20.000 Acacia seedlings died and people are still hungry (Willem Van Cotthem)

Today, a friend has sent a message, in which a short paragraph got my special attention:

The …………………… (name) Movement started a project in the Senegal many years ago. I
participated in the information campaign. The field workers planted about 20.000 Acacia trees.

Visiting the project one year later they saw that all the little trees dried out.

The local people answered that they had not enough water for the trees; they used it for their cows and goats. But how could we plant 20.000 trees with …………. (name of a technology)? It would be too expensive!

Here is my reply to him:

Dear Friend, you are completely right. All those big projects are doomed to be unsuccessful, simply because a number of limiting factors (like water) will always hinder the achievement of the goals.

Instead of spending all the good money at reforestation without taking care of the hunger and poverty of the local people, foreign aid should concentrate on agro-forestry, creating small family gardens and surround these with fruit trees (these are TREES too).

2009-02 - Burkina Faso, Niou village, Jardin des Femmes : community garden combined with mango trees, created in 1994 for the village women (Photo Committee Maastricht-Niou)

We should not look first at economic return on our investment, e.g. planting trees and shrubs for biofuel, but eliminate hunger and diseases in a region, which is a conditio sine qua non to count on the collaboration of the local population at reforestation projects in the future.

How can we ever justify that we ‘help‘ the local people if our main objective is to gain ‘something’ for ourselves?

For me there is only one solution: first help the local people to decent food and then see how they can really help us to create return on investment.

2009-02 Burkina Faso: Jardin Kabouda, a community garden created with the support of the Committee Maastricht-Niou. A splendid example of combating hunger and child malnutrition. (Committee Photo)

Unfortunately, it is always business as usual, even for some international organizations, surviving thanks to the unsolved problems like hunger, child malnutrition and poverty, for which billions are continuously collected, without changing much at the grassroot level.

I get tears in my eyes thinking at all those poor people out there, seeing how billions are spent year after year at what is called combating the problems.

Hunger, child malnutrition and poverty should be combated in the field itself, at the grassroot level, by offering people a chance to grow their own fresh food and fruits.

We will never win that war if we continue to ship food (the ammunition) to the frontline, not the necessary weapons (a fence, fertilizers, seeds, …) to create gardens, the ideal platform for self-sufficiency.

For sure: victory can be ours! Let us make the right strategic move.

1 Votes

About willem van cotthem

About me about me wvc-1999_avatar.jpg Willem, Romanus, Jozef VAN COTTHEM Honorary Professor University of Ghent (Belgium)/ Professeur Honoraire de l’Université de Gand (Belgique) Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development/ Consultant scientifique pour la Désertification et le Développement Durable Born July 1st, 1934 in Denderleeuw (Belgium). Belgian nationality. Widower of Celina VAN SNICK (Belgian nationality): 3 sons: Paul (1960), Jan (1962), Luc (1965). Remarried to Elfrida VAN PARIJS (Belgian nationality). Address: Beeweg 36 - B 9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium) Tel.: +32 / 9 / 356.86.16 Fax : +32 / 9 / 356.86.16 E-mail: willem.van.cotthem@telenet.be Website: http://www.desertification.wordpress.com STUDIES • University of Ghent - Masters Degree (MSc) in Botany - 1958 • University of Ghent - Masters Degree in Didactics of Biology - 1958 • University of Ghent - Ph.D. in Botany - 1969. PROFESSIONAL DATA 1958 - 1961: Teacher in Natural Sciences 1961 - 1964: Teacher in Biology Didactics 1964 - 1994: Scientific career at the University of Ghent (Botany Dept.) and at the Antwerp University: - 1964 - 1968: Assistant (University of Ghent). - 1968 - 1971: Senior Assistant and lecturer (University of Ghent). - 1971 - 1982: Assistant professor (University of Ghent). - 1976 - 1983: Professor in Didactics of Biology (University of Antwerp). - 1982 - 1994: Professor in General Botany, Plant Morphology, Systematics and Ecology (University of Ghent). - 1992 - 1994: Director of the Botanical Garden of the University of Ghent. - 1994 - …. : Honorary Professor of the University of Ghent RESEARCH WORK 1964-1983: Morphology and anatomy of different plant groups (in particular study of stomata and spores of ferns). 1971-1979: Organization of biological expeditions of the Biology Department - University of Ghent: - To Mt.Kenya 1971 : Plant Systematics (collections) and plant geography (plant distribution) - To Kenya 1975 : Plant Systematics (collection) and ecology (environmental patterns) - To Venezuela 1978 : Plant Systematics (in particular orchids) - To Ivory Coast 1979 : Plant Systematics and ecology (especially regression of tropical species in the Equatorial forest). 1983- ….: Start of research on the soil conditioner TerraCottem (TC). 1985-….: Organization of several scientific missions to Western Africa, USA and China (desertification projects) 1985 -….: Studies of plant growth in semi-arid and arid regions. • Research and application of a soil conditioning method (TerraCottem) for plant growth in drought and desertification affected areas. • Several years of research work on afforestation or reforestation projects and on small-scale agricultural or horticultural projects (food production). • Inventor of the TerraCottem-method for soil conditioning. • Application of this TerraCottem-method in humanitarian projects all over the world (community gardens for women and school gardens). • Application of this method for ornamental plants. • Application of this method for playgrounds (sports fields). MEMBERSHIPS AND INTERNATIONAL CONTACTS - Member of a large number of scientific and educational societies in Belgium and abroad. - Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Belgium (Biological Committee). - Member of the Belgian Committee of SCOPE. - Member of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (Committee for Education). - Former Coordinator of the Belgian Experts on Desertification and Member of the Belgian Delegation for the INCD (Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). - Former Scientific Advisor for the Belgian Ministry of Development Cooperation/ Ancien adviseur scientifique du Ministère de la Coopération au Développement de la Belgique - Member of the Committee for Science and Technology CST-UNCCD/ Membre du Comité de la Science et de la Technologie CST/CNULD - Former Co-Chairman of the Ad Hoc Working Group (AHWG) on the Review of the Implementation of the UNCCD. - Former Chairman of the Ad Hoc Technical Experts Group (AHTEG) of the UNCBD (Biodiversity). - Former President of the Consulting Committee Desertification Belgium/ Ancien Président du Comité belge de Concertation sur la Désertification - Former focal point of an e-mail communication network for UNCCD members (TC-CCD People for Action). - Former President TC-Dialogue Foundation/ Ancien Président de la Fondation TC-Dialogue - Founding member of DesertNet Europe.
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