Nutri – gardens: A rich source of nutrition for farm women

Vegetable and fruit based nutri-garden is the richest source of nutrition and can play an active role in eradicating undernutrition. Nutri-garden is advanced form of kitchen garden in which fruits and vegetables are grown as a source of food and income. For small and marginal farmers, nutri-gardens can contribute towards diversified family diet and provide several other benefits, particularly for women.

Malnutrition is a serious issue in rural areas, particularly in hill regions. The crop productivity in the hilly region is low due to small and scattered land holdings, poor soil fertility and mostly rainfed agriculture. Farmers are still practicing traditional subsistence farming comprising of mainly cereal crops which cannot sustain farm families for more than three to four months in a year. There is a large-scale migration of men towards plains, due to which the rural areas contain significantly higher female population and has led to demographic imbalance in the region. Therefore, women require high quality nutrients in their daily diet as their work load and energy expenditure is more. One of the solutions to this prevailing problem in hills can be “Local needs met locally”. Climatic conditions of hill region are suitable for seasonal and off seasonal vegetable and fruit production which are rich in micronutrients. As landholding size in the region is small and fragmented, establishment of nutri-garden is easy and remunerative way to address prevailing malnutrition among hill community.


Vegetable based nutri-garden is the richest source of nutrition and can play an active role in eradicating under-nutrition. Nutri-garden is advanced form of kitchen garden in which vegetables are grown as a source of food and income in a more scientific way. For small and marginal farmers, nutri-garden can contribute to the family diet and provide several other benefits, particularly for women. Present researches focus on field-based commercial crops but income from the sale of these crops often is not used to buy quality food by the family. This is slowly arising as questions about agriculture’s contribution to nutrition and health. This has led to introduction of nutri- gardens as  they show a more clear-cut way from food production to nutritional outcomes. According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR, 2010) recommendation for vegetable consumption can be fulfilled i.e. 300 gm of vegetable per person per day in which 50 g leafy vegetable; 50 g root vegetables and 200 g other vegetables.

The geographical and climatic attributes in the hill region are suitable for production of temperate and subtropical fruit crops like apple, pear, peach, plum, citrus, apricot and walnut. Micronutrient malnutrition can be overcome by including a variety of fruits and vegetables in daily food basket. Nutrition related agricultural interventions implemented under the ICAR-VPKAS, Almora in 2018, proved to be effective in enhancing food production and diversify dietary intake. More than 65 nutri-gardens were successfully demonstrated in higher hilly regions of the Uttarakhand with active participation of women farmers.

Setting up a nutri-garden

Usually a nutri-garden can be established in the backyard of house where there is enough water availability. In hills,nutri-gardens should be maintained near house so that it can be protected from animal damage which plays havoc in the region. A rectangular garden is preferred to a square plot. Nearly 200 m² land is sufficient to provide vegetables throughout year for a family consisting of five members. Layout and crop allotment in nutri-garden can be modified depending on climatic and seasonal changes.

  • Perennial vegetables should be allotted to one side of the garden so that they may neither create shade for the remaining plot nor they interfere with intercultural operations. Shade loving vegetables may be planted in perennial plots. Compost pits can be provided on the corner of nutri-garden for effective utilization of kitchen waste.
  • After allotting areas for perennial crops, remaining portions can be divided into 6-8 equal plots for growing annual vegetable crops.
  • By following scientific practices and crop rotation, two to three annual crops can be raised in the same plot. For effective utilization of plot accession cropping, inter cropping and mixed cropping can be followed.
  • Walking path should be provided at the center as well as along four sides. Since fresh vegetables from garden are directly utilized for consumption, organic manure should be used which is abundant in villages. However, in order to harvest good crop free from pest and diseases, chemicals can be utilized in limited amount.
  • It is important that preference should be given to long duration and steady yielding crop varieties than high yielding ones.
  • A bee-hive may be provided for a plot of 200 m² for ensuring adequate pollination in crops besides obtaining honey.

Concept of “eating a rainbow” in the plate must be popularized, as colors are the indicators of wide range of vitamins and pigments A well planned Nutri Garden

In these nutri-gardens, horticultural crops can be grown which covers a wider range of crops such as fruits, vegetables, root and tuber crops, aromatic and medicinal plants, spices and plantation crops, which enhances diversity in nutrition.

Women empowerment through nutri-garden in high hill region of Uttarakhand

Like other farm families in the hill region of Uttarakhand, Mrs. Pooja Karki was earlier practicing traditional subsistence farming and produced food enough to sustain the family for only three to four months in a year and was dependent on the market for food for rest of the period of the year. She came in contact with scientists of ICAR-VPKAS, Almora in 2018 and was trained in vegetable cultivation practices, mushroom cultivation, vermicomposting, honey bee rearing and vegetable seedling production under protected condition. Although she was educated only up to 8th standard, she was very keen to learn about nutrition and other improved agricultural improved practices to enhance nutritional status. More than 16 types of vegetables along with fruit plants rich in various micro-nutrients were grown in nutri-gardens. She took a keen interest in the training and Frontline demonstrations of nutri-gardens in her back yard with a land area of 200 m² which is enough for meeting the daily nutrient requirement of her family. She has worked almost single-handedly on her land to achieve the nutrition farming and other allied activities.

In the very first season she was able to obtain a good yield of vegetables more than sufficient for home consumption. She also sold vegetables in nearby local markets. She also started nursery preparation of vegetable crops in poly-tunnels installed in nutri-garden and is instrumental in providing seedlings of improved varieties of vegetables to fellow farm women. Other farmers from nearby villages visited her farm for farmer to farmer exchange and learn from her efforts towards food and nutritional security.


Nutri-gardens are cornerstone in traditional farming systems, since time immemorial but with time, it has lost its importance. Myriad coloured vegetables into the daily diet will enhance the individual’s ability to fight diseases and improve immunity. Also innumerable phytochemicals in a range of fresh fruits and vegetables act as anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-proliferative. Nutri-gardens are also very much essential in places and villages which are isolated and far from the local market. Awareness campaign regarding the proper nutrition, nutri-gardening, dietary habits, should be demonstrated in the rural and remote areas. Nutri-gardening is one of the advantageous ways to improve nutrition level in women with minimum investment.

Preeti Mamgai, Pankaj Nautiyal and Renu Jethi

Preeti Mamgai

Principal Scientist,  ICAR-ATARI, Zone-I, PAU Campus, Ludhiana, Punjab, India.

Email id:

Pankaj Nautiyal

SMS (Horticulture), KVK (ICAR-VPKAS)-Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, India

 Renu Jethi

Sr. Scientist(Social Science), ICAR-VPKAS, Almora, Uttarakhand, India

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