Parque Bambú

A Permaculture Farmstay in Ecuador
Piet Sabbe and his daughters Naomi and Maykin

About us (Parque Bambú)

Parque Bambú is a family-run private reserve, managed by myself, Piet Sabbe, my daughters Naomi and Maykin, and local assistants. 
We are on the western slopes of the Andes, between Ibarra and San Lorenzo, in a pleasant subtropical climate. 

The property used to be covered with arid shrubs, the result of years of overgrazing, bad agricultural practices and fires. With the help of many volunteers and a lot of tree planting, the area has been converted into a lush forest, teeming with life. A variety of giant bamboo species are part of this restored landscape.

You are welcome to collaborate in the ongoing endeavor of restoring broken landscapes, using Permaculture methods. Or simply visit and enjoy the fruit of our labors. 

Logo Bospas | Fruit Forest Farm & Lodge | Bosque de Paz

In October 2nd 1995, I planted the first tree. No one had dared to commit such a “rebellious act” in the previous 60 years, because the laws that regulated the land reform in the 1960´s required that all trees had to be cut down and replaced by crops in order to obtain the legal land titles.

As a result of this near-sighted regulation the whole area had been deforested. Once covered with lush humid rainforest the hills are now barren, scarcely covered with stubbly grass. Till today local farmers hate trees – you can´t blame them. To make things worse, farmers set fire to the hills every year.

As a young man, I travelled in the 1970´s to Israel, attracted by the slogan “We make the desert bloom” and hoped to take part in a heartwarming solidarity process to green the Negev wasteland. What I did find was a fraud; the Israelis are systematically harassing the Palestinians and robbing their land.

Their disgust towards the Arabs is built into their educational system, considering them as sub-humans, to the point that this profound brainwashing makes them blind for the cruel repression that their leaders and military impose on the Palestinians. The situation is reminiscent of what happened to their Jewish ancestors in the years of war in Germany. Exit Israel.

Lodges Cafeteria | Parque Bambú
Students | Farmstay | Bamboo Parc

Years later I came to Ecuador to work as technical assistant in a Quichua bus coop. From the first day my interest was in the rugged but beautiful landscape of the Andes. Sadly, as result of the fast growing population and the tendency to “develop” even the remotest places in the country, pristine landscapes are destroyed, without any consideration of their intrinsic value or the environmental service they may provide for future generations. This time I was not confronted with a desert but with a landscape that needed help, focusing on a tiny little bit of landscape: my property.

In two decades I managed to convert my 15 ha wasteland at the edge of the village of El Limonal into an oasis of green, containing many different species of trees, vines, bamboo and plots of cropland.

I offered my daughters an education connected with the land, an open space full of life, challenges and discoveries. But my wife didn´t appreciate all this. She had developed an absolute disdain for the frugal simple rural lifestyle. She dreamed of cable TV with flat screen, design furniture on a shiny tiled floor and the whole array of electro-gadgets that a wealthy family is supposed to possess.
She divorced and took the daughters to the capital, where education is supposed to be much more decent.
My passion to take care of the earth had grown much stronger, and with the need of change and transition in mind, I am convinced that my daughters – and so many other young people who left the land for similar and other reasons – will return and will have to learn to live off the land again.

As a child I grew up in a densely populated part of Europe, in a quiet middle class town, at the time of the consumer boom in the fifties.

Cycling the countryside, I saw beautiful landscapes converted into landfills, highways, supermarkets and industrial parks.

The creeks where I used to fish stickleback with my brothers gradually got filled with motor oil, stinky matrasses and broken refrigerators.

This was wrong and I felt that it had to be corrected, but how? I volunteered with organizations that protect the few natural areas that still existed in this dense web of concrete.

Student and Piet
Maykin showing the region
Grinding coffee beans from the farm
Maykin, Naomi and Piet

My sleepy town got “modern” with the appearance of the first fashion shops, noisy entertainment events and trendy plastic shopping bags.

In a couple of years’ time, all my friends knew more logos of cars and sound systems than the names of trees and plants that used to grow around the town.

And this was just the beginning of our abundance and our alienation.

About us” is about me and about all those people who have passed through Parque Bambú, as friends, visitors, apprentices, volunteers, researchers and tourists. And most of all, my local assistants who are hard working people. And hopefully one day my daughters.

I invite you to become part of “about us” by planting some trees, by harvesting manioc and mango or by putting your skills and initiative at work in Parque Bambú and the surrounding hills.

