Wild gardening as a sustainable intensification strategy in northwest Cambodian smallholder systems
Within the last decade, Sustainable Intensification (SI) has emerged as a strategy to respond to future food security challenges. It incorporates increased food production without the cultivation of more land while incurring no net environmental cost. Frameworks attempting to measure SI often focus heavily on production indicators while overlooking other important indicators, such as impacts on economic, social, or human conditions. In this study, we evaluate the purposeful assemblage and management of neglected and underutilized species (NUS) in fringe areas around rural homesteads as a potential SI strategy. We use a recent SI assessment framework developed by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) that incorporates five measurable domains (productivity, economic, environmental, human condition, and social). We present findings from a qualitative case study in northwest Cambodia to assess local conceptualization of wild gardening, current uses of NUS, perceived benefits and challenges to their use and management, and the potential of wild gardening as a SI strategy. The qualitative methods employed 65 key informant interviews and four focus group discussions with both men and women participants. Our results indicate that wild gardening is an important component of rural livelihoods in northeast Cambodia. However, a general lack of knowledge of strategic benefits, such as nutrition potential, inhibits its use for maximum benefits. Wild gardening addresses multiple SI domains simultaneously and demonstrates the potential to be a promising SI strategy for improving rural livelihoods in Cambodia.
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