Growing Plants from Seeds, with the right Soil

Soil types at PermaTree

In the beginning of PermaTree, we just used the soil we found around the plant nursery which has a reddish and claylike soil texture. Not ideal for the seeds to germinate, we found out. It makes them hard to thrive, because of the slow drainage rate and therefore the high water-holding capacity.

The main soil we have at the Finca, is a claylike, reddish soil.

So, we were thinking it might be best to mix this claylike soil with compost to become a smoother structure to thrive the seeds an easier way to spread. But at that time we did not had our proper compost soil, so we had to find a vendor – which was only possible by asking around.

We just bumped in to a new raised project in the city of Yantzata where they produce, from organic waste of the garbage dump, compost soil. We were happy to finally find someone who is producing compost soil in big amounts and we liked the idea of the project because people usually do not reuse organic waste. All goes in to the same trash. So we bought a few bags of this compost and gave it a try.

The result was, the compost contained to much nutrition and for the little plants, there roots, got burned and finally they died. Also the compost had a nasty sticky structure. The surface dried out very fast and it got very hard. Inside it was so wet that the soil got moody and by turning the pot over you could smell the moodiness. Even for bigger Plants this compost soil failed in all cases. Plants firmly died by looking at them!

Soil condition in dry state of the compost, humus, fertilizer from Yantzaza.

So finally we had to drop the idea of using this compost soil, nice project, but something was not acting well.

Then we tried a other mixture with sand, which we bought by the river bank nearby and an almost black soil which we discovered near our workers house. A nice and smooth soil. Who thrived pretty well and now, after several times, throwing pots away and start from scratch, we had our first success! YEY!

So, best mixture is 80% Sand and 20% Compost or black soil.

Humus, soil near the workers house.

Sand texture from the river bank.

But there are different sand textures as well. Sometimes the sand is so fine that it sticks together like clay. Therefore, better sand with tiny, tiny stones in it, to keep a loose soil for good drainage so the water can flow through and does not stay to long in the pot, to avoid putrefaction.

With the time we had been talking to all kinds of people about soil and where to buy best, how to make our own fertilizer and by that, we received many, many answers and various techniques, how to make compost soil. Which was also a bit confusing for us and the question was, where to start best?

Our first idea was just throwing all organic matter from the kitchen into an earth hole. But soon we had company from ugly worms and the compost was very watery. Crops and dry components where definitely missing. And probably the hole thing wasn’t helping. So we actually didn’t know how to make a proper compost in a tropical climate like we are in.

Our first contact was a visit at the Japanese community TAKAKURA nearby. They make a soil with fermented crops, and finally the microorganisms break all the organic matter down to a black compost soil. A tradition Japanese recipe like they use it to make compost soil. There are two fermented solutions needed which can be read in a detailed manual they gave us. But still it is kind a tricky if you never got hands on it. We were just missing the insiders. When do I have to mix it how and how long and how does the soil look like, when do we have to add more from them and that? So we were kind a in the situation of not dared to venture.

There was another community near Yantzaza which also restores compost soil. They call it Bukatchi. Also a fermented process a fantastic soil for seeds! But we found it very complicated to produce. The recipe is long! You need lots of ingredients and fermented elements to produce Bukatchi according to their recipe and their stock is very little. You have to cut organic matter in tiny peace which is a time consuming process by hand.

Time passed and we came across with a completely different project the Guanabanas, Soursop a super food fruit which kills cancer cells hundred times more than chemotherapy. This all organic project made us very confident to produce them over large scale. So they told us, when the plant is placed in to the hole, fertilizer must be added to give them a good growing start. Over a other person we found a seller from Cuenca. A very good soil! Two bags we had to mix, one was a compost from leaves and the other was compost with cow dough. But this soil is really only for plants which are higher than 20 cm. Otherwise again, it’s too much nutrition and therefore not for seedlings!

Compost, humus, fertilizer soil from Cuenca.

For seedlings we used only like 10% of this fertilizer and the rest 60% with sand and 20% rice husks until the soil gets very smooth and light. Instead of compost soil we are using now goat dug which works well too. But as I mentioned, just very little because it is high in nutrition!

Goat dug fertilizer.

Dry rice husks, shells.

Why not chicken dug? Because it is very strong and the chicken dug is most likely coming from chickens which are treated with antibiotics, which is anyway bad for the soil. Better use Guinea pig dug or like mention above.

