Management Strategies in African Homegardens
& The Need for New Extension Approaches
A.W. Drescher (PhD., Ass. Prof./Priv.-Doz.)
(C) Copyright 1997
Section on Applied Physiogeography of the Tropics and Subtropics (APT)
Hebelstrasse 27, D-79104 Freiburg, i. Br./ FRG
The original paper including figures (World 6.0 format) can be obtained by e-mail.
First presented at the International Symposium on Food Security and Innovations - Successes and Lessons Learned, Stuttgart-Hohenheim, March 11-13, 1996.
Second presented and modified at the International Conference on Sustainable Urban Food Systems, May 22-25, 1997, Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, Canada.
Second research report by A.W. Drescher
Urban Agriculture In The Seasonal Tropics Of Central Southern Africa
List of other papers by A.W. Drescher
In Lusaka, as in many other tropical cities, gardening and cropping receive very little support from local authorities. Indeed, city councils often prohibit these activities. The relationship between urban food production, food security and urban environment has been largely neglected.
The main actors in urban agriculture are often women. It turned out that in all compounds having been examined in Lusaka, women are to a greater extent involved in cropping and gardening than men. Production of staple food prevails in the wet season, and vegetable production in the dry season. Microfarming obviously contributes to household food security in town, directly by providing food, and indirectly by generating income. People living in the high-density, low-income compounds in Lusaka have the least access to both land and water. Within the high-density squatter areas, vulnerability in terms of food security differs. In some cases, small homegardens help to decrease vulnerability by buffering risks of food shortages and by diversifying the household's sources of livelihood. Other households can do no gardening because they lack sufficient land, water, labour, etc. Those households are more vulnerable, because they depend completely on purchased food, yet they have low purchasing power. In the case of Zambia, it is not the most vulnerable households which practise dry-season cultivation but rather those which have access to the resources essential for this activity.
Concepts for agricultural extension in the urban environment are missing due to the fact that "real agriculture" was thought to take place in the rural sector only. Homegardening as an important part of the urban microfarming system was completely neglected in the past not only in the urban but also in periurban and rural areas. Nevertheless there is a great demand and need for extension and advice, especially in the highly sensitive sector of leafy vegetable production. For the welfare of the people it would be advantageous to increase the output of such gardens. Nevertheless past policies of "greening" are not applicable to city gardens. Three examples show the need for extension in the sectors of pest management, species composition and -diversity, and soil fertility, and help to clarify the different approaches to urban, periurban and rural food production.
Tropical homegardens, food production, food security, biological pest control, crop species diversity, soil fertility, extension service.
Hunger and malnutrition in the world are increasing not only due to growing population and loss of yield but also caused by the destruction of natural plant resources, the loss of food diversity and structural changes in the environment. Past management strategies of household food security often failed because they where based on the "macro-level" (governments, administrations, ministries). Therefore new strategies focus on the "micro-level" like the individual household (Kampmann 1992).
During 1992 and 1993 a research project on homegardening was carried out in Zambia's capital Lusaka, in periurban areas of Lusaka and rural areas of Zambia. The so-called household garden survey concentrated on the household garden activities as an important part of the landuse system. There is a growing consensus that homegardening combined with nutrition education can be a viable strategy for improving household food security for at-risk populations (Marsh & Talukder 1994). This paper focuses on the situation in urban, periurban and rural areas of Zambia and gives some results of the survey. The main objective of the household garden survey was to clarify the role of household gardens for household food security in Zambia and to identify differences and problems in management strategies and their effects on production in the different areas (with respect to urban microfarming see Drescher 1996a).
Three examples may be useful to clarify some problems of smallholder/microfarmers homegardening strategies and extension approaches:
- The Problem of Plant Protection in Tropical Homegardens
- Practical Aspects of Calculating Crop Species Diversity in Tropical Homegardens
- The use of Fertiliser and Compost in Tropical Homegardens
1. The Problem of Plant Protection in Homegardens
Not much is known up to now about plant protection strategies and the use of pesticides in homegardens of the seasonal tropics in southern Africa. Especially pesticide abuse is a major problem and heavily underreported as pointed out by Gura (1995).
The assessment of plant pests and diseases in vegetables requires much knowledge and experience in plant protection and entomology, which could not be made accessible to the members of the field team. Therefore the observed pests where classified roughly as follows:
- white fly
- red spider mite
- beetles, bugs
- grasshoppers, crickets
The recognition of thrips was a problem already, because you need a well-trained eye to do so. It was not possible to distinguish between different species of aphids or caterpillars.
1.1 The most important Plant Pests in Homegardens
Pests were observed in 90% of urban, in 72% of periurban and 80% of rural homegardens. Not at all, there was any need for intervention in all of the observed cases. The most important pest in homegardens is the aphid, which can be observed especially in brassicas like e.g. rape (Brassica napus) or chinese cabbage (Brassica chinensis).
The assessment of pests during the field surveys comes close to what the farmers estimate themselves. Thrips is not known by most of them and does therefore occur in only 1.1% of their gardens (table 1).Table 1: Assessment of pests in homegardens according to field observations and inquiry of farmers