by Eddie DeJongFounding father of Vita Gardens and creator of all these Keyhole backyard beds you see at Costco.

Keyhole gardens:

  1. A type of buzz phrases – keyhole backyard – that appear to be taking up the gardening world.
  2. A round raised mattress with a central composting bin, and a path to the middle (a slice of the circle reduce out) that originated in Africa.
People who plant: eddie dejong goes to africa to learn to make keyhole gardens a story from

The entire keyhole backyard idea got here up shortly – like a whirlwind. I stumbled throughout the thought whereas researching for brand spanking new merchandise again within the spring of 2014. It was an concept that appeared too good to be true. A keyhole backyard is a single, compact unit, designed to make use of much less water – a composter and backyard in the identical vessel.

Earlier than I knew it, I used to be hopping on a airplane to construct gardens for the African folks out of thankfulness for giving us the good concept. My spouse and I needed to “give again,” however by doing extra than simply writing a number of checks. We needed to be concerned personally and bodily on a long-term foundation. Going to Rwanda would enable us to really feel the center – and heartbeat – of a nation and let it change our perspective.

People who plant: eddie dejong goes to africa to learn to make keyhole gardens a story from

THE Keyhole Backyard JOURNEY

The one factor I knew about Rwanda was one thing obscure a few genocide. I shortly discovered that Rwanda is just 100 miles north of the equator and that Rwanda in July is simply nuts.

The flight was brutal. We left Detroit at 6:00pm, and arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, at 9:00pm the next day, a full 20 hours of journey time. We had a cease in Amsterdam, after which yet another in Tanzania earlier than touching down in Kigali. After finding out our visas and paying a number of tolls, we met with our driver and had been whisked away.

Kigali – the capital metropolis – was completely different from I had imagined. I had assumed it might be quiet, shutting down for the night time. As an alternative it was bustling and busy. Youngsters yelled: Mazoon-goo!! (which suggests white particular person) and needed to provide us a high-five. There have been night time golf equipment, music and dancing. Dashing motorcycle-taxis scooted expertly out and in of site visitors as we went up and down hilly roads, till we arrived on the visitor home the place we spent the night time.

The subsequent morning revealed a ravishing cityscape. Within the background a number of cranes surrounded new skyscrapers – a superb register an enormous metropolis. Cranes imply constructing and constructing means financial enlargement.

Placing issues in perspective

After assembly the remainder of the group and touring a few of the services of the host group, we went to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial. This put every part into perspective. The memorial displayed a museum- high quality timeline of how the genocide started and what occasions conspired to create the tradition for genocide to develop. The timeline started with the Belgian colonists who rant the nation and supplied preferential therapy tot he Tutsis, one among two main Rwandan tribes; all the way in which as much as 1994 when all of it got here to a head. The museum additionally detailed a historical past of genocides after Rwanda together with Bosnia and Syria – a visible testomony to inhumanity by means of the ages.


People who plant: eddie dejong goes to africa to learn to make keyhole gardens a story from

Keyhole Backyard BUILD DAY

Construct day introduced its personal set of challenges. Theo, our undertaking supervisor, took us to a contemporary keyhole backyard constructed for coaching functions. They used completely different supplies than our package again residence, however the intent was to buy native supplies to help the native financial system. This included stitched rice sacks for the construction, sticks for the framing, and out there grime for the soil. The grime – oh my – the grime.

The grime was like concrete. It was sun-baked with a rock-hard crust for the reason that final wet season. The soil was rusty orange, and contained few vitamins. We first needed to fracture the hard-pan, then carry it and pulverize it into one thing useable. After every blow, the mud would rise into the air attaching itself to my moist shirt and garments. The mud went in every single place, into my nostrils and my lungs, into my footwear and completely staining my pants. Shut by a home was being constructed – out of bricks constructed from the similar soil that we had been utilizing! To make issues worse, we solely had one wheelbarrow and some previous instruments on the verge of breaking, so we ended up crafting a makeshift wheelbarrow out of canvas baggage.

Keyhole Backyard Layering to Enhance Soil

As a result of the grime had only a few vitamins, we had to make use of a keyhole backyard layering technique to assist encourage the composting motion that would supply vitamins for the backyard. We used what we might discover domestically and sourced what we might from across the completely different properties. Many individuals grew bananas and corn, so there was an abundance of fallen corn stalks and banana tree leaves. We gathered these and created layers of fabric to make up the mattress. The highest two layers consisted of the orange clay-soil after which a last layer consisted of a sprinkling of native cow or sheep manure. 

