EDITORIAL: Home Gardens Grow Hope for Families

While the struggle against hunger grows increasingly critical, a food source with great potential to contribute to a solution may be just outside the kitchen window. Home gardens are an old, worldwide agricultural practice found in many forms. If there is a home garden archetype, it is land enriched with organic materials, blending vegetables, tubers, fruits, grains and spices, all only a few paces from one's back door. In rural areas, home gardens diversify household diets. In urban settings, they defray food costs. In town or country, their harvests are often marketable. Overall, home gardens are low-risk ventures for men and women farmers.

The importance of home gardens will likely increase with the world's population, which swells by 80 million new inhabitants each year. In many nations, urban dwellers already account for 50% or more of the total population. In rural zones, cropland area per capita is declining. Deforestation, soil erosion and armed conflicts compound this land-use dilemma. Low-cost, regenerative intensification of food production is inevitable. Increased educational efforts about family planning and nutrition are needed as well.

To many people, nutrition simply means having enough food to eat, let alone nutritional balance and food quality. To this end, fruits and vegetables are frontline allies in the fight against global hunger. Tomatoes, onions, bananas and oranges are the superstars, and home gardens support these crops very well. Add crops like beans, potatoes and leafy greens for a nearly complete food security formula.

Though home gardens are important and versatile, their productivity is generally insufficient to meet all household food and income needs. One productivity factor is the complexity of home gardens. A combination of skills are needed by home gardeners to manage this system efficiently. The most successful home garden managers are experienced growers, keen observers, hard workers and creative. To increase the productivity of home gardens, their managers need better opportunities to improve their skills and more access to information. The most critical information needed by home garden managers is how to intensify production while upgrading food quality and regenerating local resources.

To solve this problem soon and effectively, we must first identify answers and alternatives within reach. Let's start with our own backyards. So, to expand our readers' interest in a time-tested and biologically diverse food system, this Ag-Sieve issue highlights home gardens. While farm and urban families around the world work hard in their home gardens, hoping for a better life, our wish is that home gardens find a rightful place in the sun of development research and action.