Asia West Pacific

Peace Place Training Center Plants Fruit Trees

by Petrus

The Earth is beautiful and generous.
Care for each person, the group, the community, and the natural world.

Human beings rely on the Earth’s unconditional love and generosity. With each sip of water, bite of food, breath of air and beat of our hearts we receive life freely. When we stop, let go of our distress and open to life’s beauty and joy, we settle into the peace of being our whole selves, our perfect part of the perfect whole of life. Human beings do not make, build or create peace. Peace is already present as a pure gift of life. Human beings can reject violence, heal from our distress and organize in accord with the transforming power of life to preserve its intrinsic peace. Creating Cultures of Peace

Inspiration

In 2012, after the construction of the school and guest house, Peace Place was done. There were no trees and it was hot during the day. I thought I should plant fruit trees so I chose plants that produced fruit and made shade. We began planting mango and guava trees. We also thought about beauty so we began planting flowers. We grew chilies, yam, lemongrass, and turmeric for our cooking needs. We made trials of planting fruit plants in pots. We hoped to harvest fruit to eat and use the trees as a medium for children to learn to recognize the types of fruit and their characteristics.

Learning

At first, we were not familiar with the concepts of permaculture. In 2019 we started to get to know permaculture when FPT-Asia West Pacific and Australian Quakers, Paula and Ian Paananen, brought Permaculture to Peace Place.

With their help, we created a site plan. We wanted to make Peace Place a more shady and pleasant place when it was sunny, so we looked first for open soil, and second for where plants could reduce direct sunlight shining on the buildings, especially on doors and windows.
In the permaculture concept, as applied at Peace Place, leafy trees serve as windbreaks, reduce heat, produce oxygen, produce biomass to increase soil fertility, and provide habitat for visiting birds who are starting to struggle in urban areas. So we learned Peace Place would feel cooler, be more comfortable in the dry season, block out dust during the dry season, and be protected from wind exposure during the rainy season. The position of the plants reduces the wind, especially from the south.

I asked Nanik and a friend what fruit plants were suitable to be planted near the house. I observed the fruit trees in the community which were planted near the house and did research on fruit trees in our area. Pati soil is fertile for growing 25 different fruit trees: seven varieties of mango (kopyor, mangga manalagi, mangga madu, mangga golek, mangga gaer, kiojay), three varieties of water apple (deli hijau, citra, jambu air madu susu), rambutan, sugar apple, guava and breadfruit guava (without seed), papaya, banana, duku, longan, avocado, pummelo, and durian. *(details about mango varieties below)

Actions

We have planted 13 fruit trees from this list at Peace Place: mango, water apple, rambutan, sugar apple, guava, bread fruit guava, papaya, banana, duku, longan, pummelo, and durian. All these fruits are available in the market, but most are grown using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. At Peace Place we grow fruit using our own compost for fertilizer and homemade organic pesticides, such as chili solution or liquid smoke from coconut shells to protect fruit from fruit flies.

We learned to propagate fruit plants through cuttings ready to plant after one year. Under normal conditions the seedlings of guava, mango, durian, avocado, rambutan begin to bear fruit within three or four years. With special treatment, certain fruit plants will bear more quickly. All the fruit trees planted at Peace Place will last a long time except bananas, which must be cut down after each fruiting.

We learned about the differences among the different varieties of guava and mango regarding fruit size, shape, color, durability and taste; and also leaf shape, and sap character in the tree and fruit. We began to watch for insects that attack fruits and learned to identify them, and how, at least partly, to protect the fruits.

Results

After getting to know Permaculture, the Peace Place environment has increased water infiltration, rainwater capture (from rooftops) in a tank, reduced use of plastics, increased number of vegetable crops, increased composting and produced liquid smoke .  We began to think about the integration of the needs of humans, plants, and animals including insects, butterflies and birds, taking an interest in how all their lives are related, including our mutual needs for water. Nanik feels fallen leaves look dirty and must be cleaned up. But I don’t think fallen leaves have to be cleaned up, especially during the dry season, because the leaves prevent water evaporation from the soil.

We also made changes in our practices and habits. When shopping, we consider whether it is environmentally friendly or not. Now, we bring our own bags to reduce plastic use.  We began to be more disciplined in separating organic waste from inorganic waste to make compost. (Most people here tend to choose to dispose of waste and buy ready-made fertilizers instead of making compost or fertilizer from existing garbage.) 

We have noticed that we are more comfortable since we planted the trees.  In the dry season it is very different and feels much more comfortable. Our families are very happy with the condition of the building layout and also the environment of the Peace Place which feels comfortable, cool, and shady. The children around the Peace Place can feel this beauty and comfort and come to use Peace Place’s playground, some parents and children even prefer to play in Peace Place’s environment in the afternoon.