So this whole process took us one-year experimentation to find out what’s the best soil condition for our seedlings. We also found out that Papaya needs a lot of nutrition and Carrot grow best in sandy soil.

Compost soil is still an open project which we are working on it and hoping that hope one day to keep it up and ideally have a Volunteer on board who can support on showing us exactly how to produce smooth and nice black soil!

Plant Nursery, picture from today, 18. April 2017

Young chilli peper plant.

young Noni plant

Young Tomato plant.

Good fertilizer for Tomato, wooden ash!

Young Rambutan, plant

Young Pitahaya, Dragon Fruit plant.

 

 

Bamboo Volunteer Cabin

The latest PermaTree micro project is to build a bamboo house mainly for volunteers with an amazing view of the Rio Zamora and the Valle de las Luciernagas. The size will be 6 x 3 meters and there will be a fix hammock on the panoramic view side of the house.

This is another so called ecological or natural building we are finalizing here. Actually in this remote region of Ecuador most local people who can,  build concrete and steel just because they believe its better… so once a while we get visitors at our place its always interesting to see their reactions 🙂 Most important is that we can use sustainable materials such as fast growing bamboo and some wood elements which are needed. The wood is going to be a real issue long term in Ecuador and most of Latin America. There is no real serious existing timber tree replanting policy in most countries. So once the trees are cut. There are no more trees. And some take over 200 year to grow. So we believe thinking long term bamboo and giant bamboo is a real good alternative because it can theoretically grow 90 cm / 35 in which is more than just amazing because it has literally 100s of additional beneficial factors.

Photos of the development of the volunteer bamboo house at PermaTree 

New Natural Building Volunteer Structure

After having almost 95% finished the construction of our current PermaTree HQ bamboo house, we started with the next natural building project. Within 3 month we started living in our bamboo house so we improved step by step the construction. The first few month where a bit rough because we had almost no walls within the house and the roof had some issues with the rain 🙂 Now all got fixed.

The new PermaTree volunteer structure

Development Status (9th March 2017) of the base for the new natural structure for our volunteers at PermaTree in Ecuador. Construction material are local wood for the base structure. Top structure / walls and roof structure will be all in bamboo mostly guadua type bamboo which we have been drying here for the last 6 month. Some material need to be organized but most of it is ready and on location.

Also see inspiration for the color of the roof (blue), the roof design (tropical – lots of rain), first sketch of the structure on the white board and last but not least the floating hammock 🙂 Rock n Roll

As you know we have a new volunteer program at PermaTree because we deeply believe in collaboration. We do what we believe. Participation is experiential education; you are learning about permaculture and community by living in it. The most helpful, effective, and happy participants are self-motivated, interested, responsible, and accountable. Here we fully stress collaboration. We are about mutual enrichment and working together. There is no room for people who think they know everything.

Since things like finishing the new volunteer structure take time, ideally you will be able to commit to a 1 month or longer working alongside the PermaTree Volunteer Program. Our goal is to finish this structure before the end of 2017.

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Btina standing in front of the bottom structure – better see the size.

Before and after photo of the volunteer structure base

Before and after photo. The main idea was to not change the landscape at all and “just” build on top of it.

Here is part of our inspiration for this project:

Inspiration: First sketch on the white board / idea Inspiration: Blue Roof Inspiration: Tropical Roof Design Inspiration: Floating Hammock with view

Long-term volunteer positions PermaTree

2017 long-term Permaculture volunteering positions available at the PermaTree Project in southern Ecuador.

Spend 3 or 6 months to a year at the PermaTree Project, in Ecuador. Current open volunteer positions are:

  • All-round volunteer
  • Talented Paint/Artist volunteer
  • Talented Author/Blogger volunteer
  • Experienced Compost volunteer
  • Talented Carpenter volunteer
  • Talented Video & Photography volunteer
  • Experienced natural swimming pool volunteer

Participation is experiential education; you are learning about permaculture and community by living in it. The most helpful, effective, and happy participants are self-motivated, interested, responsible, and accountable.

If you are interested in experiencing permaculture in action, living in community, and engaging with DIY projects in a hands-on and dynamic environment, review this page and fill out the application now!

