Texto por Adam Andros
Fotografía por Sophie Pinchetti
Con el fin de fortalecer e inspirar a nuestros vecinos para diversificar sus formas de sustento e ingresos, el Instituto Chaikuni colaboró recientemente con el renombrado Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana (IIAP) con el objeto de impartir un taller sobre la piscicultura rural. La piscicultura representa una de las actividades económicas primarias para aldeas con bajos ingresos en la Amazona Peruana, como actividad complementaria al extendido y deteriorado monocultivo de yuca o plátano del cual dependen la mayoría de las comunidades.
El objetivo principal de nuestro taller fue el de proporcionar una base sólida tanto teórica como práctica sobre la piscicultura rural, asistidos por expertos académicos en la materia. El taller estuvo dirigido a pescadores principiantes y experimentados, proporcionando de esa manera un espacio donde las dificultades y desafíos pudieran ser abordados de manera pragmática por los expertos, y a su vez, fomentar la cohesión del grupo y fortalecer el vínculo entre el Instituto Chaikuni y las comunidades locales.
El taller tuvo lugar en la comunidad mestiza de Tres Unidos, ubicada cerca del Templo del Camino de la Luz, y contó con la participación de 13 personas, dos facilitadores del Instituto Chaikuni (incluyendo a nuestra aclamada ingeniera forestal Silvia) y un instructor del IIAP, el biólogo Manuel Soplin.
Los principales temas discutidos durante el taller se centraron en las nociones de autosuficiencia y diversidad de ingresos. Las granjas piscícolas se presentaron como oportunidades para asegurar una fuente constante de proteína limpia y de calidad, además de deliciosa, que también proporciona oportunidades de ingresos al canalizar el excedente en el mercado local. Adicionalmente, se dedicó un espacio para la presentación de buenas prácticas y solución de problemas, con la finalidad de anticiparse a dificultades que los nuevos agricultores pudiesen llegar a encontrar.
Para ello, examinamos y esbozamos las características deseadas de los terrenos asignados para la construcción de nuevas granjas piscícolas, y se establecieron estándares respecto a la densidad, nutrición, higiene y cuidado de los peces y a su vez, proporcionamos soluciones para proteger a los peces de sus depredadores. Nuestra intención siempre ha sido encontrar un equilibrio entre sustentabilidad, ecología, viabilidad y producción.
Nuestro amigo Manuel Soplin, biólogo en el IIAP, estuvo a cargo de organizar las actividades para que los miembros de nuestra comunidad tengan libre acceso al alevino de gamitana (Colossoma macropomum), y que esto sirva como apoyo a los nuevos emprendedores para poner en marcha sus empresas y comenzar con el pie derecho. Queremos extender nuestro agradecimiento a Manuel y a todo el equipo en el IIAP por su generosidad y dedicación.
Después de una fascinante y atractiva presentación teórica de Manuel y Silvia, y un sencillo pero delicioso almuerzo, tuvimos una excursión para visitar la tierra que había sido designada para la construcción de la nueva granja piscícola de nuestro vecino, el señor Marcelo Tenazoa. Esto representó una oportunidad para Silvia y Manuel de poder evaluar la ubicación de la piscina, proporcionar ideas sobre el proceso de construcción y ofrecer algunas directrices y recomendaciones para asegurar el éxito de este nuevo proyecto.
Después de contestar preguntas y aclarar dudas, visitamos las granjas piscícolas de otro vecino, el Sr. Eder Baneo. Nuestro amigo Eder ha estado cultivando pescado por un tiempo, pero actualmente ha sido difícil para él, deshacerse de una plaga parasitaria que parece estar obstaculizando el desarrollo de su apreciado pescado. Nuestro amigo del IIAP, Manuel Soplin, amablemente recolectó muestras de las piscinas para analizarlas en los laboratorios de la institución.
