Homegardens alone cannot ensure food security

homegarden Laos

Homegarden in Laos. Photo: AusAID

Oxford Medicine’s third edition of Nutrition for Developing Countries is considered the ‘go to’ fact book on what constitutes good nutrition and how poor households can acquire proper nutrition with the little means they have.

The book includes practical solutions to meet nutritional needs of babies and children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, to counteract malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, and to manage obesity and diabetes.

A chapter on ‘Improving household food security’ presents numerous ways that households can produce food through kitchen gardening in rural and urban areas. This includes growing seasonal vegetables, fruits, herbs, legumes and tubers in order to have a year-round supply of food. The book also advocates for integrating crop and livestock production.

However, the book’s focus on urbanization and an increasing population as root causes of food insecurity overlook “the dominant role that economic access to food plays in explaining food insecurity,” says an article on the Bonn Sustainability Portal.

“While it is good that food security and nutrition are increasingly merging into one single field, it is important that the merger is well-informed and balanced,” says the article.

It explains how incomes in rural areas are low because productivity in agriculture is low, thus reducing the amount of produce that can be used for subsistence or sold so that households can purchase food and other products and services.

Improving agricultural productivity and incomes among rural populations, says the article, requires better integration into markets which in turn requires smallholders to produce substantially higher yields through intensifying their production.

“If smallholders rely more on internal resources such as mulching, composting, manuring, multi-storey cropping, agroforestry or irrigation, this usually requires more labour during critical periods which poor households do not have” or cannot afford.

The article argues that homestead crop production alone cannot safeguard household food security. Poverty and market integration are critical challenges that need to be addressed.

Read the full story: Cherry picking the reasons for hunger?

Find out more about: Nutrition for Developing Countries (3rd ed.), edited by Felicity Savage King, Ann Burgess, Victoria J. Quinn, and Akoto K. Osei. Published by Oxford Medicine.



Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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