dryGrow  Foundation

Opuntia for fodder
our mission is to create resilient communities in dry regions of the world. Cactus is a traditional food and source of water for animals and people. It is hardy and abundant, low-cost and easy to grow.

The Global Issue

We estimated that one-third of the land area on Earth is arid and that half of that is semi-arid. Dryland characteristics are excessive heat and low precipitations with periodic droughts.

Rainfall averages are 350mm per year in the arid zones and 700mm rainfall per year in the semi-arid regions.

The region's inconsistent rainfall usually makes it impossible to ensure sustainable livelihood for farmers. Therefore, harvests are likely to be irregular in the semi-arid areas, but grazing can be adequate. It can be challenging for communities to thrive in these harsh conditions. Prolonged droughts decrease crop yields, and scarce water resources dwindle agricultural outputs.

Desertification is exacerbating the already dry conditions and is a land-degradation that results from climatic changes and human activity. Several factors combine to cause desertification: including climatic shifts, overgrazing, tillage for agriculture, and deforestation.

Desertification is having devastating effects on communities in arid regions; soil nutrient loss, the decline of available water resources, and food reserve. Families can no longer support themselves on farming and animal husbandry any longer, and communities will have fewer means to survive.

We help communities, farmers, and families in semi-arid regions to find new, sustainable ways of producing fodder for livestock, which is particularly able to sustain communities during times of drought.

How it Works

Cactus for Fodder

Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) used as a valuable source of fodder and livelihood. By creating a high-density planting of healthy cactus cladodes, the Prickly Pear or Nopaleas is effectively harvested for feed, contributing to herd weight increase per hectare, leading to higher food security and human well being, while countering soil erosion. Through the Prickly Pear’s high water content, 85-93%, the cactus can effectively reduce the cattle’s need for water. Each hectare replaces some hundred thousand liters of drinking water for the herd

Our main cactus varieties are the Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) and the Nopales. The aim of the high-density plantations of both Prickly Pear and Nopales is to use land in semi-arid climates to provide dramatically higher yields of biomass for farmers. These two cactus varieties can withstand harsh conditions of drought and are preferred crops to grow in soil inadequate for other plants. Through an intensive cultivation technology of the cactus, with an annual rainfall of 300-500mm, there can be an annual production of 300-500 tons per hectare and year.

As a Strategic reserve

The Prickly Pear and the Nopales cactus can also be stored to create a strategic reserve for more extended drought periods. For example, one hectare of Prickly Pear can provide feedstock for 100 cows to survive for one year during a drought. Additional fiber and small amounts of protein added to the herd diet, and dryGrow provides companion plants that also survive harsh conditions and provide crucial protein to the menu. 

Who We Are

dryGrow Foundation is a non profit organisation with an aim to transform current agricultural practices in the semi-arid regions as we know it today.

Our mission is to utilize adaptive plants and cutting-edge methods to improve the livelihoods of people and facilitate resilient communities in semi-arid regions.

We envision the semi-arid areas with a vibrant agroecology, where plants, animals and human beings live in harmony. With our diverse backgrounds, we are able to think outside the box of conventional agriculture for a sustainable future.

What We Do

Through engaging in research with universities, and cooperating with other organisations and interested individuals our intention is to:

Organize and finance research and develop techniques to optimise Opuntia and Nopales cactus harvesting. Use reliable techniques and cactus varieties for best results.

Engage with communities in arid regions to help facilitate harvesting for animal fodder.

Transfer knowledge and management know-how.

Our micro-propagation laboratory

in Sicily is equipped with all materials needed for sterile in vitro cultivations.

What do we produce?

Our specialized production is mainly concentrated in the production of varieties of the genus Opuntia and Nopalea. Varieties that are currently in production refers both to the production of cladodes (pads-biomass-fodder) and for production of the fruit. The varieties for the production of fodder are of Brazilian origin: Gigante and Orelha de elefante mexicana and others, varieties for the production of the fruit are those from Sicily: the White, Red and Yellow.

What is micro-propagation

Micro-propagation is the technique which allows the propagation of plants vegetatively starting from small ex-plants that can be represented by individual cells or groups of cells or tissue fractions of organs of plants that are to be multiplied.

Micro-propagation allows to obtain quickly a large number of identical plants between them selves , and to the mother plant, this presents itself as an alternative to the conventional propagation and in the current nursery fruit this is a widely tested technique.

This technique has the following advantages:

The ex-plants are taken from a limited number of mother plants;
Propagation is not dependent on the season;
Possibility of multiplying particular species or genotypes which are difficult to be propagated with the traditional techniques (recalcitrant);
Ability to provide high production in confined spaces and in a short time;
Health and uniformity of the obtained materials;
The produced multiplicated material can be preserved for a relatively long period.

Get involved

dryGrow provides plants and farming arrangements for communities struggling to make a living in arid regions. We are committed to developing sustainable solutions for families and farmers to improve livelihood and wellbeing. It is our central mission to be a part of and to encourage you to become part of the solution in these communities.

University research

We are looking to collaborate with more Universities worldwide. If you are interested in further developing methods and scientific information or are researching relevant topics please get in touch.


Opuntia ficus-indica is the largest genus of the family Cactaceae that include around 200 species. Opuntia ficus-indica, also known as Prickly Pear, is a tree-like cactus that can reach the height of 3 metres. The Opuntia has flat, fleshy pads that resemble large leaves. The pads are actually stems that serve several functions including photosynthesis, water storage and fruit production. The pads range from 10 cm to 46 cm. Larger pads have been known to grow as wide as 23 cm or more. Similar to other cactus plants, the prickly pear cactus has long, sharp spines that grow from the pads. Tiny spines called glochids, can be found at the base of the more predominant spines.

Both the pads and fruits of the Opuntia ficus-indica are edible. The cactus is harvested for its fruit and for the pads, although the fruit production is currently more common. From early spring to summer, the cactus blossoms and sets fruit, which line the edges of the pads.

Geographical Areas

Opuntia ficus-indica are native to many environments, ranging from desert areas below sea level to high- altitude areas such as the Peruvian Andes and from the tropical regions of Mexico, where temperatures are always above 5C, to areas in Canada that can fall to -40 oC in winter (Nobel, 1999). Its adaptability is ample reason for considering this species as a highly valuable resource for a wide variety of ecological zones.

The geographical spread of the Opuntia ficus-indica is ranging from the western to southern United States, Mexico, Northern Brazil, to Southern mediterranean Europe (including Italy and Spain) and to The plant has become important for fodder in many parts of the world, such as Tunis, Morocco, UAE, Italy, Israel, Spain, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina.


dryGrow is committed to helping communities, increase food security and alleviate poverty. Your gift enable us to increase our capability to serve those in need across the world. Thank you for supporting dryGrow and for sharing our vision.

We accept donations to the Foundation through bank transfers.


dryGrow Foundation

Meierhofstrasse 5
9490 Vaduz

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