After a literally long and intense exploration and research during more than 600 days (2 years)! Which we started in Paraguay back in 2014 and then went to Bolivia. From there to Colombia where we finally decided to explore Ecuador.
We are very proud and happy and thankful to announce that we finally found and bought a property in Ecuador, South America to start with our vision for PermaTree. And so exited of course! Finally!!! 🙂
Honestly the last few month have been exhausting. Property purchase negotiations have been never-ending. For the first few months in Ecuador we had no own car and where renting one or driving with the taxi around witch was a bit of struggle. It was very challenging to find some decent renting place in the region. They have attempted to break-in twice into the house we are renting. Our legal 6-Month-Tourist-VISA was running out of time. Parts of our material is still stuck in Bolivia since 11 month now. The postal service in Ecuador is rather experimental there are no postal codes in use and no street numbers … we are waiting for official documents from Switzerland since now 7 weeks and nobody knows where it is and if or when it will arrive.
Once again we very lucky to have found fantastic new friends in the local community which have been supporting us. Thank you to our friends from the coast Lida y la familia Mieles (Quinta Guadalupana), Piet Sabbe (Bosque de Bambu), Peter from Terra Frutis (vegan community not far from us in Gualaquiza) and Etelvina, Henry, Don Rey, Lorena, “los amigos” and Max (the dog) from beautiful El Pangui and Loja region.
As always: “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
Our little permaculture farm in Ecuador – We where searching for min. 50 to max. 200 Has and found 76 Has matching to all the other search criteria. It takes about 3 hours to walk around the property. It starts at 800 meters above the sea level and ends at about 1300! It’s located at the edge of the Sierra (Andes mountain range which stretch 1800 kilometers from north to south, along the west coast of the continent) and the Oriente (Amazonas region) in Ecuador. So the property is part of the Andes mountain range and part of the Amazon River Basin which covers a total covers an area of about 7,500,000 km2 or roughly 40% of the South American continent.
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. Currently there are no roads on the property itself. The access to the property is directly from the newly build highway traveling north to south Amazon Road (E45) “Troncal Amazónica”. From Quito its about 8.5 hours straight driving in a car. There are may public buses which travel from all the directions to there but they take more time because they stop very often normally. There are daily flights from Quito to Cuenca and from Cuenca its about 3-4 hours straight without the finalized road which is still being build right now as we speak. There are also airports near Yantzaza and Gualaquiza which have flights to Puyo. Alternative would be by boat via the river Zamora but we haven’t tried that option yet.
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
The property has been used for more than 10 years for almost pure growing cows from pasture. The pasture soil is degraded after years of pasture only for cows and more than enough use of agrochemical POISON (multinationals Monsanto / Syngenta) to kill all the other kinds of natural “weed” / plants etc … Currently no signs of soil erosion which is good enough other issues.
The soil type is very diverse because of all the micro climates depending of the altitude within the property.
Our focus with PermaTree is to regenerate the soil:
- Harvesting worm compost to create new rich soil with earth worms
- Secure water – with Bamboo reduces rain run-off and downstream flooding and retains water within the watershed
The PermaTree property is located between Yantzaza and El Pangui in the province of Zamora-Chinchipe, Ecuador. This region has a tropical climate. There is significant rainfall. Even in the driest month there is a lot of rain. This climate is considered to be Af according to the Köppen-Geiger climate classification. The average annual temperature in Yantzaza is 22.7 °C. Precipitation here averages 1959 mm.
Existing Fruit Trees and Edible Plants
A good indicator of the soil is that currently there are about 25 to 50 fruit trees and edible plants on the property: Cacao, Sweet Lemon, Lemon, yellow and red Bananas, Platano, Yuca, Guayabana, Guaba, Mango, Sugarcane, Chonta palms, Papaya, Corn, Coffee and Naranjilla also called “little orange” etc.
Planed Food Forest
For our planned food forest we are also ready to start to plant many Coconut palms, Avocados, Orange, Lemon, Lime, Pomelo (Grapefruit), Durian, Zapote, Pineapple, Moringa, Katuk, Tobacco, Aloe, Tumeric, Ginger, Lemongrass, Laurel, Pumpkin (grow like crazy), Higo, Frijoles y Porotos (beans), wild cherry Tomatos and Babaco which is a “Mountain Papaya”, Mangosteen, Jackfruit, Snakefruit, Bolivian cherimoya, Artocarpus odoratissimus (fruta de pan), Surinam cherry, max. different Banana diversity and many many more.
We have been told by the previous owners that the property had coconut palms but did not plant any and so the existing ones just died. The neighbors have plenty of coconut palms so this will be one of the first task we are going to do is to plant about 50 coconut palms which already have a height of about 1 meter today. Back in Bolivia a landlocked country located 3000km further south we saw many coconut palm trees and since then we decided that we want to plant as many as possible on the PermaTree property.
Native Seed Hunt In Ecuador
One of the biggest challenges here in Ecuador is the hunt for native seeds. Believe me it’s not easy. I have been seed hunting in Gualaquiza, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Quito and Ibarra. It’s almost hilarious that the agrochemical multinationals also sell GMO seeds and those are the most common used… 🙁
It’s not all lost yet but you have to hunt for the local organic seeds. We discovered in Quito the very well organized Seed Saver Network (RGS – La Red de Guardianes de Semillas del Ecuador) which sells and exchanges local organic seeds. They are 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 sovereign.
