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Information sheet

Information sheet

Information sheet 1: Soil management


The home garden can be farmed all year round and year after year if the soil is kept in good condition by protection and "feeding". Further soil management information suitable for farmers is included in Home Garden Technology Leaflets 5, Soil improvement (p. 127); 6. Use of sloping land (p. 133); and 7, Cover cropping (p. 137). If these leaflets are not available, select local agricultural extension materials for use and distribution.


Preventing soil erosion is the first priority on sloping land. If the soil is not protected, the fertile topsoil can be washed away and lost forever. The remaining soil is usually less productive and the result is lower food production from home garden crops. The challenge is how to protect home garden land while using it for daily food and non-food needs.

Erosion was not considered a problem when the land was in its natural state. The mix of native plants kept the soil covered at all times. It is important to imitate nature and keep the soil covered. The following measures are therefore suggested:

Plants of different height


If the natural fertility or structure of the soil is poor, the soil needs to be continuously "fed" with organic matter (e.g. leaves and manure) in order to improve productivity. As the organic matter decomposes, it becomes food for the soil and plants. It also improves the soil structure by loosening heavy clay and binding sandy soil.

One of the main goals of home garden development is to make the soil fertile and well-structured so that a wide range of useful crops will be healthy and grow well. Healthy plants yield more and are also better protected from insects and disease.


Feeding the soil with organic matter is very important, especially in the early years of home garden improvement. Waste from crops and livestock should not be removed from the home garden but should be used to feed the soil. Organic materials can be collected and buried to improve the soil or they can be decomposed into compost, which can be used as a fertilizer.


Ideally, the best way to protect and feed the soil is to apply organic matter or compost regularly and to keep the soil covered with plants. A multilayer cropping system in which a mixture of trees and other plants with different maturity times are grown together will protect the soil and recycle nutrients. Leguminous plants (e.g. peas and beans) are especially useful in providing continuous food for the soil.

Information sheet 2: Water management

There are ways to manage soil moisture above and below the soil surface. Following are some appropriate techniques for different kinds of soil and different seasons. Further water management information suitable for farmers is included in Home Garden Technology Leaflet 8, Using wetland (p. 141). If this leaflet is not available, select local agricultural extension materials for use and distribution.


About 90 percent of a plant's weight comes from water. No food plants produce a good harvest if they do not receive the right amount of water at the right time. Most of the water is taken in by plants through their roots. It is critical, therefore, that the soil be able to hold the correct amount of moisture to promote growth. At the same time, there must be enough air trapped in tiny holes in the soil to allow the roots to breathe.

Some heavy, sticky soils are too dense to allow air in and the water to drain away. Plant roots cannot breathe, which causes growth problems for most. If this kind of soil dries out, it sets like cement and water takes a long time to soak into it. Sandy, fine-grained soils are too loose to be able to hold water before it drains away. Plant roots cannot find enough water for growth and the plant suffers. For both of these kinds of soil, the regular application of organic matter will improve the ability of the soil to hold and release enough of both water and air.

Basin-like or sunken area


The management of water is the key to home garden development in low-lying areas prone to flooding. Soils that flood easily and frequently can be made more productive with good drainage. Digging a large hole can sometimes successfully drain the water from the nearby soil and will also provide a place to raise fish.

The raised bed and canal system is another way to farm in wetland. In the canal beds, rice, taro, lotus, water chestnut and water spinach can be grown. On the raised beds, annual food plants and tree crops such as citrus are grown.



Short term crops planted near a water source

Above the soil surface

The aim is to keep the soil surface cool and to prevent loss of moisture through evaporation. The use of organic material and waste water can extend the length of the growing season for annual crops.

Place mulch around plants

Below the soil surface

The aim is to retain moisture in the soil. Organic matter in the soil will soak up and hold moisture.


The aim of water management in the wet season is to ensure that plants do not become flooded with water or damaged by heavy rainfalls.

