Home Grown: Ngöbe Home Gardens in a Changing World Open Access

Locascio, Gillian Laura (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/cz30pt23b?locale=en


Home Grown: Ngöbe Home Gardens in a Changing World
By Gillian Laura Locascio

Home gardens--highly diverse plots near the house in which plants are cultivated on a small scale, mainly for home consumption--are internationally recognized for their role in environmental conservation, culture, and food security. For the indigenous Ngöbe communities of western Panama, who are battling declining productivity of the land and suffer the highest levels of malnutrition in the entire country, home gardens provide a stable and invaluable source of nutrition. While organizations have taken ecological factors such as climate, slope, and soil type, into account when they design home garden programs, they have struggled to include the more difficult-to-classify sociocultural and economic factors that impact garden use. As a result, many garden "betterment" programs do not fit the reality or interests of each community.

Research was conducted in three communities, one on the edge of the highway, at the entrance to the indigenous state or Comarca Ngöbe-Buglé, another one hour on foot from the first, and a third community that is also an hour away from the nearest road but has a ten year history of working with agricultural organizations. During three separate trips over the course of a year I lived in the communities, mapped gardens, and interviewed families and organizations. Of the human factors that shape home gardens, access to cash or the market and access to production or farmland are most influential. Organizations, though, that provide cash or material support over time can change the opportunity structure. It is possible to create a rapid assessment tool that allows home garden programs to adjust to these sociocultural and economic influences in different communities.

Home Grown
Ngöbe Home Gardens in a Changing World
Gillian Laura Locascio
Advisers Ellen Spears and Scott Lacy
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Emory College
of Emory University in partial fulfillment
of the requirements of the degree of
Bachelor of Sciences with Honors
Department of Environmental Studies

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
The Visitor...1

Research Questions...18
The Sites...19
Methods in the Field...20
Sources of Error...25
Important Terms?...28

The Woman of Two Worlds...31
Part I: In Search of Tradition...36

Leaving Afuera for the Comarca...39
Exploring through time...43
The Science of Home Gardens...45
Seeds of Change: Recent Developments...50
Nurä Jubäre: The Ngöbe Home Garden...56
Here and Now...63

The Workers...66
Part II: Going the Distance...69

Closeness: Quebrada Guabo...72
Just a Bit Farther: Cerro Concha...80
To Have a Farm...83
The Many Faces of the Market...93
Migrancy, Gender, and Labor at Home...99

The Organizer/The One Left Out...107
Part III: Organizations and Shortening the Distance...112

Histories of Organization...119

Cerro Concha...122
Quebrada Guabo...124
Hato Horcon...128

A Reason to Stay Home...133
Thinking like an Organization...138
Reinforcing Gender...139
Exporting Values...142
The Flip Side of a History of Organization: Inequality and Politics...147

The Outside Organization Director...152
Conclusion: Towards a Dynamic Model...153

Creating the Effective Space of Communities...154

Cerro Concha...154
Quebrada Guabo...156
Hato Horcon...158
Recipe for Change: Influence effective access...160

Impacts: Migration, Labor, Gender, and Internal Markets...160
Towards Implementation...161
The Place of the Patio...168


Interviews and Personal Communications...174

Glossary of Terms...187

A: Visual Tour of Gardens...193
B: Semi-Structured Interviews Questions and Survey...197
C: Species List and Frequency in each Community...201


15 1.1 Location of Panama in the World
16 1.2 Ngöbe territories, 1850 through present
17 1.3 Study sites, western Panama
27 1.4 Land Mapping Method
41 2.1 Topography and location of Nole Duima


6 1.0 The Ngöbe Home Garden
47 2.2 Vertical Stratification of a home garden
58 2.3 Parts of the Ngöbe Agricultural System
73 3.2 Quebrada Guabo, a local depiction
81 3.4 Cerro Concha, a local depiction


84 3.6 Frequency of short cycle crops in the patio
91 3.9 Frequency of small domestic animals, Quebrada Guabo and Cerro Concha
162 5.5 Community classification by effective access
162 5.6 Characteristics of different community "types"
163 5.7 Useful factors to classify communities by effective access
165 5.8 Example indicator factors used to group households by community


86 3.7 Land ownership in Quebrada Guabo and Cerro Concha
99 3.12 Percent of community that buys versus produces most of their food
101 3.14 Migrancy in Quebrada Guabo and Cerro Concha
118 4.2 Land ownership in all three communities
128 4.3 Main household food source
136 4.8 Migrancy in all three communities
142 4.10 Gendered participation in organizations
166 5.8 Example separation of households by community


71 3.1 Hypothetical influences on the patio of road construction
77 3.3 Farm and market access in Quebrada Guabo
82 3.5 Farm and market access in Cerro Concha
90 3.8 Possible compensation within the patio for farmland loss
93 3.10 Influence of market access on buying and selling in Quebrada Guabo
96 3.11 Possible influence of the creation of an internal market
100 3.13 Migration as an option for families
104 3.15 Ambiguous effect of male migration on female labor
116 4.1 Farm and market access in Hato Horcon
122 4.4 Access in Cerro Concha, with organizations
128 4.5 Access in Quebrada Guabo, with organizations
131 4.6 Access in Hato Horcon, with organizations
134 4.7 Impacts of organizations on the effective access in Hato Horcon
137 4.9 Transition from external to local organizations
144 4.11 Exporting values as a direct effect of organizations on families
147 4.12 Change-making versus service-providing organizations
153 5.1 Context of individual decisions
155 5.2 Physical and effective space in Cerro Concha
157 5.3 Physical and effective space in Quebrada Guabo
159 5.4 Physical and effective space in Hato Horcon

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