Many development workers are looking for drought-tolerant edible plants, to be grown with a minimum of irrigation water. Of course, they are mostly thinking of food crops and herbs, often genetically modified.

It sounds almost unbelievable, but millions of people in Central and South America are eating spineless cacti ("nopales") without people on other continents following their example.

Only a minority of people knows that many parts of the spineless variety of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) are edible (pads, fruits, seeds). And yet this is an extremely interesting variety of the spiny "Indian Fig": Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis. It is not only supplying fresh food to malnourished and hungry people, but also can be used as a living fence around fields or meadows. It can play an important role for livestock. Amazingly, this cactus can also be trimmed in a tree form.

The day will come that billions of people in the drylands will grow this marvelous cactus at home or at school, even in all refugee camps, in kitchen gardens, in the field or in containers.

Although these smooth, spineless cacti can be found on every continent and can be easily multiplied by simply planting individual pads, they are almost never used to combat desertification fences).

More news: April10

I can not stop dreaming of a GREAT GREEN CACTUS WALL across Africa (or in desertified areas on other continents, wherever needed). Instead of spending billions on planting a forest belt over a period of decades, growing saplings in nurseries, digging plant holes, watering the saplings and loosing many of them because of the drought, the great green cactus wall could be installed in the minimum of time at a ridiculously low cost.

It would cost peanuts to disperse this edible plant (pads or seeds) in all the drought-affected regions.

Just remember: it's August 2014 and I suggest to start as soon as possible with the edification of GREAT GREEN CACTUS WALLS, laying down a ribbon of spineless cactus pads. Let nature of its work: the pads will grow easily and magnificent "barriers" will help to combat desertification.

What are we waiting for?

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A spineless cactus wall

  • Adam Floyd