Above the soil surface

Below the soil surface

Plant into raised soil beds

Protect sensitive plants from rain

Water-sensitive plants planted in containers

Information sheet 3: Weed and pest management

Problems with weeds, insects and animals can reduce the production of a home garden and be a cause of frustration for farmers. Often the problems will disappear if plants are chosen to suit their location and if the soil and water are managed well. Some techniques are provided here but further weed and pest management information suitable for farmers is included in Home Garden Technology Leaflets 7, Cover cropping (p. 137); 10, Living fences (p. 147); and 13, Multilayer cropping (p. 157). If these leaflets are not available, select local agricultural extension materials for use and distribution.


Competition from weeds is a major problem for food plants in many home gardens. Weeds compete for nutrients, water, sunlight and space, so other plants grow poorly and die. Areas where weeds are dense can harbour rats, snakes and insect pests. Weeds tend to be a bigger problem in home gardens that do not contain mature trees. If not well-managed, weeds can cost labour that would otherwise be used for cultivating useful plants in the home garden.

Grass weeds can be a big problem because grasses can invade the garden quickly. However, they can benefit the home garden by preventing soil erosion and providing material for mulch or for roof thatch.

Quick-growing vine plants reduce weed growth

How to control weeds

The key factors in the control of weeds are shading them from sunlight and keeping the soil covered so that they cannot find a place to grow.

There are three techniques for quickly controlling weeds:

For a more permanent control of weeds, plant crops that permanently shade the soil surface. The multilayer cropping system, where plants of different height are grown together, is the most effective system.

A multilayer mixture of plants prevents weeds from receiving enough sunlight


Domestic and native animals as well as insects and diseases can damage home garden plants.

Insect and disease problems tend to be seasonal, with the greatest problems occurring in the rainy season. Problems with animals occur all year round but, often, the scarcity of other food for animals in the dry season results in more damage to home garden plants. In order to know when and where pest problems are likely to occur, it is important to learn the habits and life cycle of pests. A good farmer knows as much about plants as he or she knows about plants' enemies.

How to prevent and manage pest and disease problems


Chickens commonly roam free in home gardens. Although they can catch insects and leave manure to fertilize the soil, chickens can become pests when they attack and seriously damage plants in their search for food. Following are some simple ways of protecting plants from attack.

Protection against animals

Domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs and goats can be a threat to home gardens. Goats and pigs sometimes roam around villages and will eat many kinds of plants. Damage from animals can discourage home gardeners to the point of abandoning food growing.

Wild pigs, where they are not hunted for food, can be persistent and often evade farmers and cross weak fences, but living fences can keep them out successfully. One successful method to deter animals from entering a home garden is a living fence of pineapple, salak or pandanus, densely planted together with Gliricidia trees.

A chicken a banana shoot

A wild pig eating cassava

Information sheet 4: Crop management

There are many different methods of farming suitable for the home garden. In each method the farmer manages the different parts of the system (e.g. soil, water, weeds and crops) in order to produce as much of the crop as possible now and in future. This means that the farmer must always take care of the home garden for future production. Information Sheets I to 3 describe some of the common home garden problems and ways to avoid them. This Information Sheet discusses the main factors to consider when deciding how to grow crops in the home garden. For more details, read the relevant Home Garden Technology Leaflets or local agricultural extension materials.


Farming the home garden is not a simple task. Plants, animals and insects behave differently in different seasons and sometimes they become problems when a farmer least expects it. A farmer needs to experience the climate and conditions of an area before he or she can be confident about developing a home garden successfully. A person who has not managed a home garden or farm before must make reaming a high priority.

The first skill needed is observation. Each day, the farmer should take a walk around the home garden and look closely at the plants and insects. Changes in plant growth, such as the appearance of new seedlings, flowers or fruit, often require the farmer to take action in order to protect plants from pests, weeds, too much sunlight or rain. The farmer will learn by observation and experience what happens to the plant as it grows and when the changes occur. One of the best ways to gain experience is to watch how experienced farmers work and develop their home gardens.

