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The Enigma of Tropical Home Gardens

The Enigma of Tropical Home Gardens

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Agroforestry Systems 61: 135–152, 2004. © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

135

The enigma of tropical homegardens
B.M. Kumar1 and P.K.R. Nair2
of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur – 680 656, Kerala, India; e-mail: bmkumar53@yahoo.co.uk; 2 School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA; e-mail: pknair@ufl.edu
1 College

Key words: Carbon sequestration, Integrated farming systems, Multispecies systems, Species diversity, Species inventory, Sustainability

Abstract Tropical homegardens, one of the oldest forms of managed land-use systems, are considered to be an epitome of sustainability. Although these multispecies production systems have fascinated many and provided sustenance to millions, they have received relatively little scientific attention. The objective of this review is to summarize the current state of knowledge on homegardens with a view to using it as a basis for improving the homegardens as well as similar agroforestry systems. Description and inventory of local systems dominated the ‘research’ efforts on homegardens during the past 25 or more years. The main attributes that have been identified as contributing to the sustainability of these systems are biophysical advantages such as efficient nutrient cycling offered by multispecies composition, conservation of bio-cultural diversity, product diversification as well as nonmarket values of products and services, and social and cultural values including the opportunity for gender equality in managing the systems. With increasing emphasis on industrial models of agricultural development, fragmentation of land holdings due to demographic pressures, and, to some extent, the neglect – or, lack of appreciation – of traditional values, questions have been raised about the future of homegardens, but such concerns seem to be unfounded. Quite to the contrary, it is increasingly being recognized that understanding the scientific principles of these multispecies systems will have much to offer in the development of sustainable agroecosystems. Research on economic valuation of the tangible as well as intangible products and services, principles and mechanisms of resource sharing in mixed plant communities, and realistic valuation and appreciation of hitherto unrecognised benefits such as carbon sequestration will provide a sound basis for formulating appropriate policies for better realization and exploitation of the benefits of homegardens.

Introduction Farming systems variously described in the English language as agroforestry homegardens, household or homestead farms, compound farms, backyard gardens, village forest gardens, dooryard gardens and house gardens abound in the tropics. Some local names such as Talun-Kebun and Pekarangan that are used for various types of homegarden systems of Java (Indonesia), Shamba and Chagga in East Africa, and Huertos Familiares of Central America, have also attained international popularity because of the excellent examples of the systems they represent (Nair 1993).

Although several authors have tried to describe the term ‘homegarden,’ none is perhaps universally accepted as ‘the definition’; but it is well understood that the concept refers to ‘intimate, multi-story combinations of various trees and crops, sometimes in association with domestic animals, around homesteads.’ These multistrata agroforests are estimated to occupy about 20% of the arable land in Java (Jensen 1993a) and are regarded as the ‘epitome of sustainability’ throughout the tropics (Torquebiau 1992). Homegardening has been a way of life for centuries and is still critical to the local subsistence economy and food security in Kerala state in peninsular India that has about 5.4

Indonesia (e. a form of today’s homegardens (see Puri and Nair 2004). 1995. A typical homegarden. Central America. and 4000 B. With the advent of market economy. Natural history studies in southern India during the late 1800s to early 1900s suggest that people traditionally used their homesteads for a variety of needs such as food. Although agroforestry literature lists homegardens as an agroforestry practice (Nair 1993). In Africa. and consequent emphasis on maximization of production and use of external inputs in crop production. There has been a resurgence of interest. Soemarwoto 1987).g. shelter. nevertheless. and the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands also. others (notably Brownrigg 1985. homegardening fits well with the traditional farming systems and established village lifestyles. 1994b. the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute. however. and medicines1 . 1983). shrubs and herbs are grown for edible products and cash income. (Hutterer 1984). and elsewhere (e. energy. The objective of this paper is to summarize and analyze the trends in homegarden research during the past 25 years with a view to providing some new insights and directions on improving the homegardens and hopefully other similar systems. in traditional land use practices in the wake of mounting environmental deterioration and/or failures of single-species agricultural enterprises. Landauer and Brazil 1990. India (Nair 1979). Clarke and Thaman 1993.136 million small gardens (mostly less than 0. functioning and sustainability of different forms of homegardens in various places. These efforts got a further boost as the ICRAF (International Centre for Research in Agroforestry) effort on global inventory of agroforestry systems got underway (Nair 1987). High and Shackleton 2000).. It evolved through generations of gradual intensification of cropping in response to increasing human pressure and the corresponding shortage of arable lands. as well as for a variety of outputs that have both production and service values including aesthetic and ecological benefits. Homegardens are no exception. is an integral part of the farmer’s farming system and an adjunct to the house. describing the structure. Presumably.C.C. The two great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata (based on events that have supposedly happened around 7000 B. Michon et al. and several descriptions and syntheses of traditional homegarden systems were published (Nair 1989). capital or scientific skills. however. Nair 2001. Gliessman 1990. respectively) contain an illustration of Ashok Vatika. The Javanese homegardens have reportedly originated as early as the seventh millennium B. which exist in harmony with one another on the same land management unit and/or on the landscape level. and the Kerala homegardens are thought to be at least 4000 years old. Torquebiau 1992) were more comprehensive.5 ha in area) (KSLUB 1995). 1958). Kasaragod. Major themes and advances in homegarden research It is well known that traditional land-use systems are influenced to a great extent by the biophysical and socio-cultural characteristics of the locales where they are practiced. the homegardens that provide an array of outputs (Jose and Shanmugaratnam 1993) were quite appropriate land-use systems. Ecologists have variously described these as ‘steady-state’ systems (where production equals res- . Soemarwoto and Conway 1991. These systems have probably evolved over centuries of cultural and biological transformations and they represent the accrued wisdom and insights of farmers who have interacted with environment. homegardens are of vital importance (Ruthenberg 1980.. Fernandes and Nair 1986. 1994a. Rugalema et al. the homegardens have lost some of their relevance. Both involve diverse life forms and managerial regimes. Socioculturally. it could be more appropriate to say that homegardening is a generic concept – much like agroforestry itself. all of them – without exception – highlighted the need for coordinated scientific research on these extremely interesting systems. Kerala. And. consequently homegardens have received some attention although they may not address environmental deterioration at a large scale because they exist in scattered small plots. in the philosophy of and approaches to tropical land use during the past few decades. homegardening is the oldest land use activity next only to shifting cultivation. When the economy was predominantly subsistence-oriented. While most of the recorded reports on homegardens provided regional perspectives.C. where selected trees.g. A great deal has changed. Soemarwoto 1987. Pioneering research on homegardens dating back to the 1940s was reported from Indonesia (Terra 1953. without access to exogenous inputs. Bandung. These were followed by Ruthenberg’s studies on tropical mixed-species cropping systems in the 1970s (Ruthenberg 1980) and similar work at the Institute of Ecology. Anderson 1993. Caballero 1992.

