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Keyhole gardens improving community health in Burundi.

World Vision
25 July 2017 by Shelby Stapleton
Keyhole gardens improving community health in Burundi.

I recently travelled to Burundi to see the impact of our resourcing programs in Bugenyuzi – one of the communities that World Vision supports. My first impression of the country was just how beautiful it is. Travelling from Kenya and Uganda, which are both experiencing drought, I was not prepared for all the natural, green beauty that I saw when I arrived in Burundi. Sadly, despite all the natural resources, there isn’t enough food for everyone, and this was heartbreaking to see.

Fifteen years of civil war, combined with extreme poverty, has left 58 percent of Burundi’s population chronically malnourished. Only 28 percent of the country has access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs:
These issues are made more difficult by several factors:

• Burundi is a small, densely populated country and there is not enough food for everyone
• Most people only have a small amount of land to farm on
• Food storage is a challenge

Introducing keyhole gardens in the Bugenyuzi community.

When World Vision works with a community , we start by discussing their needs as a group and offer a few possible solutions. It‘s the community that chooses the best solution to meet their own needs. In Bugenyuzi, we realised that education could help the community learn how to grow, cook and store nutritious food made from locally sourced ingredients. The community, as a collective, decided to build keyhole gardens (also known as kitchen gardens) to address the issue of food shortages and unbalanced diets.

Community members building a kitchen garden.

These amazing structures are made by the community using local materials. They are typically cylindrical in shape with multiple layers. The keyhole enables the community member to go to the centre and weed the garden without bending over. The different layers can be used for different vegetables or for growing climbers and upright plants. The community members are so proud of their achievements – they told us that before this, they didn’t know the importance of variety in their diet, let alone how to grow different vegetables.

There is such a great sense of comradery in Burundi. The people of Bugenyuzi identified the most vulnerable community members and helped build the kitchen gardens for them first, before moving to the next home. We visited a woman who was looking after her ten grandchildren on her own. The community got together to build her a new home, a kitchen and kitchen garden!

A completed kitchen garden.

When we met with the community, they expressed such gratitude for World Vision’s support – for not only helping them build kitchen gardens, but also for the nutrition education they received. However, I believe that the real strength of the program lies in the cohesiveness of the community. Now that they know about a balanced diet, they can work together to combat health issues without World Vision being there. And this is what we want – to empower communities to transform their lives for the long-term.
























All images by Shelby Stapleton, World Vision Australia.

Shelby Stapleton Shelby Stapleton

Shelby is a Program Resources Field Partnerships Advisor for World Vision Australia.


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