Another facet of cottage industries within the tropical context and beyond is ecotourism. Having studied this topic at University in length, I appreciate this possible income stream immensely. The key tenet of ecotourism is education. If it just involves nature, it is simply adventure tourism but not ecotourism. In this picture below was an ecotourism lodge I visited nearby by my farming assignment in 2005-06. The “lodge” was simply a “cave” or recessed rock shelter that had been developed for sleeping and dining. The operations there included nature immersion/ adventure but also an educational component was being developed with permaculture principles in action.
Permaculture sites can direct ecotourism more towards the agriculture side of things or ecology. The blend of the two essentially is Permaculture. Tree walks with posted signs and supporting documents can be one option. This can be a self guided tour or can be supported by a tour guide. Tree crops such as cinnamon or cacao can be shown and give people pure delight
to see where the raw product comes. Processing these goods can also be another feature bringing the body into resonance with tropical crops. Just sitting next to stunning waterfalls is simply not enough to make people resonate with a environmental context. Learning about the trees that make up a local ecology and the wildlife that thrives from it makes it a more holistic and learning experience. From there, people are more willing to donate money to good causes, travel lighter and eat in a more conscious way all the while supporting fair trade practices. It is our duty to give people a glimpse into environmental literacy and essentially that is what a PDC is: ecotourism.
Your developments on farm can have this plan included and from there themes emerge. A forest I visited regularly in Auroville, India combined the nursery cottage industry with an Ayurvedic Forest. Having taken a barren piece of land and reforested it with trees and herbs of all sorts, this site was a great example of ecotourism and a gene bank of enormous importance. The signs at the base of the tree highlighted species and uses and were supplemented by a resource center. To tell stories of regeneration is a great mission and as long as oil flows people will be traveling. Diverting these dollars/euros/pounds into ecological projects helps to further the missions of projects like these. Simply put, tourism is a gargantuan industry and the more we divert that flow of energy into education and regeneration, the sooner cultural reformation will occur.
Another form of cottage industry is simply to not spend money. Growth in the tropics is very abundant and when systems are set up for soil fertility and ecological balance, food production flows. Thus subsistence food production is an important facet of site development. A range of animal products, tree crops, and gardens can be incorporated into design and system management allows for continual harvest as seasons flow even in the tropics. A reliance on new foods is important from traditional northern crops like the palm fruit Pejibaye pictured below. This starchy food can replace potatoes and grows well. It is hard to harvest because of the spiky nature of the plant but growing potatoes is not easy either in the tropics. Fending off the bugs, digging, mounding and harvesting all equals work as well. This is just one example but analogously you have butter crunch lettuce vs cranberry hibiscus, or peas vs winged bean. The options are there and they do flourish when good guilds are formed and soil is protected and built ardently.
Another way to lessen expenditures and what could be an off farm sale, is aromatic and culinary herbs. The tropics boast incredible diversity in this respect and demand is both local and has export potential. For the export to occur a coop of producers is recommended to achieve the supply capacity to secure contracts. I saw exactly this in the Dominican Republic in early 2013 on my travels in between gigs. An organic ginger coop had been formed and was exporting to European food processors. This lessens the need to have large monocultures to achieve the economy of scale. This is important and was not realized in this particular project due to the lack of foresight. Splitting your fields in four and doing alley cropping or rotational farming is the best option as to deplete soil and provoke diseases and pests. Never the less, try out all the layers within food forests to obtain yields from tree crops like cardamom and cinnamon, rhizomes like ginger and turmeric, and herbaceous levels like cumin and thai basil.
Inherently in all tropical adventures fruit is sure to be one of the pure delights for us northerners. So production of fruit is part of subsistence and integrated systems but also can be a cottage industry. In the picture below, the queen of all fruits, the mangosteen is pictured. What a taste and the feeling of nourishing yourself with vitamins and minerals is obvious with this fruit. Very popular in Asia it is becoming planted more widely in the America’s. It’s a great balancer to the king of all fruits, the durian! There is so much diversity and I encourage you to try any and all on your travels and homesteads.
Tropical latitudes often are influenced climatically by altitude. below are some of the subtropical that you might see in your travels. Avocado, Feijoa, Macadamia, Tamrillo, kiwi and citrus are just a few as well as pepino dulce and White Sapote. Look towards these subtropicals as you climb up and don’t force the tropicals. These fruits were breed originally from highland tropics anyways or lowland subtropical climates. Integrate these into your designs and these can even be shipped to the lower lands on the coasts for a diversity of fruits for locals and tourists alike.
Furthermore as you move into more of the drier monsoon climates you will find other tree crops to rely on. In India in 2009, this brittle climate which has huge volumes of water pass through these dry southern lands in very short monsoon seasons, and the resulting crops reflect these. Pomegranates can be grown as well as sweet sapotes, jaggary palm, and cashews. The palm can be sliced to reveal its sweet sap that is boiled down like maple syrup to be a reliable income source. These are all tough trees and can give yields despite long intervals of no rain.