FAKHREDDIN HASHEMI SCHADEGAN, KOROUS KHOSHBAKHT, ABDOLMAJID MAHDAVI DAMGHANI
Shahid Beheshti University, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Iran
In order to infer biodiversity characteristics in sorely unknown Iranian homegardens, a multidisciplinary study was conducted in Gachsaran County (Southwest of Iran) during April to September 2008. Eleven villages including 5 villages inward Khamin mountainous protected area and 6 villages outside and around Basht town with a plain-hilly topography, were selected randomly and through interviewing 192 household heads and visiting homegardens, information on different biophysical and socioeconomic characteristics were gathered. Altogether 97 species were identified which only 33 species were found in protected area villages. Mean homegarden species richness varied between villages and was significantly less in protected area homegardens. Vegetables and summer crops were main components in protected areas homegardens, whereas fruit trees and shrubs were the main component in outside villages and ornamentals were developed more properly. Due to marginalisation of villages, lack of infrastructures and low linkages with urban centres, homegardens were less developed in protected area villages and vegetables were the main components for fulfiling necessary subsistence of households. Among social variables, age of household head and his/her education had not a significant relationship with homegarden species richness, whereas size to household had a significant positive correlation with species richness (Rp = 0.189, p = 0.009). Contribution of homegardening in rural household livelihoods was slight and varied averagely in villages from 0.71% to 6.61% of total livelihoods. Significant positive relationship between homegarden species richness and household income from homegardening (Rp = 0.414, p = 0.000) confirmed the role of diversification to improve economic and nutritional conditions of rural communities. Stepwise regression analysis showed that four variables including homegarden area, women decision making for ornamental plants, ratio of women activities in vegetable crops, and income from homegardening with explaining 66% of variance, had the most relationships with homegarden diversity. Results revealed that along with more infrastructure facilities accessibility and more contiguity to urban centres, homegardens were developed more appropriately and increasing rural women activities in homegardening led to increase of homegarden biodiversity. More attentions should be paid to these vital components for developing sustainable and healthy livelihood of rural communities in Iran.
Keywords: Biodiversity, homegarden, Iran, rural livelihoods, sustainability