Script 36.3


The importance of vegetables in our diets cannot be over emphasized. The vegetables we eat provide our bodies with vitamins and minerals which protect us from diseases.

The dry season, then, is a challenge to families, especially to women who are responsible for family meals. This scarcity of green vegetables is sometimes so severe that some villagers actually go to the town markets to look for vegetables. Because of this scarcity in the dry season, the available vegetables are usually very expensive and unaffordable. Sometimes the vegetables are sold for four or five times the regular price.

The question now is: “Why not grow vegetables in the dry season to cut down the food costs of the family? Why should families buy all their vegetables if they can easily grow some of their own?” Here are some of the common responses.

I do not have land.
I do not have time.
There is no water in the dry season.
Stray animals will destroy the garden.

All these answers are true to an extent, but should we fold our arms and sit back? Let’s examine each of these excuses.

It is true that many people do not have much land. But the plots on which their houses stand may have backyards which are often big enough and fertile enough for gardening. Even two or three square metres of soil wisely used can contribute rich vegetables to the family diet. These vegetables can have a great nutritional value for the family. If you do not have much land, you can grow vegetables in large, broken, or thrown away pots or buckets, basins, or motor tires, as many people do with home grown flowers. All you need is to fill them up with humus, soil or compost.

You can store used water from the kitchen and use it to water the vegetables in the evening. Avoid using soapy water and water with chemicals in it. Let hot water cool before watering. If vegetable beds are covered with a mulch such as dry grass the soil will remain cool and moist and you may not need to water every day. Ask children to carry buckets of water every evening to water vegetables. Approach them tactfully and explain to them the importance of growing vegetables and then do a follow up to see that the work is done. You should sometimes do the work yourself to let the children appreciate the real importance of the work.

Not a lot of time is needed to maintain a kitchen garden. You need to spend some time starting the garden because you have to clear, till, make beds, and look for manure. After the garden has been established, maintenance is easy especially if you cover the beds with dry grass as mentioned above. The beds will remain cool, and little or no weeds will grow, thereby reducing labour. You can then, from time to time, check and control pests and diseases. If you plan well, you will always have time to do most of our important work.

Stray animals are a hindrance to crop cultivation both in our towns and villages. However, where there is a will there is a way. Any family that wants to grow vegetables must work hard to protect the garden.

The best thing to do is to fence your garden. You could also politely ask the owner of the animals to confine them. Do not harm or kill someone’s animal. You should rather take the matter up to the traditional council or appropriate authorities. If it is wild animals that are destroying your vegetables, you can keep the garden and its surroundings clean, set traps, and mount scarecrows.

These are some of the things necessary for successful gardening. If you need advice, contact an agricultural extension worker. Some people consider agriculture to be a dirty job or a profession meant only for uneducated people. It is high time we change our mentalities and take up agriculture seriously because when the family diet is low in food nutrients, we can expect to pay dearly by way of health bills. And, when the family’s health is at stake, it is no longer a problem for the woman alone.


This article was written by Martha Ghanla, Trainer for Women’s Programmes, Inades Formation, Bamenda, Cameroon. It is adapted from an article in Rural Development Review, Edition No. 13 (July September 1992), Bamenda, North West Province, Cameroon.

The production of this script was made possible with the generous support of Nancy’s Very Own Foundation, Toronto, Ontario.

Information Sources

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The bio-intensive approach to small scale household food production, 1993, 87 pages. International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Silang, Cavite, Philippines.

Dry season gardening for improving child nutrition, Paul Sommers, 1984, 49 pages. UNICEF, 3 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017, U.S.A.

Food from dryland gardens, David Cleveland and Daniela Soleri, 1991, 389 pages. Centre for People, Food and Environment, 344 South Third Avenue, Tucson, Arizona, 85701, USA.

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