Homestead gardening and climate change


Homestead Gardening Guides in Lesotho

In Lesotho, FAO is distributing a series of illustrated guides, in English and Sesotho, to encourage and facilitate the construction of homestead gardens. The gardens are easily built using locally available material and are specially designed to improve soil fertility and capture moisture. With minimum maintenance, they can provide vegetables all year round.


Homestead gardening brings hope as Lesotho seeks to adapt to climate change

Campaign aims to improve food security and diets of most vulnerable

Ask 90-year-old Rammitsane Matela how climate conditions have changed over the years for the farmers in the fields of rural Lesotho and he does not need to stretch his memory far to find the answer.

“Heavy rains and drought are things that started recently,” he says of the extreme weather events which, as in so many other parts of the world, are increasingly afflicting Lesotho, a landlocked country in southern Africa.

Flat-topped hills and mountains, rocky crevices and dongas – deep gullies formed by soil erosion – mark much of Lesotho’s landscape, giving it a lunar-like appearance. During strong downpours, the dongas turn into torrents that drain away the increasingly scarce fertile topsoil from cultivable tracts of land that lie in the valleys.

Lesotho struggles with poverty, malnutrition, high HIV infection rates, unemployment and soil erosion. Declining harvests due to the combination of inadequate production practices and the impact of climate change are compounding the country’s problems, pushing many rural communities further into food and nutrition insecurity.

Part of the solution lies in creating opportunities for households to produce their own nutritious food and for them to do this by using precious resources such as soil and water in a sustainable way.

FAO is working with the Government of Lesotho, non-governmental organizations and other United Nations agencies on a resilience strategy to help adapt the country’s farming system to changing climate conditions such as erratic rain patterns and higher temperatures. The initiative includes promoting homestead gardening and adopting innovative techniques such as the construction of keyhole gardens.

These are raised plots – around 2 metres in diameter – consisting of an outer stone wall packed with several layers of soil and rich organic material such as manure, compost or ash that surround a cylindrical basket filled with porous material such as cotton sacks stones reed, maize, sorghum and clay pots.

The keyhole garden’s structure allows for the planting of carrot, beetroot, spinach and other vegetables next to each other in a way that can improve soil fertility and capture moisture. The garden can also be easily covered to protect crops from winter frost and the drying effects of the wind.

Read the full article: FAO



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.