Estamos muy felices por el compromiso y dedicación de nuestros vecinos en Tres Unidos en el desarrollo sostenible y la abundancia de sistemas vivientes. Esperamos ver cómo se desarrollan estos nuevos proyectos y nos alegra saber que como siempre, contamos con un equipo de trabajadores capacitados y dispuestos en todo momento a implementar nuevos proyectos comunitarios con el fin de estrechar y fortalecer las relaciones recíprocas entre Chaikuni, el Templo del Camino de Luz, y nuestra familia y comunidad amazónica que es cada vez más extensa.
Fotografía de Michal Chochol y texto de Sophie Pinchetti
En la actualidad el cacao se cultiva en todo el mundo, pero es aquí, en la selva baja del río Amazonas de Sur América, donde el árbol de cacao (Theobroma cacao) creció originariamente. El árbol de cacao ha sido muy valorado entre la gente de la Amazonía desde tiempos inmemorables por su riqueza en nutrientes y su sabor intenso, por eso no es extraño que en Latín, cacao significa “la comida de los dioses”. Mientras que el cacao se convirtió en uno de los productos más importantes para la exportación durante los tiempos coloniales, en la actualidad, iniciativas de producción locales y gestionadas de forma comunitaria han demostrando que es una manera de obtener ingresos y que además, cuando se combina con otras iniciativas, es una alternativa a los proyectos extractivos.
Teniendo en cuenta esto, recientemente hemos realizado nuestro primer taller de fermentación de cacao en la comunidad de Tres Unidos en el río Nanay, comunidad que está muy cerca de nuestra zona de permacultura. El taller fue instruido por Roy Wilkinson, de origen inglés y experto en la producción artesanal de chocolate, que esta dando talleres de fermentación de cacao por todo el mundo basándose en su experiencia profesional en las fábricas de chocolate en Europa. El taller duró una semana y asistió todo nuestro equipo de permacultura y cinco personas de la comunidad, incluyendo dos mujeres, Viviana Tenazoa y Griselda Canayo, quienes se encargan de la gestión de las tiendas de la comunidad y preparan delicias de cacao (mezclando cacao, maní y miel), que después venden a los participantes de nuestra organización hermana, The Temple of The Way of Light.
El objetivo de este taller fue probar que técnica de fermentación proporciona los mejores resultados en lo relacionado con la calidad del sabor del cacao para fines alimenticios. Normalmente, Viviana Tenazoa y Griselda Canayo, fermentan las semillas de cacao con zumo, un proceso bastante rápido. Durante el taller Rory presentó la técnica de fermentación clásica usada por los productores de chocolate artesano. Esta técnica de fermentación usa una caja con agujeros, lo que permite que el zumo de las semillas se filtre y esto ayuda a la creación de un tipo especial de bacteria que es esencial para que el cacao desarrolle el sabor intenso que lo caracteriza.
Después de colocar las semillas de cacao en la caja, se vigila el proceso de fermentación a diario para asegurarse que la temperatura aumenta al nivel deseado. En este caso, y probablemente debido a las temperaturas cálidas de la Amazonía, la fermentación ocurrió de forma natural después de 6 días “Fue interesante aprender una nueva técnica de fermentación del cacao… parece una técnica muy innovadora. Pero me gustaría hacer algunas modificaciones para poder acabar con el proceso en solo 3 días en lugar de 6”, comenta Viviana.
Después de tostar y moler las semillas y hacer pequeñas muestras, hicimos una sesión de degustación usando el cacao hecho con la técnica de fermentación de Rory y el cacao hecho con la técnica de fermentación de Viviana y Griselda. Las opiniones fueron 50/50 aunque se observó que el cacao hecho con la técnica de Rory tenía una sabor más intenso. “El cacao tiene más color, sabor y aroma” confirma Viviana.
En el pasado, varios colectivos apostaron por la producción de cacao alrededor del río Nanay. Pero en la actualidad, muchas de estas granjas de cacao ha quedado en desuso. A raíz de muchas charlas con la gente local de la comunidad de Tres Unidos, se ha identificado que existe una oportunidad para revivir la producción de cacao, utilizando la técnica de fermentación mostrada en el taller, y encontrarle un mercado. Un resultado inesperado del taller, fue la producción de dos productos nuevos usando la fermentación con zumo: el vinagre de cacao y licor de cacao. Estas nuevos productos podrían ser vendidos a los participantes del The Temple of The Way of Light, lo cual se convertiría en otra oportunidad para el crecimiento de la economía local.
