Gardening in bottle towers (Willem Van Cotthem)

Here is my newest video :

http://youtu.be/jBY2NN-T0fc

HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION – USE BOTTLE TOWERS

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 :

http://youtu.be/3gxmU3YAh6c

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/farming-or-gardening-in-bottle-towers-or-pot-towers-willem-van-cotthem-gilbert-van-damme-tony-simeone/

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/no-more-child-malnutrition-and-hunger-willem-van-cotthem/

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)

UN AND PARTNERS SEEK $34 MILLION TO ASSIST DROUGHT-STRICKEN GUATEMALANS (UNNews)

Read at : UNNews

UN AND PARTNERS SEEK $34 MILLION TO ASSIST DROUGHT-STRICKEN GUATEMALANS

New York, Mar  5 2010  2:05PM

The United Nations, together with the Guatemalan Government and aid partners, today launched a $34 million appeal to counter food shortages affecting 2.7 million people living in the Central American country’s so-called ‘dry corridor,’ which even before last year’s drought had one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (<“http://ochaonline.un.org/”>OCHA) said today’s appeal will complement national relief efforts and provide support for food, health, nutrition, agriculture and early recovery, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene projects for six months for some 680,000 people living in departments in the eastern section of the country, including the dry corridor – Jutiapa, Santa Rosa, Zacapa, Chiquimula, El Progreso and Baja Verapaz – and the neighbouring Izabal and Quiché. Global acute malnutrition among children under the age of five in the dry corridor and the two neighbouring provinces is at 11 per cent, and at 13 per cent among women of child-bearing age. Both figures are above the emergency threshold of 10 per cent.  The dry corridor had faced annual food shortages before, but this year, the situation is exacerbated by a combination of bad weather and bad economics.

El Niño-affected rainfall patterns in the country lead to high losses in hillside and subsistence agricultural production.

Meanwhile, rising food prices brought on by the global economic crisis, a decrease in remittances, cost increases for agricultural inputs and a decrease in employment opportunities for unqualified labour has led poorer people suffering from decreased capacities to access food and basic services.

The situation of Guatemala’s food shortages has received increased international attention. The World Food Programme (<“http://www.wfp.org/countries/guatemala”>WFP) recently held a video competition about the 1 billion people hungry in the world and the two aspiring filmmakers who won the grand prize are heading to Guatemala to highlight the plight of the drought-ridden country’s people.
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For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

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JUST AN IDEA (Willem VAN COTTHEM)

Best practices to counter food shortages in dry regions, where child malnutrition is one of the main problems. Besides “national relief efforts and provide support for food, health, nutrition, agriculture and early recovery, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene projects for six months”(short-term relief), long-term solutions can be found in small-scale farming and gardening (BAN KI-MOON).  “Global acute malnutrition among children under the age of five” can be alleviated with small kitchen gardens in which container gardening contributes to saving water.

Even if “rising food prices brought on by the global economic crisis, a decrease in remittances, cost increases for agricultural inputs and a decrease in employment opportunities for unqualified labour has led poorer people suffering from decreased capacities to access food and basic services.”, low-budget investment in construction of family gardens and container gardening would lead to long-term and sustainable improvement in the living standards of the people in dry regions.

2008 – INDIA/TAMIL NADU/SCD PROJECT : Successful container gardening in a family garden, providing fresh food in  a drought-stricken area with a minimum of irrigation water.
2008 – INDIA/TAMIL NADU/SCDA PROJECT : Simple and inexpensive preparation of a family garden
2008 – INDIA/TAMIL NADU/SCDA PROJECT : Low-budget initiative with high return on investment
2008 – INDIA/TAMIL NADU/SCDA PROJECT : Child malnutrition alleviated with long-term fresh food production (vitamins, mineral elements).
2008 – INDIA/TAMIL NADU/SCDA PROJECT : With a small part of the financial support for food aid, transporting food to the affected areas, a sufficient number of kitchen gardens and school gardens can be installed.
2008 – INDIA/TAMIL NADU/SCDA PROJECT : SCAD’s women selfhelp groups feel extremely happy with the small agricultural inputs for their home garden. A challenge for all aid programmes.