climatic climax Low Shade tolerant and intolerant No external inputs High (Odum 1969) Progressive improvement (e. piration and/or inputs balance outputs). Scientific reports on homegardens are replete with statements such as ‘the studies on these systems have been disproportionately lower than what their eco- nomic value.. Clearly.23 kJ (= 1250 cal) m−2 yr−1 for the pekarangan gardens in Java. e.3 and 34. Most of the reported studies on homegardens are from Asia. 1986). they regard homegardens as carefully tended plots. Homegardens are. For example. Furthermore. followed by 22 from the South Asian region. a lone report on this (Christanty et al. reaches a stable end-stage. Methodological/design problems also hinder homegarden research more than in any other related fields. Jensen 1993a. facilitation) Highest among the terrestrial ecosystems (mean NPP: 2000 g m−2 year−1 ) Sustainable Homegardens Inputs and outputs balance each other Low Multistrata Intermediate Conventional agricultural systems Outputs far exceed inputs High One. may sometimes be unpopular with farmers. to substantiate such comparisons. 38 out of 83 post-1990 papers listed in CABI abstracts have been conducted in Southeast Asia (mainly Indonesia). this is lower than the annual energy fixation in both cultivated lands and tropical rainforests (i. 11. with structural characteristics comparable to those of the natural mixed forest vegetation systems (Fassbender 1993. . High Normally uninterrupted.or two.g. unlike the ‘wild’ areas of natural forests (Soemarwoto 1987). b. A comparison of the ecological attributes of climax forests. the homegardens. Leith 1975). making it extremely challenging to use commonly accepted research designs and procedures in the study of homegardens. farmers in Java consider it an insult to compare their pekarangan to a forest. and the environment is limited. most of the reported studies are of inductive nature describing the system. Leith 1975) Unsustainable Entropy Floristic spectrum Input use Overall homeostasis Site quality Standing biomass/net primary productivity (NPP) Sustainability Low (?) shade tolerant and intolerant Low High Progressive improvement Comparable to the climax formations but firm estimates are lackinga Sustainable a However.’ Quantitative data on the biogeochemical and physiological processes in tropical homegardens are inadequate. succession does not proceed beyond the early stage High Mostly shade intolerant High Low Steady decline Low (mean NPP: 650 g m−2 year−1 . admittedly. Very little deductive research (hypothesis formulation and testing) has been done so that our understanding of the ecological rationalities behind the harmony between the humans. yet. Notwithstanding the pre-1990 work.layered High Diversity Ecological succession Intermediate Consciously manipulated Low Arrested. however. because. Parameter Biogeochemistry Biotic stress Canopy architecture Disturbance regimes Natural climax vegetation (humid tropics) Nutrient inputs equal outputs Low Multistrata Rare except natural disturbances such as tree fall. Ewel (1999) considers such systems ‘structurally and functionally the closest mimics of natural forests yet attained. reports from other homegarden-rich regions such as Central America and West Africa are far less in relation to the extent of the practice. ecological benefits or sociocultural importance would warrant’ (Nair 2001).6 MJ m−2 yr−1 respectively. cf Torquebiau (1992). predominant in those regions.g.e. Jose and Shanmugaratnam 1993). homegardens and conventional agricultural systems (monocropping). provides a value of 5. although fascinating to the ecologists. Each homegarden is unique in its own way despite the larger structural and functional similarities. It needs to be noted that such comparisons between homegrdens and forests. Some of the ecological attributes of homegardens in comparison to those of agricultural and forest systems are summarized in Table 1.137 Table 1. wind throw etc. Perhaps the high species diversity and low ‘export’ of harvested products endow sustainability to them.

The homegardeners are perpetual ‘experimenters. These various efforts in homegarden research during the past quarter century are briefly reviewed here. besides the traditional uses of various plants. Many studies on floristic richness of homegardens also lack information on the degree of heterogeneity in the study area (e. fruit trees. voices have been raised about the need for moving on from species inventories and descriptions to establishing underlying concepts and general principles and developing and pursuing researchable hypotheses (Nair 2001). Wezel and Bender 2003). besides ecological and socioeconomic factors (Asfaw and Woldu 1997. nevertheless. Soemarwoto and Conway 1991). medicinal. (1994) reported that floristic diversity (measured by number of species per unit land area) was greater in small gardens (<0. Some authors have advocated an ecological approach to computing diversity indexes and correspondence analysis (Rico-Gray et al. no specific time of the year for planting or introducing new plant species into the gardens. 1994). 2002).61) than in medium (0. The crop combinations found in the homegardens of a region are strongly influenced by the specific needs and preferences of the household and nutritional complementarity with other major food sources. 1991). Kumar et al. Although the value of such databases has been recognized. D = 0. ornamental. Kumar et al. Species composition and diversity While most advances in agriculture and forestry entail single-species stands.4 ha size) (Simpson’s diversity index. which is still relatively new in homegarden studies. and may include both native as well as exotics.44) and large (>2 ha. fuelwood species and palms. Species richness of homegardens within a region is influenced by farm size. 1994. difficult because of the different criteria employed for preparing inventories by different workers. little attention has been given to relate floristic richness to ecosystem processes. and based on selfinstinct or information passed on by neighbours and relatives.g. Woody components generally include timber trees. 1990. D = 0. the limited space forces people to accommodate many different species in relatively small numbers on small plots. Vogl et al. extent and socioeconomic nature of sampling units). D = 0. food. System inventory System description has been the most dominant aspect of the homegarden research so far. A new species may be chosen by the garden owner because of its properties. Drescher 1996.46) gardens. fruit trees. Vogl et al. increased up to 1499 m2 . the religious/cultural beliefs. it will depend on the space available and/or soil conditions (Rico-Gray et al. more recent reports are summarized in Table 2. customs. medicinal plants. Furthermore. Wide variations in species assemblages of different geographic/eco-climatic regions are apparent. however. Soemarwoto and associates reviewed the early work on species diversity and plant density in Indonesian homegardens (Soemarwoto 1987. Presumably. however. Yamamoto et al. 1990. wood.138 The unique characteristics of homegardens have attracted the attention of several types of researchers: from proponents of energy-intensive modern production systems to champions of low-input sustainable systems. Christanty et al. and taboos of the villagers influence the diversity/composition of homeg- . religious. Kumar et al. Such studies also documented the local practices and species inventory. ornamentals. and from biophysical scientists who are in endless pursuit of quantifying every aspect of biological activity to social and behavioral scientists for whom the whole is often more than the sum of its parts. 2002. These published inventories suggest that food crops. elucidated the need for conservation of biocultural diversity and documented the sociocultural determinants of biodiversity. Several landraces and cultivars.’ They are constantly trying and testing new species and varieties and their management (Niñez 1987). Besides.. tropical homegardens are glorious examples of species diversity in cultivated and managed plant communities. and rare and endangered species have been preserved in the homegardens (Watson and Eyzaguirre 2002). after which it. however. Thirty-two out of 83 published works on tropical homegardens since 1990 dealt with this. the smallest gardens located in the urban areas showed the highest crop species diversity in his study.e. Comparisons are.0 ha. characterized – quite appropriately – as ‘biological deserts’ of low species diversity.4 to 2. multipurpose trees and fodder crops abound in the homegardens. There is. besides wild or domesticated crop plants. 1986. i. Drescher (1996) also showed that the density-based Shannon-index decreased with increasing garden-size up to 599 m2 . The limited studies that have been made in this area indicate that homegarden diversity indexes are comparable with that of adjacent forest formations (Gajaseni and Gajaseni 1999.

