Families in some parts of Lesotho worst hit by HIV have been trained to build keyhole gardens designed to support a family of eight with up to five vegetables.
A tiny landlocked country bordering South Africa, Lesotho is believed to have one of the highest AIDS rates in the world with more than 23 percent of the population affected, according to a report in Womens News Network.
Compared to regular vegetable gardens, keyhole gardens require less labor, less water and no fertilizers or pesticides, the report says. They are named for their shape.
The keyhole garden project is a collaboration of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF and World Food Program.
Project communities receive equipment, seeds and training in labor-saving agricultural techniques for growing food in harsh climates with poor soil.
The project partnered with others such as NGO Send a Cow, Lesotho Red Cross and the Rural Self-Help Development Association, combining gardening with other activities such as rearing small livestock, growing fruit trees, hygiene and food processing such as fuel-saving stoves and solar dryers to preserve fruit and vegetables.
Keyhole gardens in Lesotho produce local spinach, carrots, beetroots, green peppers and onions. They can support year-round vegetable production, can be irrigated with household waste water, and with a dedicated central basket made of sticks and filled with grass and leaves, they reduce water dispersion and the risk of contamination to the harvest, the report says. Gardens are built waist height with a small pathway leading to a central basket, allowing anyone to work the garden without unnecessary strain. This makes them suitable for children, the elderly or sick, the report says.
Organizers knew the project was successful when they noticed families in neighboring villages outside the project area making keyhole gardens on their own initiative, according to Womens News Network.