Wednesday March 5 2014

FARMER’S DIARY: Why we should have our own food gardens

By Michael J. Ssali

For most households in rural areas, it is almost impossible to survive without a family food garden. They depend on the family garden for most of their food items and it is often also their main source of income.

One advantage of owning a family food garden is that the members can grow food crops of their choice and, with good weather and appropriate farming practices, it is possible to sustain adequate food production.

In this year, 2014, which is observed by the UN as the International Year of Family Farming, it is worthwhile for us to think about the many advantages of households producing their own food in their own food gardens.

The Secretary General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva, has described family food gardens as a means of handing down traditional food growing skills and food culture from one generation to the next.

Because the gardens are worked on physically by individual household members using simple tools, they provide an excellent opportunity for growing traditional food crops, which are also part of our heritage. Working on the family food garden offers a wonderful chance for physical fitness since it exercises the body muscles.

With proper guidance about healthy nutritional requirements, farmers have the chance to grow the kind of food crops that they want to be part of their diet to fight malnutrition, especially for pregnant women and children.

“For decades, poor farmers were seen as a problem to be solved,” Graziano said. “But where, and when, people and governments have been able to give them the support they need and have understood that family farmers are, in fact, part of the solution, we have seen promising results.”

Some of the support that our famers need includes education about measures to curb soil degradation, mindless forest destruction, and fresh water depletion. They have to be introduced to new farming technologies without destroying the much cherished positive practices that have sustained traditional food production throughout the ages.

Unregulated usage of chemical pesticides and fertilisers has been known to reduce the resilience of traditional crops to the harsh climatic conditions brought about by global warming.