Conservation and development agencies in Petén, Guatemala have been promoting home gardens among migrant families in order to improve the welfare of these families and to conserve natural resources. The agencies have not been successful. However, native Peteneros do have a productive gardening system that is compatible with resource conservation. This essay describes the structure, management, and economic and social benefits of 23 traditional Petén home gardens, which have over 180 useful plant species. Traditional gardens in Petén are highly diverse, rich, and productive (mean number of species per garden is 54; mean number of plants is 392). In addition, the gardens can contribute up to 15 percent of household income, improve family nutrition, and strengthen social networks. However, for reasons described in this essay, traditional home gardening is declining in Petén.
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