Innovate ‘Keyhole’ gardens help refugees improve their nutrion

With limited opportunities to earn a living, refugees in Tanzania are almost totally dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Venancia Nibitanga appears from the back of her house with a bunch of green vegetables. She proceeds to wash and cut them into smaller pieces for cooking. Her youngest daughter watches on intently. “I think she will one day be a great cook, just like her mother,” says Venancia. 

Venancia fled Burundi in April 2016 after her husband became increasingly violent towards her and her children. “After the political crisis in 2015, he became more violent. My children and I left Burundi with nothing apart from the clothes on our backs,” she recounts.

She is happy to be one among the 1,300 families that have been engaged in a vegetable production project known as keyhole garden; a small round bed made with low-cost locally available materials. Through this project, UNHCR and Danish Refugee Council help refugee families to establish these gardens and provide them with seeds, tools and training on good agronomic practices.

Before the project, Venancia 35-year-old was solely dependent on the rations distributed in the camps which has gradually reduced to the current 72% of the food basket to feed her seven children. “We are grateful for the food we receive, but it was not enough and did not contain vegetables,” she says.  “We had a single meal per day because I was afraid the monthly ration to finish early, now they have more to eat, and it is nutritious too,” she adds with a smile.

Venancia and her family enjoying their meal with vegetables from her keyhole garden in Nduta camp in Kigoma region.

The reduction in rations is, in part, caused by a cost adjustment to accommodate the increased distribution cost that came with the need to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. US$21 million is required to ensure that refugees can receive their full monthly food rations from now up to March 2021.

With limited opportunities to earn a living, refugees in Tanzania are almost totally dependent on humanitarian assistance. Such projects are thus essential and ensure 240,000 refugees living in camps in Tanzania can play an active role in ensuring their food and nutrition security.

“Food and shelter are the first humanitarian, indeed human, needs.  The sense of human dignity however is not advanced by keeping populations dependent on food handouts that are always insufficient, inadequate, and often culturally not adapted” says Antonio Canhandula, UNHCR Representative in Tanzania.

UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees