Climate change, wet season lessons
Finally the wet season is abating. We still get rain but light rain, not the biblical scale downpours we’ve experienced for the last 10 weeks. Our field school is in development but, our food production has been seriously compromised by the force of the weather conditions here in Mablad. Philippines. In retrospect I’ve worked out what we should have done, based on our experience this season. The climate is changed here so crop damage is up and food production is down, not to mention some farmland that will never recover from the loss of topsoil and erosion. Any land on our river banks is vulnerable righ now to the destructive force of the raging rivers that eat away the banks after a storm. This is probably going to get worse before it gets better my gut tells me. These are my new methods for next wet season:
- Plant annual crops before the wet season hits so the plants are mature and can withstand the rains.
- Don’t open the soil or dig during the wet season, you will lose the soils through erosion.
- Establish ground covers before the wet season to protect all bare soils, especially sloping ground.
- Lime the soils well before the wet season, as the rains appear to be acid, based on my testing here.
- Use ducks to control the snail population, which proliferates during this season.
- Build a strong green house so you can farm vegetables in all weather. Make sure you design a structure that can withstand wind, or you can remove the skin before a typhoon.
- Establish buffer zones and windbreaks in the dry season. Sugar cane and bana-grass are a good start.
- Prepare enough organic fertilizers to last the wet season. Manures are obliterated in the rains. Store fertilizers out of the rain and be careful not to let them get eaten by ants.
- Heavily mulch open soils and sew ground covers if possible.
- Ensure drainage is open and adequate.
- Prepare dry accommodation for animals
- Make sure all poultry have a shelter from the heavy rains. Chickens must have dry feet if they are to avoid disease.
- For humans treat all cuts, bites and scratches immediately to avoid infections.
- Always have candles and flashlights ready as we experienced blackouts every second day.
- Store a surplus of food items as the roads can be cut or the bridges washed out restricting travel for weeks.
- Gumboots are a good idea!
- Root crops and water loving plants like kang kong and taro are the best food crops in the wet. Sweet potato leaves are a great spinach replacement.
- Forget direct seeding, as you will waste your seed. The rain pulps young seedlings. Small shade cloth tunnels are one way of growing vegetables in the rain.
- Raised beds with flat tops are essential for any type of vegetable production. Make sure they are mulched.
- Riverbanks need immediate remediation using gabion systems to counter the destructive fast flows.
I aim to construct a large enough green house before next years wet season so we can produce our home vegetables in all weather. I’m thinking of making the green house elliptical like the hull of a boat to counter any strong winds. Eyewitnesses tell me these mega-storms produce many small tornadoes that suck the roves off buildings. To counter this we must make the skins of our greenhouses demountable so we can strip them off quickly in the event of a typhoon. We may lose the crop but we can recover the roof immediately after the storm and replant.
Typhoon resistant housing is another consideration. Building super strong steel and concrete structures is one way of countering a typhoon but what if you are poor and haven’t the funds or resources to build this type of house?
We have one experimental house here at Green Warrior. Ruby Wells, one of our volunteer staff has financed and project managed this innovative structure. Using local bamboo, palm roofing and other locally found materials we have come up with a stronger version of the “native hut”. Its features include:
- Bamboo frame with many triangulated braces.
- Bamboo pegs and heavy nylon lashing for the joints.
- Curved elliptical shape to deflect high wind.
- 45 degree roof angle for palm thatching
- All walls are bamboo skin weave ply rendered (plastered) with a mix of 1 part cement, 2 part lime, 2 part sand, 2 part clay and 4 parts rice husk. Both inside and outside are rendered giving it the look of an earth building but having a thin wall to dump heat at night. These walls are strong as well as curved to withstand high winds.
- The floor is a mixture of 1 part cement, 2 parts clay, 2 parts sand and 1 part lime. There is no need for steel in the floor or footings with this mix. Walking on this floor once its finished is much more pleasant than bare concrete. A coating of 1 part cement and 2 parts lime is applied after the floor has dried.
In a worst-case scenario the high winds might strip off the palm thatching but the walls and frame will take the punishment. Deflecting the wind by changing the shape of the building is a smart move in this climate, especially if the events we are seeing are going to increase in intensity.
Much thanks to Ruby Wells for her efforts and kind donation to get this project into reality. The next structure we build will be even stronger because of what we learnt during this construction.
Our current project is the first compost toilet in Antique. Using locally made hollow blocks we are building a double unit composting toilet. Stay tuned for that report. I might call it the crap report!