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Unlocking the potential of small-scale farming

Mamosiuoa Maromaki working at her keyhole garden, Leribe, Lesotho. Photo: Matela Thabane, Irish Aid

Over 13,000 people have benefitted from the use of keyhole gardens so far.

In Lesotho nearly half the population lives in chronic poverty and the nutrition status of children under the age of five is deteriorating with 13% underweight and 39% are affected by stunting. Drought has become a serious problem in recent years, causing a steady decline in staple crop production and damaging the livelihoods of 80% of the population.

Traditional household gardens are generally small and grow one or two crops, often maize or one type of vegetable, such as cabbage. In contrast, keyhole gardening has been identified by  international and local NGOs as an intervention that can help to improve variety and productivity in small scale farming, and is supported as an approach by the Government and UN agencies such as FAO and WFP.

Keyhole gardens are small round beds which are irrigated from the centre, with different crops planted to complement each other. Using stone walls to help retain heat, the risk of night-time frost damage is reduced, and the greater variety of crops helps to ensure a year round supply of fresh produce. Keyhole gardens use less water and can also use ‘grey water’ from washing, minimising water wastage.

This method of gardening allows a greater variety of produce to be planted such as spinach, onions, carrots and beetroot which helps to improve household nutrition. Over 13,000 people have benefitted from the use of keyhole gardens so far.