BENGALURU: Having vegetables grown round the year in the backyard or on your balcony can be a rewarding hobby, but home gardens can also make a major difference to diets, create new entrepreneurs – and even provide a great source of fitness training.
The World Vegetable Centre (WorldVeg for short) has been conducting research and development to improve home gardens for over 30 years in South Asia. Headquartered in Taiwan, it is the world’s largest international agricultural research center focused on vegetables and its South Asian headquarters is based in Hyderabad.
Their research shows that in India a person spends an average of Rs.14/person/week on buying vegetables which can be reduced by 50% i.e. Rs.7/person/week by using the concept of Home Garden. A small area of 6m by 6m can produce more than 250kgs of vegetable which is more than enough for a family of 4 for a year. Now the problem belongs with the availability of HYV (high yield variety) and qualitative seeds at a comparatively low price. Most of the home gardens are maintained by women and they are reluctant to go to markets and purchase seeds. The WVC hence aims to improve this situation at the village level.
Having its research area at Jharkhand because of its large tribal population and limited agricultural development though having the potentiality, WVC with the help of KGVK (Krishi Gram Vikash Kendra) has distributed better quality and improved seeds which were hybrid and even pollinated which can be preserved for years and the result of production were tremendous. Through existing indigenous practice WVC helped Jharkhand farmers to get acquainted with 57 different types of globally available vegetables and crops for e.g. Amarnath, Rosella, Malabar Spinach, KangKong Moringa (Drumsticks) et al. Dr. Warwick Easdown, Regional Director of WVC believes there is a huge market for home garden seed packets even in urban areas.
For flood affected areas, special kind of seeds are developed which can not only sustain the wet soil but also can be productive within 3-4 weeks of plantation. Apart from researching for the improvement of the quality of the seeds and making them available to the farmers, WVC also provides training to the public regarding various aspects like spacing between the crops, direction towards sun, water requirements, and sustainability of the seed.
The advantages of home gardens are not only restricted to rural areas but also to urban cities, especially for those people who love gardening and growing vegetables at their free space. WVC has solution for the slum-dwellers too who have very little or no space at all for home gardening. They suggest growing small vegetable plants in hanging pots, other kinds of pots if possible, growing plants in jars and bags etc. and even they require a very less amount of manures. Apart from other NGOs like KGVK, government organizations like Telengana Horticulture Department also support this cause. Other South Asian countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has also adopted this concept of home gardens. “Home Gardens are tremendous treasure trove of vegetables and nutrition” says Dr. Warwick.
The advantages of home gardens are not restricted to rural areas but also to cities, especially for people who love getting outdoor exercise. An interesting study by WorldVeg showed that the exercise involved in growing a 6mx6m home garden could use up more calories than regular visits to the gym – far cheaper and with something tasty to enjoy at the end.
Two basic rules
So if you are contemplating gifting plants, here are two basic rules. First, where are they likely to keep it. If it is going to be a typical office with little natural light, choose a low-light plant, like Pothos. Second, who are you gifting it to? If, say, your girlfriend is a first timer, you might want to propose to her with a hardy plant that lasts as long as your love! I’d recommend a Mother-in-law’s-tongue (snake plant), though the name can make her a tad uncomfortable!