Written by Doug Crouch

The humid tropics offers unique design challenges and the subsequent opportunities for forging new paradigms in areas that have suffered quite dramatically from imported cultural stamps.  Whether this is northern european growing techniques or the infusion of a new religion due to slavery, tropical latitude countries have long been exploited and are overdue for a new model of development.  The UN has acknowledged the failed role of chemical agriculture and has now said we must move forward with sustainable agriculture and cites permaculture as one of the methodologies to approach the gargantuan task of repairing social, environmental, and financial systems.

In this Chapter we will approach the topics of the challenges that people are faced at

Pau d’arco processing- Making medicine in the jungle of Costa Rica, 2006

latitudes 0-25.  Again this is due to the colonial forces at play whether it was from the west in Costa Rica or from the east in Malaysia.   We will also look at cottage industries that can be stimulated to enhance the local economy through the principle of for each important function (generating income), it should be supported by many elements. Furthermore, we will also examine the unique qualities of soil there and how to approach its rebuilding so we can create more equitable systems.  Finally housing and energy round out the topics that will be developed over time on this header known as the Humid Tropics.

We will not be covering the arid tropics, just as Bill delineated in his book as that is looked at in the context of drylands only.  This sections covers three main tropical areas all of which I have visited in my time:

  • Wet Tropics: those that get consistent rainfall nearly all year round with short intermittent times where less rain falls but don’t have dramatic dry seasons: Malaysia and Borneo are great classic examples.
  • Wet/Dry Tropics: those that have a pronounced wet and dry season, six months on and six months of are quite common.  Costa Rica in the south is very much like this in lowland altitude
  • Monsoon Tropics:  these have an even greater dispersal of rain and is concentrated even more in one or two short spurts like in Tamil Nadu, India the southwestern province that receives a tremendous amount of rainfall when it happens but long stretches of time in between.

Marilyn Kahalewai (1932–1990) ahupuaa-life-in-early-hawaii- a tropical Permaculture example Bill Mollison sites

Mollison, B. (1981) Permaculture: A Designers ManualSisters Creek, Tasmania, Australia. Tagari.


    • lots of airflow, lots of wood and if there is any thermal mass make sure you shade it well. the key is to always have air moving, keep vegetation slightly away from the house to have airflow and plant coconuts as to make the shade eventually.

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