Tropical permaculture has been practiced
in the Caribbean and Central American region for thousands of years since
1000AD by the Mayans. The Mayans practiced slash/burn agriculture usually with a 7 year cycle, and
also permanent agriculture through terracing, channeling and irrigating swamp land. Their basic
food depended mainly on beans and maize, and a variety of vegetables, spices and herbs, and
The Sartenejan Region offers many opportunities and
challenges for permaculture. Many crops are now grown in semi-artisinal farms without
fertiliser or pesticides. However, there is room for increased nutrient cycling, the placement of
crops within the environment, and long term planning.
Permaculture as a concept was developed by the
Australian, Bill Mollison. The foundation of permaculture is a landscape approach for efficient
planning, selecting plantings to utilise site specific attributes, and nutrient
A permaculture farm will:
1. Upon maturity form a balanced, self sustaining
ecosystem where different plants and animals do not compete strongly and generally support each
2. The farm does not change in landscaping and vegetative structure a great deal from
year to year.
3. The plants and animals cycle nutrients
efficiently with only the minimal use of imported feed or fertilizer.
4. When established the garden is largely self
maintaining in terms of cultivation and weeding. However, considerable effort is usually
required for establishment.
5. The farm is productive and food, or other
useful produce, can be harvested from the garden on an ongoing basis.
6. Land use is intensive for all areas in the
7. A high diverse variety of plant types are used
to extend harvest provide a variety of crops, and to fully exploit
8. The landscape
design accommodates different uses, with slopes, soil types, water table depths, shade and surrounding
vegetation, and other microclimate factors.
9. The design foresees long term goals and
The Maya inhabited the the
Sartenejan Region at leastfrom the Late Postclassic (250
AD) to the Terminal Classic (1000 AD) period.
The scattered distribution of Mayan ruins
throughout the region, the lack of large ceramonial buildings, and few and weak aggregations
of structures, strongly suggests a basically dispersed rural community. This community would
depend on the Mayan Port of Sarteneja for supplies and to market thier agricultural surplus
or other commodities.
This Mayan rural community were the first permaculture
farmers of the Sartenejan Region. They faced many challenges but prospered for over 750
years. However, thier range of crops was limited both in types
To economically flourish in the Sartenejan Region
permaculture must supply high quality produce at a profitable market value to reliable
and perhaps specialist markets.
flourish in the Sartenejan
Region permaculture must accomodate a shallow soil profile over limestone
bedrock, and a distinct wet and dry season. The soil is generally low in organic
matter, dries quickly and to depth under sunshine, and is low in nutrients. The heavy
rainfall during the wet season tends to leach nutrients from soil, and particularly soil with
low organic matter, and to compact unmulched soil.
dry season that may extend up to 100 days without any significant rainfall in the Sartenejan
Region. However, the water table is generally from 5 to 20 feet
below the surface, and cracks and caves through the limestone enable more mature tree
roots to find permanent water.
Nevertheless, there is considerable potential for the
growing of a wide variety of crops, and crops of higher quality through the use of permaculture
Beside providing excellent production permaculture
also need to accomodate several needs;
1) Artisinal agriculture for extended families
2) Through extending
the period over which fruit varieties are available, and the size and quality of
fruit, by the use of grafted trees.
3) An increased range
of vegetable types and
varieties, with less dependence on rainfall, fertiliser, or
Sustainability for Sarteneja is
working toward the use of permaculture to produce more varieties and better quality fruit,
vegetables, herbs and spices, and medicinal plants.
Fruit production is highly
seasonal as there is a paucity of grafted varieties to extend the harvest season. We are
developing the training and techniques to enable in ground grafting of fruit
trees. On B'alam Ja Way and surrounding properties, we are
planting grafted varieties of fruit trees to test cultivation methods and to
provide grafting stock.
Vegetable production is limited
in the Sartenejan region. Improved vegetable production would serve the need for a healthier
local diet, with the market including both in Sartenaja and in regional tourist resorts and
towns. On Balam Ja Way, and with our collaborators, we are testing growing
conditions and production with different types and varieties
SfS is working to increase vegetable production
with no or little pesticide or fertiliser use.
1) Growing a
profitable yam organically, or
with the minimal use of fertilisers and pesticides.
2) The use of aquaculture water
to sustainably grow vegetables through increased nutrient recycling.
3) The production of regional
herbs, spices, vegetables, and fruit.
There are many local varieties of herbs and spices
in the Sartenejan region, and many varieties of exotic herbs and spices, available for local
production. Herbs are
amenable for small scale production and offer the potential to improve local cuisine, and for
marketing both in Sartenaja and on local tourist resorts.
There are many local varieties of
in the Sartenejan region. These could be harvested for health products
including beverages for sale in the larger towns.