To kick-start the composting motion, your complete mattress wanted to be soaked in water. Water was one other huge problem in Rwanda. 

Water is usually gathered in plastic jerry cans. Relying upon the place they dwell, folks journey an hour or extra every manner simply to get a number of jugs of water for the day. There have been usually lineups on the native water holes. Girls stability the jerry cans on their heads. Older youngsters load up their bicycles with six or extra cans after which push them residence, usually up steep hills. 

As a result of acquiring water is so tough and time consuming, a keyhole backyard is fascinating in Africa. The design makes use of as much as 80 % much less water than a standard in-ground backyard. Layers of spongy corn stalks and banana leaves soak up the moisture and assist retain water. 

A Mindset Shift

Rwanda has deep tribal roots, the 2 main tribes are the Tutsi and Hutu. Belgian colonialists managed Rwanda within the early 1900s. They gave privilege to the Tutsi tribe and commenced the preliminary social class separation that in the end led to the 1994 genocide. The Tutsi tribe had been typically cattle ranchers and had been thought-about the higher class, whereas the Hutus had been thought-about decrease class farmers. 

In early 1994, Hutu extremists picked up conventional weapons and slaughtered the Tutsi over a interval of 90 days. Inside that point almost 1,000,000 folks had been brutally murdered. The Hutus, who didn’t wish to be concerned, had been pressured to kill or be killed by the Hutu extremists. The Tutsi, whom weren’t murdered, escaped as refugees to neighboring Tanzania. 

Returning refugees

A couple of years in the past, Tanzania despatched the Tutsi again to their residence nation and the present Rwandan authorities arrange villages like Kigali to assist settle the returning folks. 

The mind-set of cattle ranchers was, nevertheless, nonetheless deeply engrained into the Tutsi tradition and once they returned to Rwanda that they had no means to get again to their earlier occupation. Nobody needed to backyard or noticed the significance of gardening. It was nonetheless seen as a decrease class occupation. Consequently well being and vitamin has steadily declined in these communities, and their means to earn a dwelling has been severely curtailed. 

Have been I to be positioned right here in Kigali, right here’s what I might instantly do: I’d plant avocado, mango and banana bushes. I’d develop corn and construct a keyhole backyard for greens, like kale and spinach. I’d begin a compost pile to start out changing branches and waste into soil. I might use a few of the produce to promote on the market and use my earnings to buy supplies for a hen coop. 

North Individuals usually have a look at a neighbor’s new automobile or new landscaping and grow to be envious. In the identical manner, a few of the village members in Rwanda are keyhole gardens. They’re seeing folks get more healthy, their eyesight bettering and their financial potential escalating. 

Keyhole Gardens are BRINGING LIFE 

Rwanda left me breathless and speechless.

A 73-year-old lady who, after receiving a keyhole backyard, reached out to the heavens in thankfulness as she danced round. I noticed grown males with tears of their eyes, at a lack of phrases questioning why we’d journey half manner world wide to assist them. I noticed happier kids than I normally see in North America taking part in in neighborhood with one another. And, I noticed a 92-year-old man give thanks as a result of he might lastly see after I gave him my previous prescription glasses. 

I additionally stood within the small bullet-ridden buildings the place hundreds of individuals had been raped and killed. With my very own eyes I noticed the piles of bloodied, soiled garments left behind. I stood within the mass graves questioning how such evil might be allowed to flourish. 

Rwanda is really an instance of a people who find themselves rebounding. The identical neighbors that when slaughtered one another have now locked arms to maneuver ahead, throwing hate behind. They’ve determined to maneuver on by means of forgiveness. 

Selecting Vita

Some say “it’s the journey, not the vacation spot,” however on this case Rwanda is the journey for me. It’s a journey to look exterior my very own challenges, a journey to encourage folks by means of my instance and a journey to assist the place I can. 

Vita is the Latin phrase for Life. We introduced vita to Rwanda by means of constructing keyhole gardens. In flip Rwanda introduced vita to me. 

I’ve discovered that to realize your life is by giving it away. I gave every part I might to Rwanda, however I got here again with a lot extra. 

Eddie Dejong is the CDI (Chief Dreamer and Inventor) at Vita Gardens in Ontario, Canada. Vita Gardens manufactures and sells prebuilt kits for keyhole gardens in North America (out there at Costco and different shops), in addition to raised backyard beds of varied types together with ADA wheelchair accessible planters. 

Be taught extra about African keyhole gardening methods.

Another African and Keyhole backyard posts you could be eager about:


photos: supplied by Eddie DeJong, Tazz Kelly, and Esther Havens

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