Making Nutritious Food Accessible: A Multifunctional Approach to Food and Nutrition Security in Ethiopia's Home Gardens

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In the face of persistent food and nutrition insecurity affecting over 20 million Ethiopians a quiet revolution is taking root. This revolution unfolds within the verdant walls of multifunctional home gardens, where diversification and resourcefulness empower communities to chart a path toward self-sufficiency and well-being. From grafted avocado trees brimming with vital nutrients to free-range poultry providing protein and organic fertilizer, these miniature ecosystems stand as a beacon of resilience in a landscape marked by challenges. Within their thriving boundaries, Ethiopian home gardens not only provide sustenance; they weave a tapestry of hope, environmental stewardship, and a brighter future for generations to come.

Harnessing the Potential of Home Gardens

Ethiopia’s diverse agroecology, particularly in zones like Hadiya and North Shewa, holds immense potential for thriving home gardens. However, many farmers often stick to monoculture practices or leave their land fallow during dry seasons, missing out on the benefits of diversification. This is where the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT step in within the Mixed Farming Systems Initiative and collaboration with district agriculture offices. They implement innovative home garden interventions, tailored to the specific needs and challenges of each region.

Three Intervention Pillars with a Multifaceted Approach

Fruit Production: In Lemo, grafted avocado seedlings, rich in healthy fats and vitamins, offer a dual benefit: improved household nutrition and income generation through fruit sales. Similarly, North Shewa farmers plant apple seedlings, adding another layer of dietary diversity.

Vegetable Cultivation: Leafy greens like Ethiopian collard and lettuce, brimming with essential vitamins and minerals, are woven into the home garden tapestry. This ensures access to fresh, chemical-free produce, vital for maintaining good health.

Backyard Poultry Raising: Chickens provide readily available protein and eggs, while their manure serves as valuable organic fertilizer, boosting vegetable productivity and soil health. This integrated approach reduces reliance on external inputs and promotes sustainable practices.

Integration and Impact

The interventions go beyond simply providing resources. It fosters knowledge exchange and peer learning through structured farmer groups. Model farmers like Ms. Tiruye Tadese and Mr. Degefa Aboye, who have successfully implemented the practices, act as mentors and inspirations for their peers. This collaborative environment empowers communities to learn from each other and adapt the interventions to their specific contexts. On a 300-square-meter plot, Ms. Tiruye Tadese, a female farmer from Abamote kebele in Basona worena district and a role model for others, has planted seedlings of the Anna apple variety together with Ethiopian collard greens and lettuce. She diligently follows and implements the finest management practices that were suggested during the orientation session. She began gathering green leafy veggies to feed her family, and she intends to continue doing so for a few more years. She was also given 25 Saso chicks. I receive eggs from my chickens and food from my garden. Triuye said, pleased with her progress, “What more could I ask for?”

On a 300 square meter plot, Mr. Degefa Aboye, a model farmer from Shurmu kebele in the Lemo area, has also planted 20 Hass avocado seedlings. He takes tremendous care when handling each of his plots. He also received 15 bovine chicks, and he is pleased with how well they have developed and adapted.

‘Avocado dreams are blooming on my plot, not just in their emerald leaves but in the financial stability they offer. Each golden egg and creamy avocado sold is an investment in our future, allowing me to expand and empower my farm, one feathered friend and seed at a time.’ Said Degefa with a satisfied voice.

The impacts extend far beyond the garden boundaries:

  • Improved food security and nutrition: Diverse diets rich in essential nutrients contribute to improved health and overall well-being.
  • Increased income: Fruit and egg sales provide additional revenue, empowering households and bolstering economic resilience.
  • Enhanced resilience: Diversification reduces vulnerability to droughts and other shocks, protecting livelihoods and food security.
  • Empowerment of women: Active participation in income-generating activities and improved household nutrition contribute to greater agency and decision-making power for women.

Multifunctional home gardens are not just a solution they can present a compelling strategy for improving household nutrition and income. By integrating these interventions into agricultural practices, households can enhance food security, diversify diets, and generate additional income, leading to improved livelihoods and overall well-being.

Featured image: Women farmer harvesting green leaf vegitable At Lemo District Shurmu kebe. Photo by Mohammed Ebrahim

Authors: Mohammed Ebrahim, Getachew Tesfaye, Lulseged Tamene, Anteneh Birhanu, Fikadu Tesema, Temesgen Alene, Amsalu Tilaye, Tewodros Abebe, Haimanot Seifu



We acknowledge the technical and financial support of the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA), Mixed Farming System and Excellence in Agronomy (EiA) initiatives in implementing this activity.


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