This is going to be a rather long post. You might want to get something to drink and get comfortable.
Azolla and duckweed divets --- a thousand little ponds.
This is part of how I intend to make my landscape hold water and produce nitrogen. Much of the land has a clay base. Sometimes under only an inch of duff.
Make very small pig wallowing holes, all over the property, always next to thirsty and nutrient hungry crops. When the pigs leave that area, fill the pond with water and cover with duckweed and azolla. The pigs will move every few days.
The duckweed will grow quickly until nitrogen is exhausted. Harvest regularly. Eventually the azolla will take over with a virtual monoculture. Use rock phosphate to keep it going.
Mosquitoes don't like azolla.
The material can be gathered and hauled to the pigs or fed to chickens right there, adjacent to the pond, where their poop will feed the crop plants.
Pond levels will ebb and flow, according to the weather.
When they get really low, they can be allowed to completely dry up and any remaining azolla will break down. Or, the last 100 gallons or so, could be used for irrigation in the immediate vicinity. This would prevent them from becoming stinky cesspools.
Then the pond would sit empty, until rain returns.
Chickens and ruminants may drink and eat from it, until the pigs return, after several months, to once again wallow and gley the pond, for a few days.
When rain returns, there will be many small reservoirs to fill, before much runoff occurs. Each one will work as a leaf trap and settling tank for fine particles. This material makes great mulch or potting soil, and would need to be gathered regularly.
A thousand little ponds, means a thousand little micro-climates. The ponds may start out, pretty much all the same size, since that's how we will dig them. Then, it's up to the pigs, and how they are managed to determine how large it becomes.
Some plants, like bananas, figs and mulberry, really like to be near a water feature, without being flooded by it. These can be used to stabilize the soil and provide shade. Both duckweed and azolla prefer partial shade, especially in the tropics. Shaded ponds don't lose as much water to evaporation.
Each one will have it's own characteristics. Some may drain out, after a short time with no rain. Some larger ones may hold water, well into the dry season, which lasts about 2 months.
Usually, at the bottom of slopes, in the Philippines, bogs or water features can be wet all year. That's where they grow the rice. Lower slopes often have spring water, flowing from them. Pigs will be kept out of any existing springs and most of those that are created.
On sloped land, the pigs won't be allowed to completely tear it up as happens when they are fenced in one place for a long time. They will be moved when most vegetation has been eaten or uprooted. Then a minor amount of landscaping will be done as the area is seeded to whatever we want to come next. Uneaten plant material will be used on contour to capture leaf fall and sediment. Any area too steep for row crop cultivation, will be put into pioneer tree species, bananas and other things where the soil won't be disturbed often.
If I can get an abundant supply of bagasse, it will be laid on contour below areas that have been disturbed. This will work as a dam to capture sediment.
It's quite likely that we will decide that some ponds are perfect the way they are, and the pigs won't be brought back to them for a long time. Others may not hold water, so they could be filled with compost and soil, followed by a jackfruit or banana.
I expect to put the equivalent of about $2 into the initial stage of creating each pond. That will give 2 hours to complete the task. Some of the equipment that people think will dig a hole is absolutely ridiculous. I will supply them with proper picks, mattock and shovel. When each new one is created, it will be important to use lots of ground litter or bagasse to protect the excavated soil from being eroded. We will always plant it in something that comes up fast.
Buckwheat and many others, are possibilities for quick stabilization.
Because of the labour rate of approximately $1 per hour and the relatively high price of food compared to that, hand harvesting of things like buckwheat and pigeon peas is worth it. We'd leave most of the plant in place and just slice off the seed heads.
When larger ponds of a few hundred square feet are created, it will happen that we get enough nice stuff growing around them, that they become a pretty stable system that may be harmed by the inclusion of pigs. Once it gets to that stage, a decision will be made, and that will effect future plantings. Some of the very long-lived fruit and timber trees could be planted, and they will eventually overshadow the pioneer species. This will mark a transition
from annual crops, to managed food and timber forest. Pigs may still be used as part of understory management.
I intend to dig a little more deeply into everything that Geoff Lawton does with water management and everything else. I suspect that he's more of a purist than I am. I don't think they started with a commercial pig farm. They started with degraded land that was no longer profitable to run cattle on, and the climate is similar.
After I turn the bulk of my land into young food forest, the pig operation will either be scaled down, or I will seek more land. There are areas where the government has control over big chunks, but it remains to be seen, weather they are interested in reforestation on my terms.
Usually when there's one piece of unused or barely used land, there are other adjacent parcels. I can't afford to buy up a whole island, but there may be a way to buy future options on some of that land. Much of it is covered in coconut, which has value when you have enough of them to be bothered getting good processing equipment. I would lease this land for five years, with an option to purchase, at a given price at the end of the contract or before. I might have to pay a little more than it's worth, but that's better than having farms that are separated from one another. Most people who lease coconut land, are just looking to harvest and process coconuts. I would be looking at them primarily as pig feed and as a supply of coconut choir which would be used for soil stabilization and the manufacture of massive quantities of biochar. For competitors this is a very low value waste product that is usually burned.