Happy us. Another great source for tropical / exotical fruit seed in Ecuador is the Guaycuyacu farm of Jim West there is a great article about them here on issuu. Thanks to Piet Sabbe from Bosque de Bambu for indicating great local bamboo sources. Soon we are going with a friend to visit some different Shuar communities in the depth of the Amazonas region which could help us to find some more native seeds which the Colonos (local colonists) do not use any more.
There is sadly zero “primary forest” left. Primary forest refers to untouched, pristine forest that exists in its original condition. This forest has been relatively unaffected by human activities. In Ecuador there is VERY little primary forest left. On our property there is NONE left. Neither is there secondary forest. Most likely the remaining forests of the PermaTree property are third-growth. They remaining forest cover, is located mainly at inaccessible areas.
WWF has drawn on projections in the Living Forests Model, a major literature survey and interviews with dozens of experts around the world to identify 11 places with major deforestation fronts, highlighted in this map. These places are where the bulk of global deforestation is projected to take take place over the two decades, from 2010 to 2030.
Ecuador, is a relatively small country with the total size of 270’000 km2, had historically 132’000 km2 of pure jungle. While blessed with one of the highest biodiversity indices, Ecuador also has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation estimated at over 300’000 hectares (3%) per year.
Only about 5% remain of the rich forests of the coastal region, most of which have been destroyed in the last 50 years by mining, logging, agroindustrial monocultures (banana, cacao, coffee, African palm) and colonization. According to Ecuador’s Environmental Ministry, 65’880 hectares of land are deforested in the country each year. The country’s illegal timber trade is worth around 100 million dollars, and represents up to 70% of wood transported out Ecuador’s remaining rainforest.
According to satellite imagery analyzed by the watchdog group IMAZON, Amazon deforestation in 2014 and into the beginning of 2015 had more than doubled compared with the same time period a year earlier.
A interesting historical detail here is that the single largest contributor to deforestation in Ecuador were the Agrarian Reform Laws (1964, 1972) which promoted the colonization of “vacant” (forest) land as the solution to relieve social pressures caused by inequitable (feudal) land distribution, while expanding the agricultural frontier and subsidizing the growth of export-oriented industrial agriculture. The “Green Revolution” (GR) was included in the Agrarian Reform package which the U.S. government sponsored throughout Latin America as part of the “Alliance for Progress” in the 1960’s.
Source: Causes and consequences of deforestation in Ecuador
Wildlife / Biodiversity
Ecuador is a country with a varied terrain resulting in a variety of habitats for animal life. Ecuador’s birdwatching is legendary. In the entire country of Ecuador, there are an estimated 1600 species of birds. In the Ecuadorian Amazon region, you will find: 800 species of fish, including three sorts of piranhas, 350 Species of reptiles, including anacondas and iguanas, more than 300 species of mammals, including monkeys and jaguars. Thousands of species of plants and trees. Thousands of species of insects: one acre of rainforest may be home to 70,000 species of insect!
Although in theory Ecuador has one of the highest biodiversity indices in reality so far we saw a one white rabbit! And many types of birds of which some are yellow and blue and other Eagle / mice buzzards. Many insects apart from the Mosquitoes, Ants, Worms, Dasypus “armadillo”. We need to explore much more the existing wildlife.
One explication for this situation is that Ecuador has been buildings lots of excellent roads even into the amazon basin. The building of oil roads into the Amazon has led to unsustainable indigenous hunting, fed an illegal bushmeat market, possibly facilitated the pet trade, and is emptying rainforests of wildlife.
“Water is the new oil” quote T. Boone Pickens. The Global Economic Forum identifies water crises as the third most serious risk the world faces in 2014. In just a few years from now in 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions!
Multinationals like Nestle (Switzerland) and Coca Cola (USA) know this since a while and have been buying up all water sources on the entire globe. So don’t forget if possible to boycott companies like Nestlé and Coca-Cola! It’s the best thing you can do for yourself anyway. You health and your teeth will improve shorty after stopping to consume that kind of commercial poison.
Knowing that water is today and even more in future a serious key factor for survival we have had a strong focus on having enough water but not too much. This may sounds funny but we have been in places where there was no water and in other places where there was so much water that almost nothing grew because of to much water. So here again it’s all about finding a harmony.
This is why we focused our search in Ecuador and specifically in the province of Zamora-Chinchipe. The climate is almost perfect; not to fresh during night, good sun during the day but also clouds and some hours of rain (check the climate info). So a little of everything it’s hot but not to hot like in Paraguay with 49 degrees Celsius. It’s fresh but not so fresh like in Bogota where after every visit I have a slight cold. There are also less inhabitants in Zamora-Chinchipe. No serious worries compared to the coastal region of Ecuador where the food is great but there is increasing insecurity and locals tend to move to other regions if they can which is a good indicator.
There is already some yellow bamboo by the stream. We plan to plant a lot of different bamboo types along the river on a total distance of about 1000 meters or more.
Most varieties grow about 5 cm a day, and will reach their full height within one growing season. Certain species of bamboo can grow 90 cm within one day, at a rate of 3 cm/h!
Did you know that Bamboo produces 35% more Oxygen than Trees?
Unlike most tree species, harvesting bamboo does not kill the plant, so topsoil erosion and other adverse effects of tree-felling are kept to a minimum.