We Filipinos eat a lot of rice. And to be self-sustaining, it means we need to produce our own rice. The good thing about our project site is, there’s an existing rice field. The bad thing is, the soil is so degraded and abused with so much chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Our challenge is how to make this rice field as rich and as productive as possible using the permaculture principles. To prepare it for the rice planting season in June, the start of the rainy season here in the Philippines, we need to introduce a lot of organic matter to it through producing compost soil and planting legumes like mung beans (monggo) and peanuts. Legume plants are good for enhancing the soil quality and usually used as green manure because of their nitrogen-rich foliage and the nitrogen-fixing bacterias in their root system. Our compost is a mixture of dried leaves, rice straw, rice hulls, saw dust, dried twigs, carabao dung, and chicken dung.
In January, we started irrigating the rice fields, courtesy of our farmer neighbor who let us tap from their irrigation system (for the meantime we’re still setting up our own irrigation system). We then soaked the fields for two days.
We then tilled the fields using our neighbor’s carabao. Although in permaculture, there’s a “no till” principle, we had to do it just this one time, while we are still brewing our own compost soil.
We then planted mung beans and peanuts.
They’re now almost ready for harvesting. We’ll soon have peanuts and mung beans and we’ll just have to “chop and drop” the greens after harvesting. “Chop and drop” is another permaculture practice of chopping nitrogen-rich foliage like legumes and dropping them to the ground to serve as mulch or organic fertilizer.
Unlike our neighbors who plant hybrid varieties of white rice, we’ll be planting the traditional red rice through direct seeding.
(Photos by Cye Reyes)