The second skill is planning, using the knowledge gained from observing plants in the home garden. All food plants need time to grow to the right size or stage before they are ready to be harvested. From observation and experience a farmer will know how long the growing time will be and exactly what the plant or fruit looks like when it is the best time to harvest. The farmer can then plan in advance what needs to be done after the crop is harvested and can select the next crop to be planted after the first is harvested. In this way the farmer makes sure the land and the family's resources are always employed in the production of food.


Some methods of farming, or cropping systems, are easier than others to use successfully. Different cropping systems are more popular with people from certain cultural backgrounds than with others. Some cropping systems are more suited to a particular climate or situation than others. For example, the raised bed and canal system (described in Information Sheet 2, Water management) is only suitable for wetland. Details of some methods of farming suitable for the home garden are in Home Garden Technology Leaflets 11, Multiple cropping (p.151): 12, Intensive vegetable square (p. 153); and 13, Multilayer cropping (p. 157).

Information sheet 5: Food and nutrition problems



Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is a common nutrition problem in many countries. PEM occurs if children do not eat enough to supply their energy and nutrient needs. They first become underweight or wasted, and if they do not eat an adequate diet for a long time, they fail to grow normally and become stunted. Children who are malnourished usually have less energy to do things, they learn slowly, and have low resistance to fight infections.


Children with PEM often come from poor families which do not produce enough food or which earn too little income to provide sufficient food for the household. Sometimes children from well-off families also become malnourished, not because the family lacks food but because parents are lacking in knowledge on the special food needs of young children and on how to prepare good, clean nutritious meals. Other factors, such as a shortage of water, a lack of fuel and cooking equipment and a shortage of the mother's time for food preparation, affect feeding and may adversely affect children's nutritional status.

Frequent infections caused by poor hygiene and sanitation also contribute to malnutrition. Children who frequently become ill are more likely to be malnourished, as they lose their appetite and refuse to eat. On the other hand, children who are malnourished have less resistance to infections and are more frequently ill than children who are well nourished. In order to stay healthy, children need to eat a diet which contains all essential nutrients. A diet should contain the right combination of energy, protein and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Groups at risk

Infants and preschoolers are the groups most vulnerable to malnutrition. Pregnant and lactating women are the next most vulnerable group, together with elderly people and those who are just recovering from illness. Malnutrition among infants from six months of age occurs if they do not get enough breast milk or if weaning foods are started too late or do not provide all the energy and nutrients needed. From the age of six months, infants need both weaning foods and breast milk.

Assessment and prevention

In healthy people there is a balance between weight and height. Healthy children will increase their weight every month. Thus weight measurement is the easiest way to see whether a child is suffering from PEM, especially for infants and preschoolers. A monthly weight measurement is very important for children under five years. Preventive action can be taken quickly when weight reduction reveals that children are malnourished. Children should be taken regularly every month to the village health post for weighing.


Our body needs only small amounts of vitamins and minerals. These nutrients must be obtained from foods, since the human body cannot develop them itself. A lack of sufficient micronutrients in the diet will result in deficiency diseases which may even endanger people's lives. Most children with micronutrient deficiencies usually also lack energy and protein.

Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most important nutritional diseases among young children. It causes night-blindness and, in more serious cases, may damage the eyes, cause blindness and increase the risk of infection and death. Vitamin A deficiency occurs when a child or an older person does not eat enough foods containing vitamin A or when there is little fat or oil in the diet. Fat and oil help the absorption of vitamin A, so when the diet is low in fat, less vitamin A is absorbed. Vitamin A deficiency is often made worse by infections such as measles and diarrhoea, which increase vitamin A needs.

The best way of preventing vitamin A deficiency is to encourage families to grow and eat plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin A. These include plant foods such as green leafy vegetables, mangoes and papayas; among animal foods, liver is an especially rich source of vitamin A. Breast milk is the only source of vitamin A for infants, and lactating mothers should therefore eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin A as well.


Anaemia is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world. The commonest cause of nutritional anaemia is iron deficiency or a lack of iron in the diet. Other causes of anaemia are parasitic infections, such as hookworm, and the loss of blood during menstruation and childbirth. Iron is an important mineral which is needed to form red blood cells and transport oxygen in the blood. People with anaemia usually have a pale tongue and lips while the inside of the eye is white. Anaemia reduces people's ability to work, increases their tiredness and slows learning in children.

