Home gardens using the permaculture system
Report about creating Permaculture Home Gardens in Saint Vincent
One of our projects as Climate Activists in Saint Vincent has been to support local people to make home gardens using the permaculture system. This project is fantastic because the conditions where people live are improved and we make our contributions to the development of Saint Vincent, making beautiful home gardens together with the local people.
What is the reason for making home gardens?
Saint Vincent is the second poorest country in the Caribbean after Haiti, so the project of make home gardens is to provide support not only for the people also for the environment by applying permaculture – the knowledge used by nature to make the gardens. The home gardens also mobilise others in the community to get ideas of how spaces in their gardens could be used in the same way.
What are the benefits of the permaculture system?
The permaculture system is a way to make a garden by using organic matter as it is. Eventually this system will maintained itself with very little input as it is fully inbuilt with the principles from nature – organically. This is a big difference between other systems, those that use chemicals that degrade the soil and contaminate the food, making it unhealthier, less tasty and globally harmful. Permaculture is beneficial to all kinds of life and improves the quality of the garden and the production. The food is fresh, healthier and tastier and it comes from the local area. The permaculture system is also very different from the system of monoculture that makes the soil unable to be productive and successful without the aggression of using pesticides and fungicides.
Permaculture also takes care to protect and enrich the soil through an enhanced biodiversity; growing different plants together, which means that every plant benefits the other, creating a prosperous environment that enables the plants to grow in harmony, without struggle. Permaculture is a system that adapts itself to the climate and provides mulch to the soil, providing a variety of nutrients that come from nature. For examples many leaves from tree are nitrogen fixers that keep the add nitrogen to the soil and help keep it there and this is very beneficial to the soil. In permaculture we also make compost, using ‘waste’ that is usually thrown away and becomes potentially harmful for the environment, this is ecologic and economic as well.
What was the process in making the gardens?
The first step to make a garden was clean the ground in order to start to work on it and this was followed by creating contours. Saint Vincent is a very hilly island so most people have land located on slopes. The contour system helps to prevent a problem with the water meaning that the water does not accumulate in the deepest part of the land, thus depriving some areas of water. The second step was to make the design; positioning the garden on a paper, measuring the distances between what is in the garden and what we wanted to plant. Followed by making a sun map to calculate the hours of light that each zone of the garden will have and calculate if some tree or obstacle will interfere to take sun light – this all depends on which month it is. The third and last step was to decide the plants that will be grown taking in to consideration the permaculture system; respecting the synergy of the plants between each other.
What were the challenges?
The challenges were our inexperience, the lack of knowledge required to build the contours and the adaptation to the higher temperature and climate. Some local people helped us in the process of the production and that helped a lot to keep the rhythm of work. We learned by doing. The first garden was most difficult but then we used our new skills on the next gardens. We learned it was good to use bamboo to make the high beds.
What was your personal experience in this process?
The process of making the garden was hard. We arrived to Saint Vincent just after the permaculture training course finished so even if my team mates knew the theory, we went to the garden and didn’t have a full vision of how it will play out. The climate is tropically so totally different of what my body is adapted to. This all made a mix of feelings that made me feel uncomfortable and useless. But after we made the first garden, which was anyway a very good experience, we could make the next without help. Planting the seeds in the end was very gratifying as I thought about the end product of food on the table.
This experience has been unique; surrounded by lovely people, amazing food and incredible nature. We planted tomato, pepper, kale, cucumber, papaya, cocoa and coconut. People were so appreciative of what we had done together – some of the gardens were big so the products can be sold to other people. We concluded with a fabulous group lunch between all the garden workers and hosts with a good reception – even some neihgbours joined in.
By Alejandro from Spain