Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


People have had gardens near their homes for thousands of years. It is not so hard to imagine: fruit, vegetables and grains gathered from the wild were taken to family huts for meals. Some seeds fell to the ground; other seeds were released after the fruit had been eaten. The seeds germinated and grew, and were cared for by those in the family who knew what the plants were. This was the quiet arrival of the home garden. Being near the home made it easier to protect the garden from foraging wildlife and reduced the work of gathering food from the wild.

It is argued that farming practices evolved from simple home gardens; even today in many parts of the world the difference between farms and gardens is blurred. The main visible differences are important and telling: gardens generally cover a smaller area, yet they have a wider diversity of crops. Using land adjacent to houses, home gardens can be established and maintained with little capital and labour. Intensively managed, they can be highly productive all year round in tropical and mild temperate areas. They can be worked seasonally to avoid difficult cold or dry seasons and to fit in with other farming activities such as fishing, cultivating field crops and looking after livestock. A home garden can be a significant health and livelihood asset amongst urban households. Garden diversity includes vegetables and fruit and can include staple food crops, livestock, aquaculture and nursery production; plants for medicinal use, fuel and fibre, and plants for household social or spiritual functions such as flowers. All these items have an economic value in the smallholder farming system and many may be traded by barter or for cash.

In addition to the important economic function of production for consumption and income, the area around a home is used as a work area and a place to store farm produce and equipment; it also has important social functions. Trees may be planted for their beauty or to provide wood, fruit, privacy and shelter from wind and dust. Establishing or improving a home garden can assist a household's ecological sustainability and help sustain its livelihood. Potential benefits from integrating home gardens into smallholder farming systems include:

Despite this potential, the contribution of home gardens to livelihoods is often considered too small and their establishment too complicated for inclusion in agriculture and rural development. Economists and even households themselves sometimes find it hard to describe and value the benefits from a diverse home garden. Planners, research officers and extension officers often lack the information to identify opportunities for developing home gardens, and evaluate the feasibility of home gardens under particular conditions. Home gardening is traditionally handled as a minor activity by specialized horticulturists in agriculture research and extension institutions, independent of field crop, livestock and aquaculture institutions. To introduce integrated home gardens successfully, policy-makers and planners must take sufficient account of diverse and often location-specific economic, cultural and environmental conditions in traditional farming systems.

This publication will help agriculture, livestock and aquaculture specialists to see how home gardens can be integrated with other components of the farming system. The main focus is on semi-intensive, small-scale, diverse and integrated home gardens for rural income generation. The main objective is to create awareness about the prerequisites and semi-commercial opportunities available for improving livelihoods through appropriate home garden technologies. This book provides examples of successes and lessons learned, and points out considerations that are crucial to the successful integration of home gardens and agriculture on smallholder farms around the world.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page