SUMMARY
We (open minded Swiss & French couple) started in March 2016 created PermaTree a Non-Profit Organization with the philosophy of permaculture which we live by and apply. We are a holistic farm focusing on a sustainable lifestyle by growing and cooking our own organic foods. We build a bamboo house, compost toilets and a river nearby from where we get our water. Half of the land here is a natural jungle reserve so we don’t touch it. Before, the land was occupied with cow farming and so now we are recovering the soil. On sundays, we go to the fresh market in Yantzaza to buy all the food until all grows within the farm.

PERMATREE
As a community, we wake up together, eat meals together, take turns cooking for each other, and share in the responsibilities of keeping daily operations running smoothly.

Each community member may have different responsibilities, but we do our best to work together as a cohesive group. Inevitably there are challenges, both physical and interpersonal, but even in these, we try our best to learn and grow from them.

The PermaTree Project is an 1-year old permaculture site in the edge of the amazonas region of Ecuador in South America. The farm is approximately 76 hectares or 180 acres and located about 3 hours north of Loja, in Southern Ecuador. The lowest part is 800 to 1300 meters over the sea level. Which means we have a high variation of micro climates within PermaTree. It was not so long ago a dense tropical jungle with huge trees and later in the 60s half of the property was made pasture land for cows. Lucky us the fruit orchard is very diverse: papayas, bananas, plantains, cacao, mangoes, bananas, lemons, white zapotes, lulo, guayabas, ice cream bean, passion fruit, sugar cane, and tons of other edibles.

COLLABORATION & KNOWLEDGE
PermaTree is a place where people come together and create mutual enrichment. Participate as a volunteer and teach/learn from people who share their knowledge. On the other hand, we are always looking for mentors to teach the respective topics which match the specific sub-project. Or visit the farm to get a taste of permaculture in the green. Here we stress collaboration. We are about mutual enrichment and working together. There is no room for people who think they know everything.

MISSION & VISION
Living a more meaningful and resilient life in harmony with nature as self-sufficient as possible planting our own food and eating healthy.

A community where you can come, share, learn and be inspired for becoming ambassadors of healthy & resilient lifestyle change.

 





WORK
Each volunteer is asked to be a solid contributor both to the physical work of the site as well as to the social and emotional well-being of the community. Remember you will be living and working in a community! You are given the freedom to make a genuine contribution to the future of the PermaTree farm systems.

Work requirements are a minimum of 5 hours per day (6 days a week) on projects or maintenance. We use shared facilities: kitchen; bathroom; laundry area, and we take turns with daily chores like cleaning. All volunteers will also participate in community chores such as cooking, cleaning communal areas, and maintaining the site. Some occasional weekend duties (such as: watering garden beds, flipping compost, feeding animals, etc). Volunteers will also participate in community meetings ranging from managerial tasks to personal feelings.

Volunteers should consider their position at PermaTree as a job. We like to have fun, but we have serious work to do. The place cannot function without the hard work and energy of all the members. If you care deeply about the work you are doing, you are sure to get most you can out of your time.

WORK ACTIVITIES SHIFT
Daily / Weekly / Monthly Tasks (maintenance):
There are several different daily chores such as cleaning which needs to be done at different times.

Farm Projects:
All the directly farm-related projects such as planting more fruit trees, bamboo, making stairs,digging holes, harvesting other fruits, cutting grass, etc. Farm Projects are in the morning before lunch.

Self Initiated Projects:
Volunteers come up with their own ideas which can be implemented within finca PermaTree. Example: Food recipes, Daily hacks / improvements, Organization, Woodworks, Planting crops and trees, Extracting and drying seeds, Blog post about specific topic. Each project needs a time duration estimation at the start: for example 3 hours or 4 days until finalized. The goal is to finalize the Self Initiated Project during the stay of the Volunteer. Ideally, one should write a DIY blog post with photos about your SIP.

SUSTAINABILITY
Learn first hand what sustainability looks like. A minimal ecological footprint is our goal. Our water is directly from the waterfall. 90% of our house in built from fast growing bamboo instead of wood or cement. We have no glass windows just bamboo windows and most doors are recycled or made from bamboo too. We have recycled many beer bottles for the shower and toilet facility. We have also recycled used tires for stairs and erosion control projects. All our light bulbs are LED so they use a very small amount of power. One of our showers is heated by black pipes with the sun’s rays. All of our grey waste water goes into a banana circle and then a pond. We have composting toilets and use the compost in the garden. We try to be an education center where many people can learn about all these ideas/techniques and how they can apply them in their own homes. We also have a natural swimming pool which is fueled by the overrun of the main water tank.

