News and Events > Recent news > Archive 2011 > Home gardening: a solution for food security when climate change strikes|
Home gardening has become a popular activity among the women of Mau Ara in Sri Lanka as a means of attaining self sustainability in cultivating vegetables, perennial crops, fruits, and ornamental plants that earn them an additional income by sale of the excess produce.
The development and maintenance of a home garden is a collective effort of family members with women in the lead, having access and rights of ownership for the land they cultivate. With declining agricultural returns due to climate change, produce from home gardens becomes more important to enhance a family’s food security while making a surplus available for marketing outside the system/village.
NetWwater has been engaged since 2003 in supporting women farmers through capacity building through Jala Hamuwa (= water meetings) in selected sites in Hambantota & Badulla districts, Sri Lanka. This project reached out to 600 primary direct beneficiaries in these sites. The program was based on a needs assessment study; women farmers asked for more information on climate change effects, water conservation techniques, nutritional food preparation and so on.
Most of the women in these two sites depend on irrigated agriculture for their livelihood. NetWwater was conducting capacity building programmes for women for them to get involved in water management (irrigation & rain water harvesting) as well as in improved (organic) farming practices. NetWwater has already had experience in rain water harvesting systems for hospitals which can be adapted for advising home gardens based agriculture.
Water availability for the home garden plays a major role in increasing the crop production in home gardens. During the Jala Hamuwa, NetWwater e.g. demonstrated drip irrigation techniques using discarded saline tubes and barrels (donated by Unilever). Water storage is getting more and more important with continued draught periods as a result of climate change effect. Roof water harvesting (rainwater harvesting through roofs) is one of other major option which needs only initial cost for construction to increase water availability for home gardens.
Gender and Water workshops
NetWwater has been conducting district based Gender and Water Dialogue Workshops for Middle level government officers and NGOs on water issues related to the area. In their day to day work, participants make use of the knowledge gained in dealing with the communities in related issues. Encouraging women to take up leadership positions in Farmer Organizations and Community Based Water Supply Organisations, promoting women in home gardening and disseminating women’s local knowledge in climate adaptation strategies are some of the interventions made by them.
Subsequent to the training conducted in Mau Ara, the family as a unit participated in the agricultural activities of women farmers. It is evident that there was appreciation also among the males, specially with the economic benefit that the family has gained. The leaders of the Farmer Organizations had given publicity to the events organized by women to get more community members to participate in the events. Realising the positive impacts of the training to the community, the Farmer Organisations have requested for more training programmes from NetWwater.
Evaluation and follow up
Badra Kamaladasa, Director of irrigation Irrigation Department of Sri Lanka and in charge of the project on behalf of NetWwater, Champa M. Navaratne, Head of Department of Agricultural Engineering of the University of Ruhuna, WfWP member NetWwater and Lesha Witmer, steering committee member WfWP, in July 2011 visited some of the women and their home gardens that participated in the project. Evaluation and discussions as a result of the visit have led to a new follow-up project formulated and submitted to new donors.
A home garden is a piece of land around the dwelling with clear boundaries. It has a functional relationship with its occupants related to economic, biophysical and social aspects. A home garden often consists of a mixture of annual and perennial crops, sometimes including small livestock. On account of the vertical structure with different canopy depths of various plant species, the home gardens are most often referred to as a ‘multi-species, multi-storied cropping system’.
The development and maintenance of a home garden is a collective effort of family members with women in the lead. At present, home gardens in Sri Lanka are being neglected due to water shortage problems, unavailability of home labour and so on. There are no particular water sources for irrigation of home garden crops in Sri Lanka. Normally households use their domestic water supply; pipe borne water or groundwater wells or nearby surface water reservoirs. During dry periods with limited water quantity, as the priority is given for domestic water demand, cultivation in home gardens are neglected.
Women’s contribution to home gardening is significant and its contribution to the family income and nutritional is vital. In most cases through micro-finance programmes women obtain loans during the season and develop the home garden with the knowledge she gain by attending training programmes and through media. The men also discuss about the new high yielding varieties and new farming practices at home and it has also become an important information source for them.
With declining agricultural returns due to climate change, produce from home gardens becomes more important to enhance a family’s food security while making a surplus available for marketing outside the system/village. This is an area which currently women have access and rights of ownership for the land they cultivate. It does not entail them travelling long hours away from to home to far away fields and gives more security for women and their crops. Though neglected for some time by policy makers, the current agricultural policies emphasise the need for improving home gardens though adequate institutional and agency resources are not currently available for this purpose. Therefore this activity will gain support from the agency and political leadership as it reflects a national need which is also buttressed by a national policy.
It will be a socially/culturally accepted way of women’s contribution to the household economic status and hence will enable them to gain status within the community. Their influence in farmer groups will be strengthened through additional access to knowledge and technology and the women farmers can become leaders in such areas.
Women’s empowerment is enhanced by educating them in innovative approaches to home gardening, lessening their workload, giving them better yields and incomes and improving their position in the community because of their knowledge and success. This development will contribute to a change of mindset and attitude in traditional communities who will be sensitized through women’s enhanced economic and intellectual status.
Last update on september 23rd, 2011