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FARMING VERTICALLY IN THE DRYLANDS Prof. Dr.

Willem VAN COTTHEM University of Ghent (Belgium) In the combat ofbattle against desertification and hunger, soil and water are generally the most difficult factors to handlemanage. In most drought- affected and desertified regions, soils are often sandy or stony, poor to infertile and, more, often are sandy and/or stony. Water is generally the limiting factor for plant growth. ThereforeThese tightly -linked factors limit the production potential for food crops and fodder as well as improvements from, afforestation or reforestation efforts. and production of food crops or fodder are really difficult. Traditionally, wWhen speaking about agriculture and horticulture in the drylands, one is normally associates such initiatives as:thinking at: 1. 2. Improving soil conditionsnitiatives to improve the soil conditionswith either the, useing of fertilizers, manure, compost , ... or, with theto application ofy permaculture.;. AInitiatives to assuringe the availabilitypresence of a sufficient quantitiesy of water through the use ofr, using a wells, drip irrigation, a canals, sprinklerss, ... or through theto application ofy water absorbent soil conditioners, such as,e.g. TerraCottem.

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Most oftenAnyway, farming and gardening are for almost always100 % seen as an activity performed at the horizontal level - whether, on a certain parceliece of land or on terraces. It is the exceptional that farmers are thinking ofat growing crops in a vertical setting -, in a "vertical garden". NeverthelessThere are important benefits to, vertical farming or gardening that provide has a number of remarkable advantages: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Less dependency on soil qualities. FewerLess irrigation problems. Improved potentialPossibilities to optimize the growing conditions. Easier resource management. Less labour.

Vertical Ffarming or Ggardening in PVC Ttubes One of the earliestfirst examples of ingenious vertical farming I I have seenencountered was the one performapplied by Prof. WANG Tao in Beijing (P.R. China). HeShe, who used PVC tubes with a diameter of 6" or 8" (15-20 cm), standing upright nearlysome 2 meters high, st, 10 (25 cm) apartanding upright- like poles in a rack at a distance of 10" (25 cm). The tubes, filled with potting soil, were perforated in a spiral with way, the perforations being 1-2 (2,5-5 cm) wide. In each perforation (hole in the wall of the tube) where a garlic bulb or a clove had been planted, and it hadthere developed a cluster of roots in the tubes potting soil. The new garlic plants were growing onat the outer side of the tubes with, all new bulbs sitting quite closely to one another. Thus, Remarkably, eeach tube was completely covered with growing garlic plants. and iIrrigation was very efficient.: Wwater waswas simply poured intoat the top of the tube and; it could percolated slowly through the tube -and kepkeeping the soil withint the cylinderrical tube completely moistened. With a minimum of water, a maximum amount of soil was kept humid for a longer time., Eevaporation wasbeing limited to the top of the tube and to each of the narrow perforations. Moreover, allthe surplus of water, running through the whole tube, was collected in a bucket at the bottom of each tube garden in a bucket. During the percolation process, water becamewas loaded with dissolved nutrients ofrom the potting soil. Recycling occurred by pouring the bucket content back again into the tube. As each tube was almost fully covered with growing young garlic plants, the overall view of such a vertical garden rack of tubes was trulyreally magnificent. The extraordinary advantages of such a "vertical garden" are:: 1. Maximal plant production withinat the smallest surface area (footprint):, e.g. several hundreds of plants can occupyonon only one square meter.

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Significant saving of irrigation water and nutrients.

This type of Vvertical farming or gardening techniques could easily be promoted by development organizations as a low investment method with a high return- on- investment (ROI). Vertical Ffarming or Ggardening in Ssoda Bbottles or Pots
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Taking into accountConsidering that the greater majority part of the dryland populations cannot afford PVC tubes, I decided on ato set ofup experiments utilizingwith plastic soda bottles and pots. Most developing countries are experiencing increasingly greater volumes of environmental pollution from this form of of which an enormous number are litter.ed, By creatively creatively thus polluting the environment in larger parts of most of the developing countries. In order to recyclinge some generally discarded containers, I have been successfully growing a number of different crops and saplings in individual bottles and pots, e.g. yogurt pots. Examples of these results can be seen at the (see following links below).:: http://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/04/21/container-gardening-for-food-production-combatingdesertification-and-gardening-in-urban-areas/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/05/12/gardening-in-a-bottlerack/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/great-ideas-for-container-gardening-in-the-drylandswillem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/yoghurt-pots-as-mini-greenhouses-willem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/how-to-make-your-own-low-tech-vertical-farm-lowtech-magazine/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/low-tech-vertical-farming-an-interesting-discussionkris-de-decker-willem-van-cotthem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/container-gardening-against-hunger-and-childmalnutrition-willem-van-cotthem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/container-gardening-a-simple-and-cheap-method-inthe-combat-of-desertification-and-hunger-willem-van-cotthem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/mini-greenhouses-first-step-to-combat-desertificationwillem-van-cotthem-2/
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http://desertification.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/alleviating-hunger-and-malnutrition-with-reusedyogurt-pots-willem-van-cotthem/ Having sufficiently proven demonstrated that one can easily and successfully grow a variety of food crops in individual, vertical-garden containers and meanwhile noticing the growing success of vertical gardening, evolvedI gradually developed the idea tof stacking individual bottles or pots toand form towers. This simple gardening solution - hHavinggrowing vegetables and herbs growing in small window-like openings in the sidewall of recycled bottles and pots has the potential of becoming a simple, but effective tool for environmentally-challenged, drylands people. The process is basic, uncomplicated and easily understoodsimple. The footprint is compact with important resource conservation benefits. , Wwateringing the wholentire tube-like tower of 4-5 bottles through one single water-tank bottle on top of each tower offers impressive water savings and conservation., and thus saving an important quantity of water, I believe to have developed an interesting, simple but effective tool for dryland people. This water- saving, efficient tower arrangement offers anyone on earth thea possibility tof growing fresh food on an extremely limited surface, e.g. 4-5 lettuces on one single bottle tower.

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To learn more about the way I have been setting up the bottle towers with my Belgian friend Gilbert VAN DAMME, please have a look at: http://containergardening.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/bottle-tower-gardening-how-to-start-willem-vancotthem/ We strongly believe that bottle tower farming or gardening has a significantlot of potential of to be used in the combating of hunger and malnutrition in both urban and rural areas. LINKS http://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/04/21/container-gardening-for-food-production-combatingdesertification-and-gardening-in-urban-areas/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/05/12/gardening-in-a-bottlerack/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/great-ideas-for-container-gardening-in-the-drylandswillem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/yoghurt-pots-as-mini-greenhouses-willem/

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http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/how-to-make-your-own-low-tech-vertical-farm-lowtech-magazine/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/low-tech-vertical-farming-an-interesting-discussionkris-de-decker-willem-van-cotthem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/container-gardening-against-hunger-and-childmalnutrition-willem-van-cotthem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/container-gardening-a-simple-and-cheap-method-inthe-combat-of-desertification-and-hunger-willem-van-cotthem/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/mini-greenhouses-first-step-to-combat-desertificationwillem-van-cotthem-2/ http://desertification.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/alleviating-hunger-and-malnutrition-with-reusedyogurt-pots-willem-van-cotthem/