A PERENNIAL MARKET GARDEN IN THE GUATEMALAN HIGHLANDS
Roberto Muj is an agricultural trainer and community organizer for CIEDEG in Guatemala (http://nuevociedeg.org/).
He travels widely for work and designed a home food production system based on perennial crops that could survive his frequent absences. We taught a permaculture training together in January 2010 and I was amazed by his deep and wide knowledge of permaculture plants and systems. His home is one of the finest examples of perennial market gardens that I have ever seen.
The farm is in what is considered a chilly area as they sometimes get light frosts. Avocados grow but only some kinds of citrus will survive. Elevation is about 2200 meters. Most of the year is dry, with a 4-5 month rainy season in our summer.
Here is Roberto with his 10-year old perennial beans growing on firewood trees.
Much of the farm is laid out as a perennial alley crop system. Rows of productive trees alternate with perennial herbaceous crops.
Trees include citrus, avocado, sweet gum, alder, mulberry, fig, macadamia, and giant yucca.
Herbaceous crops include aloe, alfalfa for chicken fodder, perennial beans, perennial kale, and many cut flowers including lot of Alstromeria. The cut flowers and fruits are sold in local markets, with most of the production currently being in flowers and soon to shift to fruits as trees mature. We brought asparagus seed at his request as it is hard to produce in Guatemala but there is a huge market. Roberto wants to extend this production model to more of his acres which are currently producing corn – perhaps a macadamia-avocado-alder-asparagus type of system.
Roberto’s alley cropping system:
This polyculture is in the very back corner. Rather than weeds as one might expect, every plant is useful. The large elephant ear is a Xanthosoma, not an edible clone but instead used for pesticides to kill whiteflies, a significant pest for Roberto.
The living fence is izote (Yucca guatemalensis), which has excellent and valuable edible flowers. The trees (genus uncertain) are used for firewood. Climbing them is chayote or guiskil (Sechium edule), a perennial vegetable cucurbit, and perennial beans (Phaseolus coccineus).