Biodiversity

Regenerative Agriculture
The fruits of the farm

The relentless attack on the natural environment, due to the increasing population and an obsessive economic growth, has led to an alarming loss of biodiversity and habitats worldwide. It is a downward spiral, well documented by the scientific community. 

Half of the world population lives in urban areas and is not directly confronted with diversity loss. But farmers, fishermen, nomads and indigenous tribes are directly hurt by biodiversity loss, though they may not recognize it as such.

We in Parque Bambú believe that the future of humanity is rural. Whether we want it or not, we will have to live with much less, be more frugal, give priority to local nature-based solutions and proactively restore biodiversity. Most farmers in Ecuador don´t value biodiversity as an asset for their farm. To them it is an empty word used by ´ecologists from town´. This negative attitude results from a lack of information and a decades-long gradual shift from traditional natural agriculture to an industrial type of farming which was – and still is – imposed by the Green Revolution. 

Biodiversity

In the Bamboo Park (Parque Bambú)

I assisted in numerous community meetings with local authorities and NGOs. When farmers are asked about their needs, the answer is invariably a request for financial means and technical assistance, the latter meaning chemical fertilizer and herbicides.

There is never a request to prevent the catastrophic fires during the dry season, nor the establishment of a program to protect the water sources. Nor a project to stop the deterioration of the soil due to erosion. When I ask about the aspirations of their children, they proudly answer that the son works in town as a security guard, or that the daughter manages a cosmetic shop in the capital. In other words, stepping in their parent’s lifelong activity of working the land is never an option.  

The outlook for the River Mira Valley, where Parque Bambú is located, is rather grim; the deforestation, the gigantic fires, the ensuing erosion and drought are gradually converting the landscape into a semi-desert. Access to water is not a problem yet, but that can change abruptly. Habitats for many species are shrinking drastically and even disappearing.

For example: the apparently insignificant millipede (Diplopoda julidae) plays an important role in the fragmentation of vegetative litter. They were my best companions in making compost. Now, they are gone. The lizard (Pholidobolus montium), gone. A very common beetle (Phylliplaga spp), that appeared en masse at the beginning of the rainy season, gone. And the list goes on. No one notices because these little creatures have no relevance to humans´ daily routine, or so it seems. 

Since 1995, with the help of volunteers and paid workers, we have been planting trees, against all odds, thousands of trees and vines, and palm trees and bamboos. While we are giving good use to the abundance of weeds to make compost and enriching the soil with microorganisms, neighbors spray glyphosate and burn the stubble after the harvest. 

Now, after three decades, we have an established 15 hectares’ secondary forest, teeming with life.  

Bringing back diversity to such a small property is like spitting in the ocean of destruction, but it is the only way forward. From now on what must grow in this world is biomass and biodiversity, not the expansion economy, nor industrialization.

Parque Bambú stands out as an island of greenery amidst the surrounding barren hills. Also, our reserve is a sanctuary for small mammals who fled the fires: squirrels, cusumbís, weasels, armadillos, porcupines and agoutis are regularly spotted. The bird count increased from 12 species in 1995 to 78 species today.

We planted hundreds of tree species, focusing on nitrogen fixing trees, and 14 species of giant bamboos. We aim to increase the number of bamboo species in the next few years and open a Bamboo Botanical Garden for the public. Any support in establishing this garden is welcome.

Researchers, scientists and students are invited to study the many aspects of Ecological Succession and Restoration in Parque Bambú.

Contact us for details about your research proposal or visit. We have accommodation and cooking facilities at your disposal.

Bamboo

under our feet… to regenerate the soil

Any project, business or corporation has to base its activities on four legs, like a chair is sitting on four legs:

1. Be Productive

2. Be Economically Lucrative

3. Be Ecologically Reponsible

4. Be Socially Just

BAMBOO

COME AND VISIT

There are 1600 species of bamboo in the world, of which 90 are considered to be giant bamboos, referring to the diameter (10 cm or more) and the height (15 meters or more). In Ecuador two species are generally known: Caña Guadua (Guadua angustifola) and the yellow bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris – originally from China).

But there are many more species with their own characteristics and applications. In the Guadua genus, which is native to tropical and subtropical areas from Mexico to Argentina, there are 15 species. And during the last three decades many species of different genus have been brought in from Asian countries. Nowadays, about 85 different species are present in Ecuador, of which some have developed in large plantations, with the aim offering an alternative to the timber industry. One example is the giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper), one of the biggest bamboos in the world.

