- A trilingual guide to the basics
By Venessa Anthony
Home gardening has quickly boomed in Sri Lanka in light of the recent economic crisis, which has left many without access to even two meals a day, let alone three. The shortages and exorbitant price hikes in rice and vegetables looming as part of the “new normal” have caused a heightened interest in home gardening, even among urban Sri Lankans.
In light of this, the Assisting Communities in Creating Environmental and Nutritional Development (ACCEND) project launched a handbook on Nutrition Home Gardening on 27 June. The book, catering to this niche market that has created a demand for information on gardening successfully on local soil, was physically launched with a ceremony at the Department of Agrarian Service Development and was also virtually launched to the public via Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Sri Lanka’s Facebook page.
The ACCEND project, funded by the EU and implemented jointly by ADRA Sri Lanka and Oxfam Sri Lanka, works towards the goal of improving water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and nutrition in estate and rural communities of the Uva and Central Provinces.
In conversation with The Morning Brunch, ADRA Sri Lanka PR and Communications Officer Shenal Hettiarachchi told us that this project has single-handedly established close to 1,500 home gardens (known as Nutrition Home Gardens or NHGs) in the Matale, Monaragala, and Nuwara Eliya districts.
“With the aim of improving the nutritional status of households and to mitigate malnutrition which is widely prevalent in these communities, the project conducted training on organic home gardening, and further supported its beneficiaries by supplying gardening utensils, regular consultation, and seeds for germination,” he informed us.
Sri Lankans first forayed into home gardening during the peak of the pandemic. Ahead of the lockdown, and uncertain about how long it would last, many citizens opted to stock up on food items with a long shelf life. While that meant they had ample dry rations to live on, they would have little to no access to fresh fruits or vegetables which, along with rice, were subject to distribution bottlenecks as a result of quarantine controls between different districts. That guided people to the quick realisation of the practical value in growing their own produce, which, in these troubling times, has proved to be a sustainable and useful venture.
We also learnt that this particular initiative was extremely successful in the districts it was implemented in. Hettiarachchi excitedly told us that the beneficiaries have reported that they were able to earn a significant income by selling their excess produce, and that they were able to fulfil their nutritional needs during the intermittent lockdowns that were imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The home gardens are an approach to enhance the food security, health, and wellbeing of households, especially during these unprecedented times,” he noted.
The project defines the concept of NHG as “a well-developed farming system that combines physical, social, and economic functions of the space surrounding the family house, maximising use of the available natural resources, while incorporating organic farming techniques to produce a variety of safe (free from agrochemicals) and nutritious foods to meet the non-staple dietary needs of a family all year through”.
Hettiarachchi also informed us that the focus of the Nutrition Home Garden is “food first”. This includes sufficient plant varieties of vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers, legumes, medicinal herbs, spices, and, if possible, farm animals, bees, and fish to contribute towards healthy eating choices. In his opinion, a well-planned and utilised NHG will help improve the family’s nutritional status and serve as a model for the community.
When talking about how this guidebook was created, Hettiarachchi explained that the project designed and developed the Handbook on Nutrition Home Gardening using the practical and theoretical knowledge garnered through the training.
“The book contains useful information on starting and carrying out an organic home garden with the space available in one’s garden, organic fertiliser and pesticide production, incorporation of traditional agricultural methods and how to benefit nutritionally and economically using one’s garden while combatting food shortages,” he told us.
In order to market this book to the entirety of Sri Lanka, Hettiarachchi also informed us that the book will be available in all three languages – both physically and online via their website – making it easier to access, so that one can embark on their home gardening adventures as soon as possible.