High-risk groups are: women, especially during pregnancy or soon after delivery; babies and young children; and adolescents who are growing fast, especially girls.

Nutritional anaemia can be prevented by ensuring that women and children eat enough iron containing foods, i.e. small amounts of liver, meat and fish, and more foods containing vitamin C so as to increase iron absorption, such as citrus, guava and some green vegetables. The prevention of anaemia can also be promoted by avoiding coffee or tea immediately after a meal, as there are chemical substances contained in coffee and tea which inhibit iron absorption.

Iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency is caused by a lack of iodine in food and in the soils on which food is grown. Sea fish is a good source of iodine, thus iodine deficiency is rarely found in seashore areas and more often in mountainous areas with leached soils and where sea fish is scarce. The thyroid gland at the front of the neck stores and needs iodine for hormone production but, if there is insufficient iodine in the diet, the gland stops producing thyroid hormones and signs of deficiency appear, called iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). Iodine deficiency disorders include goitre, which is indicated by a swelling of the thyroid gland. IDD also contributes to low birth weight, inhibits body growth in children and impairs mental development. In severe cases, brain damage can result. To prevent IDD, the use of iodized salt is highly recommended. In some areas iodine is added to drinking-water.

Information sheet 6 : Recipes for family meals

Note: These recipes are examples from Indonesia. Similar ones can be developed by trainers from other countries using these information materials.

Soybean bakwan



Soybeans, 250 g

Red onion, 6 pieces

Carrots, 100 g

Garlic, 2 cloves

Amaranth, 100g

Coriander powder, 1 spoon

Spring onion, 25 g

Cumin powder, 1/4 teaspoon

Celery, 25 g

Salt, - spoon

Eggs, 3


Flour, 250 g


Water, 2 large cups


Oil for frying


1. Soak the soybeans overnight, then boil them and drain away the water.


2. Chop the vegetables finely and mix with chopped garlic and red onion.


3. Beat the eggs and mix them with the soybeans and other vegetables.


4. Make a batter with the flour and water and add the ground spices.


5. Mix the vegetables and the batter and deep fry the mixture one spoonful at a time. If the batter is not the right consistency, add more flour or water.


Tempeh pepes



Tempeh, 5 pieces

Red onion, 4 pieces

Eggs, 5

Garlic, 2 cloves

Dried, shrimp or fish

Candlenuts, 5


Fresh basil or celery, 50 g

Carrots, 250 g

Turmeric powder


Red chilies


Green chilies, 2

Spring onions


A little tamarind water


1. Slice the tempeh into small slivers.


2. Chop the amaranth, carrots, tomatoes, celery and spring onions finely.


3. Finely chop the dried fish or shrimp.


4. Beat the eggs.


5. Grind together the red onions, garlic, candlenuts, turmeric and basil.


6. In a little oil, lightly fry the tempeh, then add the carrots, amaranth, tomatoes, celery and spring onions.


7. Add the ground spices and tamarind water.


8. Remove the vegetables from the heat.


9. Slice the chilies finely and throw away the seeds.


10. Divide the vegetables into six portions and sprinkle the chilies on top of each. Place each portion in a banana leaf or tin foil and pour over the beaten egg. Bake in the oven or charcoal until the egg is cooked.


Gnetum leaf tumis



Gnetum leaf, 150 g

Shrimp paste, 1 spoon

Long beans, 15, cut into 2 cm lengths

Galingale, 2 cm

Petal (Sesbania grandiflora seed pods), 10,

Bay leaf, 1

divided in two

Hot chilies, 10

Small dried fish, 100 g,

Green chilies, 3

washed and strained

Red chilies, 3

Onions, 8

Garlic, 2 cloves

Oil, 3 spoons


1. Chop the garlic, onion and chilies finely.


2. Heat the oil and fry the chilies, garlic and onion. Add the bay leaf and galingale.


3. Add the small dried fish and shrimp paste, then mix it until the fish is cooked.


4. Add the Sesbania grandiflora seed pods (Petal) and long beans, then the Gnetum leaf and a little water.


5. Mix until the mixture is cooked.


Optional: Monosodium glutamate (Aji no moto in Indonesia) may be added to increase the flavour.


