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Home gardens and Dioscorea species – A case study from the climatic zones of Sri Lanka
Home gardens are considered as vital units for enhancing food security particularly in developing nations of South Asia, such as Sri Lanka. Although the yam crop Dioscorea spp. constitute a popular but still minor component in Sri Lankan home gardens, they have the potential of producing large quantities of edible material with minimal inputs. However, their real value in South Asian home gardens is not yet reported. Hence, this study was carried out to get insights into home garden characteristics, gardener demography as well as current management practices within 300 Sri Lankan home garden systems that are located along a climatic gradient. By using interviews and field observations, gardeners, who cultivated in particular Dioscorea species, were studied within 10 of the 25 administrative districts distributed in the wet, intermediate and dry climatic zone of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, current management practices of yams cultivation were analyzed on local scale and compared afterwards with management recommendations published in the year 2006 by the Department of Agriculture. Dioscorea species were found in a majority of home gardens, especially in wet and intermediate zones of Sri Lanka. D. alata was the most prominent species and was managed at a subsistence level and not as per recommendations developed by the Department of Agriculture. Our results revealed that Dioscorea alata is an essential component of Sri Lankan home gardens in rural areas and can yield substantial quantities of edible tubers with low input, especially during times of food scarcities, and has therefore the potential to enhance food security and rural development.