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 (

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.

“Gardening kids are truly inspired, food providers for their families” (Kids Gardening)

Read at :

Kids Gardening

 Evaluation Summary ~ 2006 NGA Grant Winners

The National Gardening Association has been providing material assistance to youth and community gardens through grants since 1983, and in 2005 we started collecting data to track the impact of our grants programs via a year-end evaluation summary completed by grant recipients. Here are results for the 2006 grant cycle, based on 487 evaluations (74% response rate):

Grant Program

# responses

% response

Youth Garden Grants



Mantis Awards



Remember Me Rose



Kids Growing with Dutch Bulbs



Hooked on Hydroponics



Healthy Sprouts



These grants are awarded based on merit. Winners were chosen through evaluation of written applications; winning applicants indicated well-planned, comprehensive, community-supported, and sustainable youth garden programs. Because the pool of applicants and types of programs vary each year, the statistics noted here are dynamic.

Evaluation Highlights (continued with several statistics)

Here are a few comments gathered during year-end evaluations: Continue reading “Gardening kids are truly inspired, food providers for their families” (Kids Gardening)

Cheap grow bags (Willem)

More and more advertisements on grow bags are found on the internet. These are plastic bags, used as containers, filled with a quality substrate (potting soil with a good mineral and organic content). One recommends to purchase these grow bags in a green center or nursery. Of course, there is always a price tag on each of these grow bags.

However, we all know that numerous simple plastic bags (white, blue, black, etc.), used everywhere on all continents as shopping bags, constitute a heavy burden on the environment. Generally, these bags are thrown in the garbage bins, but in many developing countries they are simply littered and fly around in the streets. You will find many of them hanging in the trees as if it were huge blue, white and black flowers.

Here is my idea : why don’t we use them as cheap grow bags? We can easily fill them up with soil (possibly improved with some animal manure), close them tightly and cut some small holes (slits) for drainage in the bottom part. Seedlings or seeds can be put in small holes on top of the bag (number to be decided in function of the adult plant’s dimensions).

For climbing plants (like tomatoes, peas or beans) a cage or deepee can be put over the bag.

All kinds of vegetables, or even young trees can be grown on such cheap plastic bags. One can even imagine that school children use this system in the school yard, creating a school garden even on a concrete surface, thus helping to get rid of all that plastic in the streets or the environment. The kids would thus help to keep the environment cleaner, growing vegetables at school to supplement their lunches with vitamins and mineral elements.

Therefore, cheap plastic grow bags can be used as a simple didactic tool to create a sort of school garden in the school yard or along the wall of the classrooms. Millions of plastic bags all over the world would not be littered anymore, but taken to school to create productive gardens. Vegetables and young trees can thus be grown with a minimum of water, because the soil in the grow bags will be kept moistened for a longer time (less evaporation).

Young fruit trees, grown by the kids at school in those cheap grow bags, could be taken home at the end of the school year and planted close to their house. It suffices to dig a plant pit, put the plastic grow bag with the young tree in the pit, cut the bag open at 4 sides, bend the plastic completely open and fold the plastic under the rootball, fill up the plant pit with local soil, water the plant pit thoroughly and let the roots grow out.

The young fruit tree will continue its growth and we get rid of the buried plastic. Isn’t that nice ?

I wonder if you will set up an experiment with a couple of plastic grow bags. I am looking forward to read your comments and, hopefully, nice results (with some pictures?).

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

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

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)

My comment to Paul Duxbury’s “Potager” (Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 4, 2007

My comment to Paul Duxbury’s “Potager”

May 4, 2007

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

I like Paul’s contribution very much (see the former message on this blog). Although it contains mainly some general views on the matter, it may invite some people to start “potagering” at home. Well done, Paul !

Let me just make a comment on one sentence : “Most potagers are grown in raised beds that allow better control over the drainage and reduce the chance of the vegetables from becoming waterlogged.“. Alright, but !

I am very much in favor of setting up a vegetable garden in containers instead of in full garden soil, and this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many people do not have the pleasure of disposing of an open gardening space. When Paul says : “Potagers are particularly good for people who live on smaller lots of land or only have room for a small garden“, I am adding : “and for all those living in apartments, and having some space for a number of containers“. Continue reading My comment to Paul Duxbury’s “Potager” (Willem)

Tomatoes in containers for food in refugee camps (HGTV / Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on April 30, 2007

Tomatoes in containers for food in refugee camps (HGTV)

April 30, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in desert/desert gardening, women/youth and desertification, container/bottle gardening, soil conditioning, horticulture/gardening, water, agriculture, rural development, technologies. trackback , edit post

Interested in container gardening for its potentialities to set up vegetable production in the drylands or deserts, I started some experiments in plastic bottles and plastic bags at home in Belgium (see former messages on this blog). Currently, I am checking publications on container gardening for their “tips” to enhance our chances to grow food in the refugee camps of the Saharawis in S.W. Algeria. Here is an article that may help us to grow tomatoes in containers, and why not, in plastic bags or bottles.

Read at :


Tomatoes in Containers

No room at all to garden? Not to worry. You can have a beautiful vegetable garden in pots. Here’s how to culture a tomato in a container: Continue reading Tomatoes in containers for food in refugee camps (HGTV / Willem)