"There is one, and only one solution, and we have almost no time to try it. We must turn all our resources to repairing the natural world, and train all our young people to help. They want to - and we need to give them this last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions, and to know how to do it from hands-on experience."- In memory of Bill Mollison
Welcome to Permaculture in Trinidad and Tobago. Welcome to Wa Samaki.
Wa Samaki Ecosystems, created in 1997, offers a working example of a Permaculture operation producing cut flowers for the local market, organic food for our household consumption, wildlife conservation, watershed rehabilitation, Permaculture Design Courses, workshops and volunteer and internship opportunities.
WHAT IS PERMACULTURE?
Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is a term created by Australian Bill Mollison to describe a land use system that is modeled after natural eco-systems. Mollison defines Permaculture as 'the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, shelter, energy and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way'.
The Permaculture philosophy is one of working with rather than against nature, of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them, and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions. Permaculture is applicable in urban, suburban, and rural environments and offers a proactive approach to addressing the escalating environmental crisis.
Permaculture design is a "whole systems" approach to land use planning based on the patterns of symbiotic relationships between land, water, wind, soil, animals, and people inherent in natural eco-systems.
The original layout of the farm in 1997 consisted of a large farmhouse surrounded by approximately 15 acres of citrus laid out in a 20ft square grid.
The fields were maintained by brushcutting with a tractor and by applying weedicides and herbicides around the citrus trees. The other 18 acres consisted of bulldozed land that was being prepared to plant more citrus and a large flat area where a goat shed and hydroponics shed once stood and two other flat areas that were earmarked for sheds to mass produce chickens. Three streams run through the property that carry water during the rainy season (June to December) but quickly dry up during the dry season (January to May).
Almost all the trees along the streams had been cut down to allow maximum sun exposure for the citrus. A few ponds had been excavated within the streams and one stream had been dammed to produce a large pond that was earmarked for irrigating the citrus. The topography of the farm is undulating with a ridge running through the centre of it in an east west direction.
Bush fires on unused lands surrounding the farm are a constant threat throughout the dry season which requires the constant monitoring and clearing of firebreaks. Wildlife on the farm was minimal due to a loss of habitat and a manager that was an avid hunter.
Wa Samaki has been accumulating plants since its inception in 1997. Some have been given to us, some we have had to go into the forests to collect, some have been picked up as seed washing across from South America when the Orinoco river floods and pushes vegetation all the way to Trinidad. We have become a resource for all things tropical that have disappeared from many communities.
Our collection now includes numerous 20 varieties of root crops including dasheen, tannia, cassava, cush cush yam, african yam, eddoes and topi tambo. We also hace an enviable collection of edible tropical greens including sweetleaf, suriname tania, chaya, moringa, okinawa spinach, kangkong and ibica (edible hibiscus).
The birds bring in seeds of wild trees they eat, we just have to be observant enough to leave the seedlings alone to flourish wherever they fall. Our network of over 20 ponds has given us some great edges and microclimates to push our biodiversity even further! .
A good permaculture design will organize its layout according to priorities. This is called zoning. It will also take into account any external forces that are affecting the site. This is called a sector analysis.
At Wa Samaki Ecosystems we have been fortunate enought to have a site that allows us to demonstrate all the zones quite effectively. Take a virtual tour with us.......
Zone 1 Intensive House Garden (light blue)
This zone is closest to our house occupies about 1/3 of an acre. It is currently being used for producing vegetables for the home as well as for nursery propagation for the farm.
Zone 2 Landscape garden/orchard
This zone includes ornamental plants as well as some fruit trees. Plants in this zone occupies about 1 acre and are focused on improving soil fertility. As such nitrogen fixing plants such as tamarind, flambouyant and glyceridia are grown.
Zone 3 Production beds (green) organic vegetable beds (red) nursery (pink)
This area occupies between 3 4 acres of land and is concentrated on flower production. The farm has close to 30 different varieties of heliconia, 8 varieties of ginger lillies and torch lilies as well as 4 varieties of ornamental bananas.
This production sustains the cash flow on the farm. On a weekly basis over 1,000 blooms are sold on the local market. The production beds are integrated close to water sources (man made ponds) and are shaded by larger tree crops which produce shade and mimimizes the need for shade houses.
Zone 4 - Forestry
This zone occupies about 15 acres and is comprised of a variety of lumber trees including, teak, cedar, poui, mahogany and fiddle wood. Systems put in place to manage our orestry include:
Close spacing of trees encourage trees to grow straight, once the trees start touching each other they are thinned out
Trees are pruned regularly to encourage them to grow straight and tall
Litter from the trees are incorporated into the farm to make compost as well as for mulching to conserve water
Fire trails are well maintained
Water is trapped using contour drains which encourage the water to percolate into the water table instead of running off the land
Zone 5 wild area
This area occupies about 5 acres and indigenous trees and wildlife are encouraged to grow here. These areas are our reserves in case of any catasrophe. These areas help with biodiversity as well as with the rehabilitation of the watershed.
Twenty years plus of regeneration has given homes to an amazing assortment of wildlife At Wa Samaki that disappears from the landscape once you leave our site! Over 40 varieties of birds have been surveyed on the farm by the Forestry Department, some of the birds, normally only observed in deep forest, are comfortable in thses surroundings. Our long term aim is to have the communities along our river, the Chandernagore, eventually adospt the river so that people stop dumping garbage into it and it be comes a wildlife corridor that allows for protectionand conservation of our rapidly depleting inheritance. We encourage students and researches to explore our site and share their pictures and research with us and the wider community. Wildlife observed on the farm includes otter, squirrel, manicou, pygmy manicou, caiman, iguana, matte, a variety of snakes, turtles, agouti and tatu