Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community

The Banana Circle: Practising Farming in Harmony With The Cycle of Life

Posted On: July 16, 2020

A banana circle is a traditional farming method whereby bananas are planted in a circular mound of soil with a mulch-filled pit in the middle, with additional bananas planted around the boundaries of the mound. The pit is continually heaped with compost from dead leaves, branches and grass cuttings. This mix collects and stores water from rain, runoff, or grey water from household use to keep the thirsty bananas well-nourished and watered.

The POETCom Team learned more about banana circles on an early June visit to the garden of Theresa “Tess” Miller. Nestled within coral coast Sigatoka, Fiji, Tess’ garden is a thriving home-based operation that she reared from the ground up. The land, previously assumed to be unproductive and left idle for several years, was taken up by Tess eleven years ago and tended with a permaculture approach. The most basic definition of permaculture is farming with a holistic view and in harmony with nature.

Tess’s passion for the banana circle is part of her permaculture practice. “I’ve always likened this concept to life in general, humanity being the bananas and waste materials being challenges,” she said. “These challenges fuel our growth as we stand together, holding and supporting each other like the banana circle.”

Banana circles work so well because water and nutrients are concentrated where the plants need it most, close to their roots. Bananas are excessive feeders and will thrive off the abundant cycling of organic material as well as the moisture inherent in banana circle design. This makes life easier for the farmer in that natural waste can be thrown into the banana circle, as opposed to burning, which is against permaculture and organic concepts. Bananas grow best in clumps as the stalks protect others from strong winds and temperature extremes. The bananas can also be inter-planted with papayas and cover crops such as watermelon, taro, pumpkin and sweet potato. Comfrey and other green manure crops can also be inter-planted and chopped into the mound.

In addition to her permaculture garden, Tess also introduced the POETCom team to her Bokashi bucket compost system. Unlike other composting methods, Bokashi composting allows one to compost all of their food waste. Cooked foods, dairy, meat, vegetables, bones and fruits can all go in the bokashi composter – or in Tess’s case, an empty biscuit bucket with a tap fed in at its bottom. The bucket’s liquid is extracted from the tap at the bottom and Tess dilutes it with water using a 1:1000 ratio to spray her garden plants once a week.

Tess’ dedication to the banana circle extended to the whole of her garden. The team witnessed a healthy scattering of plants, from fruit trees to vegetables, herbs and spices, local root crops and hardwoods, in addition to a handful of free-range chickens. Her obvious love for nature showed in her keen observation of natural processes and recreating them in her garden. Though Tess is not currently affiliated with POETCom, her organic farming practices and devotion to working in harmony with nature are two key principles of POETCom’s vision. We look forward to following her continuing progress in the years ahead.


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