How might vegetables and marital harmony be connected? In the spring of 2014 the staff in MEDA’s Women’s Economic Opportunities team may have shrugged and said nothing. By the spring of 2015 they had a different perspective. A study based on a MEDA pilot project in northern Ghana around Key Hole Gardens found that 58% of participants reported increased marital harmony as a result of the gardens. Although surprising at first, the study found that women’s increased access to vegetables allowed them to both cook more diverse food at home, a fact their husbands enjoy, and obtain some financial income which is also viewed positively within the household.
Findings like these highlight the importance of thorough and flexible monitoring and evaluation, particularly in pilot projects which aim to learn what works and what doesn’t with an eye to scaling. Had this particular pilot project only looked at opportunities for income generation, it may have been a disappointment, since although women did sell some of their harvest, the majority of the crops were consumed by households. Yet having the flexibility to capture secondary findings such as impact on household harmony helps validate the idea that keyhole gardens may be worth scaling.
The Keyhole garden pilot program also found that 50% of women attributed improved household nutrition to the program, as well as 50% of the participants attributed being able to pay more school fees. However, 50% attributed a greater burden of labour linked to tending the garden, yet all partitpants believed that the amount of additional time was of little consequence. To find out more about keyhole gardens or the pilot project’s findings check out our publication: Keyhole gardens contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Ghana and video: Keyhole Gardens.