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Permaculture Research Institute Luganville, Vanuatu
Permaculture Research Institute Luganville, Vanuatu
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Lambue, Belaru, Espiritu Santo, Luganville, Sanma province, VU
Climate zone:
Wet Tropical

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Site Update: News from the bush week 3

Project: Permaculture Research Institute Luganville, Vanuatu

Posted by Zaia Kendall almost 6 years ago

Hello every one, This is the week where the building started to appear! Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did !

On Monday 27th, we started our 5th week here. I went in town early to update the website and the facebook account and to do some shopping. I’ve was picked up by Philibert, the neighbour, a really good French speaker with whom I had a nice chat. He works at the coconut factory and is going down every morning and coming back every afternoon. We made an appointment for the way back . He was adopted by a French family and raised as a real member of the family. Now he feels like a French citizen, he loves French culture, food… and he really liked meeting me. We talked a lot about France and also Vanuatu and specially Santo, I learned that Santo was mainly French occupied and all the huge coconut plantations are actually dating of this time. A lot of people migrated at this stage from all around Vanuatu due to the large amount of work and the French also got a lot of Vietnamese people to come to Vanuatu to do the hard jobs, they were working in quite bad conditions and were almost treated as slaves. They were all sent back to their country around 1975. We of course talked about the independence moment, the coconut revolt which started in Santo and the coming soon independence anniversary which is really important for everyone. Before heading back home at the end of the day he insisted to share a bread and cheese ‘casse croute’ with me that I couldn’t refuse! We went back down town and shared some nice cheesy sandwiches that I appreciated, since we try to avoid imported foods and are eating island food only. We became good friends, he was happy to hear about our aims and our project, and understands that we are trying our best to integrate the local NiVan lifestyle, but he made me promise to cook a French meal for him soon!

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The guys had a short sad day on site, they received a call from Agnes who announced that one of mama’s close family members passed away. They came back early as they wanted to come to town with Papa to meet Mama, but didn’t as Mama insisted not. Timmy and Mendra were there that day, they dug 3 new holes for posts. They also leveled the tops of the already grounded posts with the chainsaw as the bedroom posts were 50 cm lower than the kitchen posts. They then went to the nambanga : banyan tree, looking for some long straight poles for the roof. They felled one of the aerial strong roots, Timmy climbed up to chopped the top end while Mendra did the bottom end.

On the Tuesday 28th, we were happy to find our nursery sprouted: 2 winged beans and a lot of pigeon peas showed up !

Tarsus came to help us; he is a really strong and skilled NiVan from Pentecost Island. We achieved a lot on this day, we started chopping 9 new poles from the nambanga. Every one had a try at climbing this sacred tree, it’s a great fun to use all this aerial roots as ladder and find yourself up above the jungle in such a special tree.IMG_4899 IMG_4897 IMG_4889

These aerial roots are a particularly strong wood most are perfectly straight, which is perfect for our bush-crooked building! We have a huge nambanga tree not so far, just out of our boundary about 10 minutes walk from the house site. We carried the poles back to the house site and peeled them from their sticky bark.

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We also started to dig out the last post hole which was situated right on top of a tree stump that we struggled to remove. Meriem and I worked on that for one hour… until Meriem almost fainted when a crow bar fell on her head really badly! We were concerned she was seriously injured, but her head is incredibly strong and she went back to work almost straight away! She ended up with a big bump on her head and a new nickname: Strong Woman!

Sami and Rocky joined us later and every one took a turn at the nailing workshop ! We first notched the beams, making 3 cuts with the chainsaw half way on the matching posts spots; then the wood was taken out with the bush knife and these long straight poles become beams when it is nailed on top of the posts. We installed 4 of them on this day!

Before we left I transplanted the winged beans and Meriem planted a choko in the mulched beds under the tree structures.