Fotografía: Adam Andros
Hemos sido honrados con una productiva visita de nuestros amigos de la “Asociación Civil Puente de la Amistad” (ACELPA), una organización peruana sin ánimo de lucro orientada a ayudar a los residentes de Tamshiyacu, distrito de Loreto, para proteger y diversificar las oportunidades de ingresos de estos.
Guiados por nuestra ingeniera forestal Silvia y nuestro coordinador de permacultura Michal, los participantes han pasado un buen rato catando los frutos de nuestras granjas, aprendiendo desde nuestra experiencia y compartiendo también sus propios conocimientos con nosotros. ACELPA está empezando a implementar sus propios proyectos integrales de permacultura/granjas, mediante la evaluación, apoyo y ayuda proporcionada por Silvia y todo el equipo de Chaikuni.
Les deseamos a nuestros amigos en Tamshiyacu mucha suerte en sus esfuerzos, y estamos deseando colaborar con organizaciones que tengan intenciones similares.
Valuing and using local resources is one of the key steps to sustainability. Through this practice ‒ applicable to plants, animals, building materials and even human beings ‒ we can save a lot of money and energy, and ensure that our systems are resilient and can easily withstand necessary changes. It was in the name of this principle that we spent years looking for local permaculture enthusiasts who could take on responsibility for coordinating our permaculture project. To that end, we are now delighted to announce that from the beginning of April we officially welcomed on board Silvia del Aguila Reyna.
Silvia was born and raised in Iquitos, but her parents are native to the upper Huallaga river, a region of the Amazon whose people are known for their sophisticated agricultural practices. She spent her childhood in La Independencia, a small rural community just outside of Iquitos, helping her mother to cultivate their land. It was her mother who planted the seeds of environmental awareness and the connection between human activity and the health of the land in a young Silvia’s consciousness.
Moving to the city, she enrolled with the National University of the Amazon (UNAP) to pursue a forestry engineer career. Later, she completed her master’s degree in Aquatic Resources with a major in Aquaculture at the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos. Over the years of her professional life, Silvia has contributed to many different projects, both with NGOs and state-owned organizations. Silvia says she gained some of her most influencial experiences while working in the production and organizational arm of the Rural and Indigenous Agroforestry Coordination office, in which she became a director, as well as while collaborating with the well-respected Peruvian Amazon Research Institute on its Management and Conservation of the Biodiversity of the Nanay River Basin project.
For the two-plus years before joining Chaikuni, Silvia coordinated the Reforestation and Comprehensive Gardens project for the French-Peruvian NGO, Latitude Sur.
Although the word “permaculture” is a new one for Silvia, her understanding of the relationship between people and the Earth completely resonates with Chaikuni’s vision. In her first few months of work, Silvia dedicated herself to learning about our land and comprehensive master-plan, and contributing her ideas to how we could improve Chaikuni’s existing projects. With her academic approach, Silvia has already been an immense help in systemizing the data and incorporating proper evaluation techniques into our work.
With many years in her field of expertise, Silvia has many professional connections and she is very happy to act as a bridge between the Chaikuni Institute and other organizations of a similar focus. We also forsee that her experience working with many rural comunities will allow her to make a major contribution to the partnership with the local village, Tres Unidos.
Tres Unidos village is the closest neighbor to the land shared by the Chaikuni Institute. We have already made significant contributions in the many years of our partnership with Tres Unidos, including but not limited to:
• Implementing a water system and recycling center
• Training of 7 local farmers in sustainable agriculture practices
• Paying school teachers’ salaries
• Employing a significant amount of villagers to stimulate the local economy
Silvia is very keen to further support Tres Unidos with her experience. So far we have had a meeting with local authorities and a general meeting with neighboring farmers to identify major areas of common interest so we know where to focus our energy. We learned that the majority of people who attended have an interest in producing fish and nine of them have already established fish farms that require some conservation work. We are currently in a process of visiting those fish farms to obtain more information and advise owners on the best strategies for their development.
