Saturday, April 16, 2011

We Are Being Watched !!!! The Word Is Spreading !!!

Permaculture project at Soneva Fushi heading towards success

By Maldives Traveller Staff
12 April 2011

For full article and pictures go to :

Soneva Fushi by Six Senses - located in Baa atoll, reached by a 30 minute seaplane ride - is one of the three luxurious tourist destinations by the Six Senses group in Maldives. All three resorts give a priority to eco-friendly tourism; after some very successful schemes in this regard, Soneva Fushi is now attempting Permaculture.
Details of the resort's ongoing 'Eco Centro' project - which commenced on 01 November 2010 - was recently published on - it was written by the permaculturist at the resort, Mark Garret. He is working to make sure there is a sustainable organic food production at the luxury holiday hideaway, which would comply with the Six Senses philosophy of S.L.O.W L.I.F.E (an abbreviation for Sustainable. Local. Organic. Wholesome. Learning. Inspiring. Fun. Experience).
Permaculture is a contraction of "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture." It is concerned with the designing of ecological human habitats and food production systems. As a land use and community building movement, it strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way they are placed by humans in the landscape. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature.
The concept offers rich potential to Maldives, with its sprinkling of hundreds of coral-islands spaced far apart from each other. Sustainable and eco-friendly ways of life are being frequently introduced and implemented by the resorts in the country, giving inspiration to the locals.
Soneva Fushi by Six Senses began the Eco Centro project with the 2020 target of Maldives in mind: to become carbon-neutral, and thus highlight itself as an example in being an advocate to climate-change adaptation. Meanwhile, Six Senses set a goal of becoming de-carbonised by 2012. De-carbonising is the next step beyond not producing any carbon emissions at all.
According to Six Senses, all its resort is set to produce renewable energy which could provide even neighbouring communities with a zero carbon source of power. According to officials of the Six Senses resorts in Maldives, the destinations frequently welcome a very well-informed clientèle on the subject of climate change, the importance of environmental conservation and reducing their carbon footprint. The guests are intimately involved with environmental and social projects the resorts undertake.
Six months into the Permaculture project, personnel involved in the project have now confirmed what sort of soil they are dealing with, and how alternate fertilizer to cow dung can be used in the country to produce high yield.  According to the resorts Permaculturist, Mark, after visual observations and and through testing for soil pH, results "showed sandy soil with no animal life or organic matter with little moisture retention". 
"The method of gardening was bare soil tillage using only imported cow dung," he wrote, adding, "The challenges were to introduce Permaculture systems to improve the soil without the use of cow dung as the Company directive was that no more cow dung was to be imported since there was no guarantee of them being pesticide free..."
Mark declared in the article that he had managed to convince the local gardeners to reintroduce organic matter through compost, mulching and using tropical garden bed designs - it used to be techniques common in ancient Maldives, when islanders on tiny, isolated coral-islands had to largely depend on self reliability. But the effective organic methods had since died out, with contemporary islanders struggling to yield high produce in agriculture; many have resorted to using excessive fertiliser and medicine.
Mark has also introduced Permaculture-based solutions to improve the soil, and reports that he has seen true success in the garden at Soneva Fushi. In addition to his advices, he complements the local gardeners as having changed various systems to suit the unique environment and situation in Maldives.
With ever advancing steps to accommodate luxury into eco-friendly environments, Soneva Fushi is notable among the global audience. The resorts 65 rooms, three restaurants and four bars, along with the Six Senses Spa, are not the only sources to full fill a well-deserved vacation. You can enjoy the natural wealth and beauty of the aquatic life in the Maldivian seas, observe them even while dry on a sunset cruise, and revel on the glorious beaches and turquoise shallows.
And what more could be rewarding than leaving all the this beauty - and the key that rejuvenated your spirit - with the satiating feeling of wellness that you are suffused with after helping to preserve it. With the resort's Permaculture project, guests would be leaving an additionally reduced carbon footprint, now. And in the long run, the resorts pioneering efforts could influence local communities, leading to a wealthier and healthier lifestyle to both the people and nature.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Walking Down The Sandy Path To Sustainable Food Production

It has now been nearly 6 months since starting work as the Permaculturist at Soneva Fushi.

Bed closest has compost added 

As discussed in previous blogs, "Care for Earth, Growing Soil" and "Organic Matter Matters" .The first step was to see what type of soil we were dealing with both visually and through testing for soil pH. Observation showed sandy soil with no animal life or organic matter with little moisture retention. The method of gardening was bare soil tillage using only imported cow dung from Sri Lanka. At the beginning of each planting bags of dung were dug into the beds seedlings planted and then left to grow with only water given twice a day. Weeds grew freely and were picked by hand when over growing the herbs and vegetables.

Smells Good

Grown locally

The challenges were to introduce Permaculture systems to improvement the soil without the use of cow dung as the Company directive was that no more cow dung to be imported as there was no guarantee of being pesticide free plus the carbon footprint of the cow dung did not fit with the SLOW LIFE philosophy, Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome….. Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experience.  

