Can governments promote homestead gardening at scale? Evidence from Ethiopia
This study (PDF) in the Global Food Security Journal analyzes a large and novel survey on the adoption of a nationwide homestead gardens (HG) program implemented by the Ethiopian government. Low intake of fruits and vegetables is a major cause of micronutrient deficiencies in the developing world. Since the 1980s, HG programs have been promoted by NGO’s. Concerns with these programs are the lack of scalability, they only work in areas with/without good access to markets and are only suitable for water-abundant ecologies. In Ethiopia, HG was promoted by the government. Results show that adaption of homestead gardens in water-scarce communities is low (<12%) suggesting water access is the main barrier to HG adoption. In more water-abundant communities, HG promotion is more effective. Here, greater public promotion of HGs encourages HG adoption. This suggests that, in the Ethiopian context at least, the public extension system may be an effective institution for changing households’ production choices where ecological constraints are not binding. Also of relevance is that market quality is positively associated with HG adoption, suggesting that having a marketing outlet for fruits and vegetables (FV) encourages adoption. The clear importance of water availability for FV production calls for more strategic thinking about the viability and cost-effectiveness of promoting HGs in water-constrained communities. In water-scarce ecologies sequencing of programs needs to be given more thought: investments to improve water access through drip irrigation or other small-scale infrastructure measures must precede FV programs. Finally, the results justify more research and policy consideration of markets and their role in providing nutritious foods at different times of the year. One interesting line for future research is to understand how the importance of markets influences the nutritional impacts of HG promotion.