Bamboo is not only one of the plants with the highest CO2 absorption capacity; it also offers an excellent building material that is environmentally friendly. While the cutting of a tree is a final act – the tree is gone – bamboo can be harvested continuously as only one to four culms are taken out of a big stand of 20 to 25 culms. In other words, harvesting bamboo culms doesn´t kill the plant. New growth comes out of the massive root system.

One of the reasons for our interest and passion for bamboo is that it is a key part of biodiverse ecosystems. Bamboo’s extensive root system binds the soil and raises the water table, it also reduces the risk of landslides, protects the soil from erosion, recycles nutrients, houses local flora and fauna, and is an important part of anti-desertification projects around the world.

Bamboo fits perfectly in our efforts to enhance biodiversity and resilience against climate change in our reserve and in the region.

In Parque Bambú, along the Guallupe creek, we display 16 different species of giant bamboo, focusing on those types of bamboo that are most suitable for construction and furniture making. A path brings you through the reserve on a guided tour. An explanation about origin, growth and specific characteristics is provided for each species.

Our aim is to increase the number of bamboo species in the next few years and open a Bamboo Botanical Garden for the public. Any support – technically, financially or with research – in establishing this garden is welcome.

Technical details

Bamboo for sale

Bamboo species can be divided into two groups: sympodial (clumping) and monopodial (running) species. Sympodial species grow from the soil in a slowly expanding clump, while monopodial species send underground rhizomes to produce shoots several meters, often at a long distance, from the original mother plant.

Clumping Running

We sell both bamboo culms and bamboo plants. We don’t ship; both culms and plants have to be retrieved at the gate of the property.

PLANTS

CULMS

REPRODUCTION

We have small amounts of plants available in stock. For large quantities we ask for a deposit and a two-month nursery period to guarantee delivery of good quality plants.

We cut bamboo culms according to the phase of the moon, i.e. in the fourth quarter, and at a length of 6 meters.

Of the 16 different species of bamboo present on the property, we reproduce the following bamboos, which are excellent as building material and/or for small structures:

Specie
Dendrocalamus asper
Guadua angustifolia
Bambusa tulda
Dendrocalamus oldhamii
Phyllostachys aurea
Phyllostachys bambusoides
Common name
Giant bamboo
Caña guadua
Indian spineless bamboo
Taiwan timber bamboo
Fish pole bamboo or Golden bamboo
Madake, weavers bamboo
Diameter in cm
10 - 12 cm
8- 11 cm
5-8 cm
5-10 cm
2-3 cm
8-10 cm
use
construction
construction
Furniture, small construction
Furniture, small construction
Wall and ceiling covering
Easy to split for basket weaving

REFERENCES

Please contact us for more details about the purchase of one of these bamboo species.
We recommend consulting the following sources of information about bamboo:

• Displays a list of bamboo species of interest for builders and architects: www.guaduabamboo.com

• The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR), with an office in Quito: www.inbar.int The website displays a series of excellent short educational videos about growing, processing and commercializing bamboo.

• An excellent overview of the many applications of bamboo in architecture and construction can be found in the work of Alba Fernández Sánchez, Estudio del bambú y su uso en la construcción. Caracterización mecánica. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2022. [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/75423] available in PDF

• La Mesa Sectorial del Bambú seeks to transform the latent potential of bamboo into a high-impact, sustainable and equitable industry in Ecuador: www.bambu.com.ec

• A list of Bamboo species: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bamboo_species

 

Your visit

If you decide to visit Parque Bambu, please give us notice in advance.

Learning

Since the 1970s the attack on the natural environment has been relentless, as a result of the exponential growth of the economy. The invasion of pristine landscapes, and the huge amount of gases and toxins released by industrial activity, has destroyed vital ecosystems.

Only during recent decades have communities and individuals felt the need to assist nature in reestablishing habitats. Sadly, most people don´t care about nature, either because it is not part of their daily life or because they feel it is too hopeless a battle to commit to.
But some feel there is a direct connection between their well-being – as an individual, as a community, as a region – and the health of nature. We in Parque Bambú are among those.

Although we realize that we will never be able to restore the forests, the fauna, the water bodies, etc. to the state they were in the 1960s, we have set ourselves a goal to convert the deteriorated landscape into a vibrant food-producing forest. We find plants and inspiration in the remnants of the original cloud forest high up in the hills, and we combine this with what we have learned in the vegetable gardens of the Indian Kichwa women in the villages at the foot of the Imbabura mountain.

