Seeds for Food, an action for sustainable development and poverty alleviation (Willem)

h1 Seeds for Food

 

Collecting seeds of tropical fruits and vegetables for developing countries

Let us ban hunger and poverty from the world.

In 2005, I was invited by UNICEF ALGERIA as an advisor for the project “Family gardens and school gardens in the Saharawi refugee camps in South-East Algeria”.  A preliminary study gave evidence that we were able to show families and schools of these refugees (most of them are nomads or fishermen), who have lived in those Sahara camps for more than 30 years, how to layout small kitchen gardens.  We also showed them how to grow fruits and vegetables with a minimum of water and fertilizers, using a water stocking soil conditioner.

In this part of the Sahara (the area around the city of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria) there are two seasons:

(1) the autumn-winter season (from September till January) in which various vegetables can be grown: lettuce, beetroots, carrots, onions, parsley …

(2) the spring-summer season (from February till August) in which it is too hot for vegetables, but in which one can grow various tropical fruits such as melons, watermelons, pumpkins, peppers, avocados, papayas and eggplants (aubergines).

The planning and layout of family and school gardens is no major problem, since there is plenty of space. If one uses a soil conditioner that can store irrigation water, a very small amount of water will do to create sufficient moisture in the soil for granting a continuous plant growth. Unfortunately, there is lack of seeds of tropical fruits and vegetables. Commercial seeds are much too expensive. Vitally important to these people is not to grow special high quality varieties, but to have at their disposal some juicy food in the hottest period of the year, when nothing else is growing in the desert.

Therefore we call on you to show your solidarity with those poverty-stricken refugees or with this poor rural population of India.

We don’t ask you any money.

Only send, when it suits you, the seeds you find in the fruits you eat yourself: melons, water melons, pumpkins, sweet pepper, avocado, papaya, zucchini, cherimoya, pawpaw, etc.

Just rinse these seeds in water and dry them on a plate (not on a piece of paper as it would stick to the seeds). As soon as the seeds are thoroughly dried, put them in a paper envelope and put the name of the species on it.  Then send it to one of our members (see addresses).  It will only cost you the stamp.

The more we gather seeds, the more families we can help.

One thing we know for sure: this project can turn out to be a world initiative, since we, citizens of the developed countries, young or old, (grand)parents, children and grandchildren, we can work together. However small your contribution, however small the parcel of grains you send us, we can assure you that it will contribute to improve the standard of living of the poor, since YOUR SEEDS GET TO THE PEOPLE without any go-between.

This way we will contribute together to fight hunger and poverty in the world.

Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
Beeweg 36
B-9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgique)

You can also group your seeds with friends and send larger packages to the same addresses. Thank you so much!

Miracle Fruit: Myth or Miracle? (Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas)

Read at : Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas

Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas <scrobins@westnet.com.au>

http://www.gardeningtipsnideas.com/

Miracle Fruit: Myth or Miracle?

Posted: 28 Apr 2008

Whenever the claims of a new ‘wonder’ fruit or veg make the rounds, you’re always left trying to decipher fact from fiction – or in this case myth from miracle. Yet after reading a few journals, chasing links around the web and testing the solidness of some of the claims, it appears that Miracle Fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is all that it claims to be and more. The fruit, shaped the size of a grape with bright red skin carries a rather large pip for its size – think avocado or mango here. Within 24 hours of picking it begins to deteriorate and turn brown, not that this changes any of its effects, it just doesn’t look as appetising. So what’s so miraculous about Miracle Fruit? It’s active protein dubbed ‘miraculin’ has the ability to turn everything sour to sweet. Within an hour of eating the fruit, the protein activates the ‘sweet-receptors’ of the consumers tongue and makes everything taste like a desert.

(continued)

For us gardeners, the good news is that not only are they becoming more wide spread as fruit but propagated material is also increasing. It’s quite probable that you could be growing one of these in your own backyard – providing your climate doesn’t suffer frosts. Apart from this, they seem to be very compatible with most climates and will fruit within a year or two.

Sources:
The Old Sweet Lime Trick
To make Lemons into Lemonade

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.

Combating desertification and food insecurity with container gardening (N. ROTH / Willem)

Today, I received an interesting comment of Nancy ROTH on my former posting :

Great ideas for container gardening (Willem) August 14, 2007

I’m having a hard time imagining how this containerized approach, nifty as is appears, could be helpful at the scale needed to reverse desertification or to feed a major population. Isn’t it rather labor-intensive to create a separate container for each plant? Don’t the seedlings rather rapidly outgrow their containers? Then where do you plant them in the desert, which cannot sustain them?

