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If there is a lack of fertile soil and rain, hunger breaks out quickly. Hydroponic-systems can help.
Climate catastrophes - above all droughts - were the trigger for food crises in 23 nations in 2017 alone. 39 million people are suffering from acute hunger there. Two-thirds of the countries concerned are in Africa. Families lose their livelihoods and the prospect of remaining in their homes due to extreme aridity or torrential rains. At the same time, competition for scarce resources is becoming greater - and more dangerous. Hydroponics is an innovative approach that farmers and pastoralists use to tackle climate change together.
In the Algerian desert, the temperatures exceed 50 °C in some months. Traditional agriculture is unthinkable under these conditions. The food situation of tens of thousands of refugees from the Western Sahara is equally poor. Malnutrition is widespread among the Sahrawis. While basic foods such as pulses and rice can be stored in the World Food Programme depots: vegetables, fruits or other fresh products would not last there. Additionally, the families lack the money to buy these products.
The traditional source of food for the Sahrawi are their goats - their milk and their meat. However, in places where people can hardly find food, animals cannot be cared for appropriately to their species: Many families feed with waste or cardboard, which is why half of the animals die shortly after birth. The rest hardly produce milk and their meat is suspected of causing disease. A vicious circle that Taleb Brahim wanted to break.
With the help of the WFP Innovation Accelerator programme, he has developed a hydroponic system that enables the Sahrawi to grow barley grass for their goats. In closed containers, green fodder grows in a nutrient solution without requiring soil and with minimal water consumption. The necessary energy comes from solar cells. The high-tech solution was adapted to the available materials and resources of the Sahrawis.
The animals receive the fodder and the families benefit enormously: Their animals are healthier and produce more milk. The World Food Programme (WFP) has therefore found a viable way to sustainably improve the diet of the Sahrawi and to combat malnutrition.
Hydroponics can also be a solution in other contexts: In the desert-slums of Lima, the Peruvian capital, women can grow vegetables in a confined space and make a profit by selling what they do not need themselves. Also in Jordan, one of the driest countries in the world and a host country for over 650,000 Syrian refugees, hydroponics is intended to improve human nutrition.
It is the first time aid agencies in North Africa and the Middle East are using this technology and it looks like it could be one of the solutions to climate change.