The moment anyone does something successful, neighbours get thinking that their property is worth far more than it was before. These are mostly absentee owners who have moved to the city, sometimes generations ago. Once I'm ready to make a purchase, I will attempt to tie up neighbouring properties on all sides, and then pay my rent by harvesting whatever is there. Then, if all is going as planned on the acreage I already own, I will start exercising options. I'll make sure that my lease is all inclusive. Where I own the agricultural products, and the right to use the land for grazing or for running trail rides and other tourist related activities.
Then, only after I've exercised my option, the pigs will be moved to a new Piggery and the old one converted to cattle and goat housing, or tourist rentals or whatever. A few months in the rain plus wetting down the interior regularly, gets rid of that piggy smell.
This would require the building of another house and farm yard
. You can't leave pigs penned up somewhere on their own, or people will eat them. Pretty much a duplication of the original, but hopefully better.
I wouldn't want to deed all of the properties together, because building laws often allow only a certain amount of house or barn or whatever on a piece of land. So if you have five different pieces of land, you're allowed to build to the maximum, five times. This would allow me to spread live-in employees around the farm, for greater security. I'd also like to build a number of different structures for tourists. They will also be placed strategically, so that they can see what is going on.
Rent out a ridge top cabin
, to some hardcore environmentalists, with the agreement that they are also part-time forest rangers.
Creating a tourist destination
The ultimate goal is to draw visitors, who will spend money on food, recreation and accommodation. So everything right from the start, must look toward that end goal. The trails that we use to access different parts of the farm with the buffalo and his cart, will one day become hiking trails, surrounded by food forest and timber. They need to be mostly on contour, because it's a lot easier to walk parallel to the slope, rather than constantly up and down it.
Camping areas and rental cabins will be placed at nice spots along the trails. Probably many of them will be close to one of the larger ponds or in a spot that has a good view. By spreading people throughout the forest, the chances of illegal harvesting will be greatly reduced. I'm not worried about people stealing a mango. Some of the native trees, particularly those in the teak family, are quite valuable even when they are only eight inches on the stump. And quite valuable is a relative thing. If a guy can slog away all day then come out of it with one stolen $20 log, that's more than he could have made at most other things. Deforestation is often driven by lack of employment options. Young forests aren't targeted by big operators that specialize in exotic furniture wood. It's more likely to be individuals hoping to make a reasonable wage making charcoal or harvesting posts that can be sold to home builders.
Signage, fencing, people and dogs will all be employed to keep away unwanted visitors. Just having it marked out as a farm, instead of abandoned land, will keep most people out. There are lots of hidden spots where a guy can steal some firewood and get away with it.
has its bad apples. I will try to determine who they are. They will probably come looking for work. I visited numerous job sites, in Cebu. People who are building a house are often approached many times a day, by those seeking employment. But you can only hire so many.
There will be certain gathering activities, such as the waste streams we talked about earlier. And I want to clear at least a five kilometre radius of all plastic and other debris that litters the road sides. This is a job for the chronically unemployed. I'm also going to be looking for people to market farm produce, so that's more off-site employment.
Once there are touristy things to do, I will delegate farm duties more and more. Then, I will concern myself with the restaurant and motel/campground business. This will coincide with hiring a few young people with good English and other foreign language skills. Probably Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Europeans outside of Europe, are generally comfortable with English.
The pigs will always have some role, even if we decide not to expand any further. I'm sure that part of it will be for demonstration purposes.
I seriously doubt that we will run out of land that has been farmed poorly.
People don't like it, when somebody from far away has a look at their situation, and pronounces it all a stupid waste of time. They don't like being told that their way is the wrong way and that they need to change. So I'm not going to tell them that. I will quietly show them. And I won't be the only voice showing them. Their own televisions show them farmers who are doing things different and becoming more successful. YouTube is full of organic farms in the Philippines that are financially successful while improving the environment. Still, millions toil away, working hard but still living below the poverty line. Sometimes farming is more like a mining operation, where the people are trading soil for food, because of the erosion they cause. So I expect that for the first several years, I won't be preaching to the locals about how they should change. They will be offered the opportunity to come over for a look.
Another cultural consideration, is that people will often shoot themselves in the foot financially, because of real or perceived obligations to less productive members of their families. Many in my wife's extended family, thought that they had somehow won the lottery, when they found out about me. I've made it clear that I don't come from that culture, and that providing money or resources to those who haven't worked for it, is something that I will never be party to.
It's possible that we might place some of my wife's relatives on other sites, after they have learned what to do. Or, we might help them improve the land that they've had for generations. This will require them to have a contract, with other family members, stating that those doing the work are the ones to reap the benefits. Easier said than done.
Sharing everything probably worked quite well when almost everyone was a farmer or a fisherman. But now, there are clearly those who have made it and those who haven't, and to me it's always quite evident why one person has been successful.
My wife's family is from Mindanao, the only part of the Philippines we hear about when there's social unrest and conflict between two religions. She can't think of anyone in her extended family, who has worked abroad or gone beyond high school. None have been to Manila and only a few have ever left Mindanao.
Education is one of the main ways that Filipinos improve their lot, by family members working abroad and then using that income for education and other improvement. They often confuse education with intelligence.