Combating desertification and food insecurity with container gardening

Let us try to link different aspects of container gardening, desertification, desert gardening, food production, education and ecology.

Knowing that millions of plastic bottles and plastic shopping bags are littered every year all over the world, in particular in the desertified areas, it seems indicated to find incentives to get the local people aware these pollution problems.  Learning people, especially children, how these bottles and bags can be used to produce vegetables and young tree, seems to be a valuable (and acceptable) way to motivate the population to take care of the environment.  Less littering means less pollution, a form of desertification.

Motivating children to grow vegetables and young fruit trees in self-watering containers at school contributes directly to solve two major problems : pollution of the environment (less plastic flying around) and malnutrition (daily fresh food at school).  Moreover, the young fruits trees can be taken home at the end of the school year, planted around the house and thus contribute to reforestation (or afforestation) and provision of healthy fruits, not to forget the fact that the plastic bottles or bags should be buried at plantation time.

Considering desert gardening : it is quite difficult to improve the soil qualities in the desert, in particular its water holding and nutrients retaining capacities (too much leaching).  Let us imagine that in  small family garden a series of self-watering containers, e.g. plastic bottles and bags, are buried in the garden soil.  These containers can be filled with “improved soil” (for instance treated with manure).  As more water will be retained in the containers (less infiltration), more biomass can be produced with a smaller quantity of water and less fertilizer (less leaching).  This higher water use efficiency leads to higher food production and less influence of drought on crops (more food security).

Around the gardens, living hedges can also be grown in containers buried in the soil.  There is a significant enhancement in survival rate of the shrubs and trees in the hedges an those plants are growing quicker with less water.

From the educational point of view, container gardening is a fantastic tool for the teachers at school.  Less difficulties for the pupils to keep the school garden in good shape, closer contact with the growing plants in or around the classroom, opportunities to teach the kids a lot of things about differences in plant development from seed to vegetable or tree, are but a few benefits of this container gardening method.

You are most certainly right that it is hard  “imagining how this containerized approach, nifty as is appears, could be helpful at the scale needed to reverse desertification or to feed a major population”.

We are not claiming that container gardening itself can reverse desertification or feed  major population.  However, should every family apply container gardening, should every child at school take care of its own containers, it would create a new attitude, more awareness, less fatalism and neglect, more hope for a better future.

Of course, one needs a lot of support to introduce these ideas.  It will take a lot of time to convince people.  But the fact is quite clear : where container gardening is accepted people eat more fresh food and the environment is gradually cleaner.

It’s a simple as putting our shoes on !

Willem

A special container form : the grow tower (Willem)

Years ago, I visited a colleague in Beijing (Prof. Dr. WANG Tao), who showed me a peculiar way of growing garlic plants on vertical “poles”. In fact, the poles were PVC pipes, about 10-12 cm (4-5 inches) in diameter, in which a series of 4-5 cm (1 ½ to 2 inches) holes were drilled. The holes were spaced randomly around the pipe, about 4-5 cm (1 ½ to 2 inches) apart.

An impressive series of pipes were standing as “grow towers” in a greenhouse, so that in a relatively small space a maximum of plants were kept growing from floor to ceiling. Each pipe was filled with potting soil and the pipes were watered with a sort of drip irrigation system. In every hole of each grow tower a garlic bulb was growing splendidly (flowering towers !).

This brought me to the idea that a smaller number of plants could also be grown on PET bottles. It suffices to cut a number of holes in the wall of the bottle, filled with potting soil, to create a small grow tower (see my first experimental designs) :

Vertical grow tower

Bottle with 3 holes at one side. The same number can be cut at the opposite side. (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

Bottle grow tower

Mini grow tower : holes cut in the bottle wall fashioned with scotch tape.

 

I intend to set up some experiments with similar grow towers next week and I will post the results as soon as possible.

 

Today, I was reading an interesting description of other types of grow tower, made in wood. Here is the text that I found in The Tucson Gardener (2004) :

http://www.tucsongardener.com/Year04/strawberryadventures.htm

The Homemade Strawberry Tower
Y
ou would think by now that I’d be out of new strawberry plants but I wasn’t. I still had about 50 young, healthy plants that needed to find a place in the garden or were destined for the compost bin. I happened to read where someone suggested drilling holes in a whiskey barrel filling the barrel with potting soil and the holes with strawberry plants. That’s when I decided I’d build a grow tower from inexpensive wood just to see what would happen.

