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close this bookFood from Dryland Gardens - An Ecological, Nutritional, and Social Approach to Small Scale Household Food Production (CPFE, 1991)
close this folderHow to use this book
close this folder1. Introduction
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View the document1.1 Some definitions
View the document1.2 The purpose of this book
View the document1.3 The organization of this book

1.2 The purpose of this book

FOOD FROM DRYLAND GARDENS was written to encourage gardens that serve local needs, that are based on local knowledge and resources, and that conserve natural resources and the biological diversity of traditional crops. It was written for field workers, extension agents, students, project workers, and program planners. Both a beginner’s guide as well as a reference for those with more experience, this book helps the reader observe and work with local people to ask appropriate questions about the community, the environment, and the potential for gardens to improve nutritional, economic, and social well-being.

Because every location, household, and community is different, the solutions to their gardening problems must be unique. Finding locally appropriate solutions is best accomplished through an appreciation of the adaptedness of indigenous gardens, and of the fact that gardeners manage these gardens according to the same principles on which Western, formalized science is based. While the application of horticultural science may lead to improvements, the foundation from which to begin any garden project is existing local knowledge because it supports equity through self-sufficiency and local participation and control. This is true even where great change has occurred, as in refugee camps, crowded urban areas, or environmentally degraded rural areas. Therefore, although many specific techniques are included, this is not a how-to cookbook. The basic principles of nutrition, agriculture, ecology, and social science are described, along with examples of indigenous gardening, with the goal of encouraging experimentation and adaptation to each situation.

Figure 1.2 The World’s Drylands (After UNESCO 1977)

We emphasize long-term environmental and social sustainability throughout FOOD FROM DRYLAND GARDENS. Environmental sustainability means the management of soil, water, and biological resources so that all future generations can also use them. To be socially sustainable gardens must improve nutrition and income in ways that are cost effective and promote local self-reliance and a just distribution of resources. This means gardens that use local resources available to all households; these resources include indigenous gardening techniques, and indigenous trees and other garden crops.

Promoting social sustainability requires an understanding of relationships within the household, and between the household, the community, the nation, and the rest of the world. It means ensuring participation and equity for minorities, including many indigenous peoples, and for women, children, and the handicapped. To improve the well-being of the poor and hungry of the drylands their needs, desires, resources, and skills must be kept at the center of the project and they must have control over changes affecting them.

When garden projects from the largest to the smallest fail, it often seems obvious in retrospect that a major cause was the lack of understanding by project workers of the human side of the food system. Trying to understand whole systems can be frustrating and time consuming at first and mistakes will be made. This book will increase awareness of gardens as part of ecological and social systems, and garden projects based on this awareness will have a greater chance of success. However, this book alone is not enough: gaining a firsthand understanding of the social, environmental, and economic ways in which the local system works is most important, and should be a prerequisite for all project workers. Like other improvements, gardens promoted in this way may not produce showy and spectacular results at the beginning, but are more likely to respond to real needs, and persist and grow beyond the life of the project.