We will create certain opportunities for many of Nova's younger relatives. The old drunks who made her fight her sisters, for their entertainment in order to receive food, after her father died, will never be welcome on our land. I've already had that conversation with one girl who is daughter of a drunkard. She knows that, if she decides to go to school or pursue some other worthwhile thing, she can live on the farm with us for a time, to avoid rent and other expenses. But we don't want to ever see her father, and she knows why. I might need to have that conversation with a dozen more. They know it's true, but they aren't used to hearing it stated quite so succinctly.
When I create employment for family members, I will want to know that they aren't shipping their earnings off to help feed someone's vices.
Employees are likely to come from families that have their own degraded property. I will encourage them to emulate what they can, and to never share income with those who don't help with the work. People bleed themselves dry, spending hard earned income on underemployed family members.
We are going to produce moringa powder and other dried goods for the foreign market. Everyone in the community, will be offered the opportunity to produce it and market through me. Everybody has eaten it, but few would know that there is a world wide shortage. One farmer with 25 pounds of dried leaf, is going to have a tough time selling it. That quantity might bring more than he made last month, so I'm sure that after seeing what we do, others will seize the opportunity.
My wife will handle everything to do with checking quality of what people bring in and then paying them, always getting something in writing, acknowledging that they have been paid.
People like to be paid twice or three times. We experienced this with taxi drivers and at various roadside attractions. A price is stated, to go swimming. But then they tell you, you must rent a table to eat at, and the bathrooms cost 20 pesos and there's a 50 peso environmental fee, although they have never cleaned up any of the mess around them.
This idea of getting paid more than once extends to land sales and employee payment. Suppose a family sells some scrubland. Then they come back 5 years later and see that there's a nice house and gardens and the trees are 40 feet tall. And they tell themselves that this is what they sold.
And then they all get together to talk to Uncle Dominic, because he's the one who made the deal. Everyone got a little share, and they all want Dominic to give them more... They have legal people whose job is to go around and get signatures from every family member, when a piece of land is being sold. It basically states that I know how much the land is being sold for, and I agree to it, and I won't bother the people who bought the land. So, if there is some dispute about how that money was allocated, that is just something within our family and nothing to do with the new people... That's roughly what the lawyer told me is part of closing a deal.
Sometimes, one sibling, from a large family, will try to sell land that is owned in common. People will also try to sell land that they have no claim to.
Employees also like to get paid more than once. Many choose the worldwide standard, which is simply stealing. The most accepted method of stealing, is to simply do nothing, while on the clock. But there are those who don't steal your tools but instead they'd like to renegotiate the cost of their labour, after the job is done. That's part of why I will never hire a contractor for anyting. I will only hire labourers or bricklayer or whatever, but never any sort of construction foreman.
And that's why everything must be written down and even put on video. It must be clear that they received this much money for this much work, and that transportation from some distant island, because they went to visit their grandma, is not something I'm going to cover.
When something is purchased, it needs to be clear weather transportation is included, and if it is, are they going to charge you to lift it off of the truck. Lumber could show up, with all of the materials paid for and the trucking paid for, so you think you're done. But then the driver tells you that it costs 50 pesos to unload the truck. That sort of thing usually ends the moment he sees you calling his boss.
The White Tax... Maybe it's just the foreign tax, because they do it to everyone who's not from there. They know that Japanese and Koreans are wise to it. It basically comes down to taking advantage of ignorant people who don't know how much to pay for things. Mostly people in transportation or others who come into contact with tourists. I've never had anyone try to charge me double for bananas.
I don't pay the white tax. I pay exactly the same price at the fish market, as someone who has lived there forever. I don't pay taxi drivers one peso more than they should be paid. They always get a tip, unless they pretend to not have change.
Overall, the advantages of being a foreigner greatly outweigh little inconveniences. Most people are more than willing to help, and it's easy to get good service. I've had to point out to cashiers, that someone was ahead of me, when they try to serve me first.
This happens all over. In Nairobi, an old man was experiencing the Danny Glover effect when trying to catch a taxi. I stuck my white face into the roadway and waved my arm. Two seconds later we had a taxi. The old man showed the driver that he had money, and they were off. I wouldn't have had to show him the money. Danny Glover had plenty of money to pay for his taxi, and that's part of why he was so pissed off, especially at black drivers who wouldn't pick him up.
Having a Filipino wife and looking the part of someone who is living there, rather than visiting, will help me avoid dealing with shysters. They almost always self identify , by yelling something like "hey, my friend." The moment someone I don't know addresses me as "my friend", I know that I'm about to be hustled. Dealing with these jokers is an irritating, but harmless, part of the white tax. When they first start trying to chat me up, I tell them that I'm aware of the price of everything, and I don't pay for any service that I don't need. That usually ends it. Sometimes I tell them that I don't plan to spend 5 pesos today, because we have everything we need.
On the subject of money, I expect to invest about $100,000 in the initial stage of this. I mean in the first year. That should be enough time to get the basics up and running. Then, depending on how it's going, I will invest more. I don't anticipate ever seeking investors, but who knows.