Using cedar fence boards and lots of screws I made a four foot tall by about 15 – inch square container. Then I drilled a bunch of evenly spaced inch and a half diameter holes.

I then treated the outside of the wood with a water sealer and moved the whole thing to a place in the vegetable garden where I placed it on four concrete stepping stones to keep it from sitting on the ground. I ran a loop of soaker hose down to the bottom of the four foot tower and hooked it up to the watering system.

Then came the hard part – planting the strawberry plants. I filled the container with a good potting mix and some slow release fertilizer putting plants in the holes as I filled the tower. At the top I added a few more plants. Eventually I had to replace three plants that didn’t make it because I may have planted them too deeply covering the crown.

I had plans to make a removable cage that I could slip over the tower with the beginning of fruit production to fend of birds and rodents but production wasn’t so great that I needed to build the cage. I did construct a simple frame to support shade cloth to help the plants make it through the hot summer.

I must admit I like the looks of my tower but it hasn’t been a big strawberry producer. My biggest fear is it may fall apart sooner than I’d like. I’m hoping it will last for three years. The verdict isn’t yet in. Until then the strawberry tower makes and interesting addition to the vegetable garden.(2004)”

—————

Looking at all these possibilities to construct “grow towers” from pipes, bottles, barrels, wood etc., I am wondering if some of you would come up with more interesting ideas. I am looking forward to your descriptions and preferably with photos.

What a wonderful world, this container gardening, in particular for people living in the drylands, who can grow vegetables and fruits without needing to install gardens in desertlike soils, saving a lot of water and getting fresh food with minimal efforts !

 

Joseph TOLLEDOT’s successes with container gardening

Here is some good news about Joseph TOLLEDOT’s experiments with container gardening (bottles, buckets, etc.) :

I saw your bottle garden and it’s looks like it’s going well. Mine were doing excellently, but we had very strong winds one night and the terrace looked like a tornado had been through!  I patched up the plants as best as I could and they are now doing well again.  Some I have transplanted into large buckets made into self-watering containers – in my opinion, definitely THE way to grow and use up all the water efficiently!  Nearly every weekend I can pick several tomatoes, peppers and radishes to eat. The lettuce has finished now and it’s far too hot to plant more.  I’ll wait till it starts to get cooler. Loads of different hot peppers (I got the seeds from a free offering from GardenWeb) are now starting to produce pods.  I never realised how beautiful and different they can be!

I’ll let you know when I get some new photos up in my Flickr page.

Thanks, Joseph !  This sounds fantastic and very promising for application of bottle (or bucket) gardening in very dry areas, like for instance our UNICEF project in the refugee camps of Algeria (Sahara desert).  Over there, the Sahrawi people only have a very limited amount of drinking water.  Although everyone accepts the importance of local production of fresh vegetables, it still sounds difficult to convince the authorities to provide some more water to irrigate their family gardens and school gardens.

different species
All kinds of bottles can be used for growing all kinds of plants (vegetables, herbs, trees) with a minimum of water (less infiltration in poor sandy soil, less evaporation in desertlike circumstances). (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

Therefore, I believe that container gardening would offer interesting possibilities to limit irrigation water to the strict minimum.

Could you, Joseph, send me a detailed description of your self-watering buckets, for I think it may contribute to food security for these people in the desert ?  Sincere thanks for your humanitarian contribution.

Kids gardening in a bucket (Google Alert / About: Gardening / Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 31, 2007

Kids gardening in a bucket (Google Alert / About:)

May 31, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in gardening kids, desert/desert gardening, women/youth and desertification, container/bottle gardening, horticulture/gardening, success stories – best practices, water, ecology – environment, desertification, drought. trackback , edit post

Particularly interested in all kinds of information on “Gardening with kids“, I find today this article on the use of a container variant: the bucket.

Together with UNICEF Algeria, I am setting up family gardens and school gardens in the Sahara desert. For youngsters at school it should be fun and interesting to grow vegetables with a minimum of water, because drought is of course a major problem in this dryland area of S.W. Algeria. We want to show them how to grow vegetables in plastic bottles and bags (see my former postings on that topic), otherwise polluting their environment, but we will certainly use also “old” buckets, no matter if “there is a hole in the bucket, dear Lisa“, or should I say: dear Marie Iannotti (see below)?

Read at :

Google Alert for Gardening

About: Gardening

http://gardening.about.com/od/kidsgardeningprojects/ht/GardenBucket.htm

How To Garden in a Bucket – A Portable, Private Garden for Your Child

From Marie Iannotti,
Your Guide to Gardening.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!

