Food shortages, malnutrition, population pressure and environmental degradation are growing problems in the deserts and savannas of the world. Large-scale agricultural development has not been a panacea. Currently there is increasing interest in the development potential of household food gardens. Gardens as a development strategy have been promoted since the 1950s by many international agencies and national governments, but the emphasis has been on humid areas. While there is a long tradition of household gardening in arid lands, it is generally overlooked by development projects in favor of energy intensive Western gardens which are often inappropriate. Household garden projects based on local knowledge and adapted to local conditions do appear capable of making important contributions to household food production, economics, nutrition and social development without detracting from other important household functions. They may be especially effective in reducing the marked seasonality of food supply and income and in supporting women's roles. Techniques of water, land and crop management may, however, be improved by judicious adaptation of new technologies.