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Sustainable agriculture – Mwera keyhole gardens

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What is the issue?

Zanzibar imports 80% of its food. This is costly, both in a monetary sense, and in terms of the environmental footprint.

Rainfall is seasonal, and piped water for irrigation is unavailable across much of Zanzibar. Soil quality in much of Zanzibar is poor, with solid rock often very close to the surface, making conventional agriculture techniques unproductive in many areas.

Poverty is high in Zanzibar, with many people struggling to make a living and lacking awareness of suitable livelihood alternatives. Many people find it hard to provide nutritious food for their families.

What is the solution?

Keyhole gardens are a raised-bed technique of cultivation that can be built from materials that are recycled or available for free locally in Zanzibar.

The fertility of the soil is enhanced using organic kitchen waste, and plants are watered using ‘grey water’ – i.e., water that has already been used for household activities such as showering or washing dishes.

They enable any individual, family or community group with a few square metres of land, regardless how poor or rocky the soil, to grow their own fresh produce. These gardens are very simple and affordable to start and to operate.

The keyhole gardening technique lowers the soil temperature, making it possible to grow produce currently unavailable in Zanzibar, and in high demand for hotels, making keyhole gardening a viable micro-business option to support rural development.

How do we help?

Sustainable East Africa helps by:

  • Working with the community members to build a number of ‘keyhole’ gardens in Mwera and train the community to maintain them.
  • Providing funding for initial equipment to establish the garden (a personal donation from Trustee Stephen Read)
  • Providing seeds for produce of high value to the tourist industry, and teaching the gardeners how to grow them.
  • Supporting the community to find markets for their produce.
  • Providing support, oversight, guidance and mentorship to overseas volunteers participating in these activities.




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