AN INTRODUCTION TO HOME GARDEN
BY MICHAEL OKUNOYE
With the global population expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050, there is a continuous need to increase food production and buffer stocks. Over the recent years there has been growing interest to strengthen and increase local food production in order to mitigate the adverse effect of global food shocks and food price volatilities. Consequently, there is much attention towards home gardens as a strategy to enhance household food security and nutrition.
It has been projected that global food production will need to increase by 70% in order to meet the average daily caloric requirement of the world’s population in 2050. Moreover, the need for interventions is stressed as the resources available for food production (i.e. land, water, labor and credit) are becoming scarce and costly. The drive for agricultural innovation is further complex by the growing issues of climate change and natural resource degradation.
Multiple strategies are required to address the issue of food production and food security. The choice of feasible approaches hinges on the existing social, political, and economic conditions and resources available to design and implement the intervention. Home gardens are a time-tested local strategy that are widely adopted and practiced in various circumstances by local communities with limited resources and institutional support.
Home gardening refers to the cultivation of a small portion of land which may be around the household or within walking distance from the family home. It can be described as a mixed cropping system that encompasses vegetables, fruits, plantation crops, spices, herbs, ornamental and medicinal plants as well as livestock that can serve as a supplementary source of food and income.
Household gardens tend to be located close to dwelling for security, convenience, and special care. They occupy land marginal to field production and labor marginal to major household economic activities. Featuring ecologically adapted and complementary species, household gardens are marked by low capital input and simple technology.
The inherent characteristics of home garden are majorly:
BENEFITS OF HOME GARDEN
The benefits of home garden are very numerous, it ranges from improving food security, increase availability of food and better nutrients to environmental benefits from recycle water and waste nutrients.
However, we will classify the benefits into 3 major headings. They are:
Home gardens are maintained for easy access to fresh plant and animal food sources in both rural and urban locales. Food items from home gardens add substantially to the family energy and nutritive requirements on a continuous basis
It originates from their direct contributions to household food security by increasing availability, accessibility, and utilization of food products.
Foods from home gardens varied from horticultural crops to roots to palm and animal products. And also plants from the gardens are also used as spices, herbs, medicines, and fodder for the animals
Furthermore, the integration of livestock and poultry activities into home gardening reinforces food and nutritional security for the families as milk, eggs, and meat from home-raised animals provide the main and mostly the only source of animal protein.
Food insecurity and economic hardships force people to consume less and to settle for food that is of low nutritional quality. Adverse health effects due to inadequate intake of basic macronutrients are further compounded by deficiencies in micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. According to World Health Organization (WHO) more than 35% of the fatalities worldwide are caused by factors attributed to nutritional deficits
Plants are an important source of medicine for humans and livestock and are used as biological pesticides to protect crops from diseases and pest infestations. Herbs and medicinal plants are grown in home gardens all over the world and in developing countries nearly 80% of the people use them to treat various illnesses, diseases, and also to improve their health conditions.
A generous portion of the plants found in home gardens have some medicinal value and they can be used to treat many common health problems in a cost-effective manner. For example, it is on record that about 30% out of the 125 plant species found in the Kandyan gardens in Sri Lanka were exclusively used for medicinal and other purposes.
In different contexts, home gardening initiatives have been proposed and implemented as potential strategies to address health issues resulting from malnutrition. Although the opportunity is real, minimal efforts have been made to identify and maximize the gross benefits of home gardening for better health.
Through home gardening women have developed proficiency related to plants and garden practices that helps them become better home and environment managers. Their labor is indispensable to maintain the garden and to help keep production cost low.
As home managers, women have useful knowledge of numerous domestic needs. By their involvement in the production process, they are able to meet family needs more easily and economically
In many cultures, women play an important role in food production but at times their worth is somewhat undermined. They are also active in home gardening, though their involvement in the home garden tends to be determined by socio-cultural norms.
