Designing a Better Tomorrow Through Permaculture

I’d been to project Bonafide before, back when I was traveling on my group semester. Taking the Ferry across Lake Nicaragua to the island of Ometepe for the first time I was struck with awe and a profound respect for mother nature. She outdid herself with this one.

They loom high into the sky, almost touching the heavens. Their peaks are often shrouded in clouds, as if they have a secret at the top that no one can ever see. There they are, and the sight is enough to send any traveler’s heart racing and a shiver of excitement down their spine. Truly the volcanos Maderas and Concepcion are a wonder, and seeing them on the island instilled a feeling of adventure, curiosity, and most importantly discovery. The towns are small, the buses are cheap, and the taxis, of course, are way too expensive. The landscape is a mix of farmland and dense jungle. The nutrient rich soil from the volcanos makes this an ideal location for plant life.  All throughout the island are special rocks called petroglyphs. Each petroglyph has a rock carving from past indigenous groups, some dating back as far as 300 bc. Located near the base of Maderas is project Bonafide, a place I can proudly say has been my home for the last two and a half months.

Bonafide is an organic permaculture farm with an emphasis on research, community growth, and education.  Permaculture is a design science that makes use of patterns in nature to form new creations.  Here we study new agriculture, architecture, and design techniques with the goal of demonstrating a working system to the farmers, builders, and anyone else who cares to see what we’re up to.  Our water is recycled, right from the drains through pipes to nearby trees, plants are placed next to others that will help each other and naturally accelerate their growth, solar dehydrators help preserve fruits and other plants to prevent decomposition and improve food security, trenches are dug on lines of contour to catch rain water from higher levels of elevation, everything is designed and created in a sustainable way that helps everything around it!  How cool is that?!

Apart from the research aspect, we work closely with the community.  Bonafide was actually created with the goal of helping malnutritious students in the local town of Balgue. We recently had our yearly seed exchange where we exchange seeds bred in our nursery to locals in for rice, beans, construction materials, clothes, etc, anything they are willing to offer.  It was a nice event, especially for the local kids who spent most of the day playing with the volunteers.  We even had a piñata in the shape of a jackfruit tree.

Bonafide also serves as a learning center, by being a demonstrative farm and offering different classes they have to offer. I’ve been able to take my Permaculture Design course and an Earthen Building course here.  As a demonstrative farm we’re able be creative, try new things, fail sometimes, rethink what went wrong, adjust and try again. With that freedom to make mistakes, we’re able to find new, more successful ways of farming and building, and it makes all the difference to have a real life example for a local to see.  We can afford to take risks to find efficiency, but for someone whose life depends on their harvest, change is difficult without proof.

Here I work as the Intern in charge of water systems and fermentation, and I gotta say, I love my work.  Interns need to work extra hours some days after the normal 7-12 to keep up with their projects. The projects are what I love most of all; it’s a great feeling getting to see a creation come to life, and watch everything work a little better because of something you made. The work is important to me, especially after seeing the growing demand for food in the world and how quickly we’re burning through our resources.  I see practices like these becoming an important part of our future.

On a less serious note, it’s not all work and no play here.  Beach days are fun (the lake is a 15 min walk away), the parties are crazy, and we just set up the ping pong table in our community area. If you’re looking for something intense, climb a volcano, it’s incredibly hard but the view is worth it.  I've had the pleasure of meeting a ton of wonderful people during my stay and once you're here it’s like you're part of a family.

Thanks for reading,