Update voedselbos Sawinggrai

In de zomerperiode gaat het werk in Sawinggrai onverkort door. We hebben vanuit het dorp een prachtige rapportage (in het Engels) ontvangen, die we graag tussentijds delen.

We hebben op dagbasis contact met het lokale projectteam en de begeleiders: Reville Saw (die opereert van Australië), Jonas Muller die in het dorp de begeleiding doet en de lokale contactpersoon de heer ‘pak’ Rudisman.

We laten u graag zien wat er allemaal aan werk is verzet de afgelopen periode.

The current focus is really heavily on fruit species and tree crops because ultimately these offer long term food security even in the face of climatic variability. Once a perennial plant is established it can ride through periods of irregular weather and is more likely to produce a crop each year, but it also takes time and the most expense and effort to establish. Without the generous donation for this project it is unlikely that there would ever be enough planting stocks making it to the island to succeed in establishing a viable orchard like we have now.

Organic matter

It is vital that the organic matter content in the gardens continues to rise. The soil in Sawinggrai is very thin and like many tropical soils it rapidly becomes infertile once vegetation is removed. We are already seeing very encouraging changes in the second season of growth. Previously, from 2020 until early 2021 we saw a great deal of insect attack and micronutrient deficiencies in the first plants. That has now abated and we are seeing the impacts of increased soil life due to greatly increased organic matter deposition.


The grasses are foundational to the gardens sustainability. The C4 grasses are the most efficient converters of Sunlight into organic matter as so we use 3 selected grasses to feed the fruit trees and vegetable beds

  • Vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanoides) till now has been the major mulch provider for sunny areas
  • Odot odot, a dwarf napier grass is the primary species and we have multiplied numbers from 1 kilo of cuttings up to 140 plants, and by August we will reach 360 plants
  • Mombassa grass will become more important as shade increases, the seeds have been planted and we are raising the planting stocks

A major incentive for the increase in grass stocks is that once there is enough (500m2) of grasses then we can build a goat pen that will generate manures for sustainable vegetable and fruit productions.

The function of the grass beds is to generate copious amounts of organic matter to cover the soil and generate compost on site. The 500m2 of grass plantings will allow Sustainable fruit and vegetable production. 

Acacia and other legumes

We have brought in seeds of Acacia, Calliandra and Paraserianthes to serve as Nitrogen fixing trees in the gardens. These fast growing trees are being placed in the treelines between the fruit trees to grow and provide cover until the fruits begin bearing, after which these support trees are cut and used as mulch.

Sunn hemp (Crotalaria) is an annual plant that we are using to support the fruit trees. It is an efficient Nitrogen fixing plants and also adds organic matter, and it has an inhibitory effect of soil pathogens.

Ubi ganyong (Canna) is a plant whose roots can be eaten, but is also a very useful plant for growing mulch in the garden. Like Banana it gives a very juicy mulch which holds water and maintains humidity in the soil during dry periods. We started with 3 Rhizomes im March and now they have grown up and soon can be divided again.



We obtained 150 cuttings of Red fleshed dragonfruit cactus from Sorong and these were all planted in the gardens. Their growth has been excellent in the last few months and we expect them to produce fruit within 12 months at this rate

We also ordered some extra cultivars such as the yellow and purple fruiting strains for future diversification

Fruit trees

First we purchased Fruit trees locally to support local business and obtain what we could before searching further. We bought some grafted Mango and Citrus that will bear in 2 more years. We also purchased 60 Bananas which are in place to provide fruits, but also lots of organic matter for the gardens and vegetable. The Banana will be the single most important factor in successful vegetable production in the next phase of the gardens.

In May we ordered a test batch of fruit trees from Western Indonesia which arrived by Cargo. These were Durian, Abiu and Jaboticaba. These slightly sensitive species were a test to see how well the transport network can deliver. We will next proceed to order the remainder of the fruit trees by mid July. The Survival of the trees has been 100% and they have all put on good growth.

  • Mango 10
  • Citrus 8
  • Red Longan 1
  • Bananas 60
  • Durian 3
  • Abiu 2
  • Jaboticaba 4

Sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis) is a Peruvian nut that has the highest Omega 3 fatty acids of any land plant and forms an edible nut on long lived plants, and begins bearing within 1 year. The high protein and high fat nut is roasted and eaten. They command a good price in the international market and the idea is first to provide a nutritional base to the people in Sawinggrai, but then to see if they might be a suitable souvenir for visitors to take home.

Root crops

We are trying to continue to build the diversity of root crops in Sawinggrai as a buffer against hunger. Sweet potato, Cassava and some Cocoyam are already present so we are sending a few more hardy rootcrops to grow on the edge of the garden. These provide a ready source of food in the event of further disruption to supply chains. Starchy plants offer the greatest reserve of energy that can be harvested as needed.

  • Yam (Dioscorea sp)
  • African potato (Solenostemon sp)
  • Ubi ganyong (Canna edulis)


We have purchased some extra vegetable seed to trial and to be ready to plant once the compost is ready. Our highest priorities are raising the amount of Chilli and Tomato in production and we have seed at hand to start this once we have sufficient compost ready.

What next?

Completion of ordering and installing the fruit trees for the project, as we believe these will have the single greatest impact on the volume and quality of food produced and will underpin the economic viability of the garden. Each tree has the capacity to produce 25 to 50 kg of fruit per year and the prices for fruit are higher than most vegetables.

Another simple example we now have over 100 Banana plants in the garden and each can produce a bunch of bananas weighing approx. 20 kg. This High carbohydrate food is widely consumed and this adds around a tonne of actual food to the Village.

Next is the increase in production of vegetables, to which the Bananas also play a role. The pruning of the Bananas will add approximately 4 tonnes of biomass for mulch after harvest. Also the 500m2 of grass has the potential to yield 2.5 tonnes of fresh mulch.

The next phase will complete the installation of fruit trees including new Mango and Longan varieties which can support a local market, as well as a selection of fruit trees for trial and local consumption. Short lived species like Papaya and Passionfruit are already in preparation.
We will purchase a small chainsaw to support pruning of garden vegetation and trimming for wood mulch, a mechanized grasscutter for the trimming of grass for mulch. and build a raised platform house for Goats so that they can stay high and dry. We will build some composting bays that will help generate a finer compost specifically for vegetable seedlings.

After the trees are installed, the adequate amount of grass planted and the Goat house built, then we will bring in 3 to 4 goats. Once the goats are starting to eat the biomass we produce they will convert it to 300-400g of manure per day. The mulch and tree prunings will be shredded and then composted, preferably with worms, to produce a fine compost. Approximately 1 kg of compost is needed per m2, which can then support vegetable production expansion of approx. 30m2 per month.

The second half of the year will focus more on vegetables, animals, the business plan and the construction of Toilets and wastewater infrastructure.

Facebook updates vanuit Sawinggrai

Reville Saw post regelmatige updates over de tests die in samenwerking met de lokale bevolking in de voorbereiding van het voedselbosproject in Sawinggrai worden uitgevoerd.

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