Purnavasu Farm

by Community Forests International on January 23, 2010


What an amazing week! I have been busy working on our group design project on Purnavasu farm in the village of Adamaru, 15 kilometers south of Udipi in southern India. We left Beeja in  the morning, visited  Hindu and Jain temples in Belur and ended up near the coast 12 hours later,

Temple carvings -Belur, Karnatika, India 

....after what could be called a typically Indian journey (amazing but painful!) over the coastal mountain range known as the Western Ghats. Having arrived late at night, we settled into our home-stay with Vasu Roa and his family, leaving the unveiling of the farm until morning.

Purnavasu banana patch 

The sun brought us the full view of Vasu's family land. We took a walk around and discussed our possible projects for the next week.  It is an remarkable place (parts of the house are 200+ years old). Our task was to help make the farm more productive and viable, so Vasu can return there permanently and live and work with his aging parents. Our week was spent working on farm-improvement.  Starting usualy with building projects during the cooler morning hours, then breaking into designing and mapping our group project in the afternoon. My personal favorite is the outdoor shower.

Shower interior 

We made ours in a flash , and we put it right between some arakia nut palms so excess water would feed the trees/plants. (they chop up the nut and put it in "pan", which is a mild narcotic used by people all over India). We also built a small check dam to help hold and infiltrate water,bermed up the banana jungle for ease of watering for the parents , and a bunch of other smaller projects (that’s just scratching the surface)

Cow barn & arakia nut

Stomping the dam 

Our design project revolved around transforming an old cow barn (seen above) into a fully functional permaculture guesthouse, which could accommodate 1 family and 2 woofers to provide income for the family (the family has been approached by a newly constructed powerplant inquiring if it had a place for a middle management/supervisor and family to rent)

.Picking peper

All and all it is magical place for a Canadian east coaster. The entire course, my brain  has been turning out lots of ideas for possible solutions to issues in Pemba, like soil fertility, agro forestry and water catchment/storage. I think between Me, Daimen, and Estelle, we will be able to share some really meaningful approaches and systems with our colleagues in Pemba. One interesting method I could see having a role in Pemba, involves collecting and propagating indigenous micro organisms (IMO's) from the surrounding landscape, and spreading them around to help enliven and enrich soils.


Being a mycophile I thought I would mention a method for collecting your very own indigenous micro organisms. The IMO's we are looking for live in the first few inches of the soil (topsoil) and generally comprise the molds and bacteria’s that help enrich soils and speed up its breakdown, creating healthier, more fertile soils. This is particularly useful in a tropical environment because, unlike the temperate climates which keep a lot of organic material in the soil, tropical regions tend to store their organic material in living plants, so It can't be swept away with seasonal rains of baked of by blaring sun. Used alongside other techniques, this could rejuvenate any area that has depleted soils and could be used to enrich garden soils and increase/promote soil fertility anywhere in the world using on-site micro-friends.

IMO preperation

Recipe and instructions can be found at the end of this post. Please note that I would caution using this technique if you are growing mushrooms specifically, as molds and bacteria tend munch on our fungi friends.

This is where I geek out, so fell free to skip this part If you like.

Step 1

1-Get a few non-metallic containers that fits together in 2 halves (2 bowls).

2-Fill one side with cooked rice (loosely, making sure there is lots of air able to circulate)

3-Add a little (very small amount!) of water.

4-Close it up by tying the two halves together. There should be a small gap between bowls so organism can get in. Make 2-3 of these contraptions

5-Bury them (just covering the top) in an area with rich, dark brown/black soil. Each one in a different spot to maximize variety Forest and compost piles are great spots.

6- Leave for several days, the rice is ready when it is multi colored and smells sweet and organic. If it stinks of death, the mixture had too much water and became anarobic. Chuck it out and start again.

 burying the IMO's

Step 2

1- Dig up mix, check the quality.

2- Take a bucket and dissolve 1/2 litre of molases in 4-6 litres of water.

3- add the newly "colored" rice (mixture should be a thick slurry)

4- cover well with cheeze cloth or a t-shirt (allowing it to breath)

5- put in a room temp environment for 5-10 days

Step 3

 check again, if it smells like death, you added too much water, chuck it.  Use the t-shirt to strain out the mix so you are left with two parts: IMO rice and IMO liquid. The rice for compost is used for speeding up decomposition of organic material and making better quality compost. You can also scratch it in around plants/ garden beds. The liquid is used as a foliar spray (spray underside of leaves at a mix of 20:1 (water: IMO liquid) The liquid will also act as a good deterent to pest and fertilizer. Can mix in compost or around plants.

Note: Very Potent stuff. Dilute well or use small amounts. Liquid will keep for 4-6 weeks (don’t freeze)

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