Commercial seeds versus “Seeds for Food” (AfricaFiles / allAfrica/ Willem Van Cotthem)

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AfricaFiles

Title: Uganda embarks on seed improvement
Author: Aidah Nanyonjo, Kampala
Category: Ecology
Date: 12/9/2008
Source: New Vision
Source Website: <http://www.africafiles.org/database/>

African Charter Article# 24: All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favorable to their development.

Summary & Comment: Uganda has embarked on a two year project to develop and adapt seed varieties that grow well in the local environment. The research is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. AB


Uganda embarks on seed improvement

http://allafrica.com/stories/200812100139.html

Uganda has embarked on a two year project to develop and adapt seed varieties that grow well in the local environment.

Dr. Peter Seruwagi, the head of Horticulture programme at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCCRI), Namulonge says the multi million project which is called ‘Vegetable breeding and seed systems‘ is funded by the Bill and Merinda Gates Foundation through the World Vegetable Centre. “We want to come up with seed varieties that are of good quality for improved productivity as well as consumption,” he said. Seruwagi says most imported seed varieties especially for horticulture do not do well in the Ugandan environment. The project will cover tomatoes, egg plants, onions and other vegetables. “It is not true that all the imported seeds are of low quality. They may be of high quality in the country of origin, but due to climatic differences they fail to do well here. We have received several cases where these seeds fail to germinate,” he says.

The Institute has organised a seed fair where Ugandan seed companies will exhibit their products. The seed fair, with a theme ‘Vegetables for health and wealth,’ will take place on December 12, 2008. “As part of the project, the seed fair aims at promoting the use of quality seeds and increased vegetable production for income generation,” he says.He said the market for vegetables has grown widely following the benefits they contain. “Eating a wide variety of vegetables means you are more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals that are important to your health,” Seruwagi added.

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MY COMMENT (Willem)

It is a well known fact that some imported seeds, even of the highest quality, will not germinate and develop into healthy plants, due to climatic or edaphic(soil)  constraints.

For that reason some comments on our “Seeds for Food” action doubt about the positive effect of the seeds we send abroad to development projects.

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2008-04 – Tomato production in a family kitchen garden in the Sahara desert

It goes without saying that we are conscious about the right choice of the species sent.  But even if not all the seeds offered for free to projects will germinate or develop into healthy plants, the percentage of them germinating and producing fresh vegetables and fruits is a big step forward for the recipients, because “Eating a wide variety of vegetables means you are more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals that are important to your health“.  And even the non-germinating seeds will always play a positive role, being organic matter that will be decomposed in the soil and thus contribute to the organic content of that soil.

We appreciate very much the efforts of  the “multi million project which is called ‘Vegetable breeding and seed systems‘  funded by the Bill and Merinda Gates Foundation through the World Vegetable Centre.  We expect that the outcome will be : an interesting selection of excellent varieties of seeds, producing bigger plants and better tasting vegetables.

However, the question remains if these selected varieties will be produced in Uganda (and in the other developing countries) at such a large scale that sufficient seeds will be offered for free to the poor rural people.  Or will they be produced by companies, putting commercial varieties of seeds on the market which again will be too expensive to be easily purchased by smallholders.

We remain convinced that offering free seeds of tropical fruits, collected from all the juicy fruits we are eating in developed countries, to small-scale farmers in the developing countries, is a valuable contribution to their sustainable development.  Taking into account the climatic and edaphic conditions at the sites or regions of the developing countries, where we are sending the collected seeds of vegetables to, is also a major step in that direction.  Once those smallholders have these free seeds developing in their kitchen garden, they are in a position to select seeds from the plants they are growing.  They will not be dependent anymore on “donations of seeds”.  They will be able to enhance bit-by-bit their annual income by taking the surplus of vegetables and fruits to the local market.  And at the end of the day they will earn sufficient money to buy the “top quality seeds” selected by their national experts and produced by the commercial seed companies.

In the meanwhile, we continue to collect seeds of vegetables and fruits and we offer them for free to every development project wanting to lay-out kitchen gardens, in particular in the drylands.

Is this working well ?  Ask the people who received already some seeds … or look at the pictures of newly installed kitchen gardens, even those in the Sahara desert.  Seeing is believing, isn’t it ?

DSCN0249
2008-04 – Engineer Taleb BRAHIM taking care of the right application of the seeds in the harsh climatic and edaphic conditions of the Algerian Sahara.

