It’s been a few months since we started work at a private resort situated 45 minutes by car from Kuala Lumpur. We spend 2 to 3 weeks a month there as farmer-in-residence, trying to change current practices to be more aligned with permaculture principles. The landowner bought the 8 acre land over 20 years ago and has been wanting to practice permaculture on it. There are some beautiful old traditional Malay and Indonesian houses that she transported over for guests to stay in comfortably.
The land is long and narrow. Mostly flat except for a depression serving as a wetland that fills with water periodically, and a slope with a secondary forest. It is surrounded by secondary forest all around. No issue with flooding, based on memory at least.
There are lots to do here. Other than vegetable farming, we have ample space for a mixed fruit orchard. There are already some very old fruit trees like durian, mangosteen, rambutan, cempedak, langsat, coconuts, etc. We also want to integrate various livestock – chicken, ducks, geese, goats – with the different ecologies in the landscape. A big pond that can be used for aquaculture. And lastly, a disturbed and degraded slope that we can practice reforestation on.
Here are some descriptions of problems we hope to solve and photos of the place before we started practicing permaculture. We will be sharing updates as we work on the different elements.
The current practice is for workers to sweep up all fallen leaves and burn them. The fertility cycle, where trees take nutrients from the soil and return in the form of dead leaves, is broken. Grass is mowed very short and grass clippings are taken away too. Trees are planted very far apart which allows lots of sunlight to hit the soil and unobstructed wind to affect individual trees.
Around 500sqm of growing space, fitted with metal frames. The current practice by the workers is frequent digging and turning of soil to plant lots of high maintenance annuals. No mulching. The process is very labour intensive and we recommended a lower input method considering there are only two workers tending the 8 acre landscape. That’s probably the reason only 20% of the garden is planted out.
Only chickens and geese at the moment. The chickens are overcrowded in unhygienic and smelly conditions. Not much chance to free range despite the huge area because they are not let out of the coop to roam. Chicks are fed a commercial starter ration with antibiotics listed in the ingredients. Adult chickens are fed corn, likely imported and genetically modified. Geese are constrained in an area and they have eaten all the grass, their staple diet.
The pond water is turbid and brown. The banks of the pond are too steep and vegetation is cut, resulting in soil from the surrounding watershed flowing into the pond. Pond is stocked with only one type of fish (tilapia).
There is a small wetland depression that is used a little as a dumping ground for organic and inorganic waste. It becomes a pond after heavy rain but dries out after a few days of dry spell. The landowner hopes that it can be turned into an ever-flowing stream but natural conditions might dictate otherwise.
The sloped land was cleared a few years back with heavy machinery. Hardy pioneer species are still struggling to re-vegetate the yellow clay. This area is situated upslope behind the pond and the eroded soil flowing into it is creating turbidity problems.
Read more about Project Lui here.