– 4–18 – 26–36 3–25 – – – 55 27 107 – 127 30 92 65 Caron (1995) Jacob and Alles (1987) John and Nair (1999) D. Mexcio (all species) Cuba (all species) Other regions Catalonia. 1996). (1991) Vogl et al. (2001) Black et al. (1996) Nair and Sreedharan (1986) – 15–60 26–53 – 28–37 4–72 42–58 195 230 – 602 149 – – Abdoellah et al. wo- men are responsible for introducing new species into their homegardens. Mexico (all species) As above Chiapas.9–8. India (all species) Southeast Asia West Java (all species) Northeastern Thailand (all species) Chao Phraya Basin. India (woody species) Bangladesh (perennial species) As above Kerala. Western Kenya (all species) Soqotra island. indeed. (1996) Gajaseni and Gajaseni (1999) Karyono (1990) Kehlenbeck and Maas (2004) K Sakamoto (pers. (2000) Asfaw and Woldu (1997) Backes (2001) Ceccolini (2002) Mpoyi et al. (1994) Leuschner and Khaleque (1987) Millat-e-Mustafa et al. western and southern Ethiopia (all species) a All except Catalonia are tropical. (1994a) Zemede and Ayele (1995) ardens. Sri Lanka (woody species) Thiruvananthapuram. Floristic elements reported from homegardens in different regionsa of the world. (1991) 39 – – 30 – 18–74 – – 30 18–24 150 80 60 164 324 168 133–135 301 241 101 De Clerck and Negreros-Castillo (2000) Esquivel and Hammer (1992) Guillaumet et al. (1990) Levasseur and Olivier (2000) M´ ndez et al. Thailand (all species) West Java (all species) Central Sulawesi. comm. (2001) e Padoch and de Jong (1991) Rico-Gray et al. West Java (all species) Cilangkap. Spain (all species) Southern Ethiopia (all species) Bungoma. Yemen (all species) Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) (all species) Bukoba. Indonesia (all species) Cianjur. For example.4 – 3.. (2002) Wezel and Bender (2003) – 14.139 Table 2. often seemingly not follow- . eastern. in many instances. Java (all species) South/Central America & the Caribbean Quintan Roo. Tanzania (woody species) Central. Region/location and the floristic spectrum sampled Number of species per garden Total for geographical location Source South Asia Pitikele. (1994) Rugalema et al. Mexico (all species) Cuba (all species) Central Amazon (woody species) Belize (all species) Masaya.4 – – – 250 60 253 – 272 53 162 Agelet et al. (1990) Rico-Gray et al. Kerala. India (all species) As above Kerala. 1992) Kumar et al. Sri Lanka (edible species) Kandy. Peruvian Amazon (all species) Yucatan. Women too play an important role in determining the species to be included in their homegardens. Structure Presence of a large number of species on the same land management unit. 2003) Yamamoto et al. Jose (pers.. comm. Nicaragua (all species) Santa Rosa. crops/trees/animals are retained or excluded depending on the above considerations (Millat-e-Mustafa et al.

Michon and Mary 1990. The multi-tiered canopy structure is one of the most distinguishing features of homegardens.g. Medicinal and ornamental species are typically cultivated in small areas or in pots surrounding the house. Karyono 1990). ground cover development will be adversely affected (Hochegger 1998. Land- . makes it difficult to define the temporal/spatial architecture of homegardens. Padoch and de Jong 1991. 1996. The question of regeneration dynamics of the woody perennials in homegardens has also been examined to a limited extent only. necessary or harmful to different plants. regardless of holding size. however. 1994. and that their location. Spain) and the arid tropical (Soqotra island.. form. Older gardens. may not have agroforestry implications. Ceccolini 2002). especially of the so-called forest-garden (Wiersum 2004) type. Likewise. and the nature of cropping are dynamic. signifying adequate ‘regeneration’ of the homegarden tree species. Apparently. Gillespie et al. Abdoellah et al. 2001). (1994) noted that the diameter structure of trees in the homegardens exhibit a slightly skewed (+) distribution pattern. (2001) observed that stratification beyond 5 m was not discernible in a majority of Indonesian homegardens. Trees also may be scattered throughout the homestead or at specific points to provide or avoid shade. suggesting profound inter-site variations. The structural entities of homegardens are. having the highest frequency in the 20 to 30 cm class. often it is difficult to distinguish where the homegarden ends and arable cropping starts. Mendez et al. Mathew et al. size and shape of gardens. crop composition. Agelet et al. 1994. Karyono 1990. Likewise.g. the vertical stratification provides a gradient in light and relative humidity. Piper nigrum. 2000. further complicating the structural pattern. Most workers delineate a three-to-six-strata system (e. Understanding these interrelations will be one step forward in utilizing the advantages of homegarden agroforestry. Obviously. exhibit such a complex vertical structure. which are included in different zones. may evolve a multistrata canopy structure. and the whole unit is referred to as ‘homegarden’. 1993. Position or distance from home. De Clerck and Negreros-Castillo 2000). Gajaseni and Gajaseni 1999. shade tolerant crops constitute the lower stratum. but they all usually mesh well into a land-use system surrounding the home in a relatively small area of land (often less than 0. in gardens where ground cover or litter layer is removed due to repeated hoeing or burning. around which the other components are orchestrated (Jose and Shanmugaratnam 1993)..5 ha). Plants and their local uses. Millate-Mustafa et al. such that they cannot be easily dissociated from one another (Nair and Sreedharan 1986). food and fruit producing species dominate near the living quarter and working areas. could resemble a young secondary forest both in structure and total biomass store. homegardens. Many authors have reported that distinct horizontal zones occur in the homegardens. Predictably.140 ing any specific geometry. Zemede and Ayele 1995. Variations in size. especially in humid tropical lowlands. Millat-e-Mustafa et al. The number of such management zones per homegarden varies from two to six. Hochegger 1998. and may be considered as a man-made forest kept in a permanent early-successional state (Jensen 1993b). In addition. 1996). however. species composition and management objectives abound in the homegardens (Fernandes and Nair 1986. Thus. The Mediterranean (Catalonia. layout. zonal pattern. Yemen) gardens do not. and planting pattern of the garden are the principal determinants in this respect. stratification is usually limited to a lower stratum of herbs and shrubs and a higher one of trees (Agelet et al. Although a typical homegarden may represent a clearly demarcated area (fenced-in or bounded by field risers). and vegetables in areas adjacent to the kitchen. In general. with a mode value of three. Jose and Shanmugaratnam 1993. shade intolerant trees the top layer. garden age and management are important factors that influence the vegetation structure. arranged in a complex micro-zonal pattern having well-defined vertical/horizontal stratification with each structural ensemble occupying a specific niche. Kumar et al. and small plots of annual vegetable crops separate this part of the garden from the more distant parts favored for timber species. 1996. Kumar et al. 2000. shape. and species with varying degrees of shade tolerance in the intermediate strata. Multipurpose tree and shrub species used as live fences are usually planted on farm boundaries. with about three quarters to full coverage of the ground (Jensen 1993b). It needs to be clarified that such vegetable and ornamental gardens. regardless of size. which creates different niches for enabling various species groups to exploit them. besides providing support for climbers (e. besides size. Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) forms the ‘nucleus’ of the Kerala homegardens. generally mirror the farmer’s management priorities and socioeconomic needs. size and plant species composition reflect deliberate management strategies (Abdoellah 1990.

