Home gardening: a means to household food security in times of crisis

Posted by Biome on 27th June 2013 - 0 Comments


Home gardens can be used to alleviate hunger, malnutrition, economic hardship and disease. These are the findings of a comprehensive literature review published in Agriculture & Food Security by Galhena and colleagues from Michigan State University. They examine the uses of home gardens in the context of food security, focusing on post-conflict situations. Galhena told us more about why home gardening is so important.

Home garden in Mutugama, Sri Lanka. Image source: Wikimedia Commons, freelk

“Fundamentally, home gardening provides a supplemental source of foodstuff for the family. But their importance goes beyond that. In many developing countries, home gardening becomes a survival strategy when food security is threatened by limited food availability and access. At other times, it is a resilience strategy to mitigate risk and vulnerability due to different natural and man-made stresses.”

Home gardens comprise small areas of land close to the homestead, where a family can grow subsistence produce. These gardens can incorporate a diverse range of agricultural practices. Commonly, gardens are used for growing fruit, vegetables, plantation crops, spices, herbs and medicinal plants as well as rearing livestock, which not only provide a vital source of protein but also additional income.

 

“The significance of home gardens is grossly undervalued and their full potential is yet to be unravelled”
Dilrukshi Galhena, Michigan State University

 

Home gardens represent an environmentally friendly and sustainable agricultural practice, which is effective at improving food security and economic stability. Galhena remarks that “There are a number of programs supporting home gardening in many countries. The majority of these efforts prioritize developing countries with acute hunger and malnourishment problems. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and Helen Keller International (HKI) have made remarkable strides in successfully implementing home garden projects.”

However, it still remains important to ensure that future policies and interventions encourage the most efficient and effective use of home gardens, while preserving natural resources and processes (ecosystem services).

“It is an important challenge to keep up the involvement and enthusiasm for home gardening. To overcome resource limitations, programs on home gardening should call for strategies to facilitate training in best practices and to integrate low-input approaches that will improve the productivity of home gardens. Creating awareness of the benefits of home gardening, stimulating entrepreneurship and facilitating market links are indispensable to the sustainability and promotion of home gardens,” asserts Galhena.

 

“Home gardening can add to the process of building peaceful societies by helping to mitigate issues such as hunger and poverty that often lead to conflict.”
Dilrukshi Galhena, Michigan State University

 

The authors identify post-conflict situations as circumstances where home gardens may play a particularly critical role in ensuring food and nutritional security. They specifically focus on Sri Lanka, a country where home gardens have been used extensively for centuries and that has recently seen an end to a 30 year civil war. “Our visit to Sri Lanka, specially the civil war-affected areas in the North inspired us to investigate the issues related to food security and livelihoods,” says Galhena. “Home gardens have helped war-affected people in Sri Lanka improve their food situation and at the same time engage in an employment activity to support their own families and the local community.”

However, due to a lack of research documenting this situation, Galhena and colleagues conclude by  recommending further investigation in order to base policy on solid evidence. “One of the biggest knowledge gaps we identified is the lack of literature capturing and sharing the experiences of home gardening in post-conflict scenarios,” adds Galhena. “We still need to do a lot of work and gather empirical evidence from countries like Sri Lanka. Documenting and quantifying the impact of home gardens in post-conflict situations, will be useful to broaden our knowledge and to assist countries and regions emerging from conflict.”

 

Review

Home gardens: a promising approach to enhance household food security and wellbeing

Galhena DH, Freed R and Maredia KM
Agriculture & Food Security 2013, 2:8

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