Comparative assessment of plant diversity and utilization patterns of tropical home gardens in Edo State, Nigeria
Home gardens are small land units or acreage of land for food production, usually within the homestead in traditional communities worldwide. These gardens are important component of subsistence living, sometimes a cash resource and repository sites for uncommon and common plant species of mixed life cycles. A survey of crop diversity was carried out in two communities namely Iyanomo and Ogbekpen (here referred to as Community A and B respectively) to assess garden and gardener characteristics, species composition and physiognomy, utilization pattern and availability of plant life forms. Primary data was obtained through open ended questionnaire, crop inventory and participatory guided walk. Results showed a total of 42 crops were inventoried with 35 in community A and 33 in community B. A total of 26 crop species were common to both communities. Nine categories of crops were recorded during this survey. Fruits and vegetables were predominant in both communities, 51.43 % and 17.14 % respectively in community A and 69.70% and 12.12% respectively in community B. The agricultural system is long term with 60 % having been cultivated for more than 15 years. The home gardens visited in both communities had characteristics three layered structure. Most of the crops were perennial fruit crops mainly used for food, medicine and provision of shade. Majority of home gardens in the two communities showed similarity in location, size, diversity, life forms and food categories. They differed in the length of time for which they have been cultivated. As a result of nearness to dwelling, most crops are available all year round and maintained by the input or debris of household wastes. From garden composition and occurrence of plants, two types of home gardens are suggested from this study- tree-vegetable and vegetable home garden and both exhibit three layers zonation of the associated vegetation of the communities.
Key words: Home gardens, Plant diversity, Species composition, Land use, Nigeria