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Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Lalita Bhattacharjee FAO, Bangladesh

Integrated home gardening, and farming systems for nutrition –  Example from the South of Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, integrated home gardens fall within the national concept of “Ekti Badi, Ekti Khamar” meaning one household, one farm.”  In rural areas, 75% of households reportedly have a home garden.  A range of 25 fruit crops, 29 vegetables, and 12 spices can be cultivated, even in small home gardens of less than 50 square-metres. Income from the home gardens is usually controlled by women and is more likely to be used for better diets, education, health care and others directly benefitting women and children. Estimates from the national Food Security and Nutritional Surveillance Project 2011-12, show that 56% of households have only home gardens, 62% have backyard poultry but 42% of households with homestead gardens also have backyard poultry.  The same source also estimates that homestead gardening with backyard poultry g decreased from 41% in February-May of 2010-11 to 35% in February-May of 2011-12. The current situation shows that integrated home gardening needs enhanced resilience to land degradation, water scarcity, bio-security (especially avian flu), and climate change, particularly in high risk areas, such as in the Southern region in Bangladesh. 

Around a tenth of gardens in selected villages of the Southern districts were destroyed completely by soil salinity, and seeds could not germinate. Amidst this situation, about half of the households implemented coping practices using organic compost and a little over a third planted crops in pits leached with water. Mulching with rice straw, coconut coir and other locally available organic materials were used to increase water retention of the soil and develop compost.  Greater resilience was found in salinity among vegetable crops which include Indian spinach (pui shak), sweet gourd, okra and kang kong (kolmi shak) which are good sources of micronutrients. Kang kong was noted to be the most saline resistant crop but this is relatively new to Southern Bangladesh. It is essential that strategies and input resources have specific nutrition considerations integrated into agriculture extension while promoting integrated home gardening, particularly in flood affected areas. Households with larger plots of land are also seen to be moving from rice cultivation to shrimp cultivation which is more remunerative and this has affected the day labour opportunities for poor households.  Households with better knowledge and means to adopt salinity coping practices were mostly the better off ones. 

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