Back from my mission in Algeria

Dear visitors of my blogs,

It took me a while to tackle all the classical problems of a longer absence : correspondence, reports to write, reply to emails, etc. But now I am back at my blogs and hope to catch up as soon as possible.

For now, let me tell you something about the success of our UNICEF project in Algeria “Construction of family gardens and school gardens in the refugees’ camps of Tindouf (S.W. Algeria – Sahara desert)“.

The Sahrawi people are extremely motivated to get their small gardens ready as soon as possible. From 208 gardens in 2006, the number of gardens grew to more than 1200. These gardens are treated with our soil conditioner TerraCottem (<www.terracottem.com>) to stock a maximum of saline irrigation water in the upper 20-30 cm of sandy soil. Seeds of vegetables are provided by UNICEF ALGERIA. Young trees are offered by the Forestry Services of Tindouf. Local schools are also participating in the project. Follow-up is assured by a Technical Committee and several agronomists.

In August 2007, I launched an action of seed collection in Belgium. With the help of the media (newspapers, radio, television), I invited my compatriots to send me the seeds of tropical fruits, which are normally thrown in the garbage bin (melon, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, avocado, sweet pepper etc.). There was a massive and remarkably positive reaction of the Belgians ! For the first time, someone is not asking money for development cooperation, but only garbage seeds.

I received already more than 100 kg of seeds, half of which were already taken to the refugee camps on my last trip, or send by the Algerian Embassy for use in Algerian school gardens (another nice UNICEF project, called : “Schools, Friends of the children”).

It is really fantastic to see, for the first time in 30 years in these camps of the Sahrawis, vegetables growing in small desert gardens. What a splendid contribution to human health in those extremely difficult conditions ! This is the best way to provide continuously fresh food and fruits with vitamins and mineral elements, in particular for the children.

You look for success stories ? This is one of the best ! I will soon show you some more pictures.

Team with UNICEF seeds   Family garden Layoun  Family garden Layoun 2  watermelons in Dahla

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Unicef team and Sahrawis engineers carrying seeds from UNICEF / Some of the family gardens at the end of October 2007.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

One thought on “Back from my mission in Algeria”

  1. Hi, Dr Van Cottem

    I have just returned from the Saharawi camps and was pleased to see the great progress in the family garden project. I study International development and food policy at UCC Ireland. As students of development we are eager to learn more of your projects and hopefully use them in other areas in the developing world. I spent a lot of time with Talib and we discussed some ways of helping him with the projects. We are looking to gain funding here in Ireland and any information you can give us would be put to good use. Look forward to your reply

    Yours sincerely

    Tom Corcoran

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