No Green Wall without small-scale gardens for women (Willem Van Cotthem)

My attention was caught by some statements in Mrs. Priscilla ACHAKPA’s interview, referred to a former posting on my desertification blog:

Nigeria: WEP Wants Green Wall Sahara Programme (http://allafrica.com/stories/201002180504.html)

This Executive Director of the Women Environment Programme (WEP) urged the Nigerian Government to speed up the implementation of the Green Wall Sahara programme (GWSP), which she called “an integrated development strategy for combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought and climate change” (see also UNCCD).

Mrs. ACHAKPA observed that the impact of desertification raised security concerns, especially among the vulnerable groups.  She stated that “the impact of climate change is more on women in the rural areas as they have little or no understanding of the issues involved”.  Her NGO, the WEP, intends to conduct a study on gender awareness of climate change issues, because adequate information on climate change is necessary to evolve steps to control it.

Agreeing with some of Mrs. ACHAKPA’s ideas, I want to congratulate her for asking to speed up the implementation of the Green Wall programme.  Indeed, such a nice programme, being a real challenge for all the Sahelian countries involved, merits massive support to speed up its achievement.

On the other hand, I disagree with her that Nigerian and other Sahelian rural women will be better off with “adequate information on climate change necessary to evolve steps to control it“.  Even supposing that there would be a small chance to find adequate information on climate change for rural women, I am not so sure that this will help these vulnerable women to handle their security concerns raised by the impact of desertification.

Even if the Green Wall programme may play a little bit of an interesting role in some aspects of climate change, it will not be tremendously important for the rural families in the northern provinces of Nigeria and in the other countries concerned.  I rather believe that it would be more efficient to invest in awareness building of the local population about the need to combine small-scale agriculture (or gardening) with reforestation in the Green Wall programme (agroforestry).

No doubt, we are all aware of the fact that such an enormous reforestation plan, with billions of trees to be planted in the Sahel belt, can never be achieved without “an army” of labourers for growing seedlings, digging plant pits and planting the seedlings.  These labourers will have to be well fed.  Tons of food will have to be produced at the local level.  By whom ?  By the local women ?  In this case, we would prefer that long time before the activities of the GWSP start all women can get “adequate information on ways and means to cultivate sufficient food for hundreds (thousands ?) of labourers of the GWSP working in their region”.

We can’t imagine that these women would be more interested in climate change issues than in best practices of food production in their dry region.

If well trained in cultivating all necessary species of vegetables and fruits, (dryland farming), they can not only use these skills during the implementation of the GWSP, but also for the rest of their life and that of their children, grandchildren, …

Therefore, just allow me this little piece of advice : start today laying out a small-scale garden for every woman in the northern provinces of Nigeria where the GWSP will be applied, because if there is not sufficient food production in those provinces when the labourers have to start planting trees, there will not be a Green Wall at all. Never, because planting trees with an empty stomach is so extremely difficult.  We all know this, even those strongly interested in climate change.

Collecting seeds of dragonfruit and tree tomato for development projects (Willem Van Cotthem)


Dragonfruits and tree tomatoes can be bought in supermarkets or fruit shops.

Dragonfruit is grown on the cactus Hylocereus :

  • Hylocereus undatus (Red Pitaya) has red-skinned fruit with white flesh, the most common “dragon fruit”.
  • Hylocereus costaricensis (Costa Rica Pitaya, often called H. polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh
  • Hylocereus megalanthus (Yellow Pitaya, formerly in Selenicereus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.

The fruit contains hundreds of black, shiny little seeds sitting in the pulp.  One can wash out the tender pulp in a fine sieve and dry the seeds on a plate (not on paper).  They usually germinate around two weeks after shallow planting.  Dry seeds can be sent to us (Beeweg 36 – BE9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium).  We offer free seeds to different development projects in the drylands, thus enabling hungry people to grow fresh fruits in a sustainable way.

