Homegardens - a Neglected Potential for Food Security and Sustainable Land Management in the Communal Lands of Zimbabwe

A.W. Drescher, J. Hagmann, E. Chuma


Home gardening plays an important role within the overall farming and livelihood system in Southern Zimbabwe in terms of household food security and income generation. Home gardening is an ideal complement to crop production which is mainly concentrated in the off-season.
The paper describes homegardening systems in the semi-arid areas. Major differences between individual gardens and gardens promoted by development agents revealed in terms of species diversity. Whereas 'supported gardens' are geared towards optimal production, multiple and diverse goals are pursued in individual gardens which due to their rich species diversity are a stronghold of biodiversity conservation. This raised the question whether development efforts should not learn from individual gardens and choose different approaches.
The highest potential to improve crop management gardens which were identified were effective water management, biological pest control and intercropping. Promising methods for water harvesting are being tested and practised, but little research on the use of natural biological antagonists for pest control has been done so far. Soil fertility management in gardens was revealed as highly effective. In contrast to the main fields, organic matter is relatively high in the gardens.
The paper concludes that the support of home gardens would be an important contribution to strengthening food security and biodiversity for ecological stability. Areas needing extension support include: methods of improving water use e efficiency, storage and marketing of home garden products. With respect to its contribution to sustainable land use, food security and ecological stability, home gardens should not be addressed in isolation. An integrated approach to improve the security of livelihood making use of the positive complementarity of the field crop production, livestock and gathering of fruits etc. should he aimed for. However, an attitudinal problem needs to be overcome: fruit gathering and many other 'traditional' practices which offer a lot of potential to improve gardening are perceived as ' uncivilised ' and 'backward' compared to modern technology like fertiliser and pesticides. These, however, are expensive and few farmers only utilise them in gardens.


Zimbabwe, Homegardens, Food Security, Management Strategies, Species Diversity, Soil fertility, Sustainability. Extension, Development

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