General News

A Keyhole Garden for Diversifying Indigenous Food Production and Enhancing Resilient Families


ZAMBIA’s malnutrition rates remain among the highest in the world. 48 percent of the population unable to meet their minimum calories requirements and more than one-third of children less than five years is stunted.

A 53 years champion farmer, Royd Michelo in Chongwe district, Lusaka province of Zambia is in a vanguard managing to thrive through the food crisis by using agroecology approaches such as promoting the keyhole garden concept, restricted to bio-fertilizers as a sustainable model for food security and diversity.

In Zambia, keyhole gardens are particularly important because they are drought-resistant and are beneficial in improving household diets around the year but especially in “hunger months.” The keyhole gardens represent one of the many ingenious adaptations that are currently being used in Zambia to combat climate change, promote environmental sustainability, and improve diet.

Additionally, keyhole gardens increase access to fresh produce, and can be used as tools to educate the community about healthy eating. This is of great importance due to the myriad of health concerns that accompany the current diet in Zambia, which contains copious amounts of imported foods with low nutritional value and high fat and sodium content.

Keyhole gardens are made with low-cost locally available materials. The production of a keyhole garden can be enough to feed a family of eight people. Such gardens can produce food all year round, even under harsh temperatures. It can also support the production of at least five varieties of vegetables at a time, thus supporting food dietary diversity.

Compared to regular vegetable gardens, keyhole gardens require less labour (ideal for elderly, children or sick persons), less water and no costly fertilizers or pesticides. They act like an organic recycling tank, using food and garden waste as fuel to grow vegetables. Crop rotation and growing of insect-repellent plants are important to balance nutrient demands, fight insects and plant diseases, and deter weeds.

“I have trained about 276 small-scale farmers in the keyhole gardening technology, which is been adopted by these trained farmers because, it’s able to retain moisture in dry seasons and have a low level of water consumption and therefore are very effective in providing year round healthy nutritious foods for households,” Royd Michelo explains.

The keyhole garden can positively influence behaviour change through permanent visibility, as it is less labour intensive, making it suitable for physically disabled or chronically ill family members, and the pregnant mother, non-exception”, Royd Michelo, a founder of Kapete Ecological Centre said.

The characteristics of the keyhole garden are that, it provides the family with fresh and healthy vegetables throughout the year; highly efficient water use since it consumes small amounts of water. It could be handled and served by any member of the family and; low cost of establishment through utilizing the available local materials.

For example, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has identified Mr. Royd Michelo farm, Kapete Ecological Centre, as a Community Centre of Excellence for championing the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty for climate resilient, access to improved diversity, nutritious food production, food safety and diet quality through sustainable production, value addition and marketing of non-wood forestry products.
Royd Michelo said that, Food and Agriculture Organisation with partners such as Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI) and Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre celebrated the World Food Day in 2021 under the theme: “Our Actions are Our Future,” at Kapete Ecological Centre, leaving no one behind for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.

It is said that every successful man, there is a woman behind. This is true with Royd Michelo’s family. Adasila Kanyanga, the wife to Royd Michelo is a model for women farmer’s participation in agroecology work. Adasila Kanyanga is not only a wife to Royd Michelo, but also a co-food producer, shares the agroecological principles of promoting diversify on-farm incomes; ensuring greater financial independence and value addition opportunities, enabling them to respond to demand from consumers.

“A keyhole garden is sustainable, economical and highly nutritious way of household food production,” Mrs Adasila Kanyanga Michelo appreciated the initiatives, as she provides inclusive support to the innovation, “The use of the keyhole garden has increased the household food diversity and income.”

The nutritional situation of people living in food-insecure households, especially of women of reproductive age and children under the age of two years, has improved in the farming communities, as most of the surrounding farmers are slowly adopting the technology at their household level; in turn it is supporting the families.

The Keyhole Garden impact assessments indicate that the neighbouring villages outside Kapete Ecological Centre intervention area are replicating the keyhole gardens’ concept on their own initiative, clearly indicating the success of the intervention and its potential sustainability.

Finally, the keyhole gardens demonstrate that these gardens are created by families and communities at low cost using local materials. It also concludes that these gardens have an overall very beneficial impact on both environmental and health issues.

The End

“A keyhole garden is sustainable, economical and highly nutritious way of household food production,” Mrs Adasila Kanyanga Michelo appreciates the initiative.

2. Zambia Agriculture Research Institute Approves Bokashi Fertilizer
By Misheck Nyirongo
Food availability relies on soils: nutritious and good quality food and animal fodder can only be produced if our soils are healthy. A healthy living soil is therefore a crucial ally to food security and nutrition.

In the past 50 years, advances in agricultural technology led to a quantum leap in food production and bolstered world food security. However, in many countries such as Zambia, this intensive crop production has depleted the soil, jeopardizing our ability to maintain production in these areas in the future.

There is growing concern over the increasing impact of human activities on the climate and other aspects of the global environment and how these changes will affect the livelihoods of millions of people. Basic services supplied by natural and managed ecosystems, such as food, water, clean air and an environment conducive to human health are being increasingly threatened by global change.

