Bendito dos Santos, like many families in Timor-Leste, is a subsistence farmer who lives in a rural community. Subsistence farmers like dos Santos rely on the food they grow to support their families. Many of them struggle to grow enough food throughout the year due to limited resources and training, as well as erratic weather.
To help these farmers increase their crop output and provide food for their families, LDS Charities partnered with Catholic Relief Services to help families learn to build keyhole gardens.
A keyhole garden is a raised-bed system that requires minimal watering and fertilizer due to its ability to retain moisture and use compost. Its unique design allows farmers to irrigate their crops with recycled water used for household washing. The keyhole structure also makes it easy for farmers to add soil or manure to the garden if the crops need additional fertilizer. A raised bed is also particularly effective for those who have physical limitations, such as the elderly or disabled.
Bendito dos Santos and his wife are older, and they had a hard time kneeling to weed and tend to their old garden. They are thankful for their new keyhole garden. “I felt so happy because this garden is good for us as an elderly man and woman,” he said. “We can’t sit to weed our garden, but now we can stand up to weed.”
Due to Timor-Leste’s tropical climate, families are able to use their keyhole gardens to produce crops year-round. An evaluation by Catholic Relief Services found that a keyhole garden can regularly feed a family of five with fresh vegetables. Families are often able to grow surplus vegetables, which are sold as a source of supplemental income.
So far, the partnership has helped 230 families build over 420 keyhole gardens in Timor-Leste.