none has been universally accepted. The need for such a universally acceptable classification scheme is.1 to 20. Studies on nutritional quality of homegarden products com- . grain. Based on a comprehensive literature review. Table 1). mixed production.3 MJ m−2 yr−1 . greater urbanization increased the abundance of ornamental and aesthetic species (Drescher 1996. change in functions with time.23 kJ m−2 yr−1 . At best. however. however. This. The fact remains. Karyono 1990). Quiroz et al. 2001. total garden area and socioeconomic functions. A few workers (Leiva et al 2002. In addition. Indeed. 2002) also employed cluster analysis of presence/absence of crop species to designate homegarden types. Mendez et al. 2001.. In particular. homegardens are a component of the larger farming system of the household. 1990). Rico-Gray et al. 1986. Mendez et al. As little or no chemical inputs are used in homegarden systems. food crops including herbaceous plants and vegetable and fruit yielding trees and shrubs abound in the homegardens (Caron 1995. Despite the number of classification schemes. handcrafting. Soemarwoto 1987) employed architectural analysis to gain an understanding of the essential characteristics of the major types of homegardens. In one such study. The homegardens are also significant sources of minerals and nutrients (Asfaw and Woldu 1997). that irrespective of the classification scheme employed. 1994. Based on zonation. Accordingly. It needs to be noted. In experimental studies.) or indirectly (facilitating enhanced and/or sustained production) is a basic function of tropical homegardens. Wezel and Bender 2003). 1983. flowers etc. 1998). in turn. i. Consequently. diversity. (2001) recognized six types of homegardens in Nicaragua (ornamental.8 year-old Ailanthus triphysa stands – derived from the biomass and mean combustion values given by Shujauddin and Kumar 2003 and Shanavas and Kumar 2003 respectively). Kumar et al. several homegarden types have been recognised. (1986) (cf Torquebiau 1992) reported a net primary production (NPP) of 5. 1993) and made children of garden owners less prone to xerophthalmia (Shankar et al. vitamin A and iron (Molina et al. subsistence. Karyono 1990. Mendez et al. if the homegarden is the only land available to the household.141 auer and Brazil 1990). it is important to consider diversity of all different functional groups of plants in homegardens. there is now a growing awareness that homegardening combined with nutrition education can be a viable strategy for improving household nutritional security for at-risk populations. and minimal management) – the differences among these classes may. 1996) and the dominant plant species or the level of urbanization (Christanty 1990). they are complementary to other plots such as rice (Oryza sativa) or maize (Zea mays) fields. Some researchers (Michon et al. Christanty et al. rhizomes and tubers. They generally reflect differences in size (area) of gardens (Jose and Shanmugaratnam 1993. the lack of such a scheme has seldom surfaced as an important prerequisite for intensifying research or development in the subject. In most reported studies. seem arbitrary.. Torquebiau (1992) concluded that dietary supplies from homegardens accounted for 3% to 44% of the total calorie and 4% to 32% of the protein intake. nevertheless. availability of varied products and continuous or repeated harvests during the year are often taken as indicators of such dynamics.6 MJ m−2 yr−1 for 8. Related to food security is the issue of nutritional quality of food. questionable. Reports on functional dynamics of homegardens. Michon and deForesta 1999. nuts. are also not available. food crops such as cassava (Manihot esculenta) will dominate the species composition of the garden (Wiersum 1982). Thus. however. and not to limit research to selected functional groups only. leaves. Vogl et al. 9. Consequently. 2002. Homegardens and nutritional security Food production either directly (producing edible fruits. Millat-eMustafa et al. that homegardens seldom meet the entire basic-staple-food needs of the family in any given area. Functional dynamics Research attention on production potential and quality of biomass from homegardens has been modest. seems to be an underestimate in view of the annual energy fixation values reported by Leith (1975) for cultivated lands (11. particularly women and children. the products from homegardens can be expected to be of superior quality.g. the diverse products available year-round in the homegardens contribute to food security especially during ‘lean’ seasons (Christanty et al. however.e. the target families significantly increased their year-round production and consumption of vitaminrich fruits and vegetables compared to the control group without gardens. handcrafting and mixed production. and the aboveground energy fixation in some tropical plantations (e. alleviated deficiencies of iodine. yields of component species. This.

