A Choice of Containers to Grow Plants – Part 2 (Willem Van Cotthem)

Interested in food production in containers  to solve the hunger problem or to alleviate malnutrition ?

Please check my latest video :


A Choice of Containers to Grow Plants – Part 2

There are numerous types of containers in which plants can easily be grown, even more easily than in the soil. Plastic bottles seem to be favorites for family gardening, probably because people don’t like to litter too much plastic. gardening in otherwise discarded bottles and pots is a remarkable success, offering families an opportunity to grow vegetables and fruits at home.


You can find the first part of this series at :


A Choice of Containers to Grow Plants – Part 1

Container gardening has become one of the most important tools to combat hunger and malnutrition. All over the world people are producing their own fresh food in many different types of containers. Many are also decorating their house and garden with ornamental plants in containers. Time has come to bring a survey of all these types; It may offer interested people practical ideas for application of container gardening, both in urban and in rural areas.

Urban Container Gardening (UCG) : the solution for hungry or malnourished citizens

Interesting publications :

Philippine university graduate practices urban farming to answer food issues : https://containergardening.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/follow-urban-farmer-perfecto-%E2%80%9Cjojo%E2%80%9D-rom-philippines/

UCG : a solution to the problems of nutrition for each household (Business Mirror) : http://desertification.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/ucg-a-solution-to-the-problems-of-nutrition-for-each-household-business-mirror/

The cheapest and healthiest way of food production (Business Mirror) : http://desertification.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/the-cheapest-and-healthiest-way-of-food-production-business-mirror/


Gardening in bottle towers (Willem Van Cotthem)

Here is my newest video :



Building towers of recycled bottles and/or pots offers fantastic opportunities to grow fresh food with a minimum of water and fertilizer. One can grow at home, in cities and villages, all kinds of vegetables and herbs. Bottle towers are a wonderful tool to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. They can be build at the lowest cost by any family everywhere on earth, particularly in drylands and deserts.

Seeds to Gozo (Malta) – (Jacques GUEUNING / Willem VAN COTTHEM)

Today, Belgian Jacques GUEUNING received a lot of seeds of vegetables and fruits.  They will soon be taken to the Island of Gozo (Malta), where these new species and varieties will be welcome to enhance the biodiversity on the island and to enrich the food production for local families.

This action was taken within the framework of the “SEEDS FOR FOOD”-initiative.

Seeds collected for the “SEEDS FOR FOOD”-action are free for humanitarian projects. An important load is now taken to Gozo (Malta) – (Photo Jacques GUEUNING)

Jacques GUEUNING will also introduce Prof. VAN COTTHEM’s “container gardening”-method to the smallholder farmers at Gozo.  He will particularly recommend the “bottle tower”-technique to reduce the volume of irrigation water and to promote vertical gardening on poor soils (see :




2011 – Prof. Willem VAN COTTHEM showing his bottle tower-research work (Photo WVC)

2011 – Almost every species of vegetable can be grown with a minimum of water in these towers of bottles or pots (Photo WVC)

Make your choice : mobile technology or food production techniques (Willem VAN COTTHEM)

I have read with great interest the article on “12 ways mobile technology can boost African agriculture” , see the posting on my desertification blog :


In fact, I was not surprised at all that this article, published at the African Agriculture blog, is based upon a recent report of Vodafone – Accenture (“Connected Agriculture : The role of mobile in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture value chain”).

Here is Vodafone’s introductory text :

“Vodafone Group Plc is one of the world’s largest mobile communications companies
by revenue. It has a significant presence in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia
Pacific and the US through the company’s subsidiaries, joint ventures, associated
undertakings and investments.

Vodafone plays an active role in seeking to address the challenges faced by
today’s emerging economies through the use of technology. Using the Millennium
Development Goals as a focal point, the company has worked in partnership with
other multinationals and organisations such as the GSMA, UN Foundation and the
UK Department for International Development to provide products and services that
help to tackle hunger, reduce child mortality and support women.

Vodafone’s mobile money transfer service, M-PESA, has proved extremely successful
at bringing basic financial services to the rural poor in Kenya and other countries,
together with a wide range of community benefits. Other examples include
programmes such as the GSMA mWomen initiative which aims to address barriers
preventing women from using mobile, and SMS for Life which is improving the
management of anti-malarial medication stocks in rural Tanzania.”


Vodafone and Accenture identified the following “12 opportunities for mobile phone technology to increase agricultural income and productivity. Some of these platforms are already widely used in Africa, while others are still in the early stages of implementation.“:

  1. Mobile payment systems
  2. Micro-insurance systems
  3. Micro-lending platforms
  4. Mobile information platforms
  5. Farmer helplines
  6. Smart logistics
  7. Traceability and tracking systems
  8. Mobile management of supplier networks
  9. Mobile management of distribution networks
  10. Agricultural trading platforms
  11. Agricultural tendering platforms
  12. Agricultural bartering platforms

To make things a bit more clear :

  1. Smallholder farmers can get an inexpensive and secure way to transfer and save money using their mobile phones, mobile payment systems replacing costly traditional transfer services and the need to travel long distances to collect funds.
  2. Mobile micro-insurance systems can safeguard farmers against losses when bad weather harms their harvest, encouraging them to buy better quality seeds and invest in fertiliser and other inputs.
  3. Micro-lending platforms could connect smallholder farmers with individuals elsewhere willing to provide finance to help the farmers.
  4. Mobile information platforms let farmers receive text messages with information.
  5. Farmers can call a helpline to speak to agricultural experts.
  6. Smart logistics uses mobile technology to help distribution companies manage their fleets more efficiently.
  7. Smallholders can use mobile technology can be used to track individual food products.
  8. Food buyers and exporters can use mobile phones to manage their networks of small-scale growers.
  9. Distributors of farming inputs could use mobile technology to gather sales and stock data.
  10. Linking smallholder farmers directly with potential buyers.
  11. Online platforms for submitting and bidding on tenders.
  12. Exchanging goods, services and skills with community members.


