The study of the practice of growing food at home in the UAE: role in household food security & wellbeing and implication for the development of urban agriculture
Home-grown food products are getting more and more prominence around the world owing to many factors including the increasing demand for fresh food materials, consumers’ awareness of food-health nexus, and the increasing public awareness of environmental impacts of food production at home and resource-saving, and others. The main objective of this study is to assess the nature of the homestead food production system in the UAE and determine its significance for household food security and identify the factors that affect households’ engagement in food production at home. Primary data was collected through reconnaissance in communities, online survey, and face-to-face interviews. The findings show that 88% of a sample of households (N = 196) interviewed produce various food products in homestead gardens. Home-grown food products are fruits, vegetables, spices, eggs, and small ruminants. The use of modern production methods like hydroponics and aquaponics is still uncommon. The sample households produce on average 21 kg of fruits and vegetables, 26 kg of mutton per month, and 30 pieces of eggs per week. The home-grown food products are mainly used for home consumption; some part is given to relatives and friends. Reasons for producing food at home include the need for self-sufficiency, reduce food purchase expenses, environmental awareness, the food being healthy, and as a hobby. The majority of the sample households would see continue producing in the future. Many factors influence the household's decision to grow food products in their homestead. Among these, availability of space, environmental awareness, availability of farmworkers, the need to reduce food purchase bills, and knowledge of home-grown food safety requirements. Analysis of the logistic model reveals that households who have not enough garden space are less likely to practice while those who consider reduction of food purchase expense, have environmental awareness, are able to hire workers for garden activities, and have knowledge of home garden food production tend to have a high likelihood of practicing homestead production. This study concludes that homestead food production is important for the urban households in the UAE and has a potential to be a basis for the development of urban agriculture. It needs more public awareness raising about its importance, technical support in demonstration of best practices and use of modern technologies (like a mini hydroponics and aquaponics), the food safety requirements of homestead based for products.
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