A Smorgasbord of Forest Gardens

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A Smorgasbord of Forest Gardens

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Mila Bristow and Bronwyn Myers visited RIEL PhD student Kamy Melvani in Sri Lanka last week.

Kamy Melvani

Kamy and Mila sit at a soil pit showing an impervious layer at 30cm depth

Kamy is an investigating the value of forest gardens to farmers. Forest gardens and home gardens have a long history in Sri Lanka and other tropical areas. Home gardens are the area around the home used for growing a mixture of trees and non-tree garden plants, often include livestock, providing food and possibly cash crops to the household.  Forest gardens are home gardens that are dominated by trees.

Although these definitions may seem clear, one of the challenges in Kamy’s project is defining what is meant by home gardens and forest gardens.  There are many types of forest gardens; they vary in size, age, composition, species from which produce is harvested, land use history and most importantly, their purpose.  Forest gardens can provide produce - produce used by the family as well as cash crops such as pepper and cloves. Kamy’s study aims to elucidate the values of these diverse gardens, the value to the farmers and their families.

In the first stage of her field work, Kamy will characterise forest gardens and create a typology. In our whirlwind tour of forest gardens in the Intermediate Zone of Sri Lanka we got a taste for the diversity within forest gardens and we developed the methods of measuring forest gardens. During the trip, Kamy learnt about forest measurement, site mapping, field procedures, note taking, data entry, and about the complex history of the land on which these gardens grow.

In short:

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