Singh 1987. ornamentals. because most of the homegarden products are used for the grower’s home-consumption and marketing is not all organized in most homegarden-dominated regions. been not reported in literature.) production in Central America (Muschler 2001). palliative. and/or other medicinal properties. Torquebiau 1992. homegardens have a tremendous potential for rural employment gener- . Caballero 1992. however. (2000) documented about 250 medicinal plants with curative. the availability of ‘health’ foods from homegardens is certainly worth recognizing as one of the intangible benefits of the system. symptomatic.7% of total income with an average of 21. Timber and fuelwood production While there are many reports on food and nutritional security. Torquebiau 1992). Indeed this seems to be an unrecognized value of homegardens. Nontimber forest products (NTFPs) Homegardens are recognized repositories of nontimber products such as medicinal and aromatic plants. 1990. but see Jensen 1993b). Organized efforts are needed to conserve these valuable resources in homegardens. This egalitarian distribution of the agricultural produce is significant in a social milieu and endows the homegarden system a unique social disposition. however. bamboos.6% to 55. For example. Several workers (Krishnankutty 1990. Agelet et al. The average standing stock of commercial timber in the Kerala homegardens has been estimated to range from 6. chemical extractives and green leaf manure. As in most other aspects of homegardens. the products from homegardens could fetch premium prices in health-food stores in food-quality-conscious societies. the remainder being used for household consumption (High and Shackleton 2000). Singh (1987) noted that 70% of the sawlogs in Bangladesh came from homesteads. (1994) reported that out of the 127 trees and shrubs found in Kerala homegardens. relatively few workers have addressed questions relating to wood production and its utilization in the homegardens. For example. gums. 2000). Nevertheless. 51% to 90% of the fuelwood collected in various geographical regions in South and Southeast Asia are derived from homegardens (Krishnankutty 1990. Similarly. 27% of the 272 species maintained or cultivated as domestic flora in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) are reported to be for medicinal purposes (Mpoyi et al. as much as two-thirds of the homegarden production is reported to be sold (Jensen 1993b). Wickramasinghe 1996. Agelet et al. Another key dimension of homegardening is the equitable distribution of the produce within the community. In West Java. scientific studies have not been undertaken on the quantity and quality of phytofuels produced in homegardens and their extraction methods. The net income generated from homegardens is also correspondingly variable. 25 were medicinally important.6 to 50. 1996. but only 28% of such products were sold in South African homegardens. 2004). Shanavas and Kumar 2003) have also reported that the traditional homegardens constitute a principal source of biofuels for the rural households. 2001). Generation of cash income Although interest in homegardens has been primarily focused on producing subsistence items. is the gradual decline in the stock of medicinal plants as reported from a number of places (Rico-Gray et al. the wide range of the values is related to variations in tree stocking levels depending on local conditions. Kumar et al. Levasseur and Olivier 2000. In the Catalonian homegardens. its role in generating additional cash income cannot be overlooked (Christanty 1990. and Krishnankutty (1990) found that homesteads provided 74% to 84% of wood requirements in Kerala. 1994). in Indonesia it ranged from 6. Dury et al. Shanavas and Kumar (2003) noted profound variations in the combustion characteristics vis à vis tissue-types of woody perennials grown in the Kerala homesteads. For example. Mendez et al. Of these.142 pared with those of products from other systems have. India.1% depending on the size of the gardens. vegetables and medicinal/ornamental plants are also generously shared within the local communities (Thaman 1990). resins. many products such as fruits. Employment generation Quite apart from providing cash income and subsistence products to the growers. medicinalplant production has received some modest scientific attention (see for example Rao et al. Enormous variations have been reported from different regions in the proportion of homegarden products that are used for household consumption as opposed to sale. 1994).8 m3 ha−1 (Kumar et al. Judging from the experience of organic coffee (Coffea spp. While a large proportion of the production is consumed domestically (Soemarwoto 1987. This is perhaps a nonissue at least for the near future. family needs and species composition (Soemarwoto 1987). An unfortunate aspect of the situation.

’ which will otherwise remain unutilized and therefore need not be accounted for. but also satisfies a wide range of domestic needs more economically and effortlessly than through local markets (Soemarwoto and Conway 1991). bullocks. Because of the lack of widely acceptable sustainability criteria. It ranged from 50 min day−1 in a 200 m2 garden in Lima. The validity of this assumption is increasingly being disputed today. (2001) reported that homegardens used on average 32. Animal production Most homegardens support a variety of animals – cows. constitute the dominant objectives of integrating animals into these production systems.6 h family−1 week−1 with women contributing to roughly half (48%). Biophysical aspects Nutrient cycling It is generally regarded that the homegardens possess a closed nutrient cycling. Soemarwoto and Conway 1991). The dynamics of litter production and decomposition and subsequent bioelement release. Temporal complementarity in labor allocation is yet another advantage of homegardening. relevant to homegardens. The amount of labor invested in a homegarden is also related to the size of the family. are. 1999. Although most labor requirements especially in the smaller homegardens may be satisfied from within the family itself. Nutrients in tree biomass are returned to soil either naturally through litterfall and root turnover. these perceptions are not quantifiable. 373 kg K. Mendez et al. 38 kg P. much similar to the tropical forests (Nair et al. therefore. homegardens have the potential to create jobs in the rural areas. sheep. information on the quantities of N2 fixed. and thus reverse the negative effects of migration to urban areas. Biological N2 fixation and mycorrhizal associations are important. Gajaseni and Gajaseni (1999) stated that the average litter in a standing crop was even higher . to 57 man days year−1 in Sri Lanka (Torquebiau 1992). especially women labor in the production process not only ensures lowering of production costs (Rugalema et al. which endow sustainability to these forests (Heal et al. Such calculations are. goats. on which again. and economic and ecological factors are the main determinants in the choice of animal species (Soemarwoto 1987). This is because the great diversity of products from homegarden provides opportunities for development of small-scale rural industries and creates off-farm employment and marketing opportunities (Nair and Sreedharan 1986. soil conservation practices and haulage. and birds such as chicken and ducks (Brownrigg 1985). and its further utilization by associated crops are not well documented. religion. The notion that homegardening is practiced only by subsistence farmers in the areas of acute land hunger has also been questioned (Yamada and Gholz 2002). 1993). Milk and egg production. buffaloes. Culture. however. little quantitative data exist. both for domestic consumption and for sale. however. 2001). or deliberately through pruning. Despite their importance in maintaining organic matter and nutrient flows. based on the assumption that family labor is a ‘given. sometimes homegarden litter is removed for fuel and/or as organic manure (to be used elsewhere). labor demands of homegardens seldom show sharp peaks and troughs and they are more flexible and distributed throughout the year in sharp contrast to that of seasonal agricultural operations such as wet land rice paddy cultivation (Karyono 1990). studies on litter and fine root dynamics in the homegarden system are few and uncoordinated. Moreover. Sustainability of homegarden systems Homegardens are perceived to be highly sustainable in both biophysical and socioeconomic terms. depending on homegardens and the gardener’s primary occupation. 135 kg Ca and 50 kg Mg ha−1 yr−1 (Jensen 1993a). Torquebiau 1992). behavior of N2 -fixing trees that are abundant in these systems. 1997. In addition. Peru. yet. Lavelle et al. For example. 1994a. the large ruminants may provide draught power for land preparation. In particular. Among the available reports on homegarden litterfall. Nutrients circulated internally in a Javanese homegarden were estimated as 223 kg N. The following section evaluates the situation based on generally ‘accepted’ notions of sustainability. Animals are also important for the maintenance of soil fertility and sustainability of the production system. Benjamin et al. and concluded that labor requirements were variable among regions depending on the size of gardens and the farming intensity.143 ation. Use of family labor. Torquebiau (1992) summarized several case studies on homegarden labor demands and flexibility. little quantitative information seems to exist in this respect.