SURROUNDED BY NATURE
At PermaTree you are literally surrounded by nature. We are located at the edge of the Amazonas region in the south of Ecuador with a breathtaking landscape view of the Rio Zamora. The twilight is spectacular on cloudy days. At night you can enjoy listening to the frogs, bats and owls. During the day, if you are lucky enough, you can see eagles very near our bamboo house. Snakes, spiders and mosquitoes are a part of the ecosystem here. You can walk around the farm which is about +75 hectares or 180 acres. There are several creeks and waterfalls within the different micro climates of the property.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES AT PERMATREE
Depending on the season you can find: papayas, bananas, plantain, cacao, ice cream bean, sugar cane, pineapple, guava, lemons, guayusa, hierba luisa (lemon grass type), cassava (yuca), wild cherry tomatoes, corn, rosemary, basil, thine, aloe vera, vetiver, neem, noni, naranjilla, zapote and we have been planting guanábanas, mango, avocados, oranges, grapefruits, chirimoya, coconuts, strawberry, maracuya, breadfruit, bamboo (bamboo shoots), macadamia, peach palm (contact), soursop, jackfruit, star fruit and dragon fruit.

WHAT DO YOU GET?

  • Excellent quality of life in a natural setting, surrounded by nature in tropical climate
  • Sustainable Lifestyle (minimal ecological footprint. Eating only fresh organic produce, cooked by ourselves, planting food trees, eating the fruits, all water is from the nearby creek, hot shower during day heated by black pipes from the sun rays, etc.) Minimal waste production, future goal zero waste. No Junk food, no sugar diet, no TV etc. There is no such thing as waste only unused resources …
  • Eat tropical fruits you may have never heard or seen in your life
  • 24/7 ecuadorian Spanish Language practice
  • Community living experience
  • Learn to work in a true tropical climate
  • Hands-on Permaculture experience
  • Develop communication, leadership and teamwork skills
  • Develop permaculture skills through hands-on experience in natural building, water management, gardening, plant propagation, food forest establishment, community development, waste management / recycling and more.

AGREEMENTS
We have no rules, only agreements. Everyone is equal. We are self-organizing.

Lose or break = replace
Simple. If you lose a tool or break a dish/glas for example we expect you to replace it.

Shower
Please use your own towel, organic soap and shampoo. After the use of the shower, check the facilities to ensure that they are clean for the next user. During the day, only use the natural shower on the left side, which is naturally heated by the sun. All water from the shower / kitchen will go to the banana circle.

Sleep / Rest Time
Between 21:00 and 06:00 is the general “rest time” – please respect. Avoid unnecessary noise and lights. Lights should be turned off at the latest from 22:00 until 05:00.

Internet Access
During following hours the use of the WIFI-Internet is open for Volunteers: From 13:00 until 17:00 o’clock. Else you can buy a personal CNT-chip for $5 =300MB data) In case of emergency, we have 24/7 internet access.

Washing clothes
Volunteers can wash their clothes by hand or have their clothes washed at a “lavanderia” in Yantzaza for $1.50 per kilo. If you wash your clothes by hand, use the “lavanderia” / sink. Use your own washing soap and let your clothes dry in the plant nursery on the strings. First, firmly squeeze out the remaining water before hanging the washed clothes up on the strings in the plant nursery. Use the wooden clothespins to attach the clothes to the string. Remove the clothes after 4-5 hours, before nightfall.

Compost toilet
Sit, use, sawdust after business, close the tap, check if there is enough sawdust in the orange bucket and toilet paper around, otherwise, refill. Close the door after leaving the compost toilet. Check if the light is turned off upon exiting.

WHAT TO BRING
The most important thing is a smile and an open mind. Sleeping bag, Sun protector like long sleeves, hat, sunglasses. If you bring Sunscreen please bring an organic one with you. Bring working pants with you. Waterproof shoes, a light raincoat. Towel. Mosquito net. Mosquito repellent, torch/flashlight, flip flops or slippers (for indoors). And all you need to be comfortable. You can buy boots in the town unless you have very big feet. Bring your own gloves for the farm work. In Quito/Cuenca you can buy almost anything in case you don’t have it.

A weekly shopping trip will be made to the fresh market in Yantzaza (on Sunday) where any additional personal items can be ordered.

LANGUAGES
Most of the team at the finca PermaTree is multilingual here: Spanish, English, French, German, Swiss-german

WEATHER
27°- 30° during the day, at night it can be fresh around 17°, 65% and 85% humidity!!!
Sunrise around 6AM Sunset around 6PM.

