The Lost Stories
Remembering Bill in print — the legacy of Bill Mollison from the pages of the Permaculture International Journal
The Lost Stories are Bill Mollison’s articles published in the print magazine originally named Permaculture, then International Permaculture Journal and finally the Permaculture International Journal that was published between 1978 and 2000.
All stories and other content © Permaculture Australia unless otherwise noted. ……….
An ideal Nepalese village
1987, Edition 26, Permaculture
Published as an article in World Visions … and realities
DURING OUR FIELD WORK IN NEPAL we visited the small farm of MC Pereira, one of our permaculture graduates, in the rich subtropical Terai area.
Born in India, MC married a Nepalese girl, Uma, and moved to the Terai on two acres of family land in 1980. Over the last six years they have developed this land towards the ideal of sustainability, which has been largely achieved.
The property supports about five adults and produces all its own food and a market surplus. Some factors are as follows.
The essential fencing against wandering cattle is secure, with a walled garden of about 1/2 to 3/4 acre and a barbed wire fence on the remainder. Progress is being made on a living fence of the vigorous Euphorbia species that replace cactus in Nepal.
The key to growing is thick mulch on the perennial crops (ginger, pineapple) derived from leguminous trees as interplant, border trees and along access paths. Most of these are Leucaena but several other legumes are under trial for coppicing.
Some mulch is collected from the local rice husking mill nearby, particularly for the vegetable and small seedling beds.
In the extensive vegetable garden nutrients are derived from a programme of skilled composting (4-6 piles of 2-4 metres).
Here, plant wastes are layered with buffalo manure, with two central bamboo-formed vents until the first heat of decay is produced. The whole heap is then mud-plastered to prevent nitrogen escape (a sprinkle of phosphate helps with this) and the mud itself is sown to or seeded with grain.
When the pile is ready it is spread on the vegetable beds and a mulch of rice husks may later be added.
Seedlings are grown in compost for planting out.
Livestock is a milk buffalo and calf, and tree forage is now sufficient to support two more buffalo.
Weeds and forage grain are chopped to a coarse green chaff for feed, and the manures and urine go to a biogas digester. There is one milk goat and five to six cages of rabbits, all fed on grown forages, weeds, and vegetable scraps.
A pigeon loft is built above the milk sheds and hay and feed grains stored in the structure (all of local brick).
A chicken run will be added in future, and at present neighbours provide eggs and chickens.
The flush toilets go to the biogas plant which provides light and cooking gas for the establishment.
The tank is a buried dome type, and has a pond on top where frogs gather. This pond may be planted to kangkong in buckets after a suggestion by yours truly.
All biogas sludge goes to the gardens and crop systems.
Firewood is in excess supply and is sold periodically. Leucaena, neem tree (Azedarachta indica) are regularly coppiced for forage and fuel.
Fires for house heating are rarely lit, but small smokeless wood stoves for cooking are used. Biogas is regularly used, especially for tea (cha).
Seeds, seedlings, small trees, firewood, vegetables, mango, custard apple, ginger and pineapples are the main sales. All are sold locally from the farm or in local market.
A good daily journal of products and crops is kept.
Buffalo, goat, rabbits, bees and pigeons are housed in the compact farm area, although buffalo are also tethered by day (for vitamin D) on a straw area outdoors or on the roadside.
Water is partly from roof, mainly from a well via a manual force-lift pump. This suffices for garden watering and crops — rice in the monsoon, mustard for oils in the dry winter.
Dahl (grain legume) is a mix of pigeon pea (grown in crop and hedgerow) and lentil. Most curry spices are grown in the district.
A model form worth replicating
In general, this little farm is a model of the productive potential of a small area. The farm is a mine of highly detailed information and practical systems, and demonstrates an extremely high degree of self-reliance and nutrient cycling.
What such farms show, in real terms, is that what aid groups see as problems are solvable, there are solutions. What is now needed are strategies to replicate such examples. This means contributing modest finance, good teachers and real projects. Beyond doing it ourselves we need to set up projects to do it in many places and to educate people as to the possibilities.
MC and Uma have given us a lead and this small property is a bit of paradise surrounded by a sea of rice.