Mickaele Maiava’s Organic Keyhole Gardens

Name of case study

Mickaele Maiava’s Organic Keyhole Gardens


 Moamoa, Samoa





Area / size

Building/ single site. Exact size is unknown.

NbS employed

Keyhole Garden

Type of NbS



Local citizens


 Small grants program (United Nations Development Program Global Environment)


$50,000 p/y

Design group

Mikaele Maiava and family

Fig.1 Keyhole Garden diagrammatic image. Jaap, (2015), The Tokelau Keyhole garden stamp set. Diagram. Moamoa Gardeners
Climate change benefits
  • Drought
  • Freshwater flooding
  • Loss of food production
  • Reduced soil quality
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Food security and quality
Ecological benefits
  • Decomposition
  • Food production (for humans)
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Soil building

Summary of case study

Mikaele Maiava’s Organic Keyhole Gardens, located in Western Samoa, focuses on engaging unemployed youth in farming and cooking with organic produce. The keyhole gardening technique is employed, addressing issues such as poor diets leading to increased diseases in Samoa. The project serves as an educational platform for locals and enhances food security in the area, with produce sold to local restaurants.

Keyhole gardens are raised garden beds designed with a central composting basket that extends into the garden in a keyhole shape (Mohan et al. 2020). These gardens are a nature-based solution because they integrate organic waste recycling and water conservation practices. The composting basket provides nutrients to the surrounding plants, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, while the raised bed design conserves water by reducing evaporation and promoting efficient irrigation. Additionally, keyhole gardens are often constructed using locally available materials, making them sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Mikaele Maiava’s Organic Keyhole Gardens, designed to withstand adverse effects of climate change, offer resilience against challenges like saltwater incursion, cyclones, and drought, as highlighted in Allen’s (2018) article. While not large-scale climate mitigation infrastructure, keyhole gardens contribute significantly to food security in small island nations like Samoa.

Originating in Africa to combat water scarcity and limited fertile land, keyhole gardens have adapted to diverse climates, rooted in indigenous knowledge. Maiava’s project demonstrates the value of community-driven initiatives, with ongoing maintenance managed by volunteers, minimal ongoing costs, and profits from produce sales supporting sustainability.

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Fig. 2 Educational platform to learn about Keyhole Gardens. Jaap, (2016), Mika explaining the secret of his success in growing herbs in bags under shadecloth. On the left, his mentor Malcolm Hazelman. Photograph. Moamoa Gardeners

Further resources:

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