the argument of low nutrient export may not be valid.R. if not thousands of litter decomposition studies have been reported. Kumar and Divakara (2001) found that in bamboo-based multi-strata systems in Kerala. And. 1992). For example. Nevertheless.S. 2001). Consistent with this. The limited number of studies comparing decay of monospecific litter in the subcanopy of homegardens with that of adjacent open area suggests that speciesor site-related variations in decay rates are probable (Table 3). Although hundreds. In certain cases. Issac. University of Florida. On-site nutrient conservation also may be accomplished through the interlocking root . higher earthworm activity and fungal/bacterial/actinomycetes counts compared to open areas were observed in the Kerala homegardens (S. Soil Conservation Service. 1998). determine the quantity and periodicity of litterfall (George and Kumar 1998). 1993). was reported to be lower than that of other systems compared (1 to 4 Mg ha−1 yr−1 . McGrath. Total litter production in the Mayan homegardens.06 t ha−1 year−1 as against tolerable limits set by the U. there is a substantial potential for ‘capturing’ the lower leaching nutrients. Jordan 1985). dissertation. without exception all these investigations focused on characterizing the decay rates of monospecific leaf litter. Low soil-erosion potential Homegardens are not only similar to natural forests in respect of their high species-diversity and nutrient cycling processes but also are characterized by low ‘export’ of nutrients. 2001). Apparently. which are variable. With the revival of interest in organic farming. resource quality parameters and indices that govern decomposition and nutrient release have received considerable scientific attention lately (Nair et al. 1999. economic and environmental benefits for successive generations. the proximity of trees to one another determines the magnitude of subsoil-nutrient recovery. Nevertheless.D. five out of the seven species on which quantitative information exist decayed faster in the subcanopy. Ph. a clear understanding of the various aspects of nutrient cycling including the effects of litter/green manure addition on soil organic matter and nutrient dynamics is essential. D. nutrient exports from such a system are modest. besides the litter layer. The multi-tiered homegarden canopy and root architecture. comm.5 Mg ha−1 yr−1 of dry matter respectively. resulting in low rates of soil erosion (0. leading to substantial site nutrient loss (Kumar et al. Owing to greater organic matter flux and/or favorable soil moisture relations (Table 3). there is no complete harvesting in the homegardens (Gajaseni and Gajaseni 1999). Palm et al. By extension. species attributes and management. if whole tree harvesting and litter removal are resorted to.0 and 7. because. Torquebiau. Coincidentally. and termitosphere systems with increasing dryness (Lavelle et al. Soemarwoto and Conway (1991) also observed a heavy litter layer in Javanese homegardens. homegardens provide litter of a mixture of species. 2. Organic matter decomposition is generally dominated by drilosphere systems formed by associations between earthworms and soil bacteria. Consistent with this. and the resultant litter heterogeneity will alter the decomposition dynamics. Belowground architecture Root systems of different components in the homegardens are expected to overlap considerably and the resultant higher root-length density may reduce nutrient leaching and facilitate recycling of subsoil nutrients. only very few of them pertain to litter decay dynamics of tropical homegardens (Table 3). This possibly underestimates the homegarden litter decay rates. In order for the tropical homegarden systems to continue to provide social. research on addition and/or decomposition of fresh agricultural wastes and mixtures of green manure/litter is likely to become important. pers. India. the activity of drilosphere system is expected to be greater in the homegardens.05 to 0. Benjamin et al. Secondly.2 t ha−1 year−1 . some authors (Fassbender 1993. unlike monospecific stands.2 to 11. in homegardens where tree components are closely integrated. act as multi-layer defense mechanisms against the impact of the falling rain drops. however. 2001). the organic matter turnover processes bring about an overall improvement in soil physicochemical properties of homegardens (Table 3). But the credibility of such reports is questioned by the history of long-term survival of homegardens in a variety of locations without any apparent indications of nutrient deficiency (Nair 2001). Overall.144 (1728 g m−2 ) than that of a typical tropical forest (500 g m−2 . and Jensen (1993a) estimated litterfall and pruning as 10. where soil-moisture regimes are favorable. 32 P uptake from the subsoil was greater when the bamboo clumps (Bambusa arundinacea) and dicot trees (Tectona grandis and Vateria indica) were close to one another. Such variations are not unusual considering that stocking levels. 1998) based on studies on other multistrata systems have suggested that nutrient deficiencies may eventually limit system productivity.

systems (root grafts and/or mycorrhizal connections). horizontal transfer/sharing of nutrient ions between the rhizospheres of the neighboring plants is probable. Leaf litter of Ailanthus triphysa. Comparison of litter dynamics and soil properties of some tropical homegardens and adjacent open areasa Attributes Litter decay and half-lives Reference Gopikumar et al. where a 4 to 24% decline was noted 21 to 249% more inside gardens depending on site characteristics and soil depth 21 to 41% more inside 27 to 311% more inside 4 to 363% more available P in Thai homegardens. comm.. Microbial biomass C. Gajaseni and Gajaseni (1999) as above J. comm. leach out. and/or exude mineral and organic materials into the rhizosphere of neighboring plants. however. Planting and maintaining of homegardens also reflect the culture and status of the household. depending on site characteristics and soil depth 25 to 30% more for Kerala homegardens 10 to 19% more inside Earthworm. Artocarpus heterophyllus. 53 to 79 and 10 to 49% respectively) in ‘old’ South African homegardens (prolonged cropping). (2003) Soil organic C (SOC) C:N ratio Total N Available N Total soil P Available P (Bray) Exchangeable K Soil microbiological properties a Although edaphic attributes of homegardens were reported by some authors. In many places. Variations reiterate ‘litter chemistry control’ of decay dynamics.’ Artocarpus hirsutus. ergosterol and basal respiration rates were generally lower (51 to 72... 14 to 18% more inside homegardens 14 to 23% more inside 12 to 20% less inside 2 to 5% less inside 10 to 14% decrease in the homegardens with ‘near-neutral’ soils and 10 to 12% increase for more acid soils in the Chao Phrao basin. in the local society.. That is. comm. (2001)b Issac and Nair (2002). comm. diversified production and income generation in perpetuity were intrinsic features of tropical homegardens. usually outside the ‘fenced-in’ area. 1997) as above SR Issac (pers. provided they interact with one another (Kumar et al. 35 and 20% respectively). which essentially act as multipliers of the ‘root systems’ reach. comm. fungal. 1997) Gajaseni and Gajaseni (1999) as above J. John (pers. John (pers. Socioeconomic aspects Over long periods in the history of land use in highly populated humid tropical lowlands. 1999). bacterial and actinomycetes counts were consistently higher inside homegardens (∼4. especially the women. 2001)b Soil water holding capacity Porosity Bulk density Particle density Soil pH J. homegardens have apparently remained as engines of economic and social development. John (pers. John (pers. c ‘inside’ gardens indicates directly beneath tree crowns and ‘outside’ means adjoining open areas. 1997) Gajaseni and Gajaseni (1999) as above J. the tree roots may release. women play a vital . few (as shown above) have actually compared this with adjacent open areas.. b Calculated from litter mass disappearance data using the exponential decay model (Olson 1963). SR Issac (pers. Ancardium occidentale. Thailand (‘outside’ soil pH 5. 1997) Comments Acacia mangium leaf litter showed lower decay rates ‘inside’c homegardens— decay rate coefficients (k) 19 to 28% lower and half-lives of litter decay 22 to 40% higher compared to ‘outside’c homegardens.8) – ‘moderation effect’ on soil reaction possible? Substantial improvement: 33 to 600% more SOC ‘inside’ Thai gardens 48 to 62% more for southern Kerala gardens 58 to 205% more except in homegardens on inherently N-rich sites.’ In addition.. Although productivity compared to intensive monocultures was modest. comm. 2001) Wichern et al. compared to ‘new’ ones (cropping period: ∼1 year). 36.145 Table 3. Mangifera indica and Swietenia macrophylla decayed faster ‘inside’ homegardens—k values 7 to 14% more and half-lives 2 to 29% less than ‘outside. had similar decay rates both inside and outside.

