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FARMERS' KRAAL: The economic potential of community gardening 

2021-05-03  Charles Tjatindi

FARMERS' KRAAL: The economic potential of community gardening 

Community gardens have become a model of sustainable small-scale agriculture in the country, and have shown many benefits.

These gardens could become a formidable source of revenue for the rural community, and also enhance overall food security for the country. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), food security is made up of four pillars, being food availability, food access, utilisation and stability of supply. 

These four pillars combined show that food security has two main components, which are the ability to be self-sufficient in food production through own production; and accessibility to markets and ability to purchase food items. As such, self-sufficiency in food production can be improved through community gardening. Community gardens are places where people come together to grow a variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers.  They do this by renting individual or shared plots of land within the community garden. 

In many parts of the country, community gardens are run by churches, neighbourhood associations, non-profit organisations, community agencies, clubs, private landowners and municipalities… just about anyone.

The investments made in community vegetable gardens could mobilise local communities and create jobs. Villagers – especially women – are encouraged to work on delimited spaces to cultivate their own crops.

These gardens can become spaces for community exchanges and knowledge sharing. Well established community gardens could offer formal training where students learn about crop production, pest management, business management and rural entrepreneurship.

Most farmers in these gardens are women, as they hold the traditional role of growing subsistence crops in many rural contexts. Thus, women can contribute more to their households’ budget, and hence become more involved in family decisions.

Community vegetable gardens have a great impact at the community level, especially in small villages. They become a business hotspot, drawing significant attention from local people and encouraging the youth to take up hoes. 

By attracting a young workforce, these gardens contribute to avoid the rural exodus and migration to urban centres,  while offering life opportunities to the new generations.

These gardens provide local communities with access to diversified and affordable food. Nearly all food is organic, as are compost and pesticides. Overall, child and adult nutrition is thus improved.

Low-income households in developing countries are often the victims of poor health due to poor nutrition and hunger. These households often consume staple-based diets low in nutrients. Such staple-based diets can be rectified through household vegetable production (gardening). 

Gardening can directly increase the availability, accessibility and utilisation of nutritious food through the provision of a diverse range of fresh food. Household gardening activities can be done in community gardens with virtually no economic resources, using locally available planting materials, green manure and indigenous methods of pest control, thus making it a sustainable form of agriculture. 

Community gardening is an age-old tradition that has been passed from generation to generation and throughout history, gardening has proved to be a reliable source of food for the impoverished.

Shared crop cultivation has greatly contributed to the development of local communities. Increased revenue has transformational benefits for the whole community.

After initial investments, community gardens tend to scale up by themselves in contexts like rural Namibia. With or without external support, producers establish formal or informal associations to manage issues as they arise. Profits are reinvested for maintenance, and to develop the gardens.

Gardening is indeed contributing to the food security of the community gardeners. However, for the sustainability of gardens to be improved, there is a need for the community gardeners to adopt a wide range of traditional and commercial vegetables that they can grow throughout the year. 

Some traditional vegetables are well accustomed to the seasonal variations, and by cultivating these traditional kinds of vegetables, people can also increase the availability of vegetables packed with nutrients to their households. 

Rural communities need to embrace projects like community gardens, and use them as avenues to other economic opportunities - the sky’s the limit. 

2021-05-03  Charles Tjatindi

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