It took us long days and many miles to arrive in Brasilia, the modern capital of Brazil. From Brasilia, there were yet 50 more kilometres to travel. This time, we were visiting a community in the middle of the Cerrado’s* heart called Ananda Vasundhara. The community belongs to a social, economic and spiritual movement named Ananda Marga** founded in India, in the decade of the 1950’s.
As part of this movement, the community adopted a socioeconomic model called PROUT, acronym for Progressive Utilization Theory. PROUT is an alternative to the capitalist and communist systems with its theory based on five essential concepts brought to the reach of all: food, with the local production of fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains; clothes, with also the local production of fibres and fabrics; education, with alternative schooling methods; health care, with alternative healing centres; and housing, with bio-construction.
At the time we visited them, the community was on its embryonic stage planning where each of these elements was going to be located on their newly attained terrain: the veggie garden, the stock yard, the school, the health centre, the houses…
During our stay we had the opportunity to put into practice one of the permaculture design systems we had seen and learned about at the eco-village Piracanga: we installed a treatment process for the waste grey water using banana palms.
The design method is called “banana ring” and in order to build the system, we dug a hole with a volume of one cubic metre. In the middle of this hole, we interlaced branches across the circumference in different directions and deposited organic matter such as dry leaves, food scraps and fruit skins. On top of that, we added layers of banana leaves to prevent wild animals from messing around, and on the boarders, we planted banana root base.
Besides being a good alternative for the production of bananas on a human scale, the system works as a perfect relationship between the elements. In other words, thanks to the flow of the water coming from the sink, the washing tub sink and the shower, the humidity accumulated in the hole helps the bananas to grow – even the phosphate found in the soap gives great nutrients to the plants. Also, the organic matter deposited in the hole works as a natural fertilizer.
The banana ring has yet another advantage: within few months, the same organic matter accumulated in the hole will be composted and, therefore, could and should be used in the veggie garden.
Our adventures in search of an intentionally sustainable future continued through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia… In the near future we will be posting more of our exploration into the sustainable communities in South America.
* The Cerrado is an extensive tropical savanna ecoregion with beautiful waterfalls, high concentration of quartz crystals, colorful birds… and hosts 33% of Brazil’s biodiversity. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, it is biologically the richest savanna in the world.
** The mission of Ananda Marga is self-realization (individual emancipation) and service to humanity (collective welfare): the fulfillment of the physical, mental and spiritual needs of all people. (http://www.anandamarga.org/about-us.htm)