Planning for and Assessment of Home Gardens

SEADS Handbook Location: Chapter 5 (book p. 53, PDF p. 60)

Catholic Relief Services used project documents, public literature, and interviews with experts to examine two hypotheses:

  • Vegetable seed interventions lead to better family nutrition during a crisis.
  • Vegetable seed interventions help families generate income during a crisis.

The study reports that home garden programs have had a significant impact on beneficiaries’ consumption of nutritious foods and are frequently used by households for surplus income generation, but programs need to be well designed to achieve this impact. Home garden programs have been shown to increase dietary diversity. These improvements have not generally led to significant improvements in important nutrition outcomes. Home garden interventions are often more successful at increasing dietary diversity if they use a multipronged approach. They can be a valuable source of income to households; however, gender dynamics within households determine whether women also benefit from this income. Vegetable seed and vegetable seed systems have distinct characteristics that practitioners need to consider:

  • Vegetable seed can be sourced from both local and global suppliers.
  • Distributing diverse vegetable seed “baskets” creates opportunities and challenges.
  • Seed distribution is only the first step in achieving benefits from vegetable production.

Findings related to the use of vegetable seed during crisis periods:

  • Vegetable seed is currently used to respond to protracted crises and/or droughts; organizations often decide to supply vegetable seed because dietary diversity is low rather than because a seed system assessment showed a lack of access to vegetable seed following a crisis.
  • The process of vegetable seed distribution was considered less logistically challenging than staple crop seed distribution.
  • Most project reports provided very few details about the seed selection process used by organizations.
  • Despite being easy to distribute, organizations faced multiple challenges in supplying the “right” vegetable seed.

Findings related to nutrition and income goals of vegetable seed interventions:

  • Nutrition goals are often more explicit in vegetable seed interventions than income goals; however, farmers often aim for both gains.
  • Vegetable seed interventions are always done in conjunction with other project activities, but it was not always clear how these activities formed a consistent approach to improve income or nutrition.
  • Nutrition objectives were unevenly addressed by most organizations. Projects are not in the habit of providing evidence of advancement in nutrition or income goals.

Best practice for indicator selection means that data should capture four main factors that determine the success of vegetable seed deliveries:

  • Information related to the appropriateness of the distributed seeds (quantity, types of crops, varieties, quality of seeds, and usefulness, i.e., purpose of utilization)
  • Agricultural data collection should contain garden-appropriate indicators that measure changes in beneficiaries’ access to vegetables at all times of year.
  • Dietary changes are a key element of vegetable seed interventions and need to be measured as part of a larger nutrition strategy.
  • Measuring the income generated from garden sales is an important part of assessing overall project impact.

Best practices for delivering a vegetable seed intervention:

  • Ensure that the situation on the ground is appropriate for a vegetable intervention.
  • Conduct a vegetable seed system assessment before deciding to supply seed.
  • From the beginning, plan to measure nutrition and income goals, including measurement of the impact of small-scale vegetable sales.
  • Incorporate vegetable seed deliveries into a broader nutritional strategy.
  • Strategically select a seed basket.
  • Design trainings to boost nutrition and income returns from garden plots.

Pincus, L., Dubois, T., Marks, P. & Sperling, L. (2017). Emergency vegetable seed interventions: Can we expect improved nutrition or income generation among beneficiaries? United States Agency for International Development (USAID). https://seedsystem.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Emergency-