To make gardening fun and accessible to kids, you need to make it personal. This is a gardening project from my local 4H organization that you can easily do with your own little clover buds. ‘Garden in a Bucket’ lets kids create a personal, private garden that they can carry with them, take care of, show off and enjoy. Even the shortest attention spans can create a masterpiece and then these junior gardeners can enjoy their Garden in a Bucket all summer. Continue reading Kids gardening in a bucket (Google Alert / About: Gardening / Willem)

Container gardening: growing edibles (Google Alert / Daily Times)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 31, 2007

Container gardening: growing edibles (Google Alert / Daily Times)

May 31, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in desert/desert gardening, women/youth and desertification, container/bottle gardening, food / food security, success stories – best practices, soil, sustainability, water. trackback , edit post

Read at :

Google Alert for Gardening

The Daily Times

http://www.delmarvanow.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070529/OPI06/705290308/-1/OPI

Container gardening: Fun and simple way to grow edibles


OCEAN PINES — Spring is the time of year when the spirit of Martha Stewart comes out in many gardeners who dream of growing flowers, herbs and enough fresh vegetables to make homemade salads every night. However, many have not grown careers out of planting seeds and may not always have the time to dedicate like Martha does. According to Laura Hunsberger, an agriculture educator in Worcester County, even though time may not allow for constant gardening, there are fun, cheap and easy ways to produce vegetation. Hunsberger spoke at a recent meeting of the Ocean Pines Garden Club about the advantages of container gardens in a presentation called, “Container Vegetable Gardening: Healthy Harvests from Small Spaces.”

Hunsberger said container gardening is a fun and simple way to grow edible gardens, and everyone from novice gardeners to college students, children and people with physical limitations can participate. “In my head I may have a beautiful garden, but time doesn’t allow that,” Hunsberger said. “Instead, container gardening is a great way to grow a vegetable and you can do it with your kids and family.” “By growing a vegetable, people are having a connection with their food source and it is just more fun and rewarding,” she said. Continue reading Container gardening: growing edibles (Google Alert / Daily Times)

Strawberries in plastic bottles (Willem)

 Already published on my desertification weblog on May 24, 2007

Strawberries in plastic bottles

May 24, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in desert/desert gardening, container/bottle gardening, soil conditioning, horticulture/gardening, water, desertification, technologies. trackback , edit post

In former postings I described already the possibilities of growing vegetables in plastic bottles, e.g.:

Container-Free Balcony Gardening (Katie Humphry)

Mon potager dans des bouteilles en plastique / My vegetable garden in plastic bottles May 10, 2007

Gardening in a bottlerack

Jardinage dans une étagère de bouteilles May 12, 2007

Gardening in a bottlerack or simply on a bottle May 14, 2007

Today, I bring you some nice pictures of strawberries growing in such plastic bottles. Please look at the healthy condition of the flowering plants, bearing young, ripening fruits. I strongly believe that people in the drylands (but in fact everyone) can use this method to grow food crops with a minimum of water and fertilizer. Massive use of this kind of containers can help us to limit plastic waste, as also plastic bags can easily be used as containers for gardening in the vicinity of the house (and later on buried in the soil). Continue reading Strawberries in plastic bottles (Willem)

Gardening in a bottlerack (Willem)

 Already published on my desertification weblog on May 12, 2007

Gardening in a bottlerack

May 12, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in gardening kids, horticulture/gardening, desert/desert gardening, container/bottle gardening, family gardens, school gardens, success stories – best practices, water, soil, desertification, sustainability, technologies. trackback , edit post Being convinced there is a nice future for growing vegetables or other plants in plastic bottles, filled with a mix of potting soil and a soil conditioner like TerraCottem, I am continuously thinking about variants to enlarge application possibilities.

As in the drylands extreme drought, and thus extreme evaporation, is one of the main problems for agriculture and gardening, I suggest to limit this evaporation by using a plastic bottle to obtain a higher water use efficiency. Indeed, water can be stocked in a volume of potting soil, wherein a water absorbing soil conditioner can play its supplementary water stocking role. Please have a look at my former posting on this blog:

Mon potager dans des bouteilles en plastique / My vegetable garden in plastic bottles

May 10, 2007

This message contains info on how to transform a normal plastic bottle into an efficient container for growing all kinds of plants, even young trees (to be transplanted when reaching sufficient height).

Today, I present you an idea on a “bottlerack“, useful under different conditions : Continue reading Gardening in a bottlerack (Willem)