Good bug mix in background

ALI, KOBIR, NAZRUL, SHAFIQUE the Vegetable Garden team saw it differently as Cow Dung was the magic medicine of the garden, it had sustained them in being able to provide a quality and quantity of produce for over 12 years and all of a sudden someone who they don’t know from a different culture is saying we can not order anymore once this lot has run out, 200 bags at a time were being ordered and up to 6 times a year.

Growing soil sustainably

Soil tests showed  the pH graphically being high in alkalinity and after explaining how nutrients, plant food was not available to the plants because of this pH and trying to explain it did not matter how much cow dung was being used the plants would still not grow properly I finally had acceptance  by Ali the garden supervisor. Ali was aware something was not quiet right as he confessed to me that he was unhappy because his garden looked sad.

Protected soil

ph Tests and observation has proven we are on the right track reintroducing organic matter through compost and mulching plus using tropical garden bed designs.

Fresh is best, Shafique

This opportunity led us both to where we are today happier!!! The garden is smiling and creating smiles on all faces that come to see it and taste it. Guests, hosts and the gardeners included.

Lunch is ready


I have introduced Permaculture based solutions to improve the soil, sourced quality seed from . The true success in the garden is that Ali, KOBIR, NAZRUL, SHAFIQUE and NIHAL have taken these suggestions and adapted and changed various systems to suit their unique environment and situation for their own Permaculture as "there is not only one Permaculture" Bill Mollison.

Ali hip high in basil

Composted and mulched

Only today Ali has come up with suggestions to improve the mulching system by doing lanes of mulch instead of surrounding the seedling completely.  "Let’s try it and see if it works" I said. This is what Permaculture is all aboutobserving, thinking then experiementing to come up with the solution. I have to say getting a call to come to the garden to see that the team have discussed alternatives  made changes and moving forward is so rewarding and puts a great big smile on my face.

old way 

Ali,s Way

Shafique is now planting beans in the cucumber patch and we have guilds of tomato, spring onion and Basil.

Beans and cucumber guild

Guild planting of cherry tomato and basil

Additional thanks have to go out to the team at Eco Centro who have been the engine house for the production of compost and mulch which none of the above could happen if not for them. There is also the Garden team that looks after the island who continually supply the Eco Centro with jungle cuttings, coconuts and other essential renewable materials that all end up somehow back into the earth.    

We are a long way from finishing and having all the answers but we are truly a lot further down the path to sustainability than I could ever imagined nearly 6 months ago.

Happy Garden 

Thank you all in the Permaculture / Horticulture team and all the other teams that feed us the valuable waste we convert to wealth which can be enjoyed by all.   


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sustainable Fishing

Local Fishing Boat

As a result of the over fishing in the waters of the Maldives various policies has been implemented by government and individual resorts.

The Baa Atoll Conservation Project was set up to protect the marine environment of the Maldives as it faces increasing pressure from a number of areas:
       Global warming and coral bleaching;
       Pollution and discarded waste;
       Over fishing and unsound fishing practices;
       Tourism and the souvenir trade.
While most of these issues are global and need to be targeted on an international and national level, local actions that help preserve the Maldivian marine biodiversity and promote environmentally sound practices are just as important and needed.
Since 2007, General Managers, Biologists and Dive Centre leaders of all six tourist resorts in Baa Atoll regularly meet to discuss and action environmental issues of concern. I attended my first meeting in January 2011 as our marine biologist Kate Wilson thought having a Permaculturist view would be beneficial for the group especially with regard to waste management in the Atoll.
       The focus lies particularly on the protection of disappearing shark populations in the atoll. While a total ban on shark fishing and trade in the Maldives was lawed in 2010

Sustainable  Fishing To Protect All

Work is also done on the following:
       The protection of manta rays and their habitat;
       The review of night fishing practices;
       The enforcement of minimum catch sizes of fish and lobsters;
       Alternatives for the sale of endangered species;
       Educational programmes for guests, hosts and local islanders.
The concerted efforts of the Baa Atoll resorts have caused the government to take environmental issues such as shark protection more seriously and have improved the cooperation amongst resorts.

Mike Rigging Up A Floating Lure

At Soneva Fushi there is a sustainable fishing policy. No bottom line fishing is in place to stop damage to the reefs and only day fishing is held to avoid anchors damaging the coral reefs too.

The latest initiative run by Kate Wilson the resident marine biologist was to hold a catch and release training programme for the hosts in water sports and other areas of the resort that come in contact with guests wanting to fish

Waiting to Catch

The training was held by Mike an accredited catch and release trainer from Singapore who has been a professional fisherman for many years and has seen the evidence of over fishing throughout the world



Happy Fisherman And Fish

Theory classes were held then fishing trips undertaken for practical on the job release training. Once the hosts had completed both components of the programme they were then accredited with the handing out of their certificates at the March Host Party.

Released Successfully 

This experience has highlighted to me that we can not only think of the land as Permaculturist there are so many more aspects to the role of a Permaculturist when we work or live on the edge of two coexisting eco systems. As it is said “Coral Reefs are the Rainforests of the Sea” and the more we can turn “Waste into Wealth” on land and avoid polluting our “Rainforests of the Sea” we will see abundance again leading to fair share for all.

Maybe we need to remind ourselves that:

Ethic 1 : Care for the Earth includes the sea.

I know I have been guilty of forgetting when in the past living so far away from it.

Rainforest Below