You will be able to read more about our work with Tres Unidos in an upcoming blog. In the meantime, Silivia is bringing her wealth of experience to our work at Chaikuni. We are blessed to have her as part of the team.
Last year was one of evolution and growth for the Chaikuni Institute’s permaculture project. It was filled with diverse challenges requiring innovative solutions that have led to many beneficial lessons and positive changes being carried forward to the new season of early 2016.
The Chaikuni Permaculture Team
May 2015 marked the conclusion of Project Coordinator and dear friend Nick Boyce’s contribution to the permaculture project. For the past two years, the project was fortunate to benefit from Nick’s immense passion for plants, global sustainable community development, and holistic permaculture design. Fueled by Nick’s contagious enthusiasm and bold vision, the project team built a strong foundation for the ‘chakra’ garden that now serves as a unique alternative model to the highly popular slash-and-burn technique used in tropical rainforest environments.
The team also successfully incorporated the first ayahuasca vines into our agroforestry systems and planted many additional trees. The team extends their deep gratitude to Nick for his significant contributions to the project and remains inspired by the deep heart and dedication he poured into his work.
We have also been blessed with the presence of Michal Chochol as a founding member of the Chaikuni Institute since we first took root in January 2013. Michal has also been part of the team at the traditional Amazonian healing center and our sister organization, the Temple of the Way of Light since 2011. And for the last four years, Michal has combined his great passion for tropical rainforest ecosystems and sustainable design with a spirit of vibrant courage and determination. Michal has led the revision, refinement and improved functionality of many existing projects over the years. He has been working closely with our team of seven ‘biologos’ – local plant experts and farmers who we are both learning from and who are also receiving training in permaculture through the implementation and maintenance of a wide variety of projects across our grounds.
This season the team also incorporated our first-ever foreign interns into the permaculture project. It proved to be a challenging initiative and led the team to question the true sustainability of our program. While working through this challenge, we found ourselves motivated to redirect our focus into using local resources, and dedicated a large portion of our time to establishing contacts with Iquitos-based organizations including: IIAP (the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute) and the Agricultural Department of UNAP (Peruvian Amazon National University).
We also began recruiting local engineers. At the beginning of 2016, we welcomed Silvia del Aguila Reyna in the role of Forestry Engineer. Silvia brings a wealth of past experience implementing social projects. She derives her interest in sustainable development from the ancient agricultural wisdom of her ancestors that was passed on to her at a young age by her mother. You can read more about Silvia in our official welcome blog here, or on the biography page.
In January 2016, the team was also fortunate to welcome Colombian civil engineer Daniel Londoño, who stayed with us as part of a work exchange for several months. Daniel’s life passion is working with one of the most highly functional plants available in the tropics, vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides). Daniel helped us incorporate vetiver into our ecosystems and established a nursery for its future propagation. It was an extremely inspiring opportunity to host Daniel and witness his work. He’s provided significant motivation and encouragement to our team to honor the magic and versatility of this significant and fascinating plant.
Learning from Nature
During the 2015 season, we became aware that we needed to transition from the method we had been using to work with our land. In 2016, we implemented a new system, scheduling our working activities in relation to the moon cycle calendar. The relationship between the moon, water and nutrient flow within plants was initially discovered by indigenous people from all over the world and used as agricultural knowledge for millennia. Although this knowledge is not as commonly recognized in today’s society, this ancient wisdom maintains its own enthusiasts amongst local Peruvian farmers. The permaculture team remains deeply grateful to all those who have continued to pass down and share this knowledge through numerous generations and also through our projects.
A fundamental principle of permaculture is to “observe and interact”. Working in accordance with this, our projects are constantly evolving and responding to the feedback nature provides on a daily basis. One of the biggest changes we faced last year was to incorporate chickens onto our land. Apart from providing a nourishing source of protein (meat and eggs), chickens are also incredibly hard workers. By continually digging through dirt in search of any edible creatures and by eliminating weeds and pests, they lighten the soil and contribute copious amounts of extremely fertile manure.
