Trees in Home Gardens: Making the Most of an Age-Old Practice to Improve Food Security and Nutrition

Published on December 31, 2014 | Author: Marion S. Davis, Ekaterina Bessonova, Eskil Mattsson, Matilda Palm, Jenny Friman, Maria Ölund

Home gardens have been vital to human societies for thousands of years: from clusters of beneficial trees and shrubs planted on forest edges in pre-historic times, to the lush edible gardens grown traditionally in many tropical regions, to the tiny, densely planted backyards that dot cities worldwide.
Home gardens play an important role in food security and nutrition, especially when food supplies are inadequate or unreliable. In urban areas, fresh produce may be costly and hard to find, and in rural areas, much of the agricultural land is devoted to staple-crop monocultures: maize, rice, soy, etc. – which are crucial, but not enough for a complete diet. Home gardens help fill the nutritional gaps: even a small plot can supply a variety of fruits and vegetables at a relatively low cost. In Sri Lanka, for example, urban home gardens produce an estimated 50-60% of the leafy vegetables and 20% of all the vegetables consumed by the households. Excess produce can be sold or exchanged for other items.

Recognizing these benefits, many have sought to promote home gardening as part of efforts to improve food security and nutrition, strengthen livelihoods, and increase poor communities’ resilience to a wide range of shocks, including climate change impacts. This brief seeks to contribute to those efforts by exploring the value of an agroforestry approach to home gardens, incorporating multiple layers of trees, shrubs and crops. We examine the challenges and opportunities in taking such an approach in a development context, drawing on the literature as well as new case studies in Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Burkina Faso, and identify areas for further research and policy analysis.

Davis, M., Bessonova, E., Matsson, E., Palm, M., Friman, J. & Ölund, M. 2014. Trees in Home Gardens: Making the Most of an Age-Old Practice to Improve Food Security and Nutrition. Policy Brief. SIANI, Focali, SEI.

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