Dragonfruit (Hylocereus undatus) growing on climbing cacti - * Dragonfruit plantation - Photo Evariza Farms - 423871_101260033362712_1701936709_n.jpg
Dragonfruit (Hylocereus undatus) growing on climbing cacti – * Dragonfruit plantation – Photo Evariza Farms – 423871_101260033362712_1701936709_n.jpg
Dragonfruit - Photo WVC P1030067
Dragonfruit – Photo WVC P1030067
Cross section of dragonfruit with black seeds in white pulp - Photo WVC P1030059
Cross section of dragonfruit with black seeds in white pulp – Photo WVC P1030059
Dragonfruit's shiny black seeds in rests of whitish pulp - Photo WVC - P1030111
Dragonfruit’s shiny black seeds in rests of whitish pulp – Photo WVC – P1030111
Germination of dragonfruit seeds - Photo WVC - P1030133
Germination of dragonfruit seeds – Photo WVC – P1030133
Dragonfruit seedlings on household paper - Photo WVC - P1030129
Dragonfruit seedlings on household paper – Photo WVC – P1030129

The tree tomato grows on a Cyphomandra betacea tree.

Oval fruits only look like tomatoes.  The juicy orange pulp with purply red seeds can be washed out in a fine sieve by squeezing the pulp under running tap water.  The dark colour of the seeds (anthocyanins) disappears gradually until they are brownish.  Seeds can be dried on a plate (not on a paper).  Seedlings develop quite easily in humid potting soil.

Dry seeds sent to us (see address above) are offered for free to development projects in the drylands, where these tree tomatoes bring fresh food full of vitamins to the local people.  Thus, anyone can contribute to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in this world.

Tree tomato (Cyphomandra betacea), an interesting fruit to be grown at the largest scale in the drylands. The tree should be incorporated in reforestation programs. - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA BETACEA Photo WVC - P1030139.jpg
Tree tomato (Cyphomandra betacea), an interesting fruit to be grown at the largest scale in the drylands. The tree should be incorporated in reforestation programs. – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA BETACEA Photo WVC – P1030139.jpg
Cross-section of tree tomato with orange flesh (juicy pulp) and dark red seeds - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA P1030143
Cross-section of tree tomato with orange flesh (juicy pulp) and dark red seeds – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA Photo WVC – P1030143
Seeds of tree tomato sit on their small stalk - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA P1030147
Seeds of tree tomato sit on their small stalk – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA Photo WVC – P1030147
When purplish red anthocyanins are washed out the seeds turn brownish - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA P1030151
When purplish red anthocyanins are washed out the seeds turn brownish – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA Photo WVC – P1030151
All contributions of dragonfruit seeds and tree tomato seeds are most welcome.  In the name of all the people affected by drought and desertification, suffering from malnutrition, hunger and poverty : Sincere thanks !

WHY NOT USING CUTTINGS OF NAVAJO GLOBE WILLOW TO REFORESTATE DRYLANDS ? – Willem VAN COTTHEM

Cuttings of Navajo Globe Willow (Salix matsudana ‘Navajo’)

by Willem Van Cotthem – University of Ghent (Belgium)

We have been setting up successful tests with drought-resistant varieties of trees to be introduced in refugee camps. We are still looking for small cuttings (20-25 cm, 8-10 inches) of the Globe Navajo willow (Salix matsudana var. ‘Navajo’).

We would be very grateful to receive some cuttings from different origins to compare drought tolerance.

Who wants to help us to some cuttings ?  Please send them to :

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

Beeweg 36

B9080 ZAFFELARE

A cutting of Salix matsudana in a juice bottle can be easily transplanted in the field after cutting off the bottom of the bottle, setting the basal part of the rootball free (Photo WVC 2010-01)
A cutting of Salix matsudana in a juice bottle can be easily transplanted in the field after cutting off the bottom of the bottle, setting the basal part of the rootball free (Photo WVC 2010-01)

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‘Navajo’ is a very hardy tree, adapted to high desert climates, round-headed upright and fast-growing, spreading, large, deciduous, long lived tree, medium-sized, 20’ to 70′ tall and wide.

The tree seems to be sheared into a perfect ball. Its branching habit results in a characteristic globe shape: a broad, rounded, perfectly symmetrical crown spread of mostly fifty feet. Young 15’ tall trees start showing the rounded crown.

