In Uganda’s Napak District Keyhole gardens are the key to tackling malnutrition.

In Napak you’ll find a keyhole garden around every corner. These innovative kitchen gardens have dramatically changed the fortunes of thousands of families. In the past, this rural area has had some of the worst malnutrition rates in Uganda. Many people had to borrow money to feed themselves and their families. May 2015, Concern Worldwide began helping people plant keyhole gardens to grow themselves a better supply of nutritious food.

How do the gardens work?

The gardens are raised and circular, about the size of a trampoline, with a thin section ‘cut out’ so people can get to a compost basket in the middle. When viewed from above they are shaped like a keyhole.

concern-keyhole-garden-anatomy (1)

Beyond the unusual shape, the revolutionary element is the placement of the compost basket in the middle. Families put their everyday kitchen and garden waste in it and as it breaks down, the nutrients and water in the compost nourish the garden and protect it from drought.

concern-keyhole-garden-how-it-works (1)

In Napak the gardens are extremely popular – more than 4,000 families have one or more. The gardens are generally harvested four times every three months, so families have plenty of nutritious vegetables during both the wet and dry seasons.

Women lead the way

Volunteers called Lead Mothers are leading the Keyhole garden revolution. They are playing a key role in the spread of the gardening technique in Napak. They set up the first gardens at their homes and then promote them which leads to many other women follow their example. They exchange tips on how to make their gardens more productive such as planting onions around the outside of the garden to deter pests.

Lead mother Agnes said: “My keyhole garden has allowed me to work with less worry about what the children will eat while I am away from home. I go to Nabilatuk to look for casual work and leave the children at home. My children are now able to harvest cow-peas, onion and sukumawiki [local greens] direct from the keyhole garden and cook them.”

When the gardens were introduced, the whole process, from building the structure to buying seeds and tending the garden, was seen as women’s work. But as husbands and fathers saw how the gardens could transform their families’ lives, they joined the gardening revolution building the keyhole gardens and buying seeds.

Keyhole gardens are power

Keyhole gardens are flourishing in Napak, changing the landscape and opening up a path away from malnutrition for the rural poor. Women have been empowered as revolutionary food growers and are providing their families with nutritious food. Food is Power. When families have access to nutritious food it means they can lead healthy productive lives. The community takes pride in what they grow and the extra nourishment their children receive.

Why Food is Power

Food fuels the body providing calories and nutrients, the vital ingredients needed to ensure the healthy development of the immune system and brain function. When people have healthy diets they have the energy to work and learn. When people in poor rural communities produce enough food to eat and sell for an income, they are empowered to pull themselves out of poverty.

Learn more about how you can get involved in Concern’s Food is Power campaign.