Keyhole Garden [Afghanistan]


technologies_1722 - Afghanistan

Completeness: 78%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Fuleki Blanka

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation

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1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Keyhole garden farming offers farmers the opportunity to increase production while decreasing garden area.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The Keyhole garden technology is documented by Sustainable Land Management Project/HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation with financial support of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and close support and cooperation of the Action Against Hunger International (ACF).
Keyhole gardens were introduced to the Laal_wa_Sarjangal community members to offer them the opportunity to produce vegetables in a small garden area. Keyhole gardens are raised beds that hold moisture and nutrients due to an active compost pile placed in the center of a round bed.

Purpose of the Technology: Keyhole gardens provide opportunities for poor, landless people to grow vegetables and improve their diets. Keyhole gardens are well-suited to places with limited arable land and to fine-textured, clayey soils which do not dry quickly. Keyhole gardens drain and warm up earlier in the spring, which allows planting of cool season vegetable on recommended planting dates. During heavy rain, water is absorbed without erosion. Thus, this technology helps the farmers access year round vegetable production.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: Keyhole gardens are constructed in several steps by layering animal manure and soil, which contributes to soil fertility and drainage. A base layer, that prevents water loss, is made from plastic and carton in the bottom part of the keyhole garden. Then a central watering point is chosen that allows water to disburse into the keyhole garden layers. Leveling the surface of the keyhole garden ensures that all seeds/plants have access to the same amount of water, and helps ensure even germination.
The average size of the keyhole gardens is approximately two square meters. Construction is simple and cheap and can be easily implemented and replicated. The technology is very cost effective as local materials are used. Once they are built, keyhole gardens are easy to prepare for planting and to maintain throughout the growing season. Root crops grow longer and straighter in medium- to coarse-textured soils. Keyhole gardens are well suited to a wide range of intensive gardening techniques such as row covers, trickle irrigation, inter-cropping, successive plantings, compact varieties and mixtures of food and ornamental plantings. Keyhole gardens are usually close to home and are safe from animals, flood, avalanche and etc.

Natural / human environment: Laal_Wa_Sarjangal is one of the central districts of Ghor. It is mountainous and has a very cold dry climate (almost a five-month long winter). Livelihoods in the area are based on a mixture of rain-fed and irrigated agricultural production and animal husbandry. Market access is limited during the winter months when excessive snowfall blocks transportation routes.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Ghor province

Further specification of location:

Lal Wa Sarjangal district

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • applied at specific points/ concentrated on a small area

Boundary points of the Technology area: Lal Wa Sarjangal is one of the Ghor province district has bounderies with Chaghcharan, Kohestanat, Dawlatyar, Panjab, Yakawolang and Sang-e-Takht districts

Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 2.0E-6 km2.

Each keyhole garden structure is 2 square meters and constructed for one household to cultivate vegetables for home consumption. ACF has constructed 600 keyhole gardens in total.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
Unproductive land

Unproductive land


Wastelands, deserts, glaciers, swamps, recreation areas, etc


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Lack of cultivable and fertile land, Scarcity of water, Sloppy and degraded land are the major land use problems.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Lack and scarcity of cultivable land.

Future (final) land use (after implementation of SLM Technology): Cropland: Ca: Annual cropping

Constraints of wastelands / deserts / glaciers / swamps: Lack of seedlings/seeds

Number of growing seasons per year: 1

Longest growing period from month to month: One season

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Unproductive land

Unproductive land


Wastelands, deserts, glaciers, swamps, recreation areas, etc

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • home gardens

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V5: Others
structural measures

structural measures

  • S11: Others

Specification of other vegetative measures: Planatation of vegetables for household consumption

Specification of other structural measures: keyhole garden

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
  • Wm: mass movements/ landslides

Main causes of degradation: over-exploitation of vegetation for domestic use, population pressure

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

A detailed technical drawing of a keyhole garden (length: 2 m, height: 1 m) constructed by the technical support of Action Against Hunger International (ACF).

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: low

Main technical functions: reduction of slope length, improvement of ground cover, water harvesting / increase water supply, increase vegetation

Secondary technical functions: improvement of topsoil structure (compaction), stabilisation of soil (eg by tree roots against land slides)

Vegetative measure: scattered / dispersed in Keyhole
Vegetative material: O : other

Vegetative measure: Vegetative material: O : other

Other species: Various vegetables


Ezatullah Noori, Action Against Hunger International

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology unit
Specify unit:

Keyhole garden

Specify dimensions of unit (if relevant):

length: 2 m, height: 1 m

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • USD
Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Construction of the Keyhole garden with local available materials (plastic sheet, rope and water-cane)
2. Plantation in the keyhole garden under ACF's supervision

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Construction of the Keyhole garden (seeds) persons/day/unit 1.0 6.0 6.0 30.0
Labour Plantation in the keyhole garden unit 1.0 2.0 2.0 20.0
Equipment Water-cane pieces 1.0 2.0 2.0 30.0
Construction material Plastic sheet meter 2.0 1.25 2.5 30.0
Construction material Rope meter 2.0 0.75 1.5 30.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 14.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 14.0

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Plantation in the keyhole garden

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Plantation in the keyhole garden (seeds) unit 1.0 2.0 2.0 40.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 2.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 2.0

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The technology is low cost and can be accomplished by using local available materials

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: temperate

With long winter season

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility is low

Soil drainage / infiltration is poor

Soil water storage capacity is medium

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • poor
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
  • women
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly disadvantaged land users

Population density: 10-50 persons/km2

Annual population growth: 2% - 3%

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

  • individual
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)

means subject to community-agreed management rules.

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


production area


Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency


livelihood and human well-being

Comments/ specify:

Vegetable cultivation in this area is newly introduced and has improved the health of the families. Even they can have access to vegetables in a colder season as well

dependence on external support


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff


soil cover


soil loss


nutrient cycling/ recharge

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

soil, vegetation and wastelands quality




6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm not well
local windstorm well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood not well

Construction of the technology in the protected and safe areas.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • single cases/ experimental
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 0-10%

1 land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

Comments on spontaneous adoption: Many other land user families have implemented the technology with out any external material support, unfortunately information regarding the exact number of the families is not available.

There is a strong trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: The technology, provided vegetables to the community all year round and even in an extremely cold weather.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Productive, can get high yields from a relatively small surface area, can extend the cultivation time if protected from frost and covered by plastic.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Low cost, easy to replicate, requires little labor at the stage of establishment and can be done by beneficiary and requires little maintenance.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? People can use local available materials
Locally adaptable, doesn’t require productive land, the soil for cultivation could be easily prepared and managed, doesn’t require chemical fertilizers.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Technical support and training can be provided for the community members to change the land in to a productive land with out using any chemical fertilizer.
Can be managed by females in the household, less chance for vegetables contamination.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Women should be encouraged and given technical assistance.
Requires little water for irrigation.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? The keyhole garden could be irrigated by kitchen waste water.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Unavailability of seed Can be solved through resourcing good quality seed from seed preservation. Start farming under plastic early in the spring to have enough time for seeds preservation.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

Links and modules

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