With the addition of chickens on site, we were further inspired to review and improve our strategy related to staple crop production. Crops are now planted on a monthly basis in plots of land previously prepared by the chickens, utilizing the method commonly known as ‘chicken tractor’. We were able to incorporate this strategy with support from our nitrogen-fixing plants and a generous layer of mulch (a type of material spread over the surface of soil as a covering to help retain moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil’s fertility). Thus, we are preventing nutrient loss from the soil and creating an alternative to the commonly used, although non-sustainable, slash-and-burn technique. We look forward to these improvements producing a monthly stable harvest beginning this October.
The chickens also play a role in contributing to our agroforestry systems. In addition to the food they provide, they also help to fertilize the forest floor and clean it from weeds, while simultaneously preparing it for planting perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi). This nitrogen-fixing ground cover creates a dense carpet underneath our fruit trees, supporting them with nutrients and suppressing all unnecessary weeds. This plant doesn’t grow very high and so requires almost no maintenance, thus enhancing the efficiency and exemplary nature of our agroforestry model.
The end of the year marked the purchase of our first beehive. While cleaning the forest for their yuca (manihot esculenta), locals and farmers often find wild beehives in the trunks of the trees that they cut. In the past, they would have most commonly harvested the honey, causing irreversible damage to the hive. As a team, our goal is to inspire our neighboring farmers to switch to employing a more sustainable beekeeping practice that would not only save the life of this insect, which is integral to the functionality of the ecosystem, but also provide a regular source of income to the beekeepers.
As we continue to incorporate the use of animals into our projects, we are happy to announce the expansion of our churro (Pomacea maculata) breeding areas with two new ponds. This large aquatic snail provides a great source of protein and is relatively easy to produce. It propagates in broad quantities and the only food it requires are the leaves taken from a few particular plant species, which are easily and readily available in abundant quantities. The breading of churro showcases an accessible and creative example for dynamic use of aquatic areas, commonly found as part of local farmland property.
Sustainable Ayahuasca Production
Due to increasing consumption of the ayahuasca brew, the use of its two main ingredients –the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and chacruna leaf (Psychotria viridis) – has grown significantly over the past few years. One of the core projects of the Chaikuni Institute is to identify and implement a sustainable method to produce these two plants locally as part of our agroforestry ecosystem. During last season in 2015, we planted 80 new chacruna plants and improved conditions for our ayahuasca plants so they could grow in a more supportive environment. Since 2014, we have planted over 1 000 ayahuasca vines. Our mission is to continue to invest time and energy to develop a model of sustainable ayahuasca and chacruna production with the belief that it could significantly contribute to reforestation of degraded areas while also acting as a source of revenue for local farmers.
Since the inception of the permaculture team and our projects, and after four years of much trial and error, we feel more and more confident to mindfully share our experiences and lessons with a wider and diverse audience. For example, as part of our medicinal plants mini-pilot project, we encouraged a few farmers from three villages bordering our land to grow the plants required for floral bath rituals to be purchased from the Temple by the Way of Light. We invited them to our nursery to share plant propagation techniques, provided a few plant samplings to facilitate and initiate growing their own plant crops, and visited the participants’ crops to share our experiences in the cultivation of medicinal plants.
This project successfully resulted in two participants, Don Marcelo and Doña Inez, establishing themselves as permanent floral-bath plant suppliers to the Temple, providing them the opportunity to increase their monthly income and become active contributors to their community. It is truly inspiring to offer and exchange experiences and sustainable farming techniques and best practices with locals from the surrounding communities. Our continual focus, as we move forward, is to build, strengthen, enrich and grow these relationships through the work of our projects.
Using a sustainable alley-cropping agroforestry solution for local needs in the Amazon
We recently took ownership of a large piece of land (approx. 1 hectare) that 6 months earlier had been cleared of all its forest vegetation leaving a short piece of re-growth that was mainly sandy sub-soil which had been washed out of its topsoil. We decided this would be an ideal site to put into practice our knowledge of land regeneration on a grand scale, demonstrating how to get many of our food needs met whilst improving soils and yields over the years. Eventually to use this piece of land as a training site to show how anyone can replicate this model of regenerating the rainforest and to meet their needs for food, fuel, and fibre.
