Keyhole garden technique can make huge difference

By Anina Kazaz ,

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INSPIRING: The five workers at the garden in Moamoa Seia Mikaele Maiava, Pueata Tili, Filo Ake, Faamanatu Mavaega Matulino and Niuula Fiu.

INSPIRING: The five workers at the garden in Moamoa Seia Mikaele Maiava, Pueata Tili, Filo Ake, Faamanatu Mavaega Matulino and Niuula Fiu. (Photo: Anina Kazaz)

Land is the most important part of culture. 

This is according to Mikaele Maiava, who is the Manager for Pope Benedict XVI Hostel in Moamoa, which hosts Tokelauan students during their stay in Samoa. 

Mr. Maiava also is a gardener who tries to promote health and well-being to locals and visitors to the hostel. 

Mr. Maiava and four other gardeners look after the recycling garden around the hostel. 

His garden is on a two-acre land, which belongs to the Tokelau Catholics and is opened and funded by the Taupulega of Nukunonu (council of elders).

The garden work is based on the keyhole garden principle, which is mostly organic farming. 

“We want to minimize the use of chemicals, we use only snail bait to control African snail,” Mikaele explained,

 “We use multiple layers of composts as our replacement for chemicals. We also look to land management, how to get maximum profit and value.”

Mr. Maiava saw the opportunity to provide a place for the local people and Tokelauans to learn from his garden work and to inspire others when they return to their homes.

He grows ginger, beans, cucumbers, and herbs like basils coriander, lettuce and more which mostly don’t take a lot of energy to look after.

 “With climate change, the sun is really hot and when it rains, it rains for three weeks, that is why we have these high gardens for mainly herbs,” Mr. Maiava said of the challenges. 

Mr. Maiava is not new to gardening because he had been carrying out the same activity in Tokelau - where he was born and raced before starting his work at the hostel in December 2015. 

 “I am not a good fisherman, so I thought I try my luck on the land,” he said. 

Seia Mikaele Maiava at the high herb garden.
Seia Mikaele Maiava at the high herb garden.
The high herb garden, to save the plants from heavy rain.
The high herb garden, to save the plants from heavy rain.
The growing garden in Moamoa.
The growing garden in Moamoa.

 “I started searching on the internet, when I read through keyhole gardening, I knew that this is the key to gardening in Tokelau.”

 “I started experimenting in my own garden at home. I was inspired by the challenge and I have been looking to do something bigger. So when I got the job here in Samoa, I wanted to continue my work on top of looking after the guests.”

Mr. Maiava hopes to make a difference with his simple action.

 “Everyone can do this. You can have all the materials. For example, we use the $5 pallets that you can buy from S.S.A.B,” Mr. Maiava said. 

“Most people think that gardens have to be two kilometers away. You can have it right next to your house.”

 “There is a relationship between you and the plants. We have to take care of the plants. In the end we are giving them life and they give us life.” 

 “It is a simply mentality that gives you the inspiration to develop more. Success always spells work, love and shares.”

Mr. Maiava is one of the founders of the charity organisation - Keyhole Gardeners Group - which was founded two years ago. The group comprises 15 members.

 “Through this organisation, we got some funding from S.G.P. (Small Grants Program) to help with our gardening and to promote this place as a learning place.”

 “Our main vision is to grow a sustainable Samoa by inspiring all kinds of people that you can do something with a small piece of land. We’ve reached out to about 500 people both overseas and here,” he said.

They also help schools to start their own garden. 

To know more about Keyhole Gardeners Group, their Facebook page is: Samoa Keyhole Organic Gardeners.

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