Research Nugget

Why Home Gardens Fail to Reduce Food Insecurity in Households

Home gardens often fail to contribute to household food security even though they have the potential to make an impact in addressing food shortages in homes. This is according to research funded by the National Research Foundation which found that the most important constraint which prevents urban agriculture includes reliance on buying food instead of self-production, as well as cultural practices such as having a preference for gardens which consist mainly of large bare open spaces or “lebala”, lawns, and ornamentals with very small vegetable gardens and areas with fruit trees.

The study reveals that of the 140 respondents surveyed with home gardens in a peri-urban suburb and former township of Potchefstroom in the North West Province, South Africa, only 10% of the households were found to be completely food secure. 39% experienced hunger that affected everyone in the household and 51% were at risk of hunger. This is despite the fact that 72% of the respondents planted vegetables or fruits. The respondents mostly bought their food, with subsequent food shortages when they did not have enough money.

The study recommends that strategies to promote urban agriculture should focus on:

  • Educating householders on optimal gardening practices and providing adequate support to greatly enhance the success of urban agriculture toward reducing food insecurities;
  • Planting food with high nutritional value, combining it with poultry and livestock, and striving for gardens with high diversity, specifically focusing on the richness and abundance of species to ensure year-round production; and
  • Where cultural practices have a major influence on garden design, finding possible solutions for how cultural practices and optimal food production can coexist without residents losing their cultural identity.

The full paper has been published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution and can be accessed here.