Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Edible Schoolyard and Medicinal Garden

Food shortages from periodic transportation strikes continue to burden the poorest people in Nicaragua as the daily allocation of imported food supplies becomes increasingly unpredictable. Current CAFTA trade protocol and poorly managed supply systems within the Sandinista Government fuels and further elevates the hardship. While people are not conspicuously starving for the most part, these circumstances have lead many to seek a greater degree of independence through small farming operations and local market and non-market solutions. Off the grid so to speak.

Harnessing Nicaragua's plentiful rainwater (3,500 liters per square meter annually) into simple collection systems will offer myriad socioeconomic benefits in the form of food security and future sustainable development. Currently little is done on a residential scale to capture and deploy stormwater for economic purposes. some households own a plastic bucket or two and use the caught water to wash clothes or in some cases for basic food preparation.

Following the easily replicable installation of an off the shelf vinyl gutter, (16 meters for $135 in this case on the western side of the existing school's roof) and a series of 50 gallon drums ($10 each) which were painted by La Prusian school children and placed in the landscape to function as water storage containers.

The collection system will accommodate a generous irrigation program for a productive community farm and garden located in the center of Casas De La Esperanza project #1.
The planting scheme builds on the inspiration of the previously discussed tree preservation areas and subsequent discoveries of rings formed on the ground surrounding productive trees. (See images) These rings and all paths through the Nicaraguan Landscape generally speaking are shaped in the quest for food. Fruit harvesting exhibits this phenomenon especially well.

A 2-meter (on center) grid is transposed onto the central open space of the first project site and planted with carefully selected fruit trees. 10 Guava, 10 Papaya, 10 Starfruit, 5 Coconut, 10 Orange, 3 Lime, 10 Mandarine, 5 Guava de Fresca, 10 Pera de Agua, 10 Avacado 5 Guavanna, and 5 Palma Robeliana, a gorgeous native Nicaraguan Palm specimen.

Linear plantings perpendicular to the central open space exhibit one of each fruit tree and spatially define the yard's expanse. A varying degree of enclosure will evolve as the trees establish, mature and are harvested by the community. The grove will become an illustration of temporal pedestrian circulation. Paths will form as people harvest fruits and maintain the trees. Those paths will in time act as swales in storm events and continue to be transformed annually by the variety of Nicaragua's climactic personality.

Three wee ones planting a Starfruit Specimen.

Fruits aside, the clinic to the north of the school is in desperate need of basic supplies, (personnel included). Yesterday for instance, a doctor was to be on site for a weekly visit at 8 am... but never arrived. 10 Mint, 6 Aloe, 5 Thyme and a beautiful eucalyptus plant were installed at the south and west edges of the clinic beneath the diffused canopy of the existing great Mango tree to help start a pilot planting regime that could help mitigate the lacking medical resources. Every plant selected has many uses, both culinary and medicinal as well as structural and otherwise economic.

Many volunteers will be building on the momentum of the project and incorporating many of its educational aspects into the curriculum. Along with the construction of the edible schoolyard and the medicinal garden, we have included a book of plant characteristics, uses, the plants name in various languages, its nutritional values, cultural derivation and other fun facts for the various age groups that are exposed to the project.

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