Suppose many agree that these are all fantastic opportunities!  But, do we really mean opportunities for smallholder farmers in Africa ?

Aren’t these smallholders not the same people spoken about in UN-articles on child malnutrition, hunger and famine, not to mention poverty ?

Are poor smallholders supposed to buy mobile phones with batteries (rechargeable ones, if there is electricity in the neighbourhood) ?

Are they supposed to use their mobile phone for every single opportunity mentioned above ?

Or do they try today to feed their family with hard field labour ?

And try to save some money to take their women and children to the hospital when needed ?

For me, one thing is clear : instead of promoting the use of mobile technology by poor people, I would rather spend some money on wages of teams of extension officers, training the smallholder farmers in some simple, cheap, low-tech food growing methods. My point is : with an empty stomach you can’t use a mobile phone.  So, let us first teach them how to improve their methods and techniques for food production and then, at the end of the day, when stomachs are full, show them the opportunities of mobile technology.  The horse and the wagon, you know !

Before going into business “with phones, payment systems, insurance, micro-lending platforms, information platforms, helplines, logistics, tracking systems, management of supplier and distribution networks, trading and tendering platforms”, shouldn’t we help these smallholders to decent food for their families by offering them all the possible opportunities to produce food at the lowest, sustainable cost ?

Our main objective is to help the smallholder farmers to better standards of living, not by making them spend their bit of money on modern technologies, but by informing them about opportunities to improve their food production with simple, affordable methods and techniques.

We have the knowledge to do so.  Let us not wait any longer to share this knowledge with them without hoping to become richer ourselves.  Maybe some bigger companies can contribute to set up this information sharing and training chain ?

Growing vegetables in bottle towers (Willem VAN COTTHEM / Perrine COLLIN / Eric SECRETARIO)

Read at :


Growing vegetables in bottle towers to combat hunger and malnutrition (Willem VAN COTTHEM / Perrine COLLIN / Eric SECRETARIO)

2011-11 - Perrine COLLIN (CABIOKID Foundation) at the Manila seminar) - (Photo Eric SECRETARIO)

What about you ? (Willem Van Cotthem)

It seems that 1 billion people on earth are chronically hungry.

Suppose that, on average, they all belong to a family with 4-5 family members.

That would mean there are 200-250 million chronically hungry families.

Suppose that all the international and national aid organizations would agree to start a programme to offer to all these families, wherever they live, a kit to set up a small container garden, containing a number of cheap containers (buckets, pots, bottles, sacks, ……), some seed packages and some organic fertilizer.

Suppose these kits could be given to schools for the creation of school container gardens.

What would be the cost of such a kit ?

Suppose that these 200-250 million families are enabled to produce at home, and all year long, the elementary vegetables and herbs of their choice (lettuce, onion, tomato, carrot, radish, cabbage, thyme, rosemary, mint, …).

Suppose, in doing so, these 1 billion people become less hungry or less malnourished, less susceptible to infections and thus healthier, stronger and more able to execute jobs and to enhance their annual income.

Suppose all the schools on earth would have a school container garden, producing fresh food for a decent daily lunch at school, thus improving the children’s performances at school.

Considering that all this could be realized by the international and national aid organizations, and that this programme would lead to an undeniable sustainable development for 1 billion out of the 7 billion people on earth,

what would be the cost of 200-250 million container gardening kits ?



Please try to answer the following question :

How many container gardening kits could be purchased with the same budget as

  • The Palm Island in Dubai
  • The Burj Kalifa in Dubai
  • The Big Dug in Boston
  • The Three Gorges Dam in China
  • The Chunnel between France and England
  • A supercarrier
  • etc.


So many years ago, we all thought that these spectacular projects could never be realized.

Today, many of us think it is totally impossible to get all the hungry people growing their own fresh food.


And what about you ?

How to make tetra pots for growing food, using waste tetra packs (You Tube)



draft buklod tao video on tetra pots

Learn how people in the Philippines use discarded tetra packs to transform them into containers for urban container gardening, diminishing waste, producing food and enhancing their annual income.

Should inspire people all over the world to develop similar projects to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty.  What is possible in the Philippines, is feasible elsewhere in a similar way.


Seeds for The Gambia 2011 (Willem VAN COTTHEM / Ellen MEULENVELD)

Please see my newest video :


Seeds for The Gambia 2011

Seeds of vegetables and fruits are collected for the “Seeds for Food”-action in Belgium. Those seeds are offered to development projects all over the world. The Gamrupa Foundation (The Netherlands) took seeds to The Gambia in 2011, where they where used in two school gardens. Thus, children have fresh food at a daily base, a nice initiative to alleviate malnutrition.