As mentioned in The Reasons, land is essential for our re-connection with nature, and building soil and restoring ecosystems are among the most important things that we need to do. We looked long and hard for land that was right for us, land that spoke to us. We found that land in early 2016. From 2016 – 2018 we observed the land and made preliminary designs.
In 2018 we built a bridge across the stream that borders the property for ease of access. In 2019 we began to plant the pioneer food forest. Adjacent to that we built our first settlement area. We call this the Rainbow Camp and food forest and it consists of a bunkhouse with 3 bedrooms & a storage room, large deck, rainwater capture system, dry compost toilet, shower, and an outdoor kitchen. The open-air kitchen has a traditional Panamanian ‘estufa de barro’ (cobb stove) and space to set up a propane-fueled gas stove. We also have a bus parked in this area – it’s waiting to be converted into a camper-bus.
There’s a small nursery beside the kitchen where we tend our saplings until they’re ready for planting. A hugelkultur bed is planned for the area beside the kitchen. The food forest is approximately 1 acre and has been planted with over 300 fruit, nut and timber trees. We also planted bananas and plantains, which are expected to start providing fruit in 2020 and manioc (yuca) which is an annual that we enjoyed in 2019 and saved seed for planting in 2020.
Here’s a bit more about Finca Ubuntu:
- 21Ha of forest and naturally eroded grasslands
- Bordered by a seasonal creek and a year-round river
- Accessible by car or by public transport and a 1km walk
- A dirt road leads to the stream, then passes through the land (public right-of-way dividing the Finca in two)
- In 2o18 we built a bridge across the stream
- No public utilities (electric, water). Should we wish to connect, there is an electric post some 400m from the property, but we want to try being off-grid
- Climate and location ideal for generating electricity with micro-hydro, wind and/or solar systems
- It’s not been inhabited in recent centuries, only periodically used to grow subsistence crops on 1Ha
- Varied topography and soil – ideal for multiple uses
- Topography with potential for capturing water, potentially natural springs on-site
- A nearly constant breeze from the north (mountains)
- Altitude between 210 and 340 feet
- Cellular phone signal in some places – still sorting out optimum spots
- 2.5 hours from Panama City to the property
- Half an hour from the town of Antón
- Impressive views
There is plenty of work to be done on the Finca. Designing & building a water catchment system for the Rainbow Camp and our next settlement area is our next priority.
Here’s a little video we took on one of our first trips to see the land: The waterfall in the following video is just a a few meters from the edge of the Finca and can be accessed by climbing down a steep hill (it’s a cell-phone video, sorry for the quality). You can also see the grassland vegetation and treetops in the video.
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An important aspect of creating a community is, of course, housing. We have that partially covered with Casa Ubuntu where we live and work together during this early stage of project development. And we expect people will continue to live here, some permanently and some temporarily throughout the life of the community. On Finca Ubuntu the Rainbow Camp allows us to better tend to the Finca, and the next settlement areas are defined.
We propose that houses and other structures built at the EcoVillage be designed and built with the highest ‘garbage’ content possible. There’s a huge amount of recyclable and reusable materials in Panama that normally end up in the landfills, alongside the roads, or tossed into rivers that run into the sea. Plastic bottles, tires, glass bottles, metal roofing materials – all can be used in construction. Old shipping containers, which are abundant in Panama, can be converted into houses, workshops, storage areas, and even swimming pools. These materials can be complemented with natural products from the surroundings. The Rainbow Camp is a good example of using old materials – the bunkhouse is an old tractor-trailer and the deck and kitchen are made of used pallets.
See more about building with ‘garbage’ in this post.