According FAO, with a global population that is projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, compounded by competition for land and water resources and the impact of climate change, our current and future food security hinges on our ability to increase yields and food quality using the soils that are already under production today.

Many ecosystem processes have the soil as their regulatory centre and soil biota play a key role in a wide range of ecosystem services that underpin the sustainability of agro-ecosystems. The adaptation of ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of agro-ecosystems, through agroecology, is a key strategy that can contribute to addressing these sustainability concerns. The soil resource is central to agriculture and therefore sustainable agriculture is inherently dependent on soil health.
The agricultural sector contributes around 13% to Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with a distinct downward trend over the past 15 years, typical of an urbanising economy, the agriculture sector is at the cross roads. This is so because there has been a push for the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

These input subsidies through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), has destroyed the soil and in many cases changed the soil composition, and soil biota killed as the soil organic content completely diminished. Across the food system there is already deep systemic injustice, with policies that favour the powerful while exploiting the poor and marginalised, especially women and youths farmers.

The Zambian Government support is mainly in the form of the inflexible and most often inappropriate Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), which focuses on synthetic fertilizers and hybrid seeds, and only a few crops, unsuitable for the growing conditions. The FISP have not only created farmer dependency on multinational corporations and government subsidies, but also takes up a big portion of the national agricultural budget, but with little benefit for farmers after many years.

Although the Zambia government’s agriculture policy is bias towards the multinational companies, the tables are turning up side down, as the small-scale farmers are now encouraged by the Government to prove their agroecological innovations, with tested scientific facts before their products are distributed or sold on the market.

Kapete Ecological Centre is such agroecological movement was encouraged to submit their Bokashi fertilizer, to serve as ‘litmus paper’ – if it can turn blue or pink. Without hesitation, Royd Michelo submitted the Bokashi fertilizer samples on a Monday as advised by the Republican President, His Excellence Hakainde Hichilema when he visited Kapete Ecological Centre exhibition stand during the 94th Agricultural and Commercial Show and Exhibit in Lusaka Showgrounds.

Kapete Ecological Centre founder and champion farmer, Royd Michelo informed the head of state that, the government line ministries at district level are aware about the initiative of making Bio fertilizer such as Bokashi which is improving the soil fertility.

The Head of State, His Excellence Hakainde Hichilema encouraged and assured Royd Michelo, “There is no government working against you, or you working against the government. We are one team. Take the samples to research institute as advised.”

“Come to the office on Monday. We have a scientific research institute, with trained personnel, they will test it for you,” the Government Official from the Ministry of Agriculture advised Royd Michelo.

The Fertilizer Analysis Results from the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) were positive and encouraging. According to a letter dated 1st September, 2022 signed by the ZARI Director, a Mr. I Mukuka reads in part, “Below is the analytical report for the fertilizer that was brought to the National Fertilizer Laboratory for analysis.”

“You can proceed to register the product with Zambia Environment Management Agency (ZEMA) and the Ministry of Agriculture. You cannot sell or distribute this product before registration and licensing,” ZARI Director advised.

Meanwhile, Royd Michelo has trained many farmers in various districts in organic farming which is agricultural production without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives.

“The farmers should be self-sufficient in terms of food security. The fertilizer prices are very expensive, so farmers should come up with alternative way of livelihood in terms of soil fertility. Organic fertilizer is the only sustainable way,” Royd Michelo said.

Soil fertility is the cornerstone of organic management. Because organic farmers do not use synthetic nutrients to restore degraded soil, they must concentrate on building and maintaining soil fertility primarily through their basic farming practices.

The teachers are also involved, because the government’s directive of the schools to be actively involved in the production units. This is why the teachers have come on board; they want to revamp the production units in their respective schools.

Organic farming allows women to apply traditional knowledge and empower them to play the role as ‘keepers of seeds and nature’. By diversifying income and reducing input costs, women farmers faced fewer financial risks. “The promoting bokashi fertilizer is a cheaper way of crop production because the ingredients are locally sourced and it is environmentally friendly as nature is conserved,” Mrs Adasila Kanyanga Michelo notes.

The training also emphasised on a holistic farm management approach, where rotations and animals play an integral role to the system. Some participating small-scale farmers shared their voices. “It will be important for farmers to embrace this idea, so that they can continue farming with organic fertilizer,” Lackson Chimiti noted.

Another trained farmer said, “Even if am unable to buy the chemical fertilizers, I can manage to make organic fertilizer,” Datnai Kunda declared. While Mika Himbeza guaranteed, “This kind of fertilizer is simple to make because all the materials are readily available.”

To abridge it all, recently during a four-day gathering of the Healthy Soil Healthy Food (HSHF) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Director of BioWatch South Africa, Rose Williams said, “What we feed the soils, we feed the plants, what we feed the plants, we feed the people.”
The End

Send your news stories to
Follow News Ghana on Google News

Thanks for reading from, a news publishing website from Ghana. You are free to share this article across all social media platforms .
Articles published on our platform are not own by us . You can contact us for Removal via

Check Also:   Shatta Wale has apologized for insulting my mum, but I won’t let go like that – Andy Dosty

Leave a Reply

Back to top button