A convenient truth for family gardening (Willem van Cotthem)

In August 2007, I launched a new project “Seeds for Food” (see <www.seedsforfood.org>) for collecting seeds of vegetables and fruits, in order to offer people living in the drylands opportunities to grow fresh food themselves in small family gardens or community gardens.  This action is growing into a dramatic success as people on different continents are now sending seeds of the fruits they eat or from vegetables grown in their own garden.

Nevertheless, a number of people express their concern about the possibility that some of these seeds could belong to “invasive species”, which would rapidly invade the local ecosystems and thus be a nuisance for the local biodiversity.

Here is one of these “critics” and my reply thereon :

“I have some problems with the scheme you are talking about. It is not good for biodiversity. For example here in SA when people imported bramble berries they took off so well that now they are a huge problem covering millions of hectares of land that would otherwise be used for grazing or local crops. I have just spent an hour near the bridge removing the bramble before it takes off after a very good spring rain.

In SA what we need to do is gather and care for our own indigenous seeds, not plant foreign seeds. So the scheme wouldn’t work here. I hope the scheme will really not cause more problems in the long run for the countries where the seeds are being grown. …………..

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MY REPLY (Willem)

I understand fully your concern about the possible introduction of so-called “invasive species of plants”, rapidly dispersing in the original ecosystems and developing into a catastrophic nuisance.  This is certainly the case with bramble berries.  One should never send bramble berries abroad because this plant species is known as an invasive one of which the seeds are dispersed by a lot of animals.

Most of the vegetables, on the contrary, are not invasive.  And so are most of the fruit trees.

Now, let us suppose for a moment that tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery or parsley would spread quite rapidly over the dryland areas where we introduce them.  Would the local people mind finding these food crops around their houses after a certain time? If ever tomatoes would spread massively over desertlike areas, would we speak of a catastrophe for biodiversity ?  Or would it be even positive to see some green plants covering the dry soil?

So, I understand your concern, but I am very sure that the seeds we are sending abroad will never create such a problem.  Moreover, it would be better to create a vegetation layer over a dryland area with vegetables and fruits than to leave it barren, due to desertification.  Drought will always be the limiting factor in such areas.

I hope you see my point : we want to offer fresh food and fruits to the rural people in the drylands, not by sending them “food baskets”, rice, dry beans, peas, canned food and the like, but by offering them free seeds to be grown in their own small family garden.  Our “food aid” brings life into the drylands and takes care of the causes of hunger, drought and desertification.  That’s providing sustainable development, not by sending a billion of dollars load in an airplane, but in a small package full of different seeds.

And we are not sending invasive species !

Thanks for your remarks.

Friendly greetings,

Willem

Container gardening to create food security in the drylands (P.H. DIMUSA – Malawi / W. Van Cotthem)

Today I received a short report from Patrick Harry DIMUSA on his first efforts to launch container gardening in his home country Malawi.  Patrick studied in Ghent (Belgium) in 2007.  Before returning to his country he visited me to get some advice on technologies and methods to improve plant production in Malawi.

We discussed the advantages of :

1. Soil improvement by applying a water- and fertilizer absorbing soil conditioner.
2. Participation in our Seeds for Food project.
3. Container gardening to produce vegetables and other food crops in bottles, plastic bags, pots, etc.

Once back home, Patrick started a small-scale container gardening project in his own village, also using the seeds he received in Belgium (donated by many people of Western Europe).

Here is his first report on the results of his magnificent initiative :

“Dear Professor Willem,

First I would like to thank you for introducing me to “container gardening”.  To say frankly, the initiative impressed me and after my arrival back home, I formed an NGO by the name of “Future of Malawi (FOM)”.  The objectives of that organisation are to contribute in the fight against hunger, desertification and poverty in Malawi.

I remember well your advice that it is better to target children in this project, because they are the future leaders of tomorrow.  That is why FOM is working with children on most of its activities.  Most of the container gardening sensitization is done in the schools surrounding my village, which is the central location of my project.

Ever since I started this action I never received any funding.  Most of the money for the organization of activities comes from my pocket.  I did it because I believe in hard work and in the fact that everything that starts small can become big.

Currently, I am planning to buy some land to construct an “education centre” or a “demonstration centre” for the project.  To my site I take container gardening as the only possible rescue for poor countries like Malawi, because it can be started on a low budget.  Moreover, it helps to keep the environment clean by collecting useless plastic bottles and plastic bags, which are massively polluting nature.  Growing seedlings of trees contributes to the reforestation of our country.

As the founder of this project I am facing a lot of challenges to keep it going forward, due to financial constraints.  Therefore, let me take this opportunity to ask all well-wishers to support me.