APPLY FOR VOLUNTEER SPOT
1. Send message with your gmail email address and introduction about yourself and your motivation
2. Read the full PermaTree Volunteer Information Pack here: https://goo.gl/kxjUKq
3. Answer the micro questionnaire here: https://goo.gl/WxGcH9
4. Skype interview

Status update October 2016 at PermaTree

It has been more than just VERY busy. It has been exiting EVERY day here. With ups and downs like everywhere of course. But so fare we are on track and are moving forward.
Enjoy the photos.

Let us know if you want to Skype. Sunday afternoon, our time, is a good day for Skype here 🙂

The PermaTree challenges so far in a nutshell:

  • We got the Ecuatorian-Cedula (permanent visa)
  • Planted over 200 Bananas / Vetiver-grass!
  • Replaced dead battery of the MBP …
  • Bought 400 Guadua bamboo’s to finalize the house
  • Planted over 400 Guadua and Giant bamboo plants!
  • Got a 2nd-hand machine-saw and guarana (it got robed)
  • Got a third dog: Pulga puppy mix
  • Purchased lots of used bottles for construction of the bath and shower
  • Organized almost 1000 used car tires for current construction
  • Got bamboo windows and bamboo walls 4 our house build

Twilight at PermaTree Shower Shower PermaTree The Machetes Shower window healthy food work Amazonas Landscape from PermaTree view Planning screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-10-54-pm Twilight at PermaTree Bamboo house Machete screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-13-48-pm Healthy Breakfast screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-13-59-pm reparing computer to last longer screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-14-15-pm Arepas planting fruit trees screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-16-46-pm screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-17-17-pm screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-20-15-pm

August 2016

Time is flying by. Now it’s already again August. Exactly 2 years ago back in 2014 we left Zurich Switzerland with the plane to São Paulo in Brazil to officially start our exploration journey of latin America. First Paraguay then Bolivia after that Colombia and finally Ecuador. Much has happened since then. Even more happened now in the last 3 month here in the Zamora Chinchipe Province part of the so called “Oriente” region of Ecuador which is in fact part of the great Amazon Basin. Here we found a property and build the first cabana to live and work the finca full time. Have been planting fruit trees and bamboo like crazy the last month. And since August now also moved to the cabana where we have water and electricity! Only the shower is not quite warm yet … only about 15 minutes in the afternoon. We will find a workaround here… 🙂 Today the food-bodega-room just got inagurated and we are also finalizing the compost toilet.

PermaTree_Ecuador_Cabana_permaculture Cocina_PermaTree Btina_Santi_PermaTree PermaTree_construcion2016 Giant_Bamboo_PermaTree-Ecuador HealthyFood_PermaTree_Ecuador

Volunteer opportunity in Ecuador!

Take the chance and visit us! A Volunteer abroad opportunity at Finca PermaTree located in the South Ecuador between the Amazon basin and Andes mountain range. We’re just starting to build the house and the farm with Permaculture principles. Be involved within the very first steps, like building the main bamboo house and starting with planting many fruit trees, bamboo and timber trees.

You can be part of the development processes. Participate as a volunteer or learn from people who share their knowledge. On the other hand, we are always looking for mentors to teach the respective topics which match the specific sub-project. Or visit the farm to get a taste of permaculture in the green. However, there are also other ways how you can collaborate.

Our little permaculture farm in Ecuador – it’s 76 Hectares in size. It takes about 3 hours to walk around the property. It starts at 800 meters above the sea level and ends at about 1300! There is one bigger creek and about 4 water streams (ojos de agua) which start within the property like the bigger creek. So there should be no water quality issues. There is at least one waterfall of a few meters – we need to explore this a bit better.

