Homestead Configuration and Utilization

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Recent studies and analyses (Hussain 2002; Hussain and Miah 2004) have shown that the homestead production system has been developed based on different microsites. In fact, the micro-sites represent the smallest production units having similar configuration of land and serve specific purposes. The strong argument in favor of this subdivision is that the homestead is not a homogeneous system and what may be suitable for an approach road may not be suitable for a backyard, and, similarly, the uses that are feasible along the boundary may not be feasible at the home yard. This makes new thinking and orientation for the researchers, academicians and development workers to divide the homestead into several production units, i.e., micro-sites. However, in any type of homestead, even with a landless group of farmers having only the homestead land, a set of micro-sites is recognizable. These are recognized as approach road, front yard, home yard, backyard, boundary, and sometimes pond site depending on its availability (Hussain and Miah 2004). Experiences with the Small Farmer Agroforestry Development Program under GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) in the northwestern part of Bangladesh have shown that the micro-sites approach of homestead agroforestry production opens new potentials and opportunities even for the innovative/progressive farmers (Miah and Hussain 2003). The brief characteristics of the different micro-sites and their utilization as described by Hussain and Miah (2004) are as follows.

16.2.1.1 Approach Road

The approach road is the gateway towards every homestead, which is either short or long, or narrow or wide. Some homesteads have their individual approach road while homesteads comprising several households in a cluster use have a common approach road. The size and shape of the approach road vary from homestead to homestead. However, whatever the size and shape, the approach roads generally have both sides unplanted or in some cases may have some trees on one or both sides (Fig. 16.2). Occasionally, one may find approach roads having systematic plantation with diverse plant species. However, a well-designed plantation with diverse floristic compositions eventually forms multi-strata/layers configuration, which may provide diversified products and services throughout the year.

16.2.1.2 Front Yard

The front yard is the external part of the homestead, usually connected with the approach road. It is generally wide, leveled, often compact, and usually unfertile. The size of the front yard varies depending on the type of the households. The landless poor or marginal groups' households normally have a very small front yard and they grow seasonal vegetables either on the ground or on the trellis or on both, and plant few fruit trees, palms, etc. (Fig. 16.3). The small and medium-size households have a relatively

Fig. 16.3 Front yard of a homestead growing various types of vegetables and fruit trees

larger front yard and keep it mostly vacant for using as farmyard for processing of agricultural crops including making straw heaps for the cattle, and for planting some part with few fruit and fodder trees, palms, vegetables, etc. However, there is no standard or systematic design of plantation and other uses matching the front yard size, which could optimize homestead production and utilization of front yard.

16.2.1.3 Home Yard

The open space available in front of the living room is the home yard (locally known as Uthan), which is generally leveled, compact, and less fertile. It is used for multiple purposes including usually cooking, post-harvest activities such as rice threshing, winnowing, parboiling and drying, and processing of non-wood forest products, and partly for cattle shed (Fig. 16.4). Yoshino (1996) added that the home yard is commonly used for raising cattle, goat, chicken, geese and pigeon. Non-agricultural households sometimes plant a large number of fruit trees along with timber and ornamental plants. However, most home yards possess few fruit trees that cover less space (such as lemon, pomegranate, and papaya) and creeping vegetables grown on the roofs, tree support, or on the bamboo trellis. In addition, shade-tolerant vegetables and spices are grown under the trellis or under the trees.

16.2.1.4 Backyard

The backyard is the most interior place of the homestead, usually having the kitchen garden/mini garden of the household. It is generally covered with densely grown vegetation, providing timber, fuelwood, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and spices (Fig. 16.5). Sometimes, climber-type plants, especially vegetables and medicinal plants, are grown using the trees as support. It is also used for rearing cattle and goats.

16.2.1.5 Boundary

Boundary is the outer border or demarcation line of a homestead that makes it an independent unit. It is the most common and developed segment of a homestead, which is either narrow or wide. Homesteads located side by side may have common boundaries while isolated homesteads generally have separate boundaries (Fig. 16.6). Commonly, different types of trees, shrubs, and herbs are grown either in a single row or in double rows along the boundaries. However, a well-planned boundary plantation in view of spatial arrangement with multifunctional species leads to a green belt that eventually protects the homestead from different natural hazards and acts as a productive unit that significantly contributes to the food, energy, and economic security of the household. Privacy of homestead is an important objective as well. Besides protective and productive functions, a well-decorated plantation may have aesthetic and beautification values.

Fig. 16.4 (a and b). Home yard - a place for crop's post-harvest activities and vegetable production

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