Sunday, June 26, 2011

Six Senses Con Dao Resort Vietnam Permaculture Site Visit 05/11

Six Senses Con Dao

I was invited to Six Senses Con Dao Vietnam to assess the potential for food producing gardens, the establishment of an Eco Centro and to advise on the general landscaping of the resort in particular looking at the health of the transplanted coconut trees.

Observation of the site showed a prevailing wind from the South which at times can reach gale force and continue for long periods of time. Evidence of this is the wind shear present on new plantings and existing mature trees. Not only on the site but all along the coastal strip of the island.

Wind and salt burnt Coconut palms
 Soil on the site is sand with little organic matter and hydrophobic (unable to absorb water). pH tests at several sites indicated an alkaline soil with a pH 8-9 unsuitable for fruit, vegetable and herb production.
To grow herbs and vegetables it is suggested to use raised beds or planter boxes that are movable to lessen the impact of the wind and accompanying sand and salt spray.

Soil test Alkaline and hydrophobic

 There was a site seen as the most suitable area for the production of fruit, vegetables and herbs that was previously a flood plain with topsoil and protection from the wind and salt. The Area would also be an ideal guest experience for organic lunches and gardening workshops once established.

An extensive agriculture base is established within the near by community and currently used by the resort. Developing further the relationship could secure supply by helping the producers to improve standards of production and the quality and quantity of produce available through education of Permaculture design and principles.

Local market produce

Market garden
The site proposed for the Eco Centro I considered unsuitable due to size and location for the needs of the resort and guest experiences. An alternative site next to the generator complex would provide ease of access and room for further development as the resort grows and limit further noise pollution for guests.

Eco Centro Site

The identified immediate requirements for the Eco Centro are seen to be mulching and composting stations. Composting to be done either manually or mechanically with suitable machinery for shredding of wood waste is essential to any soil improving strategies with the collection of cardboard for sheet mulching and tropical bed building. Currently waste management is done by the local community where systems are in place that support good waste management principles of recycling, reusing and reducing. Members of the community make their income from turning waste into wealth and could be supported further by improving waste separation at site and building storage bays at the Eco Centro so pickup can be reduced to weekly to lower transport costs. 

Plastic recycling depto

General landscaping has been overgrown or has the potential to be with the existing plantings of Lantana, Beach Morning Glory and Sea Lettuce. I  suggested the removal of all Lantana and to replace with a local less invasive shrub and Beach Morning Glory and Sea Lettuce to be removed where overgrowing plantings of Lemon Grass and Vietiver Grass. Vietiver grass and Lemon grass to be planted on contour down slop of fruit trees to trap soil and nutrient during wet season.

Beach Morning Glory

Start of clearing 

Sheet Mulching

Sea Weed used as mulch
Lemon grass grown as chop and drop

As the soil was sand with no organic matter when trimming the grasses I suggested to leave the cut grass around the base of coconut trees as the grass adds organic matter to the soil for improving soil health, water retention and soil erosion.  Chop and drop.

Chop and Drop
Adding organic matter
Work shops were held on Banana circles and clearing of invasive plants allowing the food producing plants an opportunity to survive. And Chop and Drop mulching.

Banana Circle

Finished Banana Circle 

The result of the site visit supported the introduction of sustainable systems to enhance the resort by providing guest, host and local community members education and experiences on sustainable land care and food production.

My time at Con Dao was a rich experience as I worked with the local employees on site visited the markets and market gardens and saw first hand intuitive permaculturists at work using traditional knowledge handed down from generation to generation and all with big smiles on their faces. I could not speak their language though we all communicated through our love of nature and there was much laughter!!

Smile !!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Permaculture in the Maldives to feature in French Documentary

Filming in the Tropics

In the beginning of May I was fortunate to have the opportunity to further promote Permaculture Design in the Maldives. French TV ESCALES are making a 52 minute documentary on sustainability on Six Senses Properties.

The main focus of the programme is the SLOW LIFE Season and all our sustainability policies. The SLOW LIFE Season is offered to guest where they pay to stay for 3 days and in return for participating a 3day sustainability programme they get an additional 3 days free....

The programme is run by Kate Wilson the resident Marine Biologist and me.
Guests spend half a day on each of three themes:

It is that big ???

So Green: The session begins with a presentation “Introduction to Permaculture” and a discussion on Soneva Fushi’s commitment to a Fossil Fuel Free future. A tour of the Eco Centro is then conducted where workshops on Permaculture design, soil identification, pH testing, soil improvement techniques, sheet mulching, fast compost making, plant guilds and water harvesting techniques are held.

Kate Wilson Marine Biologist
So Blue: Run by Kate covers a selection of key ecological indicators of coral reef health that will be recorded. Lead by the marine biologist, basic surveys are completed which
will contribute to much needed scientific research. Data will be submitted to the Marine Conservation Society’s Fish Watch Maldives program, a program funded by the Darwin Initiative, to provide the government with vital data on which to base management plans.

