low cost resilient Farm Scale Permaculture design; working with what you've got...
Our design efforts focused on patterning for Granja Nut, a 134 Ha ranch in the background in the photo to the left, outlined in purple. A design sketch you could say. No excessive detail, not huge amounts of tim invested, more getting a pattern for placement & flow. This ranch is directly connected to the mill, and interestingly receives 2 Million Liters of hot water from the mill a day during the 5 months of cane pressing. (San Ricardo is outlined in red in the foreground) The focus for design began with creating a good base map and digitizing it over aerial footage; a great starting point in any design work. There is currently a dairy herd on the pastures which have been irrigated with the waste water from the mill (there are also extensive lagoons to catch some of this water, although their development will be in later stages of the development, I'll mention ideas briefly later)
Finding opportunties in problems
The waste water comes out of the factory around 57°C, and if it flows along the canal above to the western end of the ranch (highest point) it has cooled to somewhere around 30°C. Speaking to farm workers, they have observed the pasture scorching for a few days when flood irrigation is employed, however feel like no major long term deterioration occurs. The fact that they can grow grasses rampantly year long is a big bonus. The lagoons seem sedimented and need to be excavated to restore volume. They are a potentially very useful part of the equation. My ideas have been to mimic a John Todd approach, and create snaking baffles to slow water movement through the water bodies to cool the water further and clean it with plants before it goes onto the paddocks. A biological cleaning system at industrial scale. It may be a bit of an investment, but certainly beneficial on multiple levels from a business, production and future resource base perspective. On this most recent visit I had a new idea.
Working with what you've got
As anyone inspired by P.A. Yeoman's Keyline Design systems would be, the idea of simple low cost flood- flow systems that can turn the excessive water into grass, milk, beef, sheep, etc is exciting. We started laying out lines that follow alongside the existing fencing which then also protects them from livestock trampling. Made a little bigger than the butterfly plow can manage and surveyed very accurately these will no longer need to be an annual investment. And we can get a lot more functions out of these edges too.
Taking apart the Keyline plow, modifying discs, first trial bed, building bedformer, resulting smoothed over bed with 40- 45cm rip down the center. This is in worked ground so we took off a couple of rows of discs from a disc plow lying in the undergrowth to match the bed width to till up new ground prior to pulling this rig through. Still needs tweaking, but saves $1000's on buying new gear!
Time was short on this visit and Pablo, Rodrigo, Antoninio and the team are working on species assemblies as well as furthering design ideas. There will be fruit & nut production polycultures, timber, fodder and construction bamboo. Pablo has identified a growing niche for pre- fab. bamboo buildings, and already has great experience building them as I saw in Oaxaca when we first met;
This really represents a design sketch; far from a polished master plan with accurate bill of quantities, etc, but what I appreciate about the process so far is the proposition for extremely low cost development leading to long term resilience. The biggest cost in this ranch overhaul would be the addition of the 2nd line of permanent fencing; not a huge cost really. A bit of infrastructure is needed to control the canal flow and allow for distribution (in the way of piping and gate valves) to the various irrigation ditches, which can be installed at low cost. With trees produced abundantly on site, machinery, livestock & tools already existing, much is just about management. I often reflect how the most stable, resilient, low cost & low risk approaches I have been exposed to are based on biological processes, meaning they can be wealth creating. This thought hearkens me back to Allan Savory's words, "you can't solve complex problems with technology."