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The structure of four home gardens in the Petén, Guatemala

by Gillespie, A.R; Knudson, D.M; Geilfus, F.
Publisher: Oct 1993ISSN: 0167-4366.Subject(s): HUERTOS FAMILIARES | SOSTENIBILIDAD | AGROFORESTERIA | ESTRUCTURA DE LA EXPLOTACION | PETEN | GUATEMALA | DOMESTIC GARDENS | SUSTAINABILITY | AGROFORESTRY | FARM STRUCTURE | GUATEMALA | JARDIN FAMILIAL | DURABILITE | AGROFORESTERIE | STRUCTURE D'EXPLOITATION AGRICOLE | GUATEMALA In: Agroforestry Systems (Países Bajos) v. 24(1) p. 157-170Summary: Forest-covered home gardens around the tropical world vary in their structure, but serve to supply food and other products for direct family consumption or marketing. Little quantitative data exist defining home garden structure. Thus, this study was undertaken to examine the variation in home garden structures in response to market or household needs and the subsequent variation in light interception and productivity. Four home gardens were studied in the Department of the Petén, in northern Guatemala. Areal extent and height of canopies were mapped in transects through four gardens representing a range of site water regimes and market orientation. Light intensities incident on the ground were measured along each transect to assess light use. Results showed structural complexity, with full canopy closure in the one or more layers within the canopy for most gardens. The garden architectures made efficient use of light and space, with intensive management for food and fuel production. Farmers grew the crops for both cash and family subsistence. One home garden on a comparatively dry site with shallow soil seemed less structured, with only a single broken canopy layer, but with diverse species of plants. The results indicate that development of gardens in this area utilized existing trees, thinning them to leave the most useful, and inserting other desirable trees and shrubs in the understory and in open spaces. This strategy seemed to maximize light use, regardless of market orientation. This look at the structure and composition of four home gardens, in a forested area of current immigration, demonstrated (1) variety of organization and plant components, (2) different architecture for different soil/site conditions and market orientations, and (3) efficient use of available light through the arrangement of plants.
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Forest-covered home gardens around the tropical world vary in their structure, but serve to supply food and other products for direct family consumption or marketing. Little quantitative data exist defining home garden structure. Thus, this study was undertaken to examine the variation in home garden structures in response to market or household needs and the subsequent variation in light interception and productivity. Four home gardens were studied in the Department of the Petén, in northern Guatemala. Areal extent and height of canopies were mapped in transects through four gardens representing a range of site water regimes and market orientation. Light intensities incident on the ground were measured along each transect to assess light use. Results showed structural complexity, with full canopy closure in the one or more layers within the canopy for most gardens. The garden architectures made efficient use of light and space, with intensive management for food and fuel production. Farmers grew the crops for both cash and family subsistence. One home garden on a comparatively dry site with shallow soil seemed less structured, with only a single broken canopy layer, but with diverse species of plants. The results indicate that development of gardens in this area utilized existing trees, thinning them to leave the most useful, and inserting other desirable trees and shrubs in the understory and in open spaces. This strategy seemed to maximize light use, regardless of market orientation. This look at the structure and composition of four home gardens, in a forested area of current immigration, demonstrated (1) variety of organization and plant components, (2) different architecture for different soil/site conditions and market orientations, and (3) efficient use of available light through the arrangement of plants.

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