jackfruit (Artocapus heterophyllus) and other traditional fruit/vegetable crops. Arnold 1987. Jose and Shanmugaratnam 1993). . Abdoellah et al. A large proportion of Kerala homegardens have been converted into small-scale plantations of coconut and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) or to cropping systems consisting of less number of crops (Ashokan and Kumar 1997). besides creating capital stocks to meet intermittent costs or unforeseen contingencies • Enhanced food/nutritional security and ability to meet the food. even distribution of labor inputs and more efficient management • Diversified range of products from a given area and increased value of outputs • Increased self sufficiency and reduced risk to income from climatic. Soemarwoto and Conway 1991. biological or market impacts on particular crops/products • Higher income with increased stability. vegetables and medicinal plants). based on a few studies of this nature that we have come across (e. A similar situation has been reported from West Java. Kerala. In Catalonia (Spain) during the last few decades. Soemarwoto and Conway 1991). social and/or cultural foundations of homegardening. in comparison with other farmingsystem components under similar situations are listed below: • Low capital requirements and labor costs – suitable for resource poor and small-holder farming situations • Better utilization of resources. Central Java and West Sumatra) further underscores this point (Menon et al. fodder.g. due to government policies and demographic pressures. see Alavalapati et al. migration of the work force to urban areas. 2001. Landuse patterns have changed enormously the world-over during the past half a century. nuts. however. labor or capital. Some other aspects of socioeconomic sustainability such as household nutritional security and generation of income have already been discussed. The future of homegardens Are homegardens becoming extinct? Change is said to be the only constant thing. fuel collection and animal rearing. 2002. is. The possibility of gender equality for participating in garden management and sharing of benefits is perhaps one of the major stimuli for continued household security enjoyed by homegardeners for generations. Agelet et al. For instance. fuel.g.. Many activities such as vegetable growing. are the homegardens on the way out? Are they becoming an anachronism? Will – or how will – they survive the test of time? These concerns stem not from any new discoveries questioning the ecological foundations of such systems. greater equity and improved standards of living • Better use of underutilized land. Although precise data are not available. The whole aspect of sustainability of homegardens seems to be fertile grounds for social science research. it seems reasonable to surmise that floristic diversity of homegardens in most parts of the world has declined during the past four to five decades. some of the economic.146 role in the design and management of these land use systems. harvesting the products (fruits. and timber requirements of the society • Increased fulfillment of social and cultural needs through sharing or exchange of produces and recreational opportunities • Better preservation of indigenous knowledge Methods for valuation of such intrinsic and nontangible social and cultural benefits of agroforestry systems are practically nonexistent. 2004) clearly show the opportunities and challenges involved. 2000). which were once abundant in Kerala homegardens. do exert considerable pressures on homegardens. In spite of the authors’ lack of expertise in these areas. The concern that is raised. Soemarwoto and Conway 1991) and kebun (Whitten et al. and will continue to do so. Homegardens are no exception: they too have changed. where 27 varieties of mango were reportedly lost during a 60-year period (Soemarwoto 1987). but from the fact that recent trends in agrarian structure and the high market-orientation. have now become extinct (authors’ personal observation). Species losses from homegardens are said to occur at an unprecedented rate. Commercialization has caused a decline of the structure and functions of the Indonesian pekarangan (Abdoellah 1990. 1996) systems. The fact that homegardens are predominant in the traditionally matrilineal societies of south and Southeast Asia (e. with or without assistance from the male members of the family. many local varieties of mango (Mangifera indica). greater efficiency of labor. especially in the smaller gardens are exclusively the domain of females. Some of the recent efforts in this direction (for example. mechanization of agriculture and the consequent specialization of agricultural tasks have lead to an impoverishment of the traditional homegarden system (Agelet et al. Indonesia..

