The economic costs and impact of home gardening in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Gerstl, Sibylle. The economic costs and impact of home gardening in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 2001, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Science.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_5806

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The world’s population is increasing by about 85 million every year (LEISINGER,
2000; WORLD BANK, 2000). These figures are closely related to the rapid growth of
urban centers. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions most affected by
urbanization. It has an annual growth rate of 2.8% in the total population and 5.8% in
the urban population (WORLD BANK, 2000). This process can also be seen in
Burkina Faso, where the capital, Ouagadougou, had a growth rate of 6.8% in 1998
compared to 2.8% for the entire country (LEREBOURS PIGEONNIERE & JOMNI,
1998). In connection with the dynamic urbanization in developing countries, the informal
sector becomes the predominate form of economic production among city-dwellers
(AKKARI, 1995; IMFELD, 1995). One expanding sector of the informal urban
economy is urban agriculture (LANDAUER & BRAZIL, 1990; SMIT, 1996). Home
gardening is a part of the urban agriculture system and can be seen as a small-scale
production of vegetables, fruits, flowers and plants on small plots. In arid and semiarid
regions, such as the Sub-Saharan countries, where hunger and malnutrition are
becoming more and more urban problems, urban agriculture is an activity that
contributes to the nutritional self-reliance of a town. In addition, it is an incomegenerating
activity mainly for the less privileged segments of the population (ILEIA,
1994; RABINOVITCH & SCHMETZER, 1997). Nevertheless, in addition to these
benefits of urban agriculture for towns and their inhabitants, urban agriculture also
creates risks, such as health problems caused by polluted water used for irrigation
(i.e. virus, bacteria and parasites / CISSE, 1997; BOSSHART, 1998) and
contaminated soils (MARA & CAIRNCROSS, 1991), and socio-economic difficulties,
which vary from season to season. Urban agriculture depends crucially on the
annual rainfall, which is limited to the months of the rainy season, to irrigate the
fields. This study was undertaken within the project ‘Health impact and management of
wastewater use in small-scale agriculture in urban Saharan settings, risks and
potential intervention strategies’. It is a multidisciplinary project concerning the
epidemiological, engineering, socio-cultural and economic dimensions of home gardening, emphasizing health risks associated with the use of wastewater for
To complete the multidimensional project, the overall aim of this study was to
evaluate the economic costs and impact of home gardening, taking as examples
three separate sites with different social and economic structures in Ouagadougou.
The focus was on the identification of a possible link between the economic
dimension of home gardening and the health status of home gardeners. As the
economic factor (income and expenditures) is only one of the many factors of the
urban agriculture system (i.e. quality and quantity of water and soil, seasonality,
variation of vegetables, trade possibilities), it was of interest to know how the
economic factor influenced the health status of home gardeners in comparison to
other city-dwellers. From among the 48 different sites of home gardening in Ouagadougou, three sites
were selected for the study. They are three of the main and biggest home gardening
sites in town and show clear differences in the position of urban agriculture, the
social organization, the pattern of vegetable production and the planting and
irrigation strategies.
Field work took place after the dry season in 1998 and after the rainy season in
1999. The dry season in 1998 was a particularly difficult season as rainwater was
running short very early in this season.
Using a questionnaire, information was collected about the economic status of
households engaged in home gardening (HGs households) and compared with that
of households in the same area engaged in any activity other than home gardening
(NHGs households). Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods
and adhering to the principle of triangulation, the information of the questionnaire
was completed by focus group discussions with home gardeners and market
vendors and by personal observations. One of the main results of the study was that both in the dry and in the rainy season
HGs households had a lower estimated average monthly income than their
counterparts practicing any activity other than home gardening. In addition to the
generally lower income level a different seasonal pattern could also be seen. In all
three sites the average monthly income in HGs households was higher in the dry season than in the rainy season. Furthermore, the HGs income varied from site to
site, according to the different external factors of each site, which were mainly the
different quality of irrigation water and the vegetable patterns.
