Home gardens: Lankan consumers hoping to become growers

By Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

 Home gardens concept had become quite trendy all over the world. Sri Lanka has launched a home garden project to make consumers become growers. Land as a precious resource seemed most accommodative. An ambitious target of a million home gardens had been set. It was estimated that up to 13 percent of all land – 800,000 hectares – could easily be used as home gardens according to Peradeniya University’s agriculture department’s-crop science division. The vital ingredient for success would flow from how enthused the home owners were. The rest will follow suit as plots of land get irrigated and effectively fertilized.

 The decisions as to suitability of crops for diverse soils or micro-climates would be factors that should be given serious thought. Expert advice would also be crucial here. There are seasons to watch—dry weather, rainfall and what varieties of plants to identify to fit the location.

 It was reported that home gardens could produce vegetables everywhere from urban terraces to back gardens in rural and urban areas. If a garden were to yield three meals per week that would be savings well-earned.

 Clear objectives

 The push for greater harvest from the soil had clear objectives. The cost is minimal and the goal to increase food supply and reduce the expenditure on food urgently felt. Getting maximum productivity from the land seemed to be driving this project.

 Initial seed distribution got underway

on March 12, so, the first crop would be due by mid-June for vegetables like beans, tomatoes and okra that mature within about three months.

 As the new farmers get the hang of it and see monetary gains accruing the urge to do it on a bigger scale would eventually be felt. That has been the experience in many countries.

 Combined with increasingly empowered consumers and a burgeoning food movement the potential for a bountiful harvest seemed a fair forecast.

 Tie up with the food outlets

 As home gardens grow in size and number the prospect of selling excess produce to the local food outlets, vendors and the like would emerge. Recently in the US, Wal-Mart the world’s biggest retailer pledged to “double sales of locally sourced produce. Small growers were the target.

 Sri Lankans were fully aware of the fairs or polas dotting the cities and villages on Sundays. This would be a supply chain if the home growers ever want to be small producers. Those into poultry production were fully aware of the earnings potential from small units of production: so would home gardeners.

 Recently in the States, King of fast-food- McDonald’s made a “Sustainable Land Management Commitment. What inspired the two giants-Wal-Mart and McDonalds was how to tap into a food sources—cheap and fresh and easily accessible.

 The total area under the plough had risen sharply in Sri Lanka. It is so even in USA where super markets dominate judging by the rise of home gardening projects in the last three years. Land lying fallow would yield nothing. Even those who sneer at the garden project may soon see how people get motivated in no time.

 Combined with the national garden project it may be possible to bring in plans to reduce in-store food waste. There is a sub industry waiting to take-off—better food storage.

 Everyone talks about food policy, but as advocates of change become more economically potent we’re finally seeing more done about it.

 The pioneers in home farming may be aiming to introduce farming to a new generation of young people. They are giving farming a new cachet of cool.

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