Home gardens an ancient agroforestry system

In the Near East, home gardens are documented in paintings dated 3,000 years b.c., and the practice continues in modern times. There are several well-documented examples of home gardens from Java, and they are also common in other parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Africa, and Latin America. They can contain great species diversity with many life forms varying from climbers to tall trees and vines, creating a forest-like, multistory canopy structure. The canopies of most home gardens consist of two to five layers. Usually, there are no rows, blocks, or definite planting distances among components. Chemical fertilizers are generally not used, but rather dung, household wastes, and pruning residues are used instead. The use of species with anti-pest properties is also a widespread practice (Fernandes et al. 1989; Michon et al. 1989). Home gardens generally have stable yields and great variety of products, allowing continuous or repeated harvests during the year under a low-input system.

In western Java, the average size of a home garden is <0.1 ha, with an average of 19.0 and 24 species per garden in the dry and wet seasons, respectively. The size of home gardens first increases, then decreases with altitude. The highest number of species occurs at 500-1,000 m. Poor people tend to grow more staples, vegetables, and fruits, while wealthier people tend to grow more ornamentals and high-economic value cash crops. More subsistence crops are grown in remote areas; more cash crops are grown near cities. Culture and tradition influence composition: e.g., more medicinal plants are found in west Java, while tobacco and coffee are more commonly grown in Muslim districts of southern Ethiopia. Animals are found in most gardens, but pigs are not found in Muslim home gardens. In west Java with intense rains, fishponds are usually present (Soemarwoto 1987).

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