Saturday, July 2, 2016

Palikade Permaculture Project – Water Harvesting & Soil Conservation (WH & SC)

 The Native Place guesthouse and garden is a labor of love that we have tended to since early 2000.  Today the garden comprises a delightfully diverse group of flora and fauna. a paradise for tree lovers and birders and everyone who loves  nature and gardening. It is exactly what we had envisioned it to be and more but being just an acre and a half in area we soon ran out of place to accommodate the plant palette (our wish list of trees).  Palikade, (an 18-acre plot of land in Thoran Village) that we acquired for this express purpose, is where we intend to manifest this dream. The vision is to develop Palikade as a self-sustaining farm & tropical food forest aimed at facilitating harmony amongst all stakeholders in the habitat (the birds, insects, microorganisms and other animals as well as us humans).

We were aware that it was very important to work on Water Harvesting & Soil Conservation (WH & SC) structures as a priority before planting trees on a large scale. These are also called ‘landforms’.  The land at ‘Palikade’ comprises two fairly flat areas of land divided by a huge gully running in between. The slopes and high rainfall combination in this region meant that significant soil and water was running off the land every monsoon. Also, rain is the only source of water on this land, so, the sooner we undertook the work on landforms, the lesser would be the loss of precious soil and greater the gains of water retention.

The Permaculture Design Course (PDC) that we attended in March 2016 gave us significant confidence with respect to the understanding of WH & SC. We undertook practical work at the PDC, designing and creating WH & SC structures like contour trenches, percolation tank, gully plugs and brushwood. Our two gardeners at Native Place, Anil & Eknath, attended two days of Water Harvesting sessions at the PDC and  thankfully they too learnt the basics and were able to support us in this effort.

Our journey of implementation started with inviting Narsanna to Palikade when he gave us some crucial inputs regarding WH & SC work. Thereafter, we invited Osman Baig, a watershed expert who we met during the PDC, to guide us with the location for different WH & SC structures. Osmanji, came in April for two days and helped us mark the area for a percolation tank, a pond, trenches & bunds and some gully plugs. We asked him plenty of questions so that we understood the logic of all his inputs.

Thereafter, we got down to detailed marking of all the structures on the land. We then did rough measurements around the entire land & drew out the plan and designs on paper. This helped us get greater clarity of the overall picture. The next step was actually making these structures with the help of a JCB and manual labor.

We also figured the details from local sources that annual rainfall in this area was about 2,500mm, number of rainy days was 82 and the highest rainfall in 24 hours was 176 mm. This helped us decide factors like the depth of the trenches to be dug and the distance at which contour trenches needed to be dug.

Some details about the structures are provided along with the individual pictures in this album. Need to specially mention here about the Percolation tank (PT) and pond. Part of this property (about 1 acre) is on the other side of a road, towards the South. It has high slope. At the bottom of this sub-plot, there is the possibility of accumulating water from a catchment of about 7 hectares. Hence a PT was created right there. The water that is likely to accumulate there is being routed to another pond on the farm, through a pipe running across & under the road. 

On his subsequent visit, Osmanji also identified the scope to route more water to the pond by creating a rainwater diversion trench. He also suggested developing a micro-pond in the Western side of the plot – this area was quite rocky and was sloping towards a small gully, which further met the main gully.

By end of May, we had completed all the landforms work. The structures we created have the capacity of holding about 34 lac liters of water at one time.

Capacity - Volume
About 1,200 running metres of deep trenches and bunds
1200 m3
12 lac litres
Percolation tank
350 m3
  3.5 lac litres
1700 m3
17 lac litres
Micro pond
100 m3
  1 lac litres
Staggered trench
14 m3
14,000 litres
Capacity / Volume(approx.)
33.64 lac litres

Simultaneously, in April & May, we were working on designing the plantation on these WH & SC structures, collecting seeds directly from trees & from friends & networks, growing saplings in our own nursery at the Native Place guesthouse & also scouting nurseries for plants that we were not growing ourselves. By second week of June, we were all equipped to start planting - the story of which you may have read in our previous post regarding the plantation J

This has been the first phase of WH & SC and plantation. We intend to take this forward step by step and attempt more intricate permaculture applications. The aim is to conserve & impound rainwater, raise aquifer levels, enhance soil health, create micro climates and an abundant habitat!

We’ve never felt we had completed anything very significant until now. But the amount of inquiries we received from our farmer friends for a detailed account of the work pushed us to do this write up. Feeling humbled & grateful.

In Solidarity,


sandeep said...

Your work is commendable Astrid !! Very smart planning and execution in short time.. Inspiring article for beginners like us . Thanks for penning down your article. Looking forward to see more updates on your work on your blog.

keshav chander Jaini said...

you never cease to amaze me with your commitment to nature , had done my Perma course in Darjeeling in dec 2015 with Rico zook, learnt a huge amount , implemented some of it in my residential colony : waste segregation and community composting , would love to check your place and help out , Congratulations once agian

nativeplace gardener said...

Thank you Sandeep and Keshav

Somnath Jha said...

I'd second that, Keshav!
Astrid, I've been following your WH & SC efforts on facebook (lovely pictures!) and in your blog. Amazing and inspiring efforts, Astrid! I find all my paragliding instructor friends all happy and dirty in your project. Great thing to be doing off season.
We would definitely like to come in and work with you after my formal 'work-life' gets over very soon! Power to you, Girl!

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