PULIDO, M.T., E.M. PAGAZA-CALDERÓN, A. MARTINEZ, B. MALDONADO-ALMANZA, A. SAYNES, R.M. PACHECO. 2008. Home gardens as an alternative for sustainability: challenges and perspectives in Latin America. En: U.P. Albuquerque y Marcelo Alves Ramos (editores). Current Topics in Ethnobotany. Research Signpost, India. Pp 55-79 ISBN: 978-81-308-0243-5
Home gardens are productive systems associated with the home that contribute to the upkeep of important ecological functions and to the social and economic welfare of thousands of families. This chapter describes Latin American home gardens in terms of their ecological, economic and social sustainability; we also briefly review their history. We review and discuss the tendencies in the methodology used to study them, and we analyze their viability and limitations. The information available indicates that, without a doubt, these home gardens maintain the biological diversity of native and exotic as well as managed or wild species, and play an important role in improving the quality of life and the economic and social welfare of peasant and city dwelling families. A correlation analysis showed that the richness patterns of plant species are not associated to physical variables, suggesting, therefore, that these patterns are mainly due to idiosyncratic variables. The highest percentage of home garden species are used as foodstuffs, followed by medicinal and ornamental uses, among others. Therefore, although they are not a panacea, home gardens not only can help lessen the impact of poverty and malnutrition, they also contribute to spiritual wellbeing. Knowledge about the management of individual species and of the system as a whole, the family involvement and land and time availability, among other factors, are necessary for the system to last. Home gardens have been widely promoted in several Latin American countries, and there are proposals to establish them in other countries. Multidisciplinary studies are necessary to evaluate their sustainability, including an analysis of their ecological, social and economic dimensions.