the coconut alternative
Diploma project under the guidance of Guillaume Foissac
In partnership with the association Friendship Bangladesh
Anchored in the coastal area of Bangladesh, this project proposes
a solution to soil salinization. This phenomenon occurs mainly at shorelines and refers to a salt concentration of more than 2% in the topsoil of the ground, a figure beyond which it is almost impossible to grow the usual species. Several causes are attributed to this phenomenon, including the upwelling process of saltwater
in freshwater bodies due to rising sea levels.
Today, desalination methods are expensive and short term, requiring great resources for a result which is only temporary. In addition, the introduction of new halophilic (salt-resistant) seeds is not always possible for health reasons.
This project investigates the halophilic properties of the coconut tree
and intends to redesign a biodynamic and social ecosystem that supports agriculture above ground. The idea is to encourage Bangladeshi farmers who grow vegetables to dedicate part of their parcel to a coconut plantation. The coconut trees' leaves would be used to weave culture bags. The outer part of the coconuts, the mesocarp, would be used as a substrate, support for the development of vegetables. Known for its antiseptic properties, coconut fiber is an excellent substrate. It would be placed in the culture bags. Farmers could then grow the same vegetables in these bags as they did before but above ground, and this with a basic investment that would consist of a simple coconut. The inner part of the nuts, the coprah, would be sold, providing part of the financial security of families.
Finally, wood would be used as a raw material.
Photo credits : Véronique Huygue
Guillemette de Brabant
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Surrounded by gardeners, agronomists and locals, I evaluate the possibilities by calculating volumes and temporalities.
Selling the coprah produced by two to three coconut trees could be enough to pay the annual rent of a small parcel. In addition, the more salty the land is, the cheaper it is. Unlike most above-ground farming systems, the basic investment is zero since it consists of a simple coconut.
The growing bag must fulfill two functions: its base must be tight enough not to allow salts present in the soil to rise into the substrate by capillary action, while the sides must allow enough holes to transplant vegetables over the entire surface of the basket, increasing its capacity. It should be about 45cm in diameter and its height should vary according to the length of the leaves, knowing that the higher it is, the less water will reach the bottom. A central stone column that extends over the entire height of the bag allows irrigation water to flow properly to the bottom.
Some species, such as radishes, spinach, carrots, aromatic herbs, can be planted over the entire surface of the bag, while those that require more space (e.g. tomatoes, eggplants or courgettes) will be planted on the upper surface. The weft formed by the braiding can be used as an indicator to know where to transplant your seedlings, depending on each species.
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