Gardening against hunger
‘’let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’’ – hippocrates
We continue to learn that food really is medicine. And that growing your own food may be one of the most powerful steps you can take for the health of yourself, your family, and your planet.
Small food gardens near the family home have traditionally made an important contribution to family nutrition. Home gardens help provide variety in the diet and supply vital vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates and proteins. Good nutrition helps the body to resist disease and help improve family health.
Various studies around the world have suggested that home gardens can be an effective option to address food insecurity in various challenging situations. It can also contribute immensely to the reduction of “hidden hunger”, malnutrition and diseases caused by micronutrient deficiency.
Home garden is a new name for an ancient practice. Home gardens have endured the test of time and culture to play an important role in providing food and income for the family. In these days of food crisis and highly inflated food prices, home gardens should be adopted to enhance food production and improve livelihood.
The traditional home garden in Nigeria is a mix of herbal vegetables, staples and fruits and livestock, especially of small animals. The modern home garden can be established in a small space of the home where there is fresh soil for planting. Vegetables and fruits can be grown in pots in roof top gardens, balconies, terraces, courtyards or raised beds, if soil is not fertile.
Suitable plants for the home garden staples include: cassava, cocoyam, potatoes, yams, plantain, bananas and maize; legumes (beans, peas, nuts); leafy vegetables: Amaranthus species, Fluted pumpkin leaves (Ngu), Spinach, Lettuces, Bitter leaf. cabbages, scallions, okras; Root vegetables: Carrots, Radishes, Beetroots; Vines: Pumpkins, Cucumbers, other marrows and Squashes, Egg plants; Herbs: Mint, Curry leaf, Parsley, Celery, Lemon grass, Coriander, Thyme, Chamomile, Tomatoes and Peppers; Small fruit trees: Dwarf citruses, Pawpaw, Coconut, Mango, Guava, Bananas, etc.; Integration of small livestock like rabbits, grasscutters, Poultry, Fishpond, Bee keeping and Snail keeping.
Health Benefit of Home Gardening
The great economic hardship and food insecurity force people to consume less and settle for food with low nutritional values, this results in nutrient deficiency which poses serious health problems particularly in pregnant women, babies, and growing children. Growing a garden engenders a healthier living with access to vegetables, which is a big part of your family meals; and promoting health because fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients especially phytochemicals, antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and folate which is very important to the health of the people vulnerable to malnutrition and nutrient deficiency viz. pregnant women, nursing mothers and their babies, growing children and the elderly.
Majority of plants in home gardens have diverse medicinal uses and they are also used to treat many common ailments and health problems in a cost-effective manner Fruits and vegetables from your own garden are higher in nutrients than the ones that have travelled thousand miles to get to the market.
Physical Wellbeing. Gardening increases physical activity and a great way to engage the whole family in physical exercise and help take responsibility for the garden. It is a great way to burn some calories, a cheaper and more productive alternative to hours on the treadmill. Instead of a few hours on the treadmill burning away your excess calories, why don’t you expend that energy to till that small patch of land in your compound to grow some veggies and fruits. Why spend so much on using interlocked blocks and concrete floors to beautify your compound when you can spend so little to grow beautiful rows of fresh vegetables and fruits for your family? Why buy dried spices in the market when you can grow organic fresh ones in your garden?
Home gardens are widely promoted in many countries as a mechanism to avert poverty and as a source of income for subsistence families in developing countries.
A well-developed home garden contributes significantly to daily food needs. It can supply households with nearly all non-staple foods that are needed, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and root crops as well as spices and herbs, medicines and flowers for ornamental purposes or for sale.
Income from sale of home garden harvest can make a substantial contribution to family’s income, to buy daily essentials and other goods and services. Food items that cannot be produced in the home garden or other family land can be purchased from sale of other items in the home garden. For example, coconut oil or woven mats from the home garden can be sold to traders or shops and the money used to buy foods that the family cannot grow.
Tool for empowerment and community development
Home gardening work may lead to empowering women and contribute to more effective broader, social and community development.
Home gardens are complex and constitute an important part of the agricultural landscapes that promote biodiversity conservation. They are diverse and contain a rich composition of plants and animal species. Various studies around the world identify a significant concentration of plants such as vegetables, fruits, yams, herbs and spices in gardens. Home gardens also provide multiple ecosystem services such as habitat for plant and animals and other beneficial organisms, nutrient recycling, reduced soil erosion and enhanced pollination which will influence agricultural productivity.
Reducing carbon footprint
Gardens also have a role to play in carbon sequestration, reduction of greenhouse gases, and mitigation of climate change. That mango tree or orange tree or in your yard is sequestering some carbon, reducing the greenhouse gas load in the atmosphere. That little effort of yours is contributing to the mitigation of the effect of climate change.
Home gardens foster unity amongst family members. Nothing builds a strong family bond like a few hours of tilling and weeding in your home garden during the weekend. Home gardens serves as reservoir for preserving and transferring indigenous crops and livestock species, production knowledge and skills from one generation to another.
Having your children assist you in the garden can increase the chance that they will eat more of the fruits and vegetables they have helped to grow. This can be a great time to create memories with your children. Memories that can last for a lifetime.
Your garden can lead to new skills and knowledge for you and your family. Your child may have found a new interest in becoming a Chef or Horticulturist!
Become Creative. Growing a garden gives a new appreciation for nature, when you can have an opportunity to see how things grow.
Gardening may stimulate many new interests. You may want to learn more about Botany, Landscape Architecture, Photography, Nutrition and Agricultural farmers’ markets.
There is a potential to grow innovative gardens like futuristic horticulture gardens that are cost-e effective and require substantially less space.
Gardening gives a real sense of appreciation when you can see the bounty of your efforts.
Gardening gives you an opportunity to give back. If you have an abundant garden, you might give some of the produce to neighbours, the local orphanage, correctional centers, charities.