Wild gardening as a sustainable intensification strategy in northwest Cambodian smallholder systems


  • Sarah Eissler The Pennsylvania State University
  • David Ader University of Tennessee
  • Sovanneary Huot The Pennsylvania State University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3214-256X
  • Stuart Brown The World Vegetable Center https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0245-5864
  • Ricky Bates The Pennsylvania State University
  • Thomas Gill University of Tennessee




Perennial Vegetables, Cambodia, Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS), Qualitative, Sustainable Intensification


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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Author Biographies

Sarah Eissler, The Pennsylvania State University

Ph.D. candidate. She is now an independent consultant, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

David Ader, University of Tennessee

Research Assistant Professor, Institute of Agriculture

Sovanneary Huot, The Pennsylvania State University

Ph.D. candidate

Stuart Brown, The World Vegetable Center

Researcher, Siem Reap, Cambodia. He is now a Research Station Leader, CSIRO Boorowa Agricultural Research Station, Australia.

Ricky Bates, The Pennsylvania State University

Professor of Horticulture

Thomas Gill, University of Tennessee

Smith Chair and Director of International Programs, Institute of Agriculture



How to Cite

Eissler, S., Ader, D., Huot, S., Brown, S., Bates, R., & Gill, T. (2021). Wild gardening as a sustainable intensification strategy in northwest Cambodian smallholder systems. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(3), 107–126. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.103.006