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I also picked a bush cabbage bouquet with Papa’s help, these edible ferns are yummy and healthy, we often eat some raw straight from the bush for little snacks, but we love them boiled and sometimes we add coconut milk for an extra creamy taste! Perfect greens full of minerals and fibre and available everywhere in our bush garden!

On Wednesday 29th,  Mendra came to help and Ray made a quick visit early in the morning on the way to work.

Women are not really considered at all to become “bushmen”. The NiVan culture is quite strong about rules and duties for men and women, both have their importance but women should not do a man’s tasks… in theory! Building for example is a man’s job, and Meriem and I are trying hard to get more involved, but Papa seems to keep us on light tasks… a bit hard for our western female personality! So we are participating lightly, passing tools and taking pictures. That gives us some time to do some other things, like gardening or digging a swale! And its great because there is a lot to do!

I spent most of this day doing some gardening, the previous day Ginette our neighbour offered us some African yam tubers to plant. I cleaned a new garden area for them in the open grass space against one of our existing beds. In the mean time I continued cleaning the trees from the strong vines and opening a new area. Under the sick grass/ vines mixture I found an important slope as a little gully crossing our garden at his end. I built up the new beds according to this shape and dug a kind of swale path building up mounds for the african yams. I spaced them every 40 cm and in between added some long beans just brought by Mendra from his wife Levas. I used ferns as light mulch. Both are climbers but the beans will be more spread out and less high, the yams are climbing very high and do not spread at all, they need a long structure as bamboo sticks against a tree for example. Both will support and help each other, beans providing nitrogen to the yam and yam providing structure to the beans and together they will provide a great hedge against the grass for the garden.

Meriem brought more soil for the posts and kept ramming at their base while the 3 men, Papa, Mendra and Dany installed the 2 missing beams. Then everyone caught up to see how to make a truss: the triangle structures which shapes the roof. We used a central pole to build around symmetrically, we notched the top point that supports the ridge and just nailed the bottom ones as the base beams will be removed at the end. They made the tree trusses for the higher roof, which is the kitchen roof and we lifted 1 of them. We then added some braces to hold them.

We left the site early; Ray and Agnes invited us to go down for the night program of the independence anniversary celebration. The anniversary date is on the 30th but the celebration animations runs during 2 weeks and the night before, it is apparently very good! We had our dinner walking along the stalls and trying many yummy things in this melting pot cuisine! A mix of locally sourced ingredients, island food, Chinese influence and western side dishes! Grilled fish, roast chicken, sandwiches, lab lab, tulluk, stuffed taro, samosa, spring rolls, bread…colourful and chocolate flavoured cakes! Dany even found some pork! We sat on the ground and joined the thousand of NiVan watching the apparently funniest program ever! Every one laughed a lot, there was dancing, comedy and a Miss Luganville election! Papa enjoyed it a lot and we made an appointment for the next day at 7.30am with Ray to pick us up as we couldn’t’ missed the Parade!

So on this Independence Day anniversary, Thursday 30th, we went down really early and it was terrible rainy weather! A long wet day was waiting for us down town… The three of us just wanted to rest but raincoats, umbrella and jacket were with us and we decided to honour this very important anniversary for the NiVans and share this celebration with them. Ginette and Esther came with us and we arrived early in an empty town. Most of the shops were closed apart from few Chinese ones. The parade started late around 10 am and suddenly many people appeared from everywhere to form a big crowd. The show started with a funny fanfare band going up and down on the main square, then official military and police processions started, the local minister arrived by car dropped right in the middle of the official site with his wife and had to salute everyone before they opened fire! 3 times! We waited for the moment they put the NiVan flag up and went for a walking lunch in the food stalls area.

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On the afternoon we left Papa at ‘La Place’ and rested and sheltered from the rain at Agnes and Ray’s place. We shared a nice lazy afternoon with Agnes who enjoyed reading and watching the pictures of the blog. We hung out in BPborne area with Mendra and had some of the best tulluk ever for snack! Tulluk is the one portion lab lab, perfect to take away, already wrapped in bananas leaves ; made out of cassava mainly but also green plantain banana, yam or taro mashed, filled up with onion and minced meat, cooked on stone, it’s the NiVan sandwich and when it’s made by Levas it’s delightful ! We went back up to Belaru late leaving Papa behind still on the main square waiting for fireworks that would later be cancelled!