Community involvement

So Aware: involves the guests visiting and working with a nearby community teaching the students and wider community the principles of Permaculture through a hands on approach to developing their school garden.  The guests with the marine biologist will also inspire the students about the beach, reef and ocean ecosystems through hands on activities when the students complete the programme they become “Reef Rangers”

The gift of Permaculture

During the filming I was able to discuss how Permaculture was being used to support sustainable food production at Soneva Fushi and show first hand Permaculture systems and principles to help achieve the goal. At Eco Centro we have designed an "OutDoor Clasroom" demonstrating systems for water harvesting (swales and garden beds on contour, composted and mulched) tropical bed design (raised beds, pit mulched, banana, coconut and papaya circles) and hot composting to name a few.    

Eco Centro "Out Door Clasroom"


Best of all was when we filmed the making of a banana and papaya circle at Kihaadhoo School.

First Banana and Papaya circle

It smells good

Filming for the documentary was an experience of great pleasure. It took 3 days to cover all the information they required and gave me greater confidence in being able to explain Permaculture and solutions to climate change. The programme will have an audience of not only France but most of Europe and the UK shown for a 2 year period. Within that time people will be able to learn how Permaculture plays many roles in many lives. From helping a nation of people under the pressure of climate change, to education of high worth individuals who can also make a difference if they know how. 

Helping to spread the word "Permaculture"

Permaculture Design at Soneva Fushi and all Six Senses properties is incorporated into the design and running of these exclusive resorts to become more than just carbon neutral, to be non reliant on fossil fuels, to be sustainable and developing systems to support a country, the Maldives to be De Carbonized. Who said Permaculture was all about growing vegetables in the back yard????

Natural cooling system
not a vegetable in sight 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu is a new resort by the Six Senses group that opened on the 2nd April 2011
Laamu is located on the privately owned Maldives' Olhuveli Island in the Laamu Atoll in the South of the Maldives.

As part of the Six Senses group of resorts Laamu is also aiming to be Decarbonized by 2020 in line with the Maldivian Governments decree.

The objectives of the visit were to meet with the key people to identify and establish the goals and needs from the gardens.

This would then follow an assessment of the site using Permaculture ethics and principles include a landscape site assessment looking at zone and sector analysis, soil testing and identification of resources available to further develop the current gardens and for future development.

I was then to look for a suitable site and design for an Eco Centro or Waste to Wealth Centre and other structures to support the gardens and waste management systems.

Leaf Garden 

In addition I was also exploring the commencement of a composting programme if possible and as there was an agricultural production on a local island we were going to visit and see if there was a possibility of improving the systems and working together to produce food for the resort.

Not only is Permaculture principles a consideration but the Six Senses philosophy of “SLOW LIFE”

Sustainable Local Organic Wholesome Learning Inspiring Fun Experiences.  

 The Landscape assessment showed the island could support an Eco Centro and at least 3000m2 for food producing gardens over 3 sites linking with the Eco Centro site.

Eco Centro Site 

The Eco Centro site was chosen as it was close to the generator complex. As this site was already emitting noise pollution 24/7 any further noise pollution from the processing of waste to wealth at Eco Centro would be absorbed. A proposed sound barrier had already been discussed and with dense vegetation grown around the Centro minimal noise pollution would impact on guests or hosts. The site would also have additional room for expansion as the resort grew and area for an educational and productive “Out Door Classroom”.

The site and design would minimize transport of inputs and outputs and link to the centralize food producing areas addressing the first 5 principles of Permaculture design.

  1. Relative location of elements placed to assist each other
  2. Each element performs many functions at least 3
  3. Efficient energy planning ( zones and sectors)
  4. Emphasis on use of biological resources over fossil fuels
  5. Energy recycling on site (fuel and human)

Soil pH

Soil testing showed the current Vegetable gardens pH @ 8-9 Alkaline.  Again the objective is to reduce the pH to 6-7 via organic matter, compost and mulch. 

Resources available to lower the pH include food waste, jungle trimmings, carpentry sawdust not treated, coconut husks, seaweed, cardboard, STP water (Septic Treatment Plant).

Incoroperating Paw Paw into Banana Circle

Resusing Waste to create Wealth

 To start using the waste I held a Banana and Paw Paw circle work shop. As shown this is an ideal Permaculture system to grow soil and produce an abundance of food in a small area.  This is a composting system that is self sustaining and works!!!!

More Waste To Wealth

First Banana Paw Paw Circle in the Laamu Atoll Maldives

Future plans to support the development of agricultural land on neighboring islands are a viable project. 

Mendhoo Island 

On the Island of Mendhoo there had been a thriving business up until the tsunami of 2004 hit. Until then 50 people were working and producing watermelon, papaya, and nursery stocks of casuarinas and other native fruit trees.

Nusery on Mendhoo Island

Due to the island being covered in sea water the salt levels rose and destroyed all the arable land. There are now signs of recovery and with good land management I feel confident it could become an important commercial operation again for the local communities. 

Tropical Food Forest
My time at Laamu was the third island I have now assessed  using Permaculture principles for sustainability in the Maldives and though they are all different the fact is if when assessing individually if you stick to the Philosophy, Ethics, and Principles of Permaculture within a very short time nature is showing you the design and “Waste” is everywhere to be found and waiting to be turned into “Wealth”  

Ying Yang

A Waste (Ying Yany surf break ) without me on it though an inmeasurable wealth to me when out there .

Permaculture and surf ... working with Nature not against it.