Women Feeding Communities: Celebrating GROW on World Food Day


To mark World Food Day (October 16, 2018), MEDA is sharing impact stories collected from our projects in the field. These stories highlight how MEDA is addressing food security in the area of economic development.

Mariam is a soybean farmer who helps to support a household of seven people. Mariam joined the GROW project in 2014 and is a member of the farmer group, Nimodongo meaning “one voice.”

Prior to joining GROW, it was very difficult for Mariam to get fresh vegetables in her community during the dry season. Her community did not have a proper dam to allow irrigation for their crops. She had to travel to the nearby market, which would take at least 30 minutes by car. The journey along the bumpy road to the market does not provide public transit, making it harder for individuals to reach their destination.

About GROW: Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) is a seven-year project funded by Global Affairs Canada. The overall project goal is to improve food security for 20,000 women farmers and their families in Northern Ghana. Project activities include helping women improve the availability, access and utilization of appropriate and nutritious food by strengthening production, processing and linkages to markets. To achieve this, women Lead Farmers are identified to help train others in their communities on good agronomic practices to maximize crop yields, with a special focus on soybean cultivation.

Upon joining the GROW project, Mariam was trained by field officers from MEDA’s Key Facilitating Partner (KFP), TUDRIDEP, on a host of topics, including how to build a small keyhole garden. Keyhole gardens are beneficial to the community, as they require minimal water making them ideal during the dry season. Mariam was the first among her group and community to construct a keyhole garden. When asked why, she said, “I cannot keep travelling to the market to buy fresh vegetables, it’s expensive and time wasting. I want to grow my own vegetables to feed my family.”

When she began, she had challenges with fetching water from the community borehole to maintain her garden, but Mariam’s problems were quickly solved with the keyhole garden approach. She learnt how the keyhole garden innovation retains moisture that nourishes the soil by using a compost basket placed in the middle of the garden. At times, she was able to water her garden using only waste water from the kitchen; this helps her be resourceful and manage waste water effectively.

Mariam was delighted to see her garden in full bloom. She reported, “I spend little or sometimes no money on vegetables because of what I produce in my garden.” Mariam planted okra, tomatoes, bean leaves, pumpkin and potatoes in her keyhole garden. Her garden was also built using locally sourced materials; therefore, it was relatively inexpensive to build.

Mariam standing in front of her newly constructed Keyhole Garden
Mariam’s garden in full bloom

Mariam shared that some community women come to buy fresh vegetables from her garden. Depending on the vegetable, she can make as much as GHS 40 (CAD 11.20)1 from her garden per week. This additional source of income helps Mariam to buy other food for her family. Mariam shared that outside the preparation period, she now has more time: her keyhole garden is easy to water, and she only needs to check on it during the morning and evening.

In addition to maintaining her keyhole garden, Mariam cultivates soy. She learned good agronomic practices from her trainings with TUDRIDEP, and her yields grow larger each year. Mariam can cultivate soy as a nutritious household meal, and sell it in the nearby market, to earn an additional income. Between her keyhole garden and soybeans, Mariam earns a steady income and can ensure her household is well-fed and healthy.

How to Build a Keyhole Garden in 10 Simple Steps

  1. Gather materials (straw or plant residue, twine, large stones or bricks, rusty cans [for iron], long sticks, compost or dry animal manure, wood ash).
  2. Clear an area (about 9 m2 – 3 m by 3 m).
  3. Place a stick in the middle of area and draw a circle going 150 cm from the center in each direction.
  4. Create the inner circle (for compost bucket) about 45 cm from the center.
  5. Build compost bucket using long sticks and twine to hold them together. Fill the middle with layers of straw, compost and wood ash.
  6. Build the outer wall using stones or bricks (include a small square entry point to access the compost bucket).
  7. Layer the garden with rusty cans, then wood ash, then a thick layer of soil mixed with manure/compost (each layer should slope downwards away from the middle).
  8. Water thoroughly. Allow one week before planting seeds.
  9. Continue to water occasionally using waste water for the compost bucket.
  10. Enjoy fresh vegetables!

1An average exchange rate of 1 GHS (Ghanaian cedi) to 0.28 CAD (Canadian dollars) is used throughout this story for consistency.



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