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 fruit.

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 recycling.

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 others health.

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 landscape design. 

7. A high diverse variety of plant types are used to extend harvest provide a variety of crops, and to fully exploit micro-habitats. 

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 their achievement.


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 and varieties. 

To economically flourish in the Sartenejan Region permaculture must supply high quality produce at a profitable market value to reliable and perhaps specialist markets.

To agriculturally 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.

A 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 techniques.

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 pesticides.  

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 of vegetables. 

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. 

Herbs and Spices

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.

Medicinal Plants

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.