Sunday, April 1, 2012

Farming on a Volcano “La Soufriere, The Sulfurer" St Vincent

I had the most unexpected lesson in sustainable farming, classic textbook stuff we all aspire to when first learning “Permaculture” It was as though the pagers of Bill’s Designer Manual were jumping out at me everywhere I turned.

Permanent Sustainable Agriculture 

This chance happening occured in St Vincent the Caribbean while there to watch the one-day cricket series between Australia and the West Indies. That is another story but what a great way to watch cricket, sights and sounds I have never witnessed at a game anywhere in the world. To witness a tie too was very special. Australia very lucky!!!

Tied Match

Colourful Cricket

On a rest day between matches We decided to take a day trip up to see the Volcano “La Soufriere” The people I went to see the cricket with sponsor children from the local Island of Canouan to attend secondary school on St Vincent as there is no secondary education on Canouan.

Keston,  Adero, Sarah, Chessyka, Erasto 

As we travelled to the north of St Vincent the land became more agricultural mainly banana plantations.  Turning off to the volcano then opened up to a true sustainable food production system.

Pigeon Pea, Gungo

What first got my attention was the pigeon pea grown along the boundaries of the farms and through out the fields. Then I noticed fields completely planted out with Pigeon pea and then fields with it all chopped to the ground.

Gungo Field, Main Crop

Green pea (pigeon Pea, Gungo) is a staple of the Caribbean diet and served with rice, added is hot pepper (chilli), onion, garlic, chopped spinach, white cabbage and some coconut milk.  The green pea is truly fitting the Permaculture Principle of at least 3 uses. A short to medium term nitrogen fixer, a chop and drop nitrogen and mulch source to increase organic matter for soil fertility. Third a main crop supplying a revenue for the farmer. 

Chop and Drop

As we drove deeper the monoculture fields of Banana changed to fields of diversity that included cassava, chilli, sweet potato, corn, passionfruit, (Pitahaya) dragon fruit, papaya, orange, grapefruit, lemon, coconut, lemon grass and more. 

Polyculture of  Corn, Cassava, sweet potato, Chilli, Banana, Citrus and more

There was also clear design features incorporated into the farms such as vertical stacking with cassava, passion fruit, dragon fruit, banana, citrus trees and coconut palms all on the same field of abundance.

Vertical Stacking- Cassava, Passionfruit, Banana, Coconut 

Principle of conserving energy (human) evident by the compost pit made in the hole of a fallen tree… no dig compost pit

No Dig Compost Pit 

There was also a guild of passionfruit supported by a papaya and tree trunk.

Passionfruit Papaya Tree

And finally the return of crop residue to the soil. As evident by the banana waste everywhere as a mulch.

Crop Waste Returned as Mulch

I witnessed a productive sustainable large-scale food production system in the middle of nowhere, possible with thought, design, plant selection and local knowledge. I am sure the farmer working this land has never read “Permaculture A Designers Manual “ We all have access to it thanks to Bill Mollison, so why cant we feed ourselves with clean healthy food like this Man? 

Farmer In Background Protecting His Soil To Create Abundance  

Protect our Soils Naturally!!!!

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