Saturday, December 03, 2011

Self-sufficient tropical diet, rough draft

My original Self sufficient diet post didn't use an awkward enough title, so I've added "tropical" to this attempt. This also has something to do with moving to Hawaii instead of northern California, I suppose. Silliness aside, I present my latest rough sketch based partly on my temperate climate draft and on my observations since then of how much we actually eat of what; and mostly on the plantings suggested by Scott at Evening Rain Farm for a family on two acres in the lowland tropics. I've guessed at space requirements, loosely based on numbers from Scott, from Jeavons' biointensive book, and from random sources online. Mostly by accident, this version has goat milk replacing 80% of the meat included in the temperate version. (I've grown enamored with the idea of goat walking through the jungle, getting a majority of calories from their milk supplemented by hunting & foraging.)

In the table below, "Cals/day" and "Oz/day" give the number of calories and the number of ounces one person would consume on average each day. "% of diet" gives the daily caloric consumption as a percentage based on 2400 total calories per day. "Qty req" gives the total number of trees, poultry, etc required to feed 10 people 2400 calories each. "Land" gives a rough estimate of how much space would be needed to provide 10 people an annual yield sufficient for 2400 calories/day using this category as a monocrop (not integrated with other foods).
Food typeCals/day% of dietOz/dayQty req.LandNotes
Goat milk40016.5%94 full-time does + babiesIntegrated into zones 2&3, and walked through 4&52 1/2 cups milk/person/day
Goat meat351.5%14? babies per year yielding 260 lbs hanging weight?Integrated into zones 2&3, and walked through 4&5Very unsure of realities of how much goat meat we'll get as a byproduct of keeping does for milk
Eggs25010.5%650 hens + 4-8 cocksIntegrated into zones 1&23 eggs/person/day. Mostly chickens, some ducks
Poultry meat401.5%1Culling 50 hens & cocks per yearIntegrated into zones 1&2Based on hatching 50 new eggs each year to replace the 25 oldest layers and then culling 25 young cockerels. We could hatch out more eggs specifically for meat
Fruit & berries25010.5%~1611-25 trees10,000 ft²Assume 20' to 30' spacing on grid. Assume 1/3 lb/ft²
Avocado27511.5%812 trees11,000 ft²Assuming 21 lbs/100 ft² and 30' grid spacing
Coconut30012.5%5~46 trees, tall & dwarf20,000 ft²Uncertain of #s. Assuming 30 lbs per plant, on 21' spacing in square grids
Bananas1657%950 plants7,200 ft²Assume 12' spacing on grid, and 40 lbs/100 ft²
Nuts30012.5%215-30 trees11,000 ft²Spacing from 20' to 30' affects # of trees
Starchy crops30012.5%16 7,000 ft²Assume yield of 1/2 lb/ft². Start with taro, sweet potato, cassava, yam, squash; phase out once tree crops of breadfruit, malabar chestnut, etc start bearing
Greens401.5%4 1,000 ft²Assume yield of 1 lb/ft², between beds and foraging greens from other parts of the system.
Honey451.5%.52 hives?10 ft²Assume 60 lbs/honey/hive/year
Grand total2400100%4.85 lbs 67,200 ft² 
So the total land required to feed 10 people is about 1.5 acres for the plant portion of the diet in zones 1 and 2 (and maybe 3). I'm making some big assumptions here about being able to fit the chickens into zones 1 and 2 with no additional space required, and bigger assumptions about keeping goats in zones 2 & 3 with goat walking in zones 4 & 5.

I would expect to fence the chickens and goats out of about 8000 ft² of zone 1 for the greens, berries, and starchy roots.


Anonymous said...

Coconut and Jackfruit

I feel that space for coconut plants in your estimate is too much. These palm trees can be used to line internal roadways and the farm border: spacing no more than 15'from tree to tree. In Bangladesh, a mature tree of 5 years usually yields about 40 fruits per year. Its leaves can be used for thatching and the fond can be used as fuel after drying. Green coconut milk is an excellent drink, rich in K and many kinds of minerals. Laced with salt the fluid is ideal for stomach illnesses. Ripe coconut produces oil which can be used for cooking as well as bio-diesel if sufficient quantities are available. Thus it is a miracle plant that can provide almost every need of a self sufficient family. For a farm of the size that you plan for, 100 coconut trees can be planted all around perimeter and near the homestead as it takes very little space; only about 20 sft each and half of it can be 'assigned' on the outer perimeter. The landowner next door will not mind the bit of shade that the tree may cast!

So, this plan will release 20,000 sft of land that can be used to grow high yielding maize, potato and one more short time crop suitable for your environment. This crop and its residues will provide animal feed besides being consumed by the family. The surplus can be sold at a good price.

Another miracle plant is jackfruit. All its parts are used; fruit itself, the seed is starchy and can be eaten in lieu of potato, left overs are excellent cattle feed. Its leaves are good goat forage. The tree itself provides high quality hard timber. Even the saw dust is a raw material for vegetable dye and used for tanning leather.

It is a tropical tree and should grow well in Florida or Hawaii as I know mango plants thrive there. Where the mango grows, jackfruit and coconut grow as well!

Best of luck!

M. Rahman

Anonymous said...

If you are not already aware of it, you will be happy to learn about the nutritional benefits of Moringa oleifara, which will thrive in Hawaii. I lived on a Big Island farm that was also a test garden for crops that would benefit pacific islanders with nutritional deficiencies due to poor growing conditions (not a problem in Puna). This plant is an amazing and beautiful resource for food, medicine, fuel, and even water purification: (

Also a good resource you might find useful is Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Island at

As a permaculture/paleo enthusiast who has lived in and explored several different climate zones on the island over several years while working there as a botanist/restoration ecologist, I am very interested in your project as I intend to do something similar. Conveniently, I am currently staying very close to your home in NE Portland several days each week, and I would love to visit and perhaps share some insights.

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like: