I went on an impromptu roadtrip to nearby Baucau, the so-called second capital of Timor Leste. Its about a 2 hour drive, but takes 4 hours with the local bus (plus an hour or so, sitting, sweating and waiting for them to fill). My couchsurf host in Dili sent me straight into the arms of his Macau raised Portugese farmer friend, Fernando.
Fernando moved to Baucau 3 years ago and rented a small plot of land surrounded by rice fields and local farmers to try and develop his permaculture project with Na-terra. He said the village people would all come and watch him farm, gawking at his strange techniques. Later he upgraded to a larger piece of land, and today he rents a 2,000m2 garden he’s grown and nurtured to the most bio-diverse plot of land in all of Timor! There are chickens, ducks, bunnies and over 100 species of trees and plants thriving in his little oasis, and all of it works together to form an ecosystem that’s totally self-sustainable and renewable, constantly supplying food to both animals and humans.
We arrived at his farm, surrounded my old big palm trees and a wooden fence. Before we entered, he prepared me by saying “make sure you’re aware of the space around you, the lay of the land and whats the highest point, where is there shade, where’s the water and how does it flow. I felt like I was entering a Jurassic park ride. Once we entered, the fence was completely living from the inside, with vines and grasses growing all the way to the ends and corners of the whole plot. No tree was older than 3 years, but still the canopy was meters above our heads.
We ducked under huge melons and stepped over potted seedlings, and through the cool bamboo trees. We watered the aloe vera and fed the fishes, watching little cat-fish whiskers poke out from the water’s surface We sniffed the lemongrass and the one (and only) Bilimbi plant in the garden (and probably all of Timor… he imported the seed himself from Chile). We harvested tomatoes and papayas to take home, and fed and pet the bunnies who produce all his fertilizer. Then he wriggled our fingers through their poop, mixed in with hay and a bazillion worms, to show me how fertile their fertilizer really was.
He thought me about the Moringa tree, which has 1000% percent more vitamins and good stuff in it than all other individual fruits combined – apparently it’s the obvious solution to solve malnutrition worldwide, but no one knows about it yet. There were vegetables, flowers, herbs and medicinal plants, and all the trees, plants, and permaculture knowledge is given freely to the local people. This way, the farm generates food security, nutrition, and even improves business since the markets now have more fruits and vegetables to trade.
Fernando talked with such excitement and enthusiasm for every leaf and rock that the garden came creaming to life in front of me, and even the smelly duck pond had an important function in his little circle of life. After cuddling some more with his sugar-cane loving bunnies, we retreated to yet another oasis, Fernando’s cliff-perched house, and watched the sunset from the beach below. For dinner we had spear-fished octopus with all sorts of delights from the farm, and for breakfast we had a Moringa smoothie – a perfect recipe for detox and rejuvenation.