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.   


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