In most scenarios women’s contribution to household food production is immense, but this does not imply that home gardening is predominantly a female activity. Women’s participation and responsibilities in home gardening varies across cultures, including land preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting, and marketing.
Home garden products can be sold to earn additional income. Home gardening activities can be developed into a small cottage industry and earnings from the sale of home garden products and the savings from consuming home-grown food products can lead to more disposable income that can be used for other domestic purposes.
For instance, it is reported that income generated from the sale of home garden fruits, vegetables and livestock products allowed households to use the proceeds to purchase additional food items as well as savings, education etc. Also, families in mountain areas of Vietnam were able to generate more than 22% of their cash income through home-gardening activities..
Home gardens are widely promoted in many countries as a mechanism to avert poverty and as a source of income for subsistence families in developing countries. Although home gardens are viewed as subsistence-low production systems, they can be structured to be more efficient commercial enterprises by growing high-value crops and animal husbandry
In many cases the sale of produce from home gardens improves the financial status of the family providing additional income, while contributing social and cultural amelioration
Other economic benefits are:
Environment benefits of Home Gardens are:
Home Garden serves as the primary unit that initiates and utilizes ecologically friendly approaches for food production while conserving biodiversity and natural resources. Home gardens are usually diverse and contain a rich composition of plant and animal species.
They are complex and may resemble ecological agricultural production systems that sponsor biodiversity conservation. The rich diversity and composition of species and the dense distribution of faunal and floral strata denote extraordinary features of home garden ecology.
Home gardens also provide a number of ecosystem services such as habitats for animals and other beneficial organisms. The high density of plants within the home garden provides the ideal environment and refuge for wildlife species such as birds, small mammals, reptiles, and insects.
Nutrient cycling is another ecological benefit of home gardens.. The abundance of plant and animal litter and continuous recycling of organic soil matter contributes to a highly efficient nutrient cycling system.
Individuals of the household, animals, and plants all maintain a symbiotic relationship within the home gardens. For instance, the plants and animals provide food and other benefits for the family and the family in turn takes care of the home gardens. Plant materials are used as fodder for the animals and animal manure is incorporated into the compost to fertilize plants, hence reducing the need for chemical fertilizer
Other environmental Services include:
CHALLENGES OF HOME GARDEN
There are numerous challenges that mitigate the establishment and continuous practice of home garden, they are:
A lot of people do not have the information on the nutritional value home garden provide. Also, there is no available information which interested individuals can access to equip themselves with before engaging in it. Many people just practice home garden with ‘guess work knowledge’ or the local or large scale agricultural knowledge that they have.
The challenge of access to good agricultural inputs is very imminent in-home garden practice. For instance, agricultural loans are mostly given to farmers who engage in large- or small-scale farming but less consideration is given to home garden farmer. And in other times the interest rates are high.
The extension and advisory services system in the case of home garden is very weak. And in some under developed or developing countries, it is nonexistent. This is largely because developing countries have not placed a high priority on the practice of home garden as an approach to safeguarding against food insecurity. In most developing countries, home garden is amore of a cultural practice by individuals.
This is a big challenge for the maintenance of home garden in under developed or developing countries. Water supply is limited to supply from the house or rainfall. But most under developed and developing countries have a great challenge of water supply to home. This poses a risk to the practice of home garden.
The market opportunities for home garden products are very limited. Home garden system is more of a conserve approach as opposed to a commercial kind of farming even when home garden is commercialized it cannot compete with a commercial farming system in terms of market supply.
In conclusion, in the wake of a global food crisis and the soaring food prices, there is an increasing emphasis on enhancing and building local food systems. There is also a renewed attention to food production and livelihood enhancement through home gardens.
It is also pertinent to note that the structure, functions, and contributions of home gardens vary in geographic regions and the benefits of home garden in this article are not mutually exclusive.
In the real world, there is substantial overlap and dependence between the various beneficial elements resulting in a bundle of advantages making home gardening initiatives even more attractive.
World Health Organization: Global Health Risks: Mortality and Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risks. 2009, Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization Google Scholar