en terrains arides.

La visite au deux jardins à Draria a livré la preuve convaincante que le produit TerraCottem offre toute une série d’avantages pour cultiver toutes les espèces de plantes (légumes, arbres fruitiers, plantes ornementales, etc.) dans des sols secs, tout en n’utilisant qu’un quantité limitée d’eau et d’engrais (d’où son importance pour l’environnement et l’avenir de notre planète).

Voici quelques photos de cette séance de renforcement de capacités (cliquez deux fois sur les photos pour les voir au grand format) :

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