We see the nature of cause and effect as we work on the Parque Bambú property. For example, we introduce a species of bromeliad, which results in a hummingbird becoming a regular guest, feeding on the nectar of the bromeliad flower. We plant a vine called Sacha Inchi that produces an edible nut, next we see squirrels rushing over the branches. Instead of burning the stubble of the harvest, the branches and the old trunks – as local farmers do – we pile them up. One year later, under this pile, we collect the finest black soil, rich in fungi, bacteria and micro-organisms. We learn firsthand that our conservation actions on the land have positive consequences.

Learning comes in many different ways. Unfortunately, we have learned a lot by trial and error and accidental success, because there isn´t much expertise about Ecological Restoration in the area where Parque Bambú is located.

We have learned which trees and bamboos are most suitable to plant in harsh conditions. One may read about a successful project in the south of the country and be tempted to copy it. But it turns out that the rain pattern, the ground structure and the slope gradients are so different that simply copying is a recipe for failure.

However, there are basic principles – we call them Permaculture principles – that are applicable in all circumstances, such as erosion control, regenerating soil by optimizing micro-organisms, adding organic matter (a lot), planting fast-growing and/or nitrogen-fixing trees and creating shade.

At Parque Bambú we teach these general guidelines and practices in the following matter:

– A guided tour through the property
– A conference (45 minutes) about Ecological Restoration and subsequently a guided tour through the property
– A one-day course about making compost and catching micro-organisms.
– A one-day course about those aspects of Permaculture in your area of interest.
– A several-day workshop about Permaculture and Ecological Restoration

We encourage people to come in groups of 3 to 6 people in order to share the costs of the visit/course. Please contact us in order to establish your program and the corresponding cost.

Also, we invite students to organize their practice in Parque Bambú or to propose a subject of research related to Ecological Succession, Ecological Restoration, Soil Regeneration, and/or Erosion Control.
Contact us and let us know your subject of interest.

In case of a several-day course or workshop, we have accommodation available for 10 people in two large rooms with bathroom.

At Parque Bambú we have a long history of producing and promoting the Vetiver Grass System (VGS), which is an essential part of the Permaculture practice. For details, see our sister website:
www.vetiver.bospas.org

A group of Belgian volunteers from the organization Bouworde in action in Parque Bambú
A group of students in front of the giant bamboo Dendrocalamus asper in Parque Bambú
Piet Sabbe giving a lecture about Permaculture
Vetiver for erosion control and soil conservation
Consultancy about Vetiver
Conducting water from the river into the property
Guadua angustifolia, a giant bamboo, excellent for construction
En Parque Bambú, making compost is a permanent activity
An abundance of bananas in Parque Bambú
Dendrocalamus asper in Parque Bambú. Bamboo Ecuador
Bamboo Ecuador – Parque Bambú – Bambusa tulda
Vetiver, a farmer's friend

Assistance

Assistance

We have a passion for trees. Well, not just trees, also bamboos, vines, palm trees, bromeliads, fungi, bacteria, microorganisms and anything that grows, climbs, greens, flowers and fruits, above and under the ground.

With several decades of experience in Ecological Restoration & Soil Regeneration, we can assist you in designing your property in order to be productive and in accordance with Permaculture principles.
In Ecuador, any restoration activity on sloping land starts with a design that includes the function of the water flow. In other words, the run-off of rainwater must be reduced to a minimum to keep the soil humid. The first step in the process is to set out contour lines on the slope, which will act as guidelines for planting vegetation to reduce erosion.

Next comes the choice of the type of vegetative barrier to be planted along the contour lines. In subtropical and tropical regions, we prefer planting hedgerows of vetiver grass. The reason for this choice is explained in our sister website: www.vetiver.bospas.org

The following step is to define what will be planted in between the contour lines, according to the priorities of the farmer: crops or trees and shrubs.
We recommend that one third of any property should be covered with trees, because soils are fertile and productive mainly thanks to the interaction with trees. Trees, and dense vegetation in general, retain humidity and are a source of litter and fertile soil, creating a habitat for all kinds of macro- and micro-lifeforms. The planting can be done in the form of a forest or along the boundaries of your property.

 

Massive tree planting vs. Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR)

In temperate climates in the northern and southern hemispheres, forests consist of one or a few tree species, for example, oak trees in the Białowieża Forest of Poland, or Douglas firs in the western USA, or the larch forests of China. On the other hand, tropical forests are characterized by a great number of different species, with 200 tree species per hectare in the Amazon and the Congo basin.

Since colonization by the Spanish, beginning around 1500, many local endemic species in biodiverse forests in Ecuador have been gradually replaced by a single species, such as eucalyptus or pine trees. Also, in recent decades, monoