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Help: Planning land on a tropical island with a magnificent view but soil erosion is a problem

 
Marco Wollank
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Hi guys,

picture album of the land here: http://imgur.com/a/rBmce

We're currently in the process of collecting all the needed documents to buy this piece of land. The price is USD $80,000 for 5 acres or 2 hectars.

Big selling point of this land is 306 degree view (ocean view in the north and south, mountain and sunset view, sunrise behind a mountain top). Public road access, electricity and fast internet connection since the cellphone towers are approx in a 500m distance.

Challanges currently:

  • Soil erosion. See pictures.
  • Water supply. There is a water pipe on the land already, but the pressure is very low and only running for a couple of hours a day. We're looking into drilling a well.


  • Text from the picture: "2 hectars (5 acres) of former single crop corn land. Most plants and trees have been removed and the soil was exposed to the elements (sun, heavy rains and winds) for many years. The soil on most parts of the land is rocky. I suspect all layers of soil have been washed away, parent material in most parts visible. Flat parts or with a small degree of slopes show some vegetation (trees and bushes)."

    My plan initially was to build a small residential house with the nice view on top of the hill and start with livestock and Tilapia aquaculture. If possible some banana circles with greywater from the house. But at this stage I'm having doubts, since there could be no fertile soil left and the land to build Banana Circles. Composting is an option, but since the land is almost empty it could be hard gatherin organic materials to compost. Talking to neighbors, restaurants and market places for organic waste is an option, too.

    To fix the soil erosion longterm I'd setup swales / terraces and banana circles in the slopes.

    Would you buy this land for permaculture purposes? Are the challanges realistic to fix? Thank you so much for your help, guys.
     
    D. Klaer
    Posts: 51
    Location: Queensland Australia
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    bee chicken trees
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    Have you considered using vetiver? If not I think you should

    It is the perfect plant in your climate for slowing down water and sediment. Tried and tested all over the tropics and subtropics.

    Here is an article I wrote about our experience with vetiver

    Also for more info check out the vetiver grass network. Heaps of good stuff there.
     
    Maureen Atsali
    Posts: 227
    Location: Western Kenya
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    If I had 80k, I would buy it.  I am a glutton for punishment though, and I just love it when someone tells me it can't be done. 

    My husband inherited the land we are on now. 2.5 acres of dead and heavily eroded former sugarcane plantation.  Even the weeds didn't want to grow here.  Its taken 5 years to get it up to a satisfactory level of production, and there is still sooo much need for improvement.  Its a ton of work, but immensely satisfying when you see the results.

    To get bananas established. We dig holes about 3 ft down and 3 ft wide (can you dig down at all, or is it rock under?). We then fill the hole half way with compost, manure, and whatever nice organic matter we can find.  We plant the corm and replace some top soil, but leave a significant depression to collect extra water and keep the good nutrients in the hole.  Tyler Ludens taught me that this is called a "zai hole".
     
    Marco Wollank
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    Maureen Atsali wrote:To get bananas established. We dig holes about 3 ft down and 3 ft wide (can you dig down at all, or is it rock under?).


    Good question! I'm afraid I can't dig more than 1,5 ft down. I'll travel tomorrow to the land with a pick and shovel and see what's going on. The quary right next to the land is pure limestone with approx. a 1,5 ft layer of soil or sub soil.
     
    Maureen Atsali
    Posts: 227
    Location: Western Kenya
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    It could still work, even in the shallower subsoils.  Create a "berm" around the hole to make it "deeper".  If you buy it I hope you'll post pictures of your projects and progress. I'd love to watch the process and transformation. 
     
    Marco Wollank
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    D. Klaer wrote:Have you considered using vetiver?


    Thanks for the advice. I'll check if it's available on the island

    It could still work, even in the shallower subsoils.  Create a "berm" around the hole to make it "deeper".


    Thanks for your optimism. Sorry I'm not familiar with the word berm. Is it like a surrounding wall? Something like that?

     
    Maureen Atsali
    Posts: 227
    Location: Western Kenya
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    Well basically you posted a pic of a berm.  One of the hardcore permies can give you a better definition, but I use it to mean heaped up earth with a purpose (to control water, create micro climates, ect.).  A berm is just dirt, as opposed to a hugel, which has wood inside it.

    What I meant was just to build up a wall of dirt around your banana holes to create a bowl to hold as much rain and organic compost goodness around the corm until the banana is established.  Even a ring of stones could work, short term, and then remove the stones once you start getting suckers.

    Unfortunately my laptop died, and I can't seem to post pics to permies with my phone. 
     
    David Good
    gardener
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    Location: Equatorial tropics
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    Check out Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (S.A.L.T.) and Inga Alley Cropping. Both could help.
     
    Bryant RedHawk
    gardener
    Posts: 2102
    Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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    The land is very do-able but first thing to handle will be the water flow (runoff).  Locate the top points where the water flow starts the erosion, these are where you will want to put shallow, ponds, from which you will run swales and berms at a 1% down slope on contour till they meet the ridge line. This is where a second shallow pond with go. This is called a Main Line system, where as a Key line system would have the ponds at the bottom of the gully, we want them at the top so the erosion will be stopped before it can start.

    Once you have these built, you will have alleys for trees and other plantings well defined and that will make the soil building easier by far.

    Let me know if you need more help/ information.

    Redhawk.
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1596
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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    I need to jump up and down and shout a bit

    You need to seriously look at using VETIVER grass. You have absolutely idea circumstances for it.

    Planted in narrow but dense hedges on contour it slows surface water flow, prevents erosion, collects silt and organic matter and forms natural terraces on the uphill side.

    The plants themselves can be cut for organic matter and used as soil building mulch, animal bedding, fuel or thatch.

    It is easy to propagate - simply pull slips off an established plant and put them in the soil in rows on 6 inch spacing.
     
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