On Friday 31st, end of week we struggled to wake up early, Papa arrived with Timmy dropped by Ray and we went to the site quite late. We stopped at the creek to check out the bamboo patch. This place is just amazing, even if the cyclone hit it and destroyed a lot causing a lot of sticks to lay on the ground. It’s a clumping bamboo, dark green, very hard, called ‘vatu’ as ‘stone’ to say how hard it is. The whole place looks like a forest with few huge clumps made out of giant bamboo, the ambiance is really special under there, protected by mother earth in a crispy and cosy nest.

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Arriving at the house site we found the can left there with cacao seed transformed : all the seeds sprouted ! Meriem transplanted them around the house undercover of the forest, I continued the job in the garden and built up a new mound for the African yam and planted them.

The guys lifted 2 more trusses and installed the ridge on top, thankfully Timmy was with us and did the acrobatic job !!! He is incredibly agile, as a monkey, he can just walk on rails! I let you check out the pictures!

We then went down to the nambanga to collect more poles.

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Meriem started to dig the swale this day and found the job not as heavy as we were expecting, the wet soil is not too hard to remove with the mattock.

Papa and Timmy wanted to leave early to catch a transport for their way down but we left the site at 4pm! They had to finish this long day by a long walk down to BPBorne .

This evening we made an appointment with Frank and Linden for the next day: we decided to go to ‘diving’: snorkeling/submarine fishing session on the South coast. But when Frank gave us the time: 4 am, I felt a bit undecided! Anyway we set the alarm!

On the Saturday 1st it rained a lot during the night and at 4am, nobody moved! Every body slept in, we let the heavy rain keep us in bed ! We stayed home, every one did a bit of home duty, writing for me, washing for Meriem and researching for Dany. We went down town in the afternoon to do a bit of shopping, using internet at the bar and picked up one of my NZ mates, Cj and his son Angus. They will stay with us few days.

I met Cj on a permaculture farm in NZ, Awhi farm at Turangi, and while we were talking we figured out we will be in Vanuatu on the same island in the same time, we shared contact details and decided to catch up . He is a permaculturist, really interested in sustainability, self sufficiency and community living and brought over his young 13 year old boy to experience a different life style immersed in the bush. He is also a builder and this is great because we are building!!! And more strong arms are more than welcome, the 3 of us are really happy to have new people with us bringing new ideas, dynamic….

On Sunday 2nd, we went to the site for a little working session as papa is leaving next week to Port Villa and we need to finish at least one roof as an example for us to continue, the Natan Gura thatch will come tomorrow Monday and we need to get ready to install it! Cj, Angus and Dany decided to come bare foot!

We built up 3 more trusses following  Papa’s model and went to cut more nambanga and peeled them. We were all so happy to share with the guys about plans and work and to show them our piece of bush ! We went around for a visit of the property, and dropped 3 big baskets of natan gura seedlings to replant on the boundaries. The guys were strong and walked all around the land in the thick bush bared foot!!!!! Dany is probably starting to develop another layer of skin as he was walking the same pace as me! Soon he will be ready to visit the ‘Mal Mal’ people!

Mal Mal people are the natives, tribe people living out far in the bush in complete harmony with nature, as a perfect example of self sufficiency and traditional knowledge. They are quite fascinating, Dany and I and we would love to experience a little stay with them in the mountains before we leave Vanuatu. Their first peculiarity for NiVan is that they live almost naked, dressed with only a few leaves and every one makes a lot of jokes here about their uses !

We transplanted sprouted winged beans, planted some green onion clumps kept from our kitchen, transplanted lemon grass offered by Levas in the swale and sowed cucumber seeds.


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