Contribution to the Gardening-Conference 2000: "Perspectives of Small-Scale Farming in Urban and Rural Areas
- about the Social and Ecological Necessity of Gardens and Informal Agriculture"  at 21th to 25th of July 2000 Humboldt-University zu Berlin, Landwirtschaftlich-Gärtnerische Fakultät, Wisola, Frauenforschung
Infos: Working group "Small-Scale farming and Gardens in Urban and Rural Areas", Elisabeth Meyer-Renschhausen, Bülowstr. 74, D-10783 Berlinemail:


Elisabeth Meyer-Renschhausen
Arbeitsgruppe Kleinstlandwirtschaft und Gärten in Stadt und Land

Small-Holding Agriculture and Gardens as "Women's Economy" - The Importance of Lebenswelt and Household in Times of Joblessness

Gardens and small-holders agriculture belong to the informal economy - newly rediscovered in the public discourse as a result of increasing joblessness. In the old society, yard and garden were indispensable parts of the oikos, as Otto Brunner called the "whole house". Still today gardens, small animal holding and self-subsistence agriculture belong to the domain of the home economy. Household and food growing constitute actually the primary, basic sector of the economy.

Since the invention of national economy, however, the sales-oriented agriculture was seen as the primary sector. Since the middle of the 19th century, it wasn´t regarded in sciences as well as in the puclic sphere, that the supplying function of the private household is the basis of the entire economy and of the "primary" sector, and nobody can live let alone work without it. Household and small-holders agriculture were left out of the national economy as a form of "female" economy, attributed to women. They were considered as remnants of dark times, as obsolete and to be suppressed.

Hence gardens and small-holders agriculture are considered by the state as untaxable, by the economy as inexistent, and as irrelevant for the planning of a region. Politicians and planners in urban and agrarian areas (Berlin and Brandenburg) have attempted in the past ten years to convert gardens of women and men, even smal plot gardens of retired and jobless people, into construction land.

But gardens are of a considerable importance as a sphere where self-economy is possible, not only for the material, but before all for the psychic life of jobless and retired people. For long-term jobless and empoverished people, that is in the new federal states, i.e. in the peripherial provinces, up to 90 % women, gardens and small-holders agriculture mean the possibility to remain active, and to produce independently for exchange networks in the family.

A neighbourhood, a village whose economy, whose agriculture have been suppressed, are condemned to oblivion if jobless and retired women have neither garden nor small-holders agriculture at their disposal. On the contrary, gardens and small-holders agriculture mean for marginalized people the chance to contribute through gardening to the conservation of landscape and to a sustainable economy in their region. In times of massive joblessness, the extension of self-economy to "house and yard" is indinspensable for the peace of mind of people. Gardens should be a basic right for all, in the summer they are the most beautiful and basically most "nourishing" part of self-economy. It strengthens worldwide the self-consciousness of jobless women and sometimes also men, to be able to supply the own household group with healthy vegetables, and fills not only african women and east-European grandmothers with the well-deserved pride to be the feeder of the own family. They keep thereby the social peace of the region, and make a landscape to a space suited for people.

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Stand: 19.12.2004