Our Main Focus with PermaTree:

  • Researching and implementing sustainable lifestyles
  • Food forest – A permaculture forest garden mimics the architecture and beneficial relationships of a natural plant/animal community that occurs in that climate. Food forests are designed and managed ecosystems that are very rich in biodiversity and productivity
  • Seed bank – seed exchange
  • Collaborative Community – Language and sustainable living exchange
  • Conservation – All the current left over forest areas will be from now on nature reserve
  • Analog Reforestation – re-vegetating depleted soil with flora that mimic the role of original native species to bring back natural vs. anthropogenic harmony
  • Transparency  – Open information / Open source – share information

 

Some landscape, plant, food, nature impressions from the life at Finca PermaTree in Ecuador:

PermaTree Bamboo Guadua PermaTree Landscape Ecuador PermaTree Yellow Bamboo Banana Cacao Creek River PermaTree_landscape_roadvolunteer at Permatree jungle creek Permatree_jungle_Waterfall_creek Permatree_jungle1 Permatree_jungle2 PermaTree_Chonta_Palm PermaTree_WaterFall1_jungle healthyfood permatree encocado tropical fruit juice healthy

 

Ecuador

Nature: Flora and Fauna of Ecuador

Ecuador has 10% of all of earth’s plants.

This country has more species of plants per area unit than any other country in South America. 18% of the total discovered birds in world, 1655 birds, are found in Ecuador. The 382 mammal species that exist in this country, comprise 7% of the 5,490 species registered in the world. It is, in summary, a rich tropical region, with wetlands, due to its privileged geographic location in the Neotropics, which makes it form part of this privileged list of biodiversity.

Ecuador Landscape

Like many visitors, we where surprised that the country is not only tropical but is also home to so many microclimates, including the snow capping the highest of the Avenue of Volcanoes’ 55 peaks (of which 14 are active). Another interesting detail is that the Chimborazo in Ecuador has an altitude of 6310 meters (20,703 feet). Mount Everest has a higher altitude, and Mauna Kea is “taller.” However, Chimborazo in Ecuador has the distinction of being the “highest mountain above Earth’s center.”

The climatic extremes are amazing, but it’s how fast it changes that is so startling. Yet, this, more than anything, illustrates how the tiny nation of Ecuador nurtures one of just 17 biological megadiversity hot spots on the planet.The numbers are staggering: 1600 – 15% of the world’s – bird species on the mainland alone and another 38% that are endemic to the Galapagos; 3500 orchid species, the most on Earth; 4500 or more butterflies; more than 16000 plant species, 106 reptiles and 138 amphibians native to the country, and so on.

BioDiversity Ecuador

Drive 20 minutes and everything changes, in this South American country that’s just smaller than Italy: the topography, climate, plants and animals – even the culture and language.

 

Threats from modernization

Unfortunately, Ecuador’s natural wealth is continuously challenged by unsustainable economic development from sectors such as oil and gas, fisheries, logging, mining and infrastructure. Coupled with rapid population growth, historically high deforestation rates, and an economy highly dependent on exporting raw materials rather than refined products.

Market in Quito Ecuador

Iconic species such as jaguars, great green macaws and brown-headed spider monkeys are all in jeopardy from the rampant habitat loss. Being one of the world “hot spots” of biodiversity – from dry tropical forest (less than 2% remaining in Ecuador), coastal humid tropical forest and coastal wet tropical forest (currently only 0.8% remaining)…

deforestation in ecuador 2016

The deforestation figure in all of coastal Ecuador is 98%. The Pacific Equatorial Forest, which has suffered an estimated loss of 75% of its native forest, has thus fared somewhat better than the rest of the region owing to its limited access and more challenging topography. However, the construction of a new coastal highway through the region threatens to facilitate the deforestation of the last remnants of Pacific Equatorial Forest. Sadly the vast majority of the Pacific Equatorial Forest remains unprotected and continue to be logged and cleared for agriculture and cattle ranching. More than 60’000 hectares of  forest are lost every year! In 2009 the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment launched its Socio Bosque (Forest Partners) program, which provides forest owners with an annual conservation subsidy of $30 per hectare ($12/acre), has had some traction in the region but the long-term efficacy is still uncertain.

 

Pachamama in Ecuador?

Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth mother.

Is there a alternative sustainable agricultural model?