Typically in this region, people clear large tracts of rainforest like this to produce 1 or 2 rotations of annual crops until all the soil is washed out, they then move onto another piece to do the same. With the increase in population in this area there is no longer enough land for everyone to do this, this is one reason why 9 million hectares of rainforest have lost there original tree cover in Peru, of which 5.5 million is considered degraded/abandoned and 261000 more hectares gets added every year (See page 21 of Rehabilitación de áreas degradadas en la Amazonia peruana). By sharing the agroforestry techniques discussed here that allow the same piece of land to be sustainably harvested from continuously, we can help alleviate pressures on the rainforest.
First we analysed the situation; observing and interacting so that we could fully appreciate all the energy coming in and out of the land. This land had been cleared just prior to the dry season (June-September) and so we quickly decided to plant a recovery crop to protect and build soils. Resilient beans, yucca and corn were chosen and quickly planted. Luckily, in the forest above we found two springs that continued to give water throughout the dry weather and so we used these to water the recovery crop when needed.
For the rest of the year in our location, situated within the humid tropics of the Amazon rainforest basin, we frequently receive very heavy downpours of rain and so we needed any system designed to manage this heavy flow of water. As you can see from this picture, the landscape is relatively sloped surrounded by 10-15 year re-growth forest, containing two small valleys that form into one towards the bottom of the clearing. This gave us opportunities to redirect and spread this water flow throughout the landscape.
We did this by placing 6 dams in suitable places and then connecting these with swale systems. To make these swales, which are dug ditches and mounds on contour, we used the excess woody material from the cleared forest to give them a base structure and then layered soil and organic matter to build a healthy bed. We then planted these beds with more beans to protect and build the soil. In this system the ditch will be used as the main access pathway to the land.
On the downslope of the swales we planted a mix of nitrogen fixing trees, such as ice cream bean, leucaena and sesbania, to be used in an alley cropping format by being continuously chopped and dropped back to mulch the soils, eventually breaking down into healthy soil. On the upslope of the swales we planted vetiver, this bushy clump grass with its deep roots will heed erosion whilst accessing nutrients locked deep in the sub-soils, which can then be added to the top soil by chopping and mulching its grass stems.
The beauty of this system is that it will moderate the flow of water in the landscape just like the forest would; in a heavy downpour it slows and spreads the flow across the contour of the swale allowing it to percolate deeply into the soil causing little to no erosion. In a dry period the flow of water will continue within the soils so that the vegetation can always access water until the next rain comes to fill up the water stored in the soil. This animated video gives you a good idea of this process and the function of a swale in the landscape. Therefore, it will soon grow into the poly-culture system designed with many layers of vegetation all interacting to benefit each other and so produce a huge amount of diverse yield whilst building soil.
With the designed landscape now moderating the water flow we could now think about how to best plant the site. The upper most part of this land is heavily sloped and so we decided to plant a mix of cacao, macambo and ice cream bean trees so that we could get nutritious food without disturbing the soils here, this would also drop down nutrients into our more intensive systems below. In the rest of the land once the rotation of our cover crop is over and the rains return we will plant a highly diverse mix of mainly perennial crops with some annuals rotating with the wet and dry seasons. The main goal being to always produce healthy soil, as well fresh nutritious food.
In the dam systems we also saw opportunities to add aquatic plants for food and green mulches for the land. We are experimenting with 5 local varieties of rice in these areas and will soon see how they can be fully incorporated in the system, but more on that and the next rotation of crops in the next blog on this land.
Here’s some more before (27/07/2013) and after (20/09/2013) shots of the landscape showing how you can turn a degrading landscape into a productive one in under two months by replicating nature.
By Nick Boyce
Our work in the Chaikuni Institute Center has progressed well over the last months, mainly focusing on water management for erosion control, soil building and also beautifying our communal ceremonial/workshop space.
Around our newly constructed 25000 litre rainwater catching tank we observed that through interfering with the vegetation and land during construction that the surrounding landscape was eroding during heavy rains. Therefore, we re-designed the area to manage the flow of water from the tank, pathways and the land; so we could regenerate the landscape.
We created multiple contour bunds/berms on the land in key areas (these are small mounds on contour made of organic materials) used to spread and slow the water down, and thus prevent soil erosion. We planted them with vetiver, a grass with a very strong deep root system that also has medicinal properties, and perennial peanut which acts as a beautiful ground cover whilst fixing nitrogen into the soil.
At the same time we also constructed raised garden beds using recycled wood for the frames. We placed these beds near to our dining room so by design we can keep a keen eye on what will soon be very productive beautiful beds. To construct these beds we multi-layered with manure, green material, decayed mulch and forest soil. After filling the beds we sowed them with nitrogen fixing plants; three types of beans, alfalfa and pigeon pea, which will later be chopped down and mixed into the soil. In a few months, the soil will be ready for production.
Another project we have been working on is making the area around our community ceremonial/workshop space more beautiful and functional. We planted several different perennial and annual flowers, flowering ground covers and medicinal master plants. We have placed emphasis on ornamental and aromatic plants that require very little maintenance, so that it remains a quiet space for the healing practices that are practiced there.
Since last year, we have been continuing to develop this 1 hectare forest clearing into a fully functioning Permaculture demonstration site. Our aim is to produce food, medicines and fuel from this site; experimenting with various methods, from polycultures to nutrient cycling, so that we can harvest the abundance. In this blog I want to share some of the lessons we have learnt over the past year.
Firstly, by concentrating our efforts last year in designing and implementing a long term mainframe system we have been able to keep our nutrition on the land, allowing a good layer of humus to build up. Over the year we have also been adding old palm thatch from our healing centre roofs, forest leaves and biochar, in a technique called sheet mulching. You add layers of organic materials so that they can break down into soil, whilst suppressing competition for your planted plants. In this humid tropic climate, of heavy downpours and intense sun, it also protects the soil and its life.
Last year we chose certain plants to be chopped and dropped into the soil, and so in the long term not require any inputs from outside the land. Throughout the system we have healthy vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides), pigeon peas, leucaena and ice cream beans, which also fix nitrogen into the soil, so we can continue to produce soil. In the dry season we allowed the ice cream beans to grow so that we could bring more shade to the soil and plants that would otherwise not thrive in the intense sun periods. Here, one of the interns is chopping and dropping the vetiver on the shady swale pathway.
You can see, throughout our swales we have healthy papayas, yucca and peppers.
Through building the soil in this way, it has allowed us to experiment with different planting systems. We have trialed various polyculture mixes so that we can learn what will work into the future.
Everyday we offer guests in our healing centre floral baths, therefore we have a great need for fresh scented cuttings to prepare these. In the Shipibo tradition there is specific mix, we have been growing Rosa Sisa/Marigold, Albaca/Wild Basil and Lenguo de Perro/Tongue of the Dog this year. Through research and practical experience we have found that these aromatic plants are extremely useful planted with other productive crops. We have seen that they bring in beneficial insects that will pollinate, or prey on other insects that may eat your other crops. They are great protectors to have in the garden, and by pruning to prolong their lives, we are able to use their aromas for our own health in our floral baths. Therefore, we have these planted throughout the forest garden.
In between this basic system we are experimenting we other crops, from sugar cane, pineapples, passion fruits and cocona (Solanum sessiliflorum), as in the system to the right.
In every system we implement we make sure to add layers of vegetation, replicating the forest we see around us. Below left is dryland Taro, cocona, sweet potato and beans. Below right is a mix of florals, mapacho (Nicotiana rustica), papaya, pepper and moringa (Moringa oleifera).
In general, we have found that the local varieties of plants with even little care and attention always do the best here, here’s a local tobacco and another local Solanum family plant, known as coconilla here.
On top of the hill we designed a food forest, with a coconut circle center and medicinal edge, to drop down nutrients into our other systems. To finish this update here is a picture of our 1-year old coconuts surrounded by pigeon pea and vetiver with a ground cover of squash.
- Quiénes Somos
- Porqué Trabajamos
- Últimas Novedades