Home gardening: The best solution for food shortages and health | Sunday Observer

Home gardening: The best solution for food shortages and health

20 November, 2022

Home gardening is perhaps the most important alternative method of food production in almost all developing countries, including Sri Lanka. It remains one of the most successful substitutes for producing food for everyday consumption while providing many health and other benefits to society.

Home gardening has also been identified by experts as an effective alternative process for providing all-year-round access to food for most rural and suburban households in the country. While making a significant contribution to food security in Sri Lanka, the harvest of home gardening also provides a nutritious, safe, healthy, and chemical-free supply of food to meet daily household needs.

The United Nations Committee on World Food Security defines food security as “the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to an adequate supply of food that is safe and fits their dietary needs for an active and healthy life.” Despite the extensive explanation, Sri Lanka seems to be heading for a major food security crisis if the authorities do not come up with an effective national effort immediately.

Food shortage

The current food shortage is taking place due to several reasons, mainly the ban on chemical fertiliser by the previous Government, which has created an alarming food crisis in the country. Two consecutive seasons of low harvests resulted in a major loss in production, along with decreased imports of food grains because of foreign exchange restrictions.

Adding fuel to the fire, many institutions, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), warn of a forthcoming global food crisis that could impact almost every country in the world. The most distressing factor for Sri Lanka is that the global food shortage will collide with the dire food security that currently prevails in the country. Food product exports by countries from which Sri Lanka imports some essential products may face severe restrictions.

In light of the looming food crisis and the difficulties the agricultural industry is facing, Sri Lankan subject specialists and scholars have presented several viable proposals to the previous Government on food security. The irony is that the new government so far has not seriously discussed such projects, proposals, or recommendations as of now.

At the time, media reports revealed that the short-, medium-, and long-term fixes had been presented as a proposal for food security and other agricultural endeavours. The academics who presented the proposal are unanimous in their belief that putting the plan’s recommendations into action will help the nation’s food issue be resolved.

More importantly, according to a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), 6.3 million people in Sri Lanka are believed to be suffering from moderate to severe acute food insecurity, and their situation is predicted to get worse if adequate support is not given.

Globally, home gardens have been identified as an important supplemental source contributing to food security and livelihoods. Home gardening has been an integral component of local food systems for centuries in Sri Lanka. Hence, with a little shove from the authorities, the citizenry will undoubtedly grab the concept with open arms, mainly for two reasons.

Firstly, to reduce the burden of the prevailing unbearable cost of food and, secondly, to consume a healthy diet. However, they certainly need some motivation to start.

Currently, in Sri Lanka, home gardening is much more than just a pleasure or enjoyable activity. Not only do people actually enjoy gardening since it has so many scientifically established advantages, but it can also substantially reduce their day-to-day living expenses established advantages, but it can also substantially reduce their day-to-day living expenses. People can profit from gardening in a variety of ways.

The most evident financial advantage of home gardening is the ability to reduce grocery expenses, which have skyrocketed during the past several months. On the one hand, the growers can reduce household expenses and make extra money by selling the extra yield in addition to their crops at the market.

For example, if someone grows plantains or vegetables in their backyard, they may be able to sell them to the market with ease because everyone appreciates organic food.

Also, home gardening is acknowledged as a very powerful “mood enhancer” in addition to other financial perks. Being outside and gardening can be an immensely beneficial stress reliever, especially when people are struggling to meet ends due to the prevailing deep financial crisis and other ongoing chaos. Gardening has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety in those who engage in such activities on a regular basis.


The grower has complete control over the fertiliser used during the growing process when cultivating food in the backyard. Whatever the cultivation is, the gardener has a chance to avoid toxic materials, particularly chemical fertilisers and pesticides. For centuries, Sri Lankans have been accustomed to using indigenous methods to control weeds and pests. Those foregone methods can be reintroduced successfully through a well-structured communication effort. By encouraging home gardening, households can be offered the opportunity to consume healthy organic food.

In contrast to the produce found in the market, which is frequently collected before it is fully mature, produce grown at home can be picked only when it is ready. Freshly harvested produce from a home garden has better quality than store-bought produce, which often contains unidentified chemicals. Home grown vegetables are always healthier because they retain more nutrients when eaten soon after harvest.

Home gardening provides immense benefits to the deteriorating environment. Planting a garden offers the chance to improve the environment. Most of the kitchen and outdoor waste can be turned into a nutrient-rich garden fertiliser by composting it. Home gardening activities produce less pollution and groundwater contamination in the absence of chemicals. Also, by keeping the soil in place, garden plants frequently aid in reducing soil erosion.

By no means is home gardening a guaranteed answer to the approaching food crisis. However, a concerted effort by the authorities to encourage people to engage in more home gardening will lessen the effects of the current severe shortage because it can successfully replace a substantial portion of every family’s diet.

It goes without saying that the media may be crucial, if not the most effective, in promoting backyard and community gardening. During the Covid-19 disaster period, the general population was effectively encouraged and inspired by both mainstream and social media.

However, the media is taking the backseat and allowing more space for political issues than other important public issues such as food security. Unquestionably, the media is perhaps the most important tool to spread the huge benefits of home gardening to the masses.

Regrettably, opposition political parties or those engaged in never-ending protest campaigns for system change do not appear to be interested in confronting the impending food crisis. They keep on disregarding the alarming warnings of local and foreign intellectuals and organisations.

At present, a vast majority of them are interested in an imminent election and vehemently campaign to pressurise the government into holding an election.

While timely elections are essential for democracy, none of them seems to have remembered that food security is more important in the long run. Given Sri Lanka’s history, it’s a foregone conclusion that the food crisis will be used as effective campaign fodder.

For the past many years, Sri Lanka has been heavily dependent on food imports. However, at a time when the state is desperate for foreign currency, the import of food products has severe limitations. It has come to a point where the country has to find its own food for survival.

Hence, everyone who has space, even a small one, must be encouraged to enter into home gardening to help face the challenge of the forthcoming food shortage, in addition to many other benefits.