Chagga Homegardens

An annotated map showing the area around Mount Kilimanjaro and other illustrations showing topographical and ecological features.

Chagga Homegardens, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Realized/Envisioned by: Skilled local farmers. Scale: 3000000 acres. 3000 feet above sea level. Drawing: Daniella Slowik, Isabel Lewis, Mojtaba Nabavi.

Homegardens are subsistence gardens that provide a supplemental source of food and nutritional security in urban and rural areas across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. These gardens are small plots adjacent to human settlements that are an integral part of family farming and local food production, often with hundreds of species of food, herb and medicinal crops in a small area. Homegardens cultivate mixed crops that may be unavailable or prohibitively expensive at local markets. The Chagga homegardens are a multistorey agroforestry cropping system cultivated by the Chagga people on kihamba, or ancestral land. The communities have selected the species that are most useful for food, fodder and fruits on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and grown them on the rich volcanic soils, transforming the existing forest. The Chagga homegardens use multi storey agroforestry to provide shade for coffee, build living fences that fix nitrogen, produce fodder and mulch, provide forage for bee species, and reduce pests. Additionally, animals, including cattle and goats are kept within the gardens, which have a varied spatial organization based around zones that produce food crops, coffee and cash crops, and medicinal plants, as well as a zone for banana plants and trees used for timber production. Over 100 crops exist within the homegardens, creating a rich, biodiversity model of agroforestry land use with a management model that is passed down across generations.


Fernandes, E.C.M., A. Oktingati and J. Maghembe. “The Chagga home gardens: A multi-storeyed agroforestry cropping system on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Northern Tanzania.” Food and Nutrition Bulletin 7, no. 3 (1985): 1-8. 10.1007/BF00131267.

Nair, P.K.R. “Climate change mitigation: A low-hanging fruit of agroforestry.” In Agroforestry: The Future of Global Land Use, edited by P.K.R. Nair and Garrity Ramachandran, 31-67. Amsterdam: Springer, 2012.