modification of the traditional patterns of nutrition among the Indian groups of Mexico involved the progressive disuse of traditional foods because they were considered to be of lesser nutritional value or lower social prestige than the industrialized products or other foods offered through the national market (Vogl et al. spread of modern medicine and healthcare facilities lead to a decline of the traditional medicines.147 (2000) also noted the loss of many autochtonous varieties of crop plants and medicinal plants from the Catalonian gardens. but societies that have embraced it at the total exclusion of traditional ways of life are paying the price – and that too heavily. Mimosa invisa. Changes in homegarden structure and ecological processes that are caused by such changes in size of gardens can safely be added to the already long list of topics that have not been. Yet another threat to the traditional homegarden is the large-scale influx (both deliberate and unintentional) of aggressive exotics (e. Although fragmentation will clearly result in an increase in the number of holdings and therefore the number of homegardens. studied. however. Having stated that. Commercialization could also result in a reduction of equitability.g. 1994b).. face the threat of self-dissolution in arbitrariness and irrelevance if the traditional homegardeners are all transformed into ‘modern’ urbanites. the specific inheritance system in an Islamic society. The knowledge gap that exists on various biophysical issues has already been explained. As more homegarden products are sold (to earn cash to buy other preferred items) and less consumed. homegardening may. it is doubtful if the average size has shrunk proportionately.’ and green consumerism. homegardening and such traditional lifestyles are getting relegated to pastime of older generations who return to land for retirement. In some societies such as those in the Caribbean islands and to some extent in Kerala. Future research Research is needed on all fronts. energy and water balance in the homegardens is crucial to providing a scientific foundation for better design and management of the system to permit efficient use of resources. there is a danger that the dietary role of the homegardens in providing vitamins and minerals may be reduced if not lost (Soemarwoto and Conway 1991). Eucalyptus spp. to abandon and denigrate everything that is traditional. but need to be.’ the process by which a culture is transformed due to the massive adoption of cultural traits from another society. It is not clear. arguably. Fragmentation of land holdings due to population growth has triggered species losses in the chagga homegardens of Tanzania (Rugalema et al.. Chemical agriculture has its place. Also. the need for intensified research. Likewise. where the work force migrate to nearby industrial and economically prosperous lands (North America for the Caribbean and the oil-rich MiddleEast for Keralites) and remittances from abroad is a major component of the local economies. if and to what extent fragmentation of holdings per se has caused a decline in the average size of homegardens. to avoid loss of energy and to in- . ‘Acculturation. caused fragmentation of the Indonesian pekarangans (Arifin et al. however. Understanding the nutrient. 1997).. the main thread of argument that runs throughout this chapter needs to be re-emphasized: the need for better understanding of the scientific bases of these fascinating systems and developing valuation methods that can realistically portray their economic and social values. and the traditional ‘rights’ of the poor may disappear. has serious consequences on the species grown in homegardens (and by subsistence farmers in general) and the extent to which they are used (Caballero 1992). The cumulative effect of such social and cultural changes would be a reduction in the homegarden floristic diversity. These experiences. Long-term dynamics of homegarden transformations could be fascinating areas of study to biophysical and social scientists alike. For instance. where a property is divided equally among the heirs. coupled with the slow rate at which economic and social transformations happen in such societies force us to believe that concerns about a bleak future of homegardens are unfounded and will hopefully be a passing cloud. to support or oppose the claims about the future of homegardens. Australian and Meso-American species such as Acacia spp. however. ‘back to nature. evidence is lacking. we have no reason. The modern-day preference to maize over traditional millets that used to be dietary staples in African societies is well known. 2002). A further consequence of commercialization is a change in the proportion of the produce consumed. unfortunately. in short. Mikania micrantha and so on. with less sharing of the produce even among close relations. Scientific evidence is lacking. With increasing awareness and interest the world over – especially in the industrialized societies – in movements such as organic farming. especially into South Asia) that can potentially out-compete the native flora. Thus.

and other such land-use-discipline specialists. and by providing a variety of goods and services for which people may otherwise depend on or destroy forests. they act as a buffer against the strong pressures on natural forests. In spite of the small holding sizes of homegardens. (2002) estimated the aboveground. national and global) and different intensities in order to provide a sound hierarchical framework for extrapolating from field sites to recommendation domains. and assess such time-tested systems as homegardens. national and global levels (Nair 2001). Conventional methods (discount rates. net present values.3 Mg C ha−1 at 13 years of age. because it questions the whole foundations of educational and research set-up. the homegardens fulfil specific economic. foresters. We hope that this could provide a basic framework for future research for improvement of homegardens. so that these systems are recognized deservedly in policy discussions at regional and national levels. and cultural needs of the individual owners and provide biological conservation. regional. competitive interactions as influenced by soil resource availability and soil organic matter relations of homegardens are practically unknown. Furthermore. homegardens act as insurance against pests and disease outbreaks (although specific data are lacking to support this conjecture). Yet. A schematic illustration of some of the opportunities is presented in Figure 1. More focus should. Their virtues are recognized more by intuition than in measured quantities. and such other intangible yet valuable benefits to the society. no effort has been made to examine the impact of harvesting pressures on resource regeneration in the homegardens. and the experiences from these systems could be exploited for the design of other sustainable land- . 2001). We are neither calling for nor are not unaware of the difficulties in accomplishing such a radical change. this corresponds to the C stocks for similar-aged secondary forests. It is realistic. the homegardens of future are bound to have a much better value and prestige than today. Equally unsatisfactory is the situation regarding sustainability assessment. value. homegardens that are mostly steady-state systems as explained earlier (section 2) could be of crucial importance in the carbon-credit discussion (see Montagnini and Nair 2004). practiced as a subset of the farming system. Available reports indicate that total biomass of Javanese homegardens accounted for 10 to 126 Mg C ha−1 (Jensen 1993a. The high structural and floristic diversity of tropical homegardens is a reflection of the unique biophysical environment and socio-cultural factors under which they exist.148 crease production (Benjamin et al. be given to compiling the vital statistics of systems at local. shadow prices. With the increasing emphasis the world over on carbon sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems. to call for extending ecological and economic studies to understand. Because of that.) are inadequate for realistic valuation of non-conventional products and services provided by homegardens. tropical homegardens are an enigma. Indeed. managerial information is lacking in respect of coverage. Clearly. Conclusions Homegardening is a time-tested example of sustainable. regional. Fundamental to solving this puzzle and realizing the potential of homegardens as a powerful land use model is a much-needed change in the single-commodity outlook of agronomists. homegardens may help to retain some of the advantages of both traditional land use and commercial farming practices. predominantly in lowland humid tropics. With their ecological similarities to natural forest ecosystems. With relatively more of managerial inputs and judicious selection of species. carbon sequestration. As assemblages and repositories of a vast number of plants in small parcels of land around the home in direct and constant interaction with its owners. With solid quantitative foundations and research back-up for assessing C sequestration potential of homegardens and with enabling policies put in place for rewarding landowners for carbon credits (see Alavalapati et al. time-averaged C stock (= half the C stock at maximum rotation length) of Indonesian homegardens as 30 to 123 Mg C ha−1 . productivity and temporal changes in woody/other plant use. 2004). therefore. Roshetko et al. this is perhaps asking for too much. there seems to be scope for GIS applications for preparing databases at different scales (local. Although a wide spectrum of goods and services are obtained from these traditional land use systems. social. multispecies. the policy makers seldom recognize their importance although the practitioners adore them. With an average of 35. reasons for low herbivory/pathogenicity pressure. Delaney and Roshetko 1999). however. etc. Aspects such as the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of interference and coexistence of different species. agroforestry land-use. there is yet incomplete understanding about their values.

‘scaling up’ of their virtues may not be feasible in terms of extending areas under the practice. 1906.. Nagam A. use systems.H.. 1906. but the principles of their functioning could be used as foundations for the design of improved agroforestry practices. Kerala. Because of the small plot sizes of homegardens. . Mateer S.. End Note 1.149 Figure 1. Madras.. monospecific agricultural/forest production systems and improved homegardens. ‘Travancore State Manual Vol III. Predicted changes in homegarden composition and relative merits of conventional homegardens. Allen & Co. ‘Malabar Manual’ (2 vols). Given the ‘track record’ of agroforestry research and accomplishments during the past quarter century. 450 p. 1883. ‘Native Life in Travancore. we certainly hope that homegarden research will attract its due share of attention in years to come.’ Travancore Government Press. London. 2nd ed. 700 pp.’ W. Logan W. Trivandrum. India 772 p. Asian Educational Services..

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