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What is good about Sri Lankan homegardens with regards to food security? A synthesis of the current scientific knowledge of a multifunctional land-use system

Abstract

Recently, there has been growing interest in agroforestry systems due to their great potential to mitigate threats to household food and nutrition security from soaring food prices but also as carbon sinks. In Sri Lanka, smallholder farms such as homegardens constitute a majority of Sri Lanka’s total annual crop and timber production. Despite Sri Lankan homegardens being considered desirable and sustainable land-use systems, their role in food and nutrition security is not yet entirely understood. By synthesising scientific articles and grey literature we sought the link between food security and homegardens by quantifying their products or services and ascertaining whether food security characteristics are assessed as direct or indirect impacts. The results show that 27% of 92 identified articles directly quantified aspects that are relevant to food security. Another 51% of the articles quantified indirect aspects that have relevance for food security, including climate, soil, ecosystem services, structural and floristic diversity and economic aspects. Twenty-two percent of the articles were categorised as being qualitative or conceptual and contained no direct assessments or quantification of food security. The presence of significant merits from homegardens includes providing food security throughout the year at low-cost while sustaining numerous ecosystem services. This benefits particularly the poor farmers. However, many studies are descriptive and only provide location-specific information on single research focuses such as plant species, yield and management. There are few comparisons with crop land, forests or other production systems, and there is even less empirical evidence and quantification of the food security and other benefits. Seven areas where more scientific focus would be beneficial are identified. Homegardens are strong in national policies and to reach a greater level of efficiency within these activities our findings suggest more emphasis on a higher degree of inclusiveness of relevant stakeholders and long-term engagements with context specific guidance.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the AgriFoSe2030 programme for the financial support provided. Also many thanks to Professor D.K.N.G Pushpakumara and Professor Buddhi Marambe for providing their insights and thoughts. We also thank Gert Nyberg and Daniel Ternald for their constructive comments on the manuscript.

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Mattsson, E., Ostwald, M. & Nissanka, S.P. What is good about Sri Lankan homegardens with regards to food security? A synthesis of the current scientific knowledge of a multifunctional land-use system. Agroforest Syst 92, 1469–1484 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-017-0093-6

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Keywords

  • Agroforestry
  • Sri Lanka
  • Nutrition
  • Diversity
  • Intensification
  • Trees
  • Crops
  • Landscape