In the whole study population more than half of the predictable expenditures were
spent on food. In addition to high food expenditures, a seasonality in the spending
could also clearly be seen in HGs households in each of the three sites. In the rainy
season HGs households had significantly lower expenditures for food than NHGs
households. This was due to the fact that in the rainy season the HGs households in
all three examined sites could obtain most of their food through subsistence
production of both vegetables and cereals. In the dry season the HGs households
had the same high expenditures for food as the NHGs households. The subsistence
production was reduced to a very low level and stopped totally at the end of the dry
season, because then there was no more water to irrigate the fields.
In all three sites the HGs households were not able to cover their monthly
expenditures with their estimated income, but the NHGs households always had a
surplus in the dry as well as in the rainy season. There were also differences in
socio-economic status in the study population: more HGs households than NHGs
households belonged to a lower socio-economic class. Home gardening can be seen as an income-generating activity especially for people
with few skills and limited education. (More than 80% of the HGs in the study were
illiterate.) However, the income obtained by home gardening was very low. In
addition, home gardening contributes to food security in a household, because it
saves food costs through subsistence production. However, this advantage was only
given for the rainy season. The HGs households in Ouagadougou belonged to one
of the lowest socio-economic classes. The risk of being exposed to seasonal
changes of the already low income and the risk of being exposed to food insecurity
at least in one season of the year made them extremely vulnerable. As they did not
have the potential to save money or to stock food they had almost no means to cope
with these risks.
Regarding the health status of the study population, in HGs and NHGs households,
in all three sites, and in the rainy as well as in the dry season, malaria, gastrointestinal
diseases including diarrhea, and respiratory diseases, were the most frequently named last illnesses. Furthermore, the average number of days of illness
was equivalent in all examined households, children had the highest rate of illness in
a household and the expenditures for medical care were comparable in all
households. Although different socio-economic classes in the study population could
be identified and HGs households belonged more often to lower socio-economic
classes, there was no correlation between the health status of a population group
and their socio-economic status.
In this study, the health risk related to practicing home gardening was not found in
Ouagadougou. These results indicate that lower monthly predictable expenditures, a
lower income and a lower expenditures coverage rate are not directly related to a
lower health status in the home gardeners’ population. Lessons learned from this study in Ouagadougou have scientific and practical
implications for other home gardening sites as well, since home gardening exists in
an ever growing number of countries and towns all over the world. Especially in
developing countries home gardening is seen as one of the main economic activities
of poorer urban households.
In all countries, home gardening depends on many external factors (see above). All
these determinants are difficult to influence and have a different priority for different
countries, towns and even sites. It was clearly seen in this study that despite the
similarity in activity HGs were not a homogenous group and had different economic
situations, which depended on the different external factors of the respective sites. In Sub-Saharan countries many external determinants that influence the urban
agriculture system show similar patterns. These determinants are mainly linked to
the quantity of the water for irrigation during the year and the seasonal variations
regarding income, expenditures and trade possibilities for HGs. Thus, the data
obtained in this study will have applications as a base for research and intervention
possibilities in other countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Further research, which
emerges from the results of the study, would be the search for rapid assessment
methods in order to detect faster particular groups at risk, which are related to urban
agriculture. Specific interventions, which arise from the findings of the study concern the micro
and macro levels. Concerning the feasible interventions to strengthen home
gardening, the existing external determinants at each specific site must be carefully
examined. The main factors are the quality of the soil as well as the water for
irrigation and the variation of vegetables.
On the micro level ‘HGs banks’ on the different home gardening sites should be
established. Carefully tailored to each site, such micro-credit schemes could
increase the income of home gardeners and might reduce seasonal variations in the
income by increasing productivity as well as identifying new income-generating
activities. In addition, a process of participatory action research should be
established in order to achieve the successful translation of interventions in each of
the sites due to the participation of the respective HGs.
On the macro level a wider acceptance of home gardening as an important activity in
the town should be achieved. This could be obtained by establishing a risk mapping
of home gardening and by organizing ‘information-education-communication’
Advisors:Tanner, Marcel
Committee Members:Leisinger, Klaus M.
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) > Former Units within Swiss TPH > Molecular Parasitology and Epidemiology (Beck)
UniBasel Contributors:Tanner, Marcel and Leisinger, Klaus M.
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:5806
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:428
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:22 Jan 2018 15:50
Deposited On:13 Feb 2009 14:37

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