Filled bitter cucumber



Bitter cucumbers, 3

Galingale, 2 cm

Tuna fish, 250 g

Red hot chilies, 10

Grated coconut, 1/3

Citronella grass, 2

Coconut milk from 2/3 coconut


Onions, 6

Candlenuts, 3


Turmeric, 1 cm

1. Boil the bitter cucumber with 1 spoon of salt until half cooked.


2. Slice the cucumber lengthwise and throw away the seeds.


3. Grind the onion, candlenuts, salt and turmeric.


4. Mix the tuna fish, grated coconut, 2 or 3 spoons of coconut milk and ground spices.


5. Place the mixture in the bitter cucumber, then tie it up.


6. Boil the rest of the coconut milk with the galingale, citronella grass and chilies. Place the filled bitter cucumbers in the mixture until they are cooked and the coconut milk becomes dry.


7. Take the cucumbers out, untie them and cut them up.


Spinach chips



Rice flour, 200 g

Candlenuts, 3

Tapioca, 50 g

Garlic, 3 cloves

Spinach leaf, 200 g

Coriander, 1 teaspoon

1. Grind the candlenuts, garlic and coriander.


2. Mix these with the rice flour, tapioca and water as needed.


3. Place the spinach leaves in the batter and fry one by one in oil.


Information sheet 7 : Home processing and preparation of weaning foods


Weaning is the process of introducing foods other than breast milk to a small child, and gradually increasing the amount so that, eventually, the child gets enough energy and nutrients from ordinary family food.

During the first six months of life, most small children get all their nutrients from breast milk. However, by the age of six months, many children cannot get enough energy and nutrients from breast milk alone; they need other foods as well. Some infants may outgrow the supply of breast milk and begin to need other food at about four or five months.

At about the age of six months, most infants show from their behaviour that they are ready to start on other foods. They sit up and reach out for food; they are interested in new tastes and they are willing to try other foods; they may have one or two teeth and they start to chew; they really seem hungry - even though they get plenty of breast milk. If the mother does not start to give weaning foods at this stage, the child may stop gaining weight at a healthy rate and become underweight.


Good weaning foods need to be:

Using staples for weaning foods

The first food a baby eats is usually a soft or semi-liquid food made from a starchy staple (e.g. rice, cassava, maize, taro or banana flour). However, a plain meal from cereal or banana flour alone is not enough; these are not sufficiently rich in energy, and they lack protein and vitamins A or C. It is therefore important to add legumes (e.g. mung beans or soybeans, which are a rich source of protein) to cereals, tubers or banana flour. Transforming bananas, mung beans or soybeans into flour is a way of using food grown on the home garden. The mixed flour can be used to make not only weaning foods, but also cakes or other snacks for children and adults.

The problem of bulky foods

Staple foods such as rice, cassava, maize or bananas are usually high in starch content. This means that they absorb a lot of water, which makes the food bulky. Consequently, large amounts have to be eaten for a child to obtain all the energy and nutrients it needs. Small children have small stomachs, however, and it is difficult for them to eat large amounts.

Overcoming the problem of bulky foods. To enable young children to get enough energy and nutrients from bulky foods, there are two things that families can do:

Feed children often To get enough energy and nutrients from bulky foods, a child of six to 12 months, needs about five small meals per day, in addition to breast-feeding.

Enrich the bulky food. To enrich a bulky food means to add an energy-rich and/or a nutrient-rich food, or both. In order to make a staple food more energy-rich, a spoonful of oil or fat can be added to the child's meal. This increases the energy concentration without adding to the volume and it makes the meal easier to eat.