The spread of organic agriculture is a multi-faceted process that includes a tension between economic and social factors. Nationally, public institutions like the Ministry of Agriculture serve as the central nodes of the network, but their initiatives to promote organic agriculture are less developed than those of both foreign and domestic NGOs. Key actors are more successful in spreading organic agriculture if they are perceived as legitimate and capable leaders. The spread of modern organic agriculture appears to follow the top-down diffusion model. However, a growing grassroots agroecology movement follows a more decentralized approach. (Source: Return to pachamama?  The diffusion of organic agriculture in Ecuador by Sophie Fuchs, 2011)

 

Permaculture movement and communities

Ecuador permaculture movement is alive and well, but not exactly comparable to for example Costa Rica which is located much nearer physically to the United States. Costa Rica “Pura Vida” marketing-lifestyle-expression is definitely very different. 🙂 While exploring Costa Rica in 2014 for 4 weeks we did enjoy our stay and visited many so called Eco Villages, Green Resorts, beautiful Nature reserves and so picturesque Caribbean sand beaches. Here we got our inspiration to start to explore for a place for our own project PermaTree. In Ecuador there are various so called international communities and or Permaculture Farms, Private Reserves some of them which we have been able to visit. So far we have noticed that most projects are still in a phase of growth and there is much potential in working together for sure. The permaculture “idea” does help for sure. We have been avoiding places with too many expats at the beginning and did explore a few after a while like mountain village of Mindo and the city Cuenca later. Networking with similar minded people never hurts. In theory the idea behind “permaculture” should not be anything new for the remaining native and indigenous peoples, who have retained a balanced way of interacting with green living things for thousands of years. But reality is different than theory. In Ecuador many indigenous peoples such as the Shuar and the Achuar have a rather difficult time “adapting” to the so called modern world  “work & consume”. Most local people here in Ecuador have never heard of the term “Permaculture” and if they live from agriculture then from pastureland and growing cows. It’s the same situation in Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. No big difference here. Ecuador has a very privileged geographic location and much less climatic issues than most countries we explored in South America.

The movement of sustainable communities in Ecuador reflects a bit the fact that it sits on the halfway mark of the Earth: it’s neither invisible nor well defined, though small, it has many projects, although they are not necessarily part of a functional network (Quote: Leti y Ryan – http://www.comuntierra.org)

The biodiversity is Ecuador’s main attraction, however there are is also a surprisingly diverse ecological movement with some very interesting and peculiar projects.

Permaculture inspired Farms in Ecuador:

 

Seed Savers Network – RGS

Another very interesting network in Ecuador are the Seed Saving Network (Red de Guardianes de Semillas de Ecuador) which is a Non-Profit Organization, established in November 2002. Currently there are more than 300 members in the RGS network which share their seeds. RGS also trains farmers to save seeds, providing a national platform for seed preservation, creating an effective network between campesinos and educating activists nationwide to conserve biodiversity and promote food sovereignty in country. Source: https://www.facebook.com/guardianesdesemillas/

Exploring with digital maps challenge

We have been exploring for over 2 years many properties in Latinamerica. The following have been the most reliable tools so far. Sometimes no Internet/3G (no coverage or too much demand). No GPS-Satellite (too many trees in the jungle). No Electricity to reload the batteries 🙂

It has been a real challenge to find good map-solutions with digital terrain elevation contour information. Same for our Garmin device witch operates with the free open source solution from OpenStreetMaps (OSM) http://wiki.openstreetmap.org Still trying to find a better information source here… more research is needed. Although I found another source of information regarding the How & Where to Find Free,  Digital, Topographic Maps… here.

 

Best “Save GPS points” no need of Internet connection
smartphone app “MAPS.ME”
http://maps.me/

MapsMe Ecuador  MapsMe Ecuador  MapsMe Ecuador

Best “Terrain” altitude info map (altitude information = elevation from sea level)
Google Maps – Terrain view
https://www.google.com/maps/

Google Maps Terrain View

 

Best “Road” and “Terrain Contour” info
OpenStreetMap
http://www.openstreetmap.org/

OpenStreetMap Road Terrain Contour

 

 

Best “River” info map
Yahoo / Flickr Map
https://www.flickr.com/map Yahoo Flickr Maps

 

Permaculture zone planning

Now for calculating the property sizes it’s not to complex to work with Google Earth / Pro and to do some permaculture zone planning for example. Actually Google Earth / Pro is rather straight forward to use, yet powerful interface, can be mastered in a few steps and provide you with a map you can print or share online. There is a great and detailed article about Using Google Earth to zone your farm is a great planning tool here so no need to re-write.

Building our own house in the tropics

It’s time for us to start thinking about how we want to build our own house in the tropics. We did some extensive research during the last 2 years – but knowing where we are going to stay makes it a step easier.  Of course we are not going to build a house like in Europe or the US. This would make very little to no sense at all.

Different environment very different climate conditions as well as social habits.

