Review by Dr. Martin Price

Most publications review the most recent books. I have found that the most useful books are not necessarily the most recent-in fact, they are sometimes out of print.

ECHO reprinted a few valuable but out-of-print books over the years (Edible Leaves of the Tropics; Growing Vegetables in Fiji), but we had to print so many copies to keep the price low that we ended up with a 10-year supply. With advances in technology and decreases in cost for production of CD-ROMS, ECHO is now undertaking a program to "reprint" CD-ROM versions of some carefully selected useful books. Though the cost of labor is higher than reprinting a book, we can produce a few at a time and sell them for much less than if we had printed the book. For our overseas network, the savings in postage can be $20 or more when buying a large book.

The latest CD book is Food from Dryland Gardens by David Cleveland and Daniela Soleri. The authors combine hands-on style with top academic training. Dr. Cleveland did his Ph. D. studies with small-scale farmers in NE Ghana and Dr. Soleri with maize farmers in Mexico. Both are co-directors of the Center for People, Food and the Environment and teach at the University of California in Santa Barbara. They have lots of hands-on gardening experience in Arizona and New Mexico where they worked with Hopi and Zuni Indian tribes.

This large, 386-page book is filled with helpful illustrations. Surprisingly, there do not seem to be many books of a practical nature written on this important topic. It was written for field workers, extension agents, students, project workers, program planners and, of course, gardeners. The authors write from personal experience working in dryland Africa and in the North American Southwest. It is both a beginners guide and a reference for those with more experience. It helps the reader learn to observe and work with local people and to ask appropriate questions about the community, the environment, and the potential for gardens to improve nutritional, economic and social well-being.

If you have access to the web, you can read the entire table of contents by looking up the book in our on-line bookstore. The book is divided into four main sections: Household Gardens as a Development Strategy, Garden Management, Garden Harvest, and Resources. Here are a few interesting "tidbits" from the chapter on "How Plants Live and Grow," to give you a feel for the book.  In a section on how plants cope with drought, the authors point out that "drought-adapted plants either escape drought or resist it in some way. Drought-escaping plants have short, rapid life cycles, allowing them to take advantage of the brief period of rains. "Famine" crops like short-season millet and tepary beans are examples.

"Drought-resistant plants, on the other hand, use one of two strategies: either they avoid drought or they tolerate it. Drought avoidance means more efficient use of water so that the plant will not experience water stress. For example, during periods of drought cowpeas avoid water stress by changing the orientation of their leaves in relation to the sun, minimizing the amount of heat they receive and thus reducing loss of water by transpiration.

"Distinguishing between heat tolerance and drought adaptation is useful. In most drylands hot daytime temperatures are very common and so heat tolerance is a desirable characteristic. However, in gardens that receive a regular supply of water, drought adaptation may not be necessary. This is especially true if other varieties or different crops will give a bigger and better harvest with the same amount of water and other inputs."

The Food from Dryland Gardens CD-Rom can be purchased from ECHO for $10.95 plus shipping Description

Food from Dryland Gardens encourages gardens that serve local needs, that are based on local knowledge, and that conserve natural resources and the biological diversity of traditional crops. It was written for field workers, extension agents, students, project workers, and program planners. Both a beginner's guide and a reference for those with more experience, this book helps the reader observe and work with local people to ask appropriate questions about the community, the environment, and the potential for gardens to improve nutritional, economic, and social well-being.

Publication Details

  • Published: 1991
  • Publisher: Center for People, Food, and Environment
  • ISBN-10: 096279970X
  • ISBN-13: 9780962799709
  • ECHO Library: PI 6