Slender leaves are bright green, lance-shaped, 2″-4″ long, turning yellow in fall.

Unlike most willows, this variety is popular in high desert and drylands because it is drought tolerant, adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions

The name of the ‘Navajo’ variety of the Globe Willow is probably synonym with ‘Umbraculifera’.

The Navajo Globe Willow is related to the Corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’).  Cuttings of this Cortkscrew Willow would also be welcome.

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Please send some cuttings to:

Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
BEEWEG 36
B 9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium)

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

Read at :

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.

DSCN0304
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

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

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis (Willem)

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis

Drought is described as a very important environmental constraint, limiting plant growth and food production. The World Food Program (WFP) has recently indicated drought in Australia as one of the major factors for the difficulty to deliver food aid to millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Drought is seen as the force driving up wheat and rice prices, which contributes directly to food shortage, social unrest and disturbances at the global level. Therefore, mitigating drought and limiting water consumption seems to be essential factors for resolving the actual food crisis and to find long-term solutions to malnutrition, hunger and famine, particularly in the drylands.

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

As the world’s population is growing by about 78 million people a year, it affects life on this earth in a very dramatic way. Droughts have caused a rise of food prices many times before, but the present situation is quite different, because it is based on specific trends and facts : the faster growing world population and a definite change in international food consumption trends and habits.

Some experts claim that “major investments to boost world food output will keep shortages down to the malnutrition level in some of the world’s poorer nations“, and that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields can create a lot of small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”.

It seems quite difficult to believe that “major investments to boost the food output” will be able to “keep the food shortages down to the malnutrition level“, wherever in this world. Indeed, the world’s most famous research institutes have already developed very effective technologies to boost food production in the most adverse conditions of serious drought and salinity. Yet, not one single organization has ever decided, up to now, to use “major investments” to apply such technologies in large-scale programs, which would most certainly change the food situation in the world’s poorest nations.

It seems also difficult to believe that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields” will be able to create “small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”. It is not by improving a farm’s infrastructure that one will manage drought. Although a number of technological solutions to boost farm yields have already been developed, only those tackling the drought problems are an option to create significant changes.

I do not believe that such changes can be realized at the level of large-scale farms. On the contrary, I am convinced that application of cost-effective, soil conditioning methods to enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and to boost biomass production in the drylands, is the best solution to help the poor rural people to avoid malnutrition and hunger, giving them a “fresh” start with a daily portion of “fresh vegetables”. These rural people, forming the group most affected by the food crisis, do not need to play a role in boosting the world’s food production. They simply need to produce enough food for their own family (“to fill their own hungry stomach“). Application of cost-effective technologies should therefore be programmed at the level of small-scale “family gardens” or “school gardens” and not at the scale of huge (industrial) farms, where return on investment is always the key factor for survival of the business.

Preferentially, major investments to boost the food output in the drylands should be employed to improve food production in family gardens and school gardens, in order to offer all rural people an opportunity to produce more and better food, vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins and mineral elements, mostly for their own family members or kids, partly for the local market.

Splendid examples of long-term combating food shortage with family gardens can be seen since 2006 in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project). One can only hope that such a success story will soon be duplicated in many similar situations, where hungry people wait for similar innovative and well-conceived practices, with a remarkable return on investment, laying solid foundations for further sustainable development.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance urban gardening space, not only with allotment gardens, but also with “guerilla gardening” and transformation of open, underused spaces into small-scale garden plots for downtown dwellers, apartment dwellers and even for university students like those at the McGill University in Montreal. Many poor urban people are very keen on harvesting their own crops in such small gardens or applying container gardening on balconies, terraces, rooftops or other unused open spaces. Support for urban agriculture or urban gardening can be seen as a priority for decision-makers to reverse the world’s food crisis.

Food aid, be it with billions of dollars, can only be very effective if priority is given to local food production for the poor rural or urban people, who can not afford to buy the expensive commercial food products in shops or supermarkets. Small-scale family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and urban gardens in unused open spaces should be our strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis.