This post is about two projects in Belize we visited. Both are farms in the jungle, designed to be ecological, their systems can support the symbiosis of species, generate less and recycle more waste.
Both project are open to volunteers and students. Please check the bottom of the page for contact.
Richard, Alisa, Maya, Alex, and Tati, are the family who host WWOOF volunteers and work exchange volunteers. The farm is located in the jungle where the Mayan ruins, Lubaantun, are in their backyard! Since February 2o12 the project of building first Earthship began. The creator of the Earthship concept, Mike Reynolds, contracted with the Belize family for construction plans and his team trained the Mayan workers. Volunteers, like Paul and I, are invited to participate in the process. Together we made “bottle bricks”. We cleaned the bottoms so there’s no residue, cut the bottles in half, then taped two bottle bottoms together, to make a brick. The bottle bricks are used as fillers for the wall sealed with cement. The result is a beautiful mosaic wall that allows light through. Tires are also used in the construction. It takes some muscle and many hands to pack dirt into the tires then stack them, but it makes a sturdy wall. Styrofoam plates are used for insulation. If you ponder what could be used, building materials may be found everywhere. Using “trash” for construction helps solve a waste problem and is a material solution for construction.
MAYA MOUNTAIN RESEARCH FARM
Christopher Nesbitt is the director of Maya Mountain Research Farm (MMRF), a permaculture farm project and non governmental organization in Toledo, Belize. When Chris had started, the land had been damaged by cattle and citrus. Today, it’s a thriving farm and agroforest, including hundreds of species of plants. It’s constitutional goal is as he puts it “food diversity through biodiversity” What does that mean? Farming sustainably. To locally produce food that feeds the people of the Toledo region, minimizing pollution, and support the native biology. Understand that Belize is a humid climate, prone to thunderstorms, has rich yet fragile soil. When Chris bought the land, it was damaged by cattle and citrus because they were domestic controls that interrupted the natural environment. His plan was not to begin a conventional agriculture operation, large enough to feed Belize and export to other countries. Instead, the goal was to reintroduce native species and others- non-native- that could help rebuild the soil, bear fruit, thrive in shade, grow roots that retain water… A wide diversity of species that in theory, coexist together and provide to the inhabitants of the farm, with the excess donated to others. You may not grow a perfect biodiverse farm. What can be expected that a maturing diverse forest will thrive and provide, unlike a mono-crop field. Not to mention that micro-organisms fungi, birds, bugs, animals, and many other species of jungle are home in a jungle, not a deforested cornfield.
What we saw at MMRF
Around the home was a jungle garden growing hundreds of edible plants. There were trees of coco, banana, cacao, coffee, pineapple. Nothing goes to waste because the overage of fruits are donated the HOPE program (helping older people eat), feeding 20 elderly folks in the Toledo area. Some foods, like the cacao, go into process at the farm, made into a product that earns income for the farm.
He introduced the aquaponic system. “Aquaonics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics for the purpose of raising fish and going vegetables in a symbiotic system.”* There is a tank where fish are raised and in this tank, ammonia is produced from the leftover fish food and fish manure. The ammonia water gets transferred to gravel bed where beneficial bacteria thrives, and their jobs are to convert ammonia to nitrates, then nitrites, then nitrites to nitrates. Finally the nitrates are fed to plant beds to grow healthy and fertilized plants. Much credit goes to Joe Malcolm the aquaponic exert. Chris studied much of his work .
The outhouse- on the farm that host many people, appropriate human waste system is critical. A improper or missing human waste system may result in leeched pathogens (when it rains into the surrounding watersystem. A “Vietnamese Double Chamber Vault” was built at MMRF. There are two stalls where one serves as the other is closed so that the poo in the locked chamber decomposes and eventually turns into compost. For meat and waste, decomposition takes a longer amount of time (additionally articular temperatures to eradicate pathogens. The result could be great compost. Chris was famous in Mexico for a picture where he was holding the result in his hands- showing that he turned “lead into gold” Additionally, the throne faces the jungle that offers the best birdwatching views on site.
The piggery- A pig barn, limited hosting for 4 pigs. They all have names and unique personalities: Nice Pig, Pig Bitch, Romeo, and Hungry Pig (I could be wrong on her name). The food scraps, and overage serves as pig feed. The piglets are sold locally for organic meat locally.
If you plan to go to Belize and would like to visit the farms, contact the Earthship @ email@example.com.
To learn more about Earthships, look up earthship.com