Adding a protein-rich food such as legume flour to the cereal or banana flour; a good mixture is two to three parts of cereal or banana flour to one part legume flour. Also, mashed beans or peas or mashed fish can be added to cereal or banana flour to add protein.

Foods that are rich in both energy and protein are groundnuts, oilseeds, skinned and well cooked mashed soybeans or coconut milk. These can be added to weaning foods.

To make sure that a young child gets enough vitamins A and C, and to increase the absorption of iron, families should give some of the following foods each day. They can either mix the food with the enriched porridge or give them separately:

Processing of banana, soybean and mung bean flour

The process of making banana, soybean and mung bean flour is given below.

Note: Bananas for flour are best picked when they are about three-quarters ripe, i.e. about 80 days after flowering. At this time, the fruit starch is at its maximum and the banana has a good flavour, with a balance between sour and sweet.

Mung beans and soybeans should be firm and dry before they are crushed in order to eliminate anti-nutrients, i.e. substances which inhibit nutrient absorption and use by the body.

Making banana flour









Sun drying


Milling or pounding




Banana flour

Making soybean flour



Soaking in water (6 hours)


Boiling (10-15 minutes, 100°C)




Roasting I




Roasting II


Milling or pounding




Soybean flour

Making mung bean flour

Mung beans


Soaking in water (only 2-3 minutes)


Draining for 6 hours (cover with banana leaves to maintain humidity)




Milling or pounding




Mung bean flour

Banana pudding

Recipe for a traditional weaning food made from banana flour and mung bean flour.


Banana flour, 40 g

Skim milk (tempeh flour), 30 g

Mung bean (or soybean) flour, 9 g

Sugar, 20 g

Salt, 1 g

1. Mix all ingredients with 250 ml of boiled water and stir well.

2. Add another 250 ml of hot water, then heat over a low fire. Stir the mixture while heating until it is ready.

3. Pour into a bowl and leave until cold.

Information sheet 8: Snacks for young children

Cassava steamed cake


Fresh cassava, 1 kg

Sugar, 1-2 cups

Eggs, 5

Liquefied 100 g

Ovalet, 1 spoon

Sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 can

made up to I cupful with water

1. Peel, wash and grate the cassava.

2. Squeeze the cassava in a cloth until it is reduced to 550 g.

3. Whip the eggs until white, add the ovalet and whip again.

4. Mix the cassava and milk with the whipped eggs, add the margarine.

5. Place the batter in a baking dish and steam for 10 minutes.

6. Decorate the cake with cheese or whipped margarine and sugar flour.

Banana cookies


Banana flour, 200 g

Cornflour, 50 g, blended to a thin paste

Sugar, 150 g

Eggs, 3

Salt and essence

1. Beat the sugar, eggs, salt and essence.

2. Add the banana flour, cornflour and margarine.

3. Place the batter in a baking dish and bake until cooked.

Banana pancake


Banana flour, 160 g

Skim milk, 30 g

Baking soda, 6 g

Salt, 4g

Egg, 1

Water, 400 ml

1. Thoroughly mix all ingredients with the water.

2. Heat a little oil in small frying pan (pancake pan), then add 3 spoonfuls of batter, cover the pan and heat for approximately 6 minutes.

3. Turn the cooked pancakes out on to a plate and repeat step 2 several times until the batter is finished.

Cassava kroket



Cassava, 500 g


Leeks, 100 g

Garlic, 2 cloves

Carrots, 250 g

Red onion

Celery, 50 g

Black pepper powder, 1 teaspoon


Coconut oil

1. Chop the carrots, leeks, celery, garlic and red onion.


2. Fry the garlic and red onion in a little oil. Add the chopped vegetables and salt and stir until the vegetables are cooked.


3. Peel the cassava and soak in water for 1 hour.


4. Grate the cassava, then squeeze and throw away the liquid.


5. Take 1 spoon of grated Cassava and shape it into a plain ball. Place 1/2 spoon of mixed vegetables on it, then shape it again into a circular or oval ball.


6. Heat the oil and fry the grated Cassava until cooked - the colour will turn to a reddish yellow.


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