Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Approaching With "Family Business Garden": A New Dimension Of Urban Agricultural Extension In Colombo, Sri Lanka

Dr. Thilak T. Ranasinghe
Director of Agriculture (Western Province)
P.O. Box 1561, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Tel:- ++94-1- 472360
Fax:- ++94-1-320303

Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2001 points out that 20% of world population living in the rich countries and consume 80% of resources, while 20% in the poorest countries consume no more than 1.3%. The same is true for disparities between rural and urban communities within the national economy of a poor country. This results uneven distribution of resources between rural and urban areas and high growth of population in urban centers in poor countries. The Census of Population and Housing of Sri Lanka-2001 shows that urban population has risen and the highest urban population of 54.7% is concentrated in the Colombo district. This is due to the increased opportunities of urban employment mainly in readymade garment industry. As a result of high population growth urban poverty, poor health and housing facilities, waste disposal problems and environment degradation are on the rise. In mitigating these challenges Department of Agriculture (Western Province) Sri Lanka, launched the concept of Family Business Garden (FBG) through different practical terms in 2000.

Plate 1:- A practical demonstration site of Family Business Garden.


The concept allows urban people to work on environmental and/or commercial agriculture with a viable mix of resource utilization and sustainable management at the homestead level. The main theme of the concept of FBG is to stress the need in converting simple form of home gardening or kitchen gardening into the entrepreneurship development venture on the long-term basis. It based on conservation of resources and aesthetic values in association with mental satisfaction. The prime goal of the concept is to apply balance and proper mix of Indigenous Technical Know-how (ITK) and latest scientific advances in the sustainable agricultural development process. It believes that such strategies help to optimize productivity of small and medium scale entrepreneurships in long run rather than exploitation of resources for profit maximization in short-run.

Plate 2:- Pictorial presentation of the concept of Family Business Garden.


The concept has five major components: i.e., family nutrition, technology adoption, crop management, post-harvest technology and value-addition and, landscaping and housekeeping.

i) Family nutrition is given high priority so as to address issues of imbalance food intake by advocating cultivating some important nutritious crops in earth-beds or pots for urban communities. It also insists to adopt Integrated Pest Management strategies in attaining the goal of environment friendly agricultural development. For instance, use of vertical space of the homestead by adopting low cost methods such as "cultivation tower", cultivations in empty containers, plastic bottles and tires is also advocated.

Plate 3:- The "Cultivation Tower" has created a demand as edible-living structure in current urban-landscaping models.


Plate 4:- Vegetable cultivations in waste bottles contribute to improve levels of family nutrition (i.e., mega-bottle cultivation).


ii) Technology adoption is stressed because one should select to do new crops/new products rather than being stagnant in a conventional production system that produces only for subsistence or poor quality traditional products. A proper integration of ITK and modern technology come into play a major role in this component. For example, make use of plant houses, hydroponics techniques, micro irrigation systems are communicated.

Plate 5:- Floriculture enterprise under control environment generates money from limited urban land spaces.


iii) Crop management is treated with high capacity so as to keep productivity of soil on sustainable basis. This strategy advocates recycling techniques of plant nutrients such as crop rotation, living fence, green and animal manure, and compost making with house waste, so on.

iv) The post-harvest technology and value addition component is incorporated here to stress the validity of entrepreneurship in small or medium level agro-based development ventures. In urban communities people prefer quality fresh food and processed or finished products in managing their hectic work schedule when compared to rural communities. In that vein, FBG should be in position to supply quality products in matching with ever changing demand structures of urban life styles and also world standards.

Plate 6:- Fruit juice making at the homestead level adds distinctive income to unique urban small-scale female entrepreneurs.


v) Landscaping and housekeeping activities try to build the dignity of agricultural family by introducing idiomatic and, essence and new outlook to the cottage business. The creation of pleasant environment by way of adopting the principles of landscaping architecture and the guiding principles of personal psychology plays the main role of this component. The establishment of charming environment in and out side of the house/business keeps the mental as well as physical health of the family members in good condition.

Plate 7:- The adoption of the concept of Family Business Garden always upkeeps your mental and physical fitness.


Finally, as stated the above, the concept of FBG paves the way to the agricultural extension agent to interact effectively with different target groups of urban communities (i.e., small homesteads, slums, flats and well to do gardens). It provides opportunities for dialogical form of communication of innovations in the urban agricultural development process. The concept was launched with the establishment of demonstrations followed by seminars, training classes, field days and field tour programmes as well as implementation of micro-level project activities. The concept addresses diverse production, consumption and marketing patterns in order to long last agro-based enterprises and extrapolations of the present data show that the acceptance of the concept is on the positive trend.

Flash file popularizing Family Business Garden

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Revised October 27, 2006

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture