Sunday, February 27, 2011

Integrated Pest Management

Living in the tropics has many advantages like sunny warm days surrounded by crystal clear blue waters full of amazing fish varying in size and all the colors of the rainbow. Palm tree lined beaches with white, white sand.

The Tropics

The tropics being very humid and wet at times also harbor insects too. Mosquitoes one of them. As life has it some people seem to attract them others never have a problem.

Trudy Rilling – Collins a consultant in “Integrated pest management – biological control of insects” has been a wealth of knowledge and help at Soneva Fushi. Trudy has developed a plan to support the resorts ecological philosophy of biological pest management. 

Treatment of mosquitoes mainly focus on killing the live adult as this is what we see and hear and get bitten by, only the female fortunately.
Pesticides of various forms are used to try and kill the adult usually a member of the pyrethroid family, permethrin and tetramethrin are non natural, non organic controls for pest populations. Research has shown that mosquitoes do become resistant to these chemicals and there for they become ineffective. Studies have demonstrated that the method has little effect on the mosquito population. Moreover, when space spraying is conducted in a community, it creates a false sense of security among residents, although it is highly visible and conveys the message that someone is doing something about the disease; this can be only a poor justification for using space sprays. (Often, members of  Corporations order fogging in their constituencies to 'satisfy' their voters!).


Since these pesticides are ineffective with adult populations not to mention the serious side effects to human, aquatic and insect life another way has to be found.   

The most important part of controlling mosquito species breeding involves eliminating the breeding sites or eliminating mosquito access to potential breeding sites.  Living in the tropics requires specific activities for the prevention of mosquitoes. Vegetation on the site and man made structures all need attending to.

Breeding Site
Once identifying the sites not all can be removed or sealed to prevent breeding.

Trudy cleaning and sealing breeding site 
Breeding site


Man made breeding site

Bti", Bacillus thuringienis ssp. israelensis, are bacteria which infect and kill mosquito larvae. These bacteria are highly selective, killing only mosquitoes and their close relatives like gnats and black flies. Formulations of Bti will only kill these types of insects and do not harm other kinds of insects, fish, birds, worms or any mammals! Bti is considered safe for human health.
Due to the complex structure of Bti toxins, it is seen by many researchers  that the acquisition of resistance in exposed insects would require multiple mutations at different loci, and is therefore largely delayed under natural conditions.
For these reasons, the use of Bacillus thuringiensis based insecticides in pest control programs is now considered as a viable strategy, which has proven to be both safe and reliable over the last 40 years

Recorded breeding sites
Treating with Bti


At Soneva Fushi a Mosquito breeding site elimination and prevention programme has been commenced.

On the Island identified areas to be targeted include:

    Coconut collecting 
  1. Collection of all of the coconuts on the ground before the beginning of the rainy season!  Even the smallest crack can contain enough water for breeding. 
  2. Fill in all the tree holes capable of holding water with cement or cut away tree holes if appropriate.
  3. Map and treat all of the domestic sources of water which are capable of breeding mosquitoes.

Sealing gaps after treatment
  1. Create tight seals on all of the grey water and sewage water drain clean out boxes and filling gaps under concrete lids with a layer of grout. Broken concrete lids to be repaired or replaced.  
  2. Screen all grey water and sewage water vent pipes appropriately to prevent mosquito access.
  3. Create mosquito proof lids for all water tanks, wells, sewage clean outs
  4. Clean out all rain gutters, checking for areas capable of holding standing water
  5. Check all areas for standing water.
  6. Remove any materials capable of holding water.
  7. Remove any unused materials or useful in the future.
  8. Clean, maintain and repair all areas capable of holding water and are capable of breeding mosquitoes.

Treated repaired and sealed

  1. Drill drain holes in all the garbage containers so they will not hold water in the rainy season.
  2. Eliminate tarps as they hold water and form breeding sites.
  3. Remove tires or store in a covered area.

Education of management, hosts and guests of the resort is also required as this will explain the project, gain support and instill the need for active measures to prevent mosquito breeding sites and how to identify and eliminate the breeding sites.

An ongoing awareness and surveillance programme is the final key to the programme as coconuts still fall from the palms, limbs of trees will rot creating holes and drains will clog.

A happy team working together for the benefit of all and environment


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Instinctive Permaculturists of Kihaadhoo Island

This week I want to return to the trip to Kihaadhoo Island as it reinforced what Permaculture is all about to me.

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with Nature not against Nature.

But how do we do this?

By being a keen observer of Nature?

Nature of Kihaadhoo

This behavior learnt or instinctive was cemented in my mind by Bill Mollison in Tasmania following my PDC. The UP Close and Personal time with Bill and Lisa was spent walking in the wilderness and around their farm, sitting on beaches, driving through the country and just talking and cooking. At all times looking, listening and observing what Nature had provided around you. The sun, the wind, the vegetation, the birds, animals, the color of the soil, the grass, the trees, the sky,landscape, everything that all our senses can feel, smell, see, hear,taste plus that sixth sense too or "Whoo Wha" as Bill would say.

Without even thinking I am now constantly staring in amazement at Nature and thinking how I can work with Nature to achieve sustainable outcomes for all life requirements which is food first. The old saying Food, Clothing and Shelter.

Only half the people in the world always have enough food.
And of that half, 17% face real food shortages that may result in malnutrition and even starvation

Now we are back full circle to "Permaculture" the word “Permanent Sustainable Agriculture”  

As has been shown throughout history if we do not observe Nature, how can we work with Nature to have a permanent sustainable agricultural basis for continual food production with surplus?

Since the 1950 to 1990 most soils have been destroyed with soil loss estimated at 5-7 million hectares per year globally. 

The trip to Kihaadhoo showed how on an island of 440 people with an agricultural base there are observers of Nature, "Instinctive Permaculturist" and not. You dont need to have done a Permaculture Design Certificate to be a Permaculturist as I have seen on Kihaadhoo. 

The photos below show who is observing Nature and who is working with Nature?

Potted chilli controling nature


Renewable resourse 

Bare soil costly infrastructure




If we all sat down as smelt the roses(Nature) more often who knows what the world would be like ...
Full of good soil, food and healthy happy healthy people?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Organic Matter Matters

The vegetable garden which is the main food producing garden on the island covers an area of 1700m2. Soil tests back in November 2010 for pH indicated a range from 9-10. If you go back to previous blog Care for Earth Growing Soil you can read how we went about lowering the pH through organic means with resources only available from the Island and Resort.

pH 9 November 2010

Adding food wastes and compost Organic matter

Redesigning the garden beds to reduce loss of organic matter from the soil was done first by digging the bed to the white sand layer then sealing with cardboard and filling with vegetable and fish waste from the kitchens. Compost made on site from food waste, jungle cuttings mulched with sawdust from the carpentry workshop and bio char also made on site from pyrolysis ovens was mixed with the removed sandy soil containing no organic matter or soil life. Finally a thick mulch layer was applied and all layers watered during the process. Snake beans were then planted.

pH 8 

One month later another pH soil test was done and observation for moisture retention and soil life present. pH was down to 8. Ants plus millipedes were present plus the mulch was retaining water and the soil below was cool and damp with obvious signs of organic matter decaying and mixing with the sandy soil. The beans were growing well with a vibrant green color. 

Now another 6 weeks on it was time to retest the bed. Sight observation had shown no yellowing of any plants unlike other beans in unprepared beds, or pest invasion with whiteflies. The bed had only been toped up with finished bean waste and we are collecting around 250 grams a week produce. The bed has now been fed with compost to the bases of the plants and mulched.



In 10 weeks we have now reduced the pH to around 7.Soil life has increased as now there are worms, millipedes, beetles moulds ( Fungi) of various sizes indicating a complete food web of a compost pile as discussed in Permaculture A Designers Manual, Bill Mollison. These soil micro and macro fauna store, gather and concentrate easily leached nutrients to allow for slow uptake by the plant roots on their death.

Looks like soil  ?

Biota / Soil Life

When comparing the prepared bed and the untouched bed beside, noticeable differences are the inability to find any soil life or biota, moisture retention, organic matter and most of all the inability to dig with your hands into the bed at all. The prepared bed can easily be dug down to 100mm by hand.

No life

Mulched adding humus

The gardening teams have now retrofitted 10 beds this way and we have heavily mulching another 20 beds and apply liquid fertilizer 2nd weekly with all heading to a neutral pH. I look forward to confirming a pH of 6.5 soon.

We are demonstrating that "Organic Matter Matters " in adjusting Soil pH sustainably and without any animal manures  

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Helping Communities

The role of the Permaculturist for Soneva Fushi does not only mean working on the various gardens in the resort. Soneva Fushi is also committed to helping surrounding communities in any way possible to achieve sustainability on their own islands. Assistance in development of businesses to support with education and educational needs are encouraged..

The Marine Biologist, Kate, Life Manager Waheed and I, recently had a visit to a neighboring island Kihaadhoo.

Kate Waheed and Teachers

Kihaadhoo is 15 minutes by boat, with population of 420. The island is the third largest island in Baa Atoll with an area of 26.40 ha. The main sources of income are tourism, fishing and some seasonal agricultural activities. The island is known for weaving of coconut leaves and coconut rope making.

Rope Making 

 Kihaadhoo School provides education for all school age children 10 to 16 years of age and some from neighboring islands in total 120 students.

Kihaadhoo School Garden

The reason for our visit was to see what support we could offer the local school and community. Every year Soneva Fushi runs an Eco Season where guests can participate in ecological, Marine and community activities run by Kate and myself.  In the past Kihaadhoo is where the community based activities have been held.

The school is the focal point for the whole community and is keen to visit Eco Centro and organic garden on Soneva Fushi. The aim is to then design a sustainable garden system with the school children and Eco Season guests.  The educational garden would be used for the wider community to learn the techniques such as composting, no dig and raised bed designs.
The children already have started gardens and have an Eco Club of 12 directed by the Environment Studies teacher, Shaheeda who is very keen to further develop the schools gardens through learning about Permaculture principles.  The students have built a hut over the water as they said we can’t afford to stay in the resorts so why don’t we build one for ourselves. While we were there they were making a wind turbine to generate electricity for lighting. 

Kihaadhoo School Resort

Shaeedha also wants to develop the children’s knowledge on coral reefs and beach ecosystems, particularly for the primary children before they begin their Fisheries Science courses in Grade 8.  

English language improvement is highly desired, the students are proficient at conversational English though written English needs to be improved.   Kate would like to link the school to a primary school in the UK.  Kate’s primary school wants to get involved in this.  The making of video messages during the activities with guests and the writing of pen pal letters were discussed as ways to help improve their English.  

In the past students have learned a lot from the cultural exchange talks presented by guests especially when a hand on activity was incorporated from the country of the guest like Origami from Japan.

Farm Plot

Each member of the community has their own plot of land for agriculture use where they produce seasonal products such as chilies, papaya and watermelon.  The crops are bought by local resort islands but struggle to supply all year round.

Chilli  Farm

Water Melon

Learning about composting and Permaculture design through the school, could lead to crop supply all year to their hungry markets.

Waste Centre

The community already separates their waste, which is collected by another resort  and sent to a dump site near Male where no recycling is done.  Further motivational education on Reduce, Reuse and Recycling activities about waste management was also seen as necessary.  The school is soon to start a plastic bag campaign, banning plastic bags in the school.  Fish and paper waste are seen as a problem where showing how these resources can be turned into compost and used as sheet mulching materials will help to reduce waste going to the ocean and restore the land for productive crops.

Compost System

We Left Kihaadhoo excited and looking forward to working together to help them acheive their goals !!

School Teachers