The home gardening concept is a sustainable approach widely popular in both rural and urban centers of Cuba and Mexico. Although practiced in several Latin American countries across Central and South America, the most advanced home garden models are the ones of Cuba and Mexico.
Similar concepts of home gardening with some variations are also observed in parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and to a minor extent in some cities, towns and municipalities of the US and Canada in North America, besides Mexico. Use of backyard kitchen gardens or home kitchen gardens has been common in India too for a considerable long time, particularly in rural areas prior to the current era of real estate big boom across the country. No doubt that over the past two to three decades, this has changed the rural and urban Indian landscape and previous sustainable mindset of average and ordinary Indian citizens drastically.
Home garden is a brilliant model of sustainable micro-agriculture at the local level that has significant long-term positive impacts on our immediate environment and ecosystem. Home garden is a simple, logistic, low fund based sustainable approach towards green living and green thinking. It is simple, organic, and creative, and at the same time, an opportunity to contribute towards protecting local agri-biodiversity and generating micro semi-natural habitats with tremendous potential in ecological restoration. Some of the benefits and advantages of home garden models practiced across the world has been summarized below for the benefit of the enthusiastic readers who wish to explore this opportunity to contribute towards local ecological restoration and agricultural biodiversity conservation.
Importance of Home Gardens:
1. Plants for preservation and restoration of greenery, nature and local ecosystems.
2. Enhanced biodiversity conservation efforts at the local level.
3. Attract pollinators depending on the local environment, ecosystem and natural biodiversity. For example, insects (native bees, honey bees, moths, butterflies, some species of flies and beetles), mollusks (different species of snails and slugs), birds (small birds like hummingbirds) and mammals (bat species) to add to the pollination and ecological services and promote local biodiversity.
4. By including a wide mixture of different plant species that bloom across different seasons, home garden can help extending the foraging period of local insect pollinators, particularly the native bees that has been significantly impacted due to several factors around the globe.
5. Home gardens help in developing micro environments and/or natural habitats in both urban and rural areas, adding to the city landscape, biodiversity and quality of life.
6. It can thereby develop better environment in urban and rural areas, serve as an important food source and at the same time, can be aesthetically pleasing by promoting beautification.
7. Inviting nesting and foraging habitats for local eco-friendly insects, small birds and mammals, short stop for different migratory species on way to their traditional migratory breeding stations
8. Promote economic sustainability for rural communities by helping to develop nature based ecosystems that can provide them with food, forage, fodder, fuel and fertilizer.
9. It can be integrated into successful agro-forestry model, growing local/indigenous fruits, vegetables, forest trees, herbs and shrubs to promote agricultural biodiversity.
10. Including local medicinal plants (hers, shrubs and forbs) in the home gardens could support treatment for simple and common ailments and substantially strengthen the concept of home remedies and holistic, nature-based medication
11. Sustainability is the key word behind home garden concept and can help build indirectly in helping local economy to grow by promoting self sufficiency, self production and local consumption. Excess products from local home gardens could be exchanged or sold informally among neighbors and/or local markets to supplement income or save money while enjoying quality food and nature-based products.
12. If home gardens are developed into organic agriculture model, it can have significant economic as well as ecological benefits to the communities and society at large.
13. Use of green cover crops for soil reclamation using mixtures of annual/perennial local legumes and native grasses can help in improving the level of nitrogen in the soil. Through long and spreading root system of selected plants, hard pans in the soil could be broken, aerating the soil and reaching underlying ground water table.
14. Avoiding use of expensive and environmentally harmful agro-chemicals like pesticides, insecticides and fungicides by practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as well as biological and/or cultural control can help reducing both economic and ecological and environmental cost for the home garden commercial producers.
15. Utilizing regular biodegradable home/domestic/kitchen wastes for composting can be an efficient way to provide rich organic manure to sustain the nutritional requirement of the plants in the home gardens.
16. Use of various sustainable, eco and environment-friendly approaches can be integrated in the concept of home gardening. For example, harvesting rain water through locally used age-old traditional methods and using them for the irrigation of the home gardens. Provisions for storing the harvested rain water needs to be made for long-term sustainable use within the garden complex by having underground or roof-based water reservoir facilities or by collecting rain water in special storage devices and using them in the drier months to cut down on cost of irrigation and saving precious water.
17. Roof gardens can be also considered a distinct form of home gardening practiced in several countries around the globe and has been becoming extremely popular with rich, urban elites.
18. Home gardens helps in the restoration of the degraded local ecosystems at personal level and it helps in rebuilding our lost connection with the nature sustainably. It promotes the age-old philosophical concept of sharing and caring for the nature ad learning to leave in harmony in nature for a better, wholesome and richer life.
19. Small community farms can flourish successfully by extending home gardens beyond its traditional and/or conventional uses, and integrating it with animal farming or animal rearing. Small, sustainable herds or poultry raised in organized home gardens can have better economic returns for many rural communities.
20. The concept is not at all new and is practiced by several farming and rural communities in developing nations like Cuba, Mexico and other Central and South American nations. Some forms of this integrated plant-animal faring is also common in several pockets of Asia and Africa too.
21. The rich benefits of this innovative process are to grow locally, consume locally and sell locally to avoid the huge cost of transportation. It can easily help poor rural producers avoid going through complex and time consuming process of dealing and trading with wholesale or retailer chains operating between rural producers and their distant urban consumers. The profit can be shared locally and help in building rural economy slowly, positively and sustainably.
Hence, if used with proper objectives and well organized sustainable management plant, home gardens could really serve as a big boon in both urban and rural environments in countering environmental pollution and ecological restoration. The impact home gardens can have in promoting green and sustainable economy in both urban and rural areas with particular emphasis to the latter is manifold, as discussed above. It is important that both rural and urban communities are educated about home garden models and the green opportunities it brings along. Any contribution towards creating, developing, managing and promoting home garden concept is a big step towards your individual effort in contributing to the philosophy of acting locally and thinking globally.
(The author is a Canada and India based freelance journalist specializing in global geo-political, strategic and foreign policy issues, science & technology and environment & conservation related themes.)
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