Please show my pictures to the visitors of your website.

May God bless you and your wife.

With lots of love,

Patrick Harry DIMUSA

c/o Martha Harry
Theatre for Change
British Council
P.O. Box 30222
LILONGWE 3 – Malawi

2007-12 : Returning home from Belgium Patrick Harry immediately started planting flowering plants at his project site in Piyasani village.
2007-12 : Returning home from Belgium Patrick Harry immediately started planting flowering plants at his project site in Piyasani village.
2007-12 : Patrick Harry preparing his first bottles and other containers.
2007-12 : Patrick Harry preparing his first bottles and other containers.
2008-01 - With a friend learning the container gardening technique at the project site.
2008-01 – With a friend learning the container gardening technique at the project site.2009-03 – The “Future of Malawi” kids club after a football match in Piyasani village.
2009-03 - The "Future of Malawi" kids club after a football match in Piyasani village.
2009-03 – The “Future of Malawi” kids club after a football match in Piyasani village.
2009 - Chrispin and his little brother showing tomatoes and other vegetables growing in containers with a minimum of irrigation water.  With container gardening a lot of water is saved for other purposes (no infiltration in the dry soil, less evaporation from the plastic bags).
2009 – Chrispin and his little brother showing tomatoes and other vegetables growing in containers with a minimum of irrigation water. With container gardening a lot of water is saved for other purposes (no infiltration in the dry soil, less evaporation from the plastic bags).
2009 - Etala is a member of the FOM Kids Club who learned the technique of container gardening.  Kids  love to do a lot of work in the garden at the projet site and later they will set up their own garden at home.
2009 – Etala is a member of the FOM Kids Club who learned the technique of container gardening. Kids love to do a lot of work in the garden at the projet site and later they will set up their own garden at home.
2009 - Patrick Harry with some members of the FOM Kids Club showing spinach plants growing splendidly in plastic bags.  Drought has no effect on plant growth, because the substrate in the bags is kept humid with only a bit of irrigation from time to time.
2009 – Patrick Harry with some members of the FOM Kids Club showing spinach plants growing splendidly in plastic bags. Drought has no effect on plant growth, because the substrate in the bags is kept humid with only a bit of irrigation from time to time.
2009 - Players of the FOM kids football team are happy to show vegetables grown in containers.  No difficulties whatsoever with poor water retention in the local garden soil were encountered.
2009 – Players of the FOM kids football team are happy to show vegetables grown in containers. No difficulties whatsoever with poor water retention in the local garden soil were encountered.
2009 - Isaac, another member of the FOM KC, taking good care of the maize grown in plastic bags.
2009 – Isaac, another member of the FOM KC, taking good care of the maize grown in plastic bags.
2009 - Tibo, Patrick Harry's son, with some of his friends, proudly showing different vegetables grown at the container gardening project site.
2009 – Tibo, Patrick Harry’s son, with some of his friends, proudly showing different vegetables grown at the container gardening project site.

Drought Tolerant Plants (Google / Bharat Abasha / DocStoc)

Read at : Google Alert – drought

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/12420193/Growing-Drought-Tolerant-Plants-In-Full-Sun-Gardens

http://www.bharatbhasha.com/gardening.php/50516

Drought Tolerant Plants

Areas of your garden that face West or South naturally tend to be much hotter and receive much more direct sunlight.

Taking a little time to choose the right plants for these demanding growing conditions can help save you time, money, and water, as well as improve your overall results.

Most plants will require more water under high heat/sun conditions unless they’re native to one of the desert regions, or when established, tend to be drought tolerant.

A deep watering program in high heat areas can help conserve water, and still promote healthy, vigorous growth. Continue reading Drought Tolerant Plants (Google / Bharat Abasha / DocStoc)

Drought-Resistant Gardens Are an Economical Alternative (Google / MatterNetwork)

Read at : Google Alert – drought

http://www.matternetwork.com/2009/10/drought-resistant-gardens-an-economical.cfm

Drought-Resistant Gardens Are an Economical Alternative

The high cost of watering yards and gardens is driving many homeowners to switch to drought-resistant landscaping, according to Darrin Miller of Central Coast Wilds. Miller’s firm designs and plants native and drought resistant gardens for residential customers and commercial clients.

Miller said he studied eco-landscaping about nine years ago. Yet, even though landscapers have been studying and planting drought-resistant gardens for a long time, many traditional landscape architects are still planting formal lawns and annual flowers, which require heavy amounts of fertilizer and regular watering to maintain. Continue reading Drought-Resistant Gardens Are an Economical Alternative (Google / MatterNetwork)

Small-scale gardening to combat hunger and to improve public health

I feel really proud when reading the page below in the “NIOU-NIEUWS”, a Dutch publication of the Comittee Maastricht-Niou.

