Backyard gardens – bringing productivity closer to home

June 19, 2017

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Belize

Backyard gardens - bringing productivity closer to home

About the Implementing organization

Name: Ya'axche Conservation Trust

Country: Belize

Year of establishment: 1997

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status

Description

In rural communities, most staple foods are usually supplied by one or more fields of a crop. These fields are typically at a distance from the home where more fertile lands can be found. Additionally, these crops are usually cultivated as a mono-crop to maximize growth and labour efficiency. Low species diversity increases the risk of loss from disease and pests, which easily multiply and spread under such conditions, and also make the crops susceptible to unpredictable or extreme weather conditions. Backyard gardens invest in high species diversity and staggered planting times, which increases production success. Vegetable and staple food production requires higher input and maintenance, and given the poor accessibility to fertile farm lands that the Medina Bank community has, community members were encouraged to establish vegetable gardens near their homes. The women were provided with trainings in cultivation and composting as well as supplies to successfully establish and maintain their gardens.

Nature Element

Forests

Type of Action

Sustainable use

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)

  

Environmental Impacts

Backyard gardens provide environmentally sound opportunities for waste disposal through composting for rural families. Composting is commonly used for household wastes including kitchen waste, paper and other materials and helps enrich the soil. Composting removes the need for the use of synthetic fertilizers, avoids the production of greenhouse gases, improves soil quality and helps control soil erosion. Backyard gardening also minimizes the need to plant large plots of land dedicated to mono-crop systems, and instead encourages diversification of crops on a small area of land and helps decrease deforestation.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Jobs and livelihoods
Ten Medina Bank women established backyard gardens and were provided with the capacity to be able to maintain their gardens. These gardens produce fresh, marketable food that boosts the family’s income. These women can further invest in and incorporate fruit-bearing trees, such as papaya, banana, mango, avocado etc, that bear fruit at different times of the year compared to staple food crops, into backyard gardens, to increase yield that can be sold in markets.
Food security
Backyard gardens make an important contribution to food security as an additional food source and by supplying crops yearly. Incorporating fruit-bearing trees into backyard gardens increases the productivity of the family and provide useful food to supplement their diet.

Scalability

Backyard gardens are small plots of productive land typically established by rural families for easier access to basic staple food crops and vegetables. They can be scaled up and diversified as desired by families depending on the availability of land around their home. These gardens can also be adopted by communities and by urban dwellers, which can make their communities more productive and reduces the need to purchase imported products. In Belize, vegetables sold at the markets are usually imported varieties and some of them might be successfully grown in Belize’s climate depending on the individual care and management they receive. However, promoting the growth of local fruit, vegetable and staple crops is equally important so that local families can supplement their own diets and supply to markets for sale.

Replicability

Backyard gardens are one of the oldest and most enduring forms of cultivation. This practice is highly replicable by individuals living in either rural or urban areas as it only needs a small area to be established so access to land is not a major constraint to families who want to establish a backyard garden. A small investment in seeds and a limited amount of labour is initially needed for the establishment of a plot. Each garden is unique and decisions related to the selection of crops, inputs, harvesting, and management are mostly driven by the consumption and economic needs of a family. Initiatives like ReVision and Greening Detroit, community gardening projects in the United States, are replicating the concept of backyard gardens to bring cultivation closer to family homes in urbanized settings. In Belize, Plenty Belize is an organization that works to develop school gardens and integrate garden-based learning in the school curriculum.

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