LET’S TALK ABOUT HOME GARDENS
For centuries in Africa, home gardens was an important part of not only our agricultural landscape but also our cultural and social landscape. It was nurtured not only by farmers but also the house wife, the children and even residents in villages and towns. It was important not just because it was a major source of vegetables but equally it was also a source of herbs, spices, an excellent hobby and it even lays claim to a certain therapeutic quality. In the last two and half decades or so, home gardens was almost going into extinction and the few people who keep them are regarded as “old school”. This is primarily because of the massive rural-urban migration in search of “opportunity” and the belief of many that if they make money they would rather buy their groceries than keep a home garden.
However, in recent years its importance is being rediscovered not only as a source of vegetables but also as being important for supplementary nutrition and additional income.
If you do a survey today to find out how many households have any form of garden that cater for their vegetable needs, which by the way happens to be a vital source of supplementary nutrition, you will discover that the backyard gardens which most households back in the days used to maintain for a regular supply of vegetables for their families are fast vanishing.
Most urban households have no backyard garden and what this means in practical terms is that only families that could afford purchasing them from the market had vegetables and fruits as part of their regular diet. This is one of the reasons behind the high malnutrition of the family today.
The shrinkage of home gardens particularly in Nigeria has led the country to facing serious malnutrition problems at both ends of the spectrum. On one end, Nigeria still struggle with under-nutrition and children who are not growing well. At the other end of the spectrum, a large number of adults are battling with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, hypertension etc. Studies reveal that 4 out of 10 chronic diseases can be linked to what is called the modern diet.
IMPORTANCE OF HOME GARDENS
1. Home gardens can arrest the trend of declining diversity of vegetables and lead to greater local diversity and local consumption of vegetables. We stand the chance of completely losing our indigenous seeds and become slaves to foreign seed companies if we don’t revive home gardens. Don’t forget this: whoever controls the seed controls the food supply and whoever controls the food supply controls the future.
2. We can cultivate vegetables that form an important source of supplementary nutrition.
3. Income can be increased due to decrease of expenses in the purchase of vegetables. In other words, another way to increase your income is to reduce your household expenses particularly on essentials such as vegetables. This can be achieved by having a home garden.
4. Home gardens has been known for ages as a vital source of herbs, which is the first pharmacy people visit whenever there is a health challenge. Home garden is therefore important for primary health care and also results in savings on health related expenses.
5. Supplementary income is also possible to a small extent through the sale of vegetables and production and sale of vegetable seeds. Home garden is a form of home-based business that can provide additional income urban households.
Simple guidelines for a well-balanced nutritional diet recommends at least two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruits each day. How many people do meet these recommended daily allowance? For those who can afford to buy their fruits and vegetables from the regular market to meet the recommended daily allowance, are you aware of what is included (and maybe what is not included) in the cultivation of the vegetables and fruits that you buy? Except you are buying strictly from an organic source, you may be at risk of ingesting dangerous chemicals used to grow these foods. The growing malnutrition among children and the increasing rate of terminal diseases among adults and the danger of ingesting vegetables and fruits grown with chemicals can be abated or even avoided. Home gardens can play a crucial role to combat this menace.