“To me, food production only took place in the big field. With a lot of persuasion from my neighbours, I started to grow on a kitchen garden and now I see the backyard strengthen our food security and generate income.” says Emilia Gama, farmer from Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte State
As our Swarm Blogger Kodili already mentioned, kitchen gardens are an important productive activity, usually led by women in Uganda. It’s same in Brazil too. When I knew about family farming agriculture, I also realized that kitchen gardens can have a special role at the family piece of land, especially at the agro-ecological perspective.
Kitchen gardens are located near by the house, many times not used in family agriculture, but, nevertheless, have a strong productive potential. From the agro-ecological perspective, the kitchen gardens are composed by water-handling techniques, planting associations and fruits processing and it is separated between spaces destined for the crop, vegetable-gardens and fruits in an integrated and complementary way.
Like in Uganda, in Brazil also women are responsible for kitchen gardens. Actually, all over Brazil, the participation of Brazilian women in agriculture and livestock is extremely relevant, especially in food production for self-consumption. However, the official data doesn’t always back up this reality.
The reason: the work of rural women is invisible or little recognized. According to research carried out by Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Development, in2006, 80.7 per cent of women in agriculture have no income. They work in the field with their husbands and parents; are responsible for ensuring water and firewood; accumulate reproductive responsibilities, such as the care of house, children and elderly; and they are also responsible for the kitchen gardens and raising of small animals for the family consumption. Once there is a surplus, they can sell it on open markets.
The Women’s Group from the picture is located in the community of Serro Azul, at Pernambuco State, a region where sugar cane production is predominant. Many farmers believe the sugar cane production offers faster income and therefore a lot of them stop growing traditional crop which provides food for the families. However, surrounded by the monoculture of sugarcane, some farmers, and especially some women farmers, values food for own consumption, such as beans, manioc, corn, lettuce, beets and coriander, rather than the sugar cane.
Kitchen gardens in a way helped them to grow what they want to eat. I took this picture last year when women started their own kitchen garden and were starting a collective kitchen garden in the former sugarcane factory. During centuries of Brazilian colonization, the production of sugar cane was the main economic activity lead by Portugal, the metropolis. The profit was achieved through the exploitation of African slave labor and natural resources of the colony. Even after the colonial age, people still insists on the monoculture of sugarcane, still based on exploitation of resources and workes that aren’t well paid. This makes the production of a kitchen garden in a former sugar cane factory even more representative.
Reassigning meaning of spaces and changing values
"When I started to make organic fertilizer from degradable waste from my family in the backyard of my house, my neighbors labeled me as the dirty lady. But now they also have started to use the same technique to increase the productivity of their land"
shared a woman farmer from Brazil. Thus, backyards can also be a way to give a new meaning to the traditional spaces around the house
Backyards are also a way to give a new meaning to a traditional space around the house. Once, a women farmer said to me when she started to fertilize the land surrounding her house, putting the remains of food and fodder, the neighbors began to label her as dirty. Little by little, she explained to them this was a method to improve land fertility and people started to use this organic fertilizer technique.
Kitchen gardens brought positive outcomes like enabled awareness for waste and changes in eating habits. For example it improved the families´ quality of life, especially the children, who substituted soft drinks for fresh fruit and pulp juice made by their mothers, consumption of vegetables and greeneries that were not included in the menu before.
Between Brazil and Africa
Looking at the Brazilian experience and reading what Kodili wrote about Uganda makes me believe that despite many differences we share some similarities.
In Brazil or in Africa, women have a key role in agriculture which is not valued. And either in Brazil or Uganda, or the whole Latin America and Africa, support to women farmers is an essential strategy to secure people’s right to food.