We have noticed birds, bats, insects, and other wildlife using the trees.  Every morning we pay attention to several types of birds that come in the yard including: emprit, sparrow, turtledove, finches, prenjak, trucuk, black feathers, doves. Birds had gathered less and less because they were being hunted by people to be caught and sold and other urban developments didn’t maintain their habitats. Bats always come at night and often bring fruit so that in the morning we often have to clean up after them, especially in the hall, Joglo Preschool door terrace, and on the second floor of buildings. An insect called laron (a moth) appears at the beginning of the rainy season and is usually followed by a ballet (a swallow or sriti bird) that eats it. There is an insect that comes in the rainy season in the evenings that has a green body and clear wings and a loud voice. There are various kinds of butterflies during the early season of flowers (April to May is the transition from the rainy season to the dry season and October to November is the transition from the dry season to the rainy season) and also kinjeng (dragonfly) during the transition to the dry season. The wildlife seen includes snakes and the chicken-eating Javan mongoose. The neighbor’s chickens and cats also visit often. These stories would make very good storybooks for our children.

The children learn to recognize the different types of plants, trees and fruits and also learn to care for plants by watering them and learn to make compost by taking dry leaves, classifying waste for compost and putting it in the compost bin. Children also learn to make potting soil in polybags and use bottles filled with sowing compounds for planting seeds, especially vegetables. Children also harvest and enjoy the fruits, especially during the mango, guava, and banana seasons and the tomato harvest.

Many visitors and neighbors have noticed the difference and come to say they are happy because it feels shady, lovely, and the flowers are beautiful. Friends stop by to ask for flowers or grafting for mangoes and guavas. Some got the idea of ornamental plants to protect the house from dust during the dry season, and ask for seeds to plant at home. Some people come just to take photos.

In the process of building and design, we did not make the plan all at once, but learned from experience, adjusting according to needs and abilities. We learned from our experience and reflected more deeply on the tools in Creating Cultures of Peace. For example, in the collective agreements we affirm “The Earth is beautiful and generous. Care for each person, the group, the community, and the natural world.” We understand more how to integrate this after learning and applying the permaculture principles.

When I first got to know permaculture, I was reminded of when I was a child, because in my opinion this is almost the same as ancient farming. They did not use chemical fertilizers but used manure and compost. At that time, I did not know the function of the various types of trees and short shrubs that function to withstand the wind.  Before getting to know permaculture, I didn’t think about the placement of plantings based on the distance from the house. For example, it is better to plant vegetables near the kitchen.. 

Along the way, we got experience in changing the shape of a traditional Javanese house building by adding a vent in the middle of the roof to reduce the heat. We also learned through experience that a building without walls, with no ventilation in the center of the roof, still feels cooler than buildings with walls with or without vents in the roof.

We still feel that we have a lot to learn, especially about different plant characters and how to care for all of them. We wrestle with and seek information on these questions:

  1. How to balance the number of plants that supply food with those that support beauty.  
  2. How to apply the concept of permaculture with limited land, especially in urban areas. 
  3. How to use the method of planting in pots in the concept of permaculture.

The Earth is very generous: when we plant a plant, it produces food for humans. We need to give appreciation for our earth and care for it and keep the earth balance. Fruit trees become a witness that with love from us, the earth supports us. Without trees, we don’t get the balance or even oxygen for the needs of humans and all life. When we are able to protect nature with plants, nature can produce cool, shady, and fresh air and sufficient oxygen for life. Hot conditions cause people to be anxious, feel uncomfortable, and sometimes be violent. So with caring for the earth and maintaining balance through plants,  we can better care for and find a balance with each other, and a comfortable and peaceful atmosphere can be realized. This is what climate justice looks like. It’s a lot of work, but with the power of change we are able to protect the existing earth and ourselves to maintain peaceful, healthy lives.

 *Details on mango varieties.

Kopyor mango has coarse fiber, the sap is hard enough so that if it comes into contact with the skin it will feel itchy. If it’s not cooked yet, it will taste sour but after 3-6 days it is pretty sweet and juicy. Manalagi mango has finer fiber, and can be used to make salad. The taste is sweet, and if ripe on the tree, can be eaten immediately. Honey mango, although not yet ripe, is sweet. Mango golek is a large local mango that can weigh up to 1 kg. The Gaer mango fruit is a type of local mango which is now rarely planted by people, the fruit is not too big, the fiber is smooth, before cooking it tastes sour and when it is ripe it tastes sweet and crispy. Kiojay mango is a large variety imported from Thailand, that can reach 3 kg per fruit. The taste is sweet even when not yet ripe. This variety is very popular with fruit flies so that the fruit is easily rotten during the rainy season. Mango trees grow well at an altitude of 0-300 m above sea level. Almost all varieties of mangoes are eaten by insects. Bats, squirrels, and certain types of birds are very fond of mango and guava when ripe on the tree.