Water is the most important resource. Nothing strives without enough sunlight or in a bad soil, but nothing has even a chance to survive without water. Water is a very powerful energy. It grants life, and if it’s not managed properly, it takes it away through erosion. Therefore, the first matter of business after purchasing the site was water management, and it was an urgent one.
Water for the 100 newly planted fruit trees (which replace what were abandoned cow pastures), water for the pond that would later become an oasis of life and of course, water to quench our thirst after our hard labor. The installation of drinking water from the municipality was straight-forward but essential. You can’t spend more than a few hours working on the site without drinking water. On the left, this was the first man-made structure on site, located in the shade of our beautiful Lorito tree, which also serves as base for the “jungle-shower”.
The laying of the hose that moves irrigation water from a nearby stream uphill was definitely a more adventurous endeavor. First, the inspection of the stream and the choosing of an optimal intake location, then some calculations to know how much hose to buy based on GPS collected data to account for distance, slope and resistance in the hose – math works! We laid ca. 600 meters of 1″ hose through dense jungle, partly buried, partly elevated over steep and slippery ravines. Now a constant flow of clean, free water runs into our site using only the force of gravity.
The borrowed water flows through gardens and fruit orchids, allowing the plants to survive, lay deep roots and generate ever more and more organic matter, which in turn strengthens and fertilizes the soil naturally. More humidity then balances the temperature extremes locally, thus creating better conditions for insects and other creatures. The excess water flows either inward into subterranean water beds, or it flows down back into the same stream. Some of it will evaporate and build local clouds, which will carry the water up the mountain, for it to return in form of rain and close its amazing cycle.
When the site was purchased, there was serious damage caused by erosion, which was aggravated by deforestation and the introduction of foreign grasses that were supposed to feed livestock, but in the long run took over and asphyxiated the local vegetation. The first few years of our work was focused on the implementation of erosion-countermeasures. Most notably, the right canalization of water in high-rain events, and the construction of water swales, which are designed to move rain water across the site in the slowest way possible. Reducing the speed of passing water is critical to lower its erosive force, and at the same time to keep it longer as it passes through in order to absorb it and benefit the most from its presence.