Home gardens are traditional intercropping systems that provide subsistence, opportunities to commercialise products, and serve multiple environmental and social functions by combining agricultural crops with tree crops and livestock. Home gardens are typically characterised by a great diversity of useful plants and livestock in a small area, cultivated in intricate relationships with one another. On the island of Java, Indonesia, home gardens called pekarangan are particularly well developed. The most extensive areas of home gardens in Java and the most intensive cultivation occur below an altitude of 800m where the dry season is short or absent. Usually taking up little more than half a hectare around the farmer’s house, home gardens contain a huge variety of plants for food, medicine, condiments and spices, and feed for livestock and fish stock. Much of what is produced is for household consumption, whilst some is sold at local markets.
Although most common across southern and Southeast Asia, successful home garden training programmes have been instituted in Niger, Somalia, Ghana and Kenya under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division alongside supportive networks of national extension, research and training institutes and NGOs.
The home garden may be capable of producing a large and varied harvest, contributing to food and nutrition security, but the returns are often small and typically insufficient to bring people out of poverty as a stand-alone method. In this case, however, promotional forums, campaigns, recipe booklets and cooking demonstrations teaching the nutritional value and varied uses for these vegetables changed seasonal planting methods to demand-driven and time-scheduled production to meet increased market demand. Farmers also received business support, reliable access to improved quality seed, and linkages to both formal and informal markets. The demand for AIVs grew by 135% over the 2-year project in Kenya and an estimated 9,000 tonnes of vegetables were sold delivering earnings of Ksh80 million (US$800,000) from informal markets and Ksh150 million (US $1.5 million) in formal markets.