BAĦRIJA OASIS - A WORKING MODEL
Baħrija Oasis is a research and development project promoting permaculture and agroforestry systems. It integrates green technology such as solar power, aquaponics and drip irrigation with intelligent design to maximise and further its efficiency while serving the holistic cultivation of a Mediterranean food forest.
The setting is in the picturesque valley of Baħrija which hosts a number of native trees, shrubs and endemic fauna. The project is based on 3.5 acres of terraced land in the valley. Prior to the commencement of the project in 2003, the land was in a degraded state and exposed to the elements of wind and rain runoff with consequences of soil erosion.
Today the project displays a healthy and productive managed ecosystem. The prominent dry-stone wall on its West side protects it from the prevailing North-West winds and shelters its young forest trees and saplings. It also holds an underground water reservoir while keyline swales harvest rainwater and channel it around the landscape to hydrate the soils. Systematically planted shrubs and trees form corridors for microclimate conditions, attracting natural wildlife while mimicking a natural pattern.
THE PERMACULTURE CONCEPT
Permaculture is actually about healthy relationships. Nature is actually showing us a lot more than what we are accustomed to see without guidance. A permaculture teacher or guide can help us deepen our insights into nature’s wonders.
In a nutshell, permaculture can be understood as the conscious design of living landscapes for the benign integration of biodiversity, which includes human habitats.
True sustainability needs symbiotic relationships between different life forms ensuring a progression and ability to enhance life rather than degrade it. This is reflected in the diversity and resilience of nature.
Permaculture is a design science which elaborates on this philosophy to produce prolific, abundant and productive systems ensuring true sustainable development.
The focus of permaculture is to design and establish societal systems that provide for humanity’s material and non-material needs such as food, water, shelter, energy, and health in a way that is symbiotic and synergistic with the Earth’s natural balanced ecosystems.
More recently permaculture is incorporating an increasing range of fields and skills, and is being applied towards areas such as business, government, economics, group processes, social systems, self-development, and spiritual practice.
The main produce at the Oasis are high quality micro-greens. These are an assortment of herbs and leafy vegetables specially grown for their health benefits as well as for their particular tastes. Grown completely organically through a system developed in-house, the microgreens are sought after by Malta’s high-end chefs.
Aquaponics is the marriage of aquaculture (fish-rearing) and hydroponics (the cultivation of soil-less crops). At Bahrija Oasis, this design has improved the efficiency of cultivation and noticeably reduced water consumption while producing healthy, pesticide and artificial fertiliser-free crops. The aquaponics system at Bahrija Oasis won an environmental award for its design at the 2011 Malta Innovation Awards.
Bees are us. The importance of having a population of healthy bees to pollinate varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers cannot be overstated. Our apiary is carefully managed and while lots of care is given ensuring the health of our endemic bees, we also manage to produce high quality honey which embodies the nectar of flora from our cliffs and rocky garrigue.
In our gardens we research mixed crop cultivation and moisture-retention (a highly important element for dry and arid regions) through various systems. Careful attention is given to assist the soil in its bio-fauna, usually an oversight for many farmers. Through various methods the soil not only becomes richer but also increases in volume, thus improving the soil ecosystem over time. We also have designed and are researching smaller systems that can be replicated in the urban setting.
Compost is the black gold. Think of it as a capital gain! One can never have enough compost, especially on an island where soil is very limited. In an age where soil erosion is one of the biggest threats to our ecosystems, compost is nature’s own way of re-creating soil. We take compost seriously and create composting systems that enrich our living systems from the ground up.
Our system of composting toilets are also referred to as humanure toilets. These toilets require no water for flushing. While looking like regular toilets, easy to use and hygienic, they retain the waste which is turned into compost. On a larger scale such systems have the potential to save significant amounts of water and energy. Using such systems we can turn problems into solutions.
WHAT OUR GUESTS ARE SAYING
"Baħrija Oasis is a place to visit for many reasons. Peppi Gauci has managed to recreate a sanctuary, a 'holy place', where the flow of life is palpable in the air, in the soil, in the food, and the personal encounters that take place at the Oasis. Peppi managed to integrate his own life journey, and experience within a very grounded project, that of creating a permaculture farm on the semi-arid land of Baħrija. If you want to come up close and personal with the concept of resilience, the Baħrija farm is definitely the place to visit. Permaculture farming, friendship and the joy of living find expression on this side of the Maltese Islands".
"The care and love that has been poured into Baħrija Oasis by Peppi is palpable in every part of the space. It's beautiful both in design and energy. The domes, aquaponics, crops and hospitality were a powerful reminder of how abundant the world is and how I can contribute. I learnt so much about more sustainable ways of living, taking care of myself and the environment around me. Next time round I hope to stay a couple of nights resting, growing and fooling about with the adorable Zulu!"
"I have witnessed Baħrija Oasis evolving into a remarkable permaculture adveture. It is well and truly an Oasis; both an agricultural wonder and a cultivated ecosystem amidst a rocky garigue environment. The delicate balance of production and mantaining a beautiful garden have been well demonstrated by the capacity of a permaculturalist's vision. I deeply recommend this place for individuals and groups to learn and be inspired".
"It is a human experience that will surely remain engraved in your memory! Especially since Peppy, and Zulu (the dog) are really friendly and will answer all your questions about permaculture ".