This Comittee, created in the Dutch city of Maastricht, is already setting up different development programmes to combat desertification and to alleviate poverty for more than 2 decades  in Burkina Faso, not only in the village of Niou (Kourweogo Province), but also in many other villages, like Méguet-Zorgho.

I feel proud because I had this fantastic opportunity to participate with my team of the University of Ghent (Belgium) in the realization of the first small-scale community gardens for women and in some reforestation projects.  These community gardens, family gardens and school gardens not only provide fresh food, full of vitamins and mineral elements, but they also contribute to the improvement of public health, in particular that of the local children.

It cannot be denied anymore that one can easily solve the hunger problem of this world by creating small-scale gardens (community gardens, family gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, etc.) in the drylands.

Food insecurity can be easily banned from all the drylands, if only the decision could be taken to spend less money on flying costly food from the developed countries to the developing ones, and to spend more on the promotion of small-scale farming or gardening. “Don’t bring food to this women, teach her how to grow it” !

It seems that the European Union is convinced of this, seen the financial resources recently offered to demonstration projects in five countries (see a former posting).

Let us that hope we are at a decisive turning point in the policies, heading for a better future through small-scale farming and gardening.

2009-06 : Een bladzijde uit het juni-nummer van het NIOU-NIEUWS
2009-06 : Een bladzijde uit het juni-nummer van het NIOU-NIEUWS

2009 Maastr. Groententuinen tekst

Seeds of tropical fruits for development projects (Bob CALDWELL)

I felt really happy receiving some papaya seeds from Mr. R.W. “Bob” CALDWELL :

Papaya seeds from the USA
Papaya seeds from Florida, USA

Since 2006, I am collecting seeds of tropical fruits in order to send these to development projects in the drylands, where rural people can’t afford to buy commercial seeds (too expensive).  All over the world, seeds of melon, watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin, papaya, cherimoya, lychee, avocado, etc. are thrown into the garbage bin or on the compost heap.  However, these seeds can easily be washed and dried.  People sending these seeds to my personal address (Prof. Willem VAN COTTHEM – Beeweg 36 – B9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium) can be sure that these seeds are sent to different development projects in Africa, Asia and S. America, where people can grow these tropical fruits in their own small family garden.  Thus, we are contributing to food production in the drylands and we help these poor people to some juicy fruits, rich in vitamins, in particular for their children.

Sincere thanks to Mr. Bob CALDWELL  for his small but valuable contribution.  let me express the hope that many more people will follow his example.  See my blog “http://www.seedsforfood.org

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!

Green Gardening: Dry plants need sun and drainage (Google / Seattlepi)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/nwgardens/370140_lovejoy10.html

Green Gardening: Dry plants need sun and drainage

By ANN LOVEJOY
SPECIAL TO THE P-I

LAST WEEK I offered ideas about smaller shrubs and grasses that grow well in dry gardens. Some of you want to know if you can simply grow drought-tolerant plants in an ordinary garden bed and not water them. Well, yes and no. The dry-garden style involves mounded beds and gravel mulches that promote winter drainage and good air exchange. This helps reduce winter root rots that can plague ordinary garden beds when their base is heavy clay soil. Dry gardens support a wide variety of plants that love to be dry and hate to be soggy. Some of these simply won’t accept a spot in an “ordinary” bed. Continue reading Green Gardening: Dry plants need sun and drainage (Google / Seattlepi)

Xeriscape for Drought-Tolerant Landscaping (Google / Danny Lipford)

Read at : Google Alert – drought

http://garden.dannylipford.com/diy-home-improvement/lawn-and-gardening/xeriscape-for-drought-tolerant-landscaping/

Xeriscape for Drought-Tolerant Landscaping

Published 07/08/2008 by Julie Day

In our changing climate, water is becoming a precious resource. For many communities, municipal water restrictions are now commonplace, requiring innovative approaches to landscaping and gardening. One solution is xeriscaping, derived from the Greek word for “dry,” which employs drought resistant plants and water conservation measures to limit the use of irrigation in landscaping. Xeriscapes do not follow a specific design but apply a set of principles to determine the most efficient and pleasing layout based on the climate and topography.

Planning and Design Continue reading Xeriscape for Drought-Tolerant Landscaping (Google / Danny Lipford)