The COVID-19 pandemic, now nearing an end to its second year of existence, has prompted millions of households across the world to take up home food gardening. People have turned on a “green finger” to sow, grow and harvest vegetables, fruits and grains just like their long-ago ancestors.
We have transformed from hyperactive texting vagabonds to garden-bound locals, growing a fresh, tasty food supply on our own terra firma. Food gardening behaviors have taken on a new significance following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Garden retailers have reported exponential increases in sales, in some cases up to 450%. Much of these sales represent new gardens, mainly millennials, purchasing supplies to establish household food gardens.
Motivations for growing food at home can be complex and varied. Some researchers place these motivations, as per an article Home Food Gardening in Response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on a spectrum with food security at one end and leisure activity at the other. It is certainly true that the handful of studies investigating home food gardening practices have demonstrated consistent interest in its contribution to household food security.
There are links between times of economic hardships and increases in home food gardening. Governments have a keen understanding of the role that home gardening can play in supporting and supplementing industrial food systems. Home food gardening as a response to economic hardship is not a strategy solely employed by lower income households, but is in fact utilized within every income bracket. Individuals living within a community where home food gardening is embedded in the community culture, or individuals who grew up in a rural area or on a farm are more likely to grow food themselves.
One Indian state that comes to mind is Odisha. In May 2020, the women farmers started a nutria-sensitive initiative developing a nutrition garden in their front and backyard spaces, supported by the Odisha Livelihoods Mission led by the district administration of Mayurbhanj and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The women farmers have been able to strengthen their income and fod security and underpin a green recovery from the pandemic.
According to IndiaSpend, the nutrition gardens use a circular pattern, with seven rings that include a range of organic green and leafy vegetables, legumes, tubers and yellow fruits to complete a four-color diet. Basant Kumar Prusti, additional block development officer, Khunta, said over 42,000 women farmers are regularly harvesting vegetables from their nutritional gardens in Mayurbhanj. “In tribal areas women have traditionally played a crucial role in ensuring their household’s food security,” said Manaranjan Naik, welfare extension officer, Khunta. “In this trying time, the nutrition gardening model has further empowered them to decide what food to grow, consume and sell.”
Sambari Marani, community resource person on sustainable agriculture in Chandpur of Baripada, highlighted that more tribal farmers in Mayurbhanj are diversifying to grow more vegetables for higher returns. “Earlier, farmers mostly cultivated chickpeas and mustard. But now, we have cultivated brinjal, tomatoes, pumkin, chillies, bitter guord, beans, elephant yam and green leaves.”
Thanks to such nutrition gardens, households are able to grow sufficient food and don’t need to buy vegetables, and are able to save up to Rs 400 per week.