UNDERUTILIZED PLANT SPECIES: IMPLICATIONS IN HOMESTEAD FARMING
The average diet of rural communities in West Bengal, India is highly deficient in calories, nutrients (calcium, iron) and vitamins (A and C). Fruits and vegetables growing in the homestead are the only sources of protective food for people living in villages in meeting their requirements of vitamins and minerals. We studied 180 households across six villages in the districts of Nadia, 24-Parganas and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. The study documents 42 widely used species of fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants, spices and fodders in homesteads. The underutilized plant species growing in homesteads in these villages were identified as (1) fruits: Artocarpus heterophyllus, Aegle marmelos, Emblica officinalis, Carissa carandus, Citrus paradisi, Dellenia indica, Feronia limonia, Grewia subinaequalis, Garcinia indica, Syzygium cuminii; (2) vegetables: amaranthus, cowpea, pointed gourd, winged bean, colocasia, drumstick, snake gourd, water chestnut, amorophophallus; (3) spices: betelvine, tamarind, coriander, turmeric, ginger; (4) medicinal plants: Datura alba, Adhatoda vasica, Ocimum sanctum, Plantago ovata, Bacopa monniera; (5) fodder: forage ground nut, barseem. Potential non-market benefits from homestead were identified as: (1) a portion of familys nutritional requirements met from the homestead; (2) an average of seven annual crop species in each homestead (crops are staggered so that there will be harvest throughout the year; (3) the diversity of plants maintained in homestead serves as a source of cash generation during emergency (e.g., bamboo, teak); (4) availability of medicines for common diseases like diarrhea, fever, cuts and wounds, cough, constipation, etc.; (5) as homestead is mainly maintained by female members, the homestead thereby increases the womens feelings of self worth; and (6) serves as a buffer for food and fodder during emergency, e.g., continuous several rainy days during monsoon.
Mitra, S.K. and Pathak, P.K. (2009). UNDERUTILIZED PLANT SPECIES: IMPLICATIONS IN HOMESTEAD FARMING. Acta Hortic. 806, 107-114
nutritional requirements, protective, buffer