About The Author

Willem Van Cotthem

Willem 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.
Address: Beeweg 36 – B 9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium)




• 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.


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


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- ….: R&D of 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.• 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)

  • Application of different container gardening techniques.


– 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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