We really liked the entire philosophy of the Earth Ships (passive solar house that is made of both natural and recycled materials – here a good read about pro and cons) and Earthbag/Superadobe constructions. But now living in the tropics this make little sense observing the climate and existing houses here. So we will keep the creative inspiration but build something fully adapted to the climate and topography of the land. We also really liked the idea of “less is more” aka the Book from Dee Williams called The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir.

 

In a nutshell:

Focus rather on a functional structure instead of  beautiful structure, because it turns out that a functional object with time becomes beautiful too. It needs to be elevated. The part where we live and the part where we sleep needs to be ventilated enough. Combination of the structure with smart sustainable energy solutions.

 

House Focus:

  • Big multiuse Porch / roof overhang  – a covered shelter projecting in front/around the house. To stop both too much sun and too much water hitting the front face
  • Rooftop terrace (on the top of the roof)
  • Abundance of natural light inside of the house – big windows
  • Natural ventilation in very room of the house – with mosquito nets
  • House min. 2 meters elevated above the ground to allow for a better floor ventilation and less wall and floor humidity
  • Rain water harvesting via roof saved in ground water tank or near Fish pond with Bamboo and floating vegetables.
  • Composting Toilet outside of the house but connected with roof (don’t want to get wet)
  • Multifunction Rocket Mass Heater Stove combined with Oven, BBQ, Boiler and Clothing / Food Dehydrator – hybrid system: wood / gas / electric (solar powered)
  • Shower near the Rocket Mass Heater Stove for hot water. Graywater going to the banana circle system.
  • 2 well isolated water tanks on roof one for hot water (black) one for cold water (white)
  • Solar Thermal Pipe Coil Water Heater – on roof to heat with daily sunlight and save it in the black water tank.
  • Open practical Kitchen and living room / hammocks in one space with big windows for lots of natural light
  • Dry natural ventilated store room – “root cellar” near kitchen – place to preserve fruits and vegetables
  • Near the house the Gray water treatment with banana circle system
  • Roof Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels to harvest solar energy in batteries for daily use.
  • Use natural river water flow for hydro energy or “watermill”-rotation energy for washing machine and electric energy. Micro Hydro (small turbine) / rover “water vortex” for power generation
  • Floor: Terracota “baked earth” floor tiles and wood floor in the 2 bedrooms

 

Local natural construction materials

One major consideration in sustainable development is using local materials. Biggest issue here is that all the natural constructions material almost don’t get dried at all… normaly. Most likely we will have to also consider a few non sustainable materials such as plastic which is used for plant nurseries.

  • Recycling: Glas Bottles, Wood, Aluminum Bottles, etc.
  • Palma de pejibaye, “Chonta dura” o Bactris gasipaes (extrem hard material)
  • Bamboo / “Guadua”
  • Timber wood
  • Adobe earth walls / floor
  • Palm leafs / roof / walls
  • etc.

 

Smart sustainable

We are thinking of a house designed with space and energy-efficiency in mind. Focusing on practical use more than luxury. Using intelligent adapted multi-use natural shapes instead of the usual square house with roof. Geometric volumes neatly fitted together on varying levels. Creating areas of shade and sun that will naturally warm and cool the house throughout the day. Focus on minimizing the environmental impact of the house before, during and after construction. We are just visitors passing by so our footprint should not destroy anything… best case its a better place after we leave.

Bamboo

Bamboo was first found and used in China more than 5000 years ago. This is why the woody plant conjures up images of pandas eating shoots and leaves in the Orient. Even though its many uses are only just becoming widely known, the bamboo plant as an alternative material began long before “going green” became a trend.

Existing visual inspiration

We believe its always important to see what has been done and do goo research also to get visual inspiration. Some examples are more elaborate some more minimal some more luxurious some more simple.

sustainable-architecture-inspiration

sustainable bamboo architecture

sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration

Regenerative Farm / Finca Aveterra - Byrd Family, Mindo, Ecuadorsustainable-architecture-inspiration Natural Building Lots Of Light

Sustainable-architecture-tropics1 Sustainable-architecture-tropics2 Sustainable-architecture-tropics3

sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspirationsustainable-architecture-inspiration  sustainable-architecture-inspiration  sustainable-architecture-inspirationsustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration

Compost Toilet Jungle Colombia

Compost Toilet Jungle Colombia

sustainable-architecture-inspiration

bamboo cabana in EjeCafetera colombia Simple bamboo cabanas in OlmedoManabi Ecuador Typical architecture in the countryside ecuador bamboo