Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

David A. Himmelgreen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nancy Romero-Daza, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Lende, Ph.D.


household gardens, HIV/AIDS, southern africa, applied anthropology


Studies of food insecurity have frequently focused on rural dwellers as vulnerable

populations. However, during the ‘global food crisis’ of 2007-2008, riots in more than

50 countries visibly demonstrated the vulnerability of urban populations to food

insecurity due to rapidly rising food prices. This study examines factors associated with

participation in an urban garden project (UGP), utilizing surveys (n=61) and in-depth

household interviews (n=37) to examine food security and dietary diversity of households

in urban Lesotho.

Households that participated in the garden project were more food insecure and

had lower dietary diversity than those that did not participate. However, it cannot be

determined if participation in the project caused this difference, or if households already

experiencing these issues self-selected to participate. Factory workers households, which

make up a large part of the target population, did not appear to be much difference

between factory worker and non-factory worker households. More female-headed

households than male-headed households were categorized as severely food insecure and

experienced lower levels of dietary diversity, though this difference is not statistically

significant. Because the study did not utilize random sampling, the findings cannot be

generalized. Nonetheless, they provide important direction for future studies.

Lack of awareness was the primary barrier to participation in the project. Another

barrier was not having enough time to attend demonstrations, to plant, or to tend a

garden. Time constraints were often work-related but sometimes included to other

obligations such as attending funerals. Participants in the urban garden project were very

knowledgeable about the costs and benefit of participating, reported having taught others

how to replicate the gardens, and had even shared seeds with friends and neighbors.

Despite the project having started a mere six weeks before the time of this study, and the

fact that the garden demonstrations were being held during the winter season in Lesotho,

UGP participants reported having already eaten and sold leafy greens from their gardens.

Key areas for follow up study include a randomized, longitudinal examination of

participation in the garden program, as well as an evaluation of the effectiveness of the

project. Further, an examination of coping strategies such as the use of funerals as a

source of food also deserves systematic study. Finally, there should be consideration of

how information is disseminated to communities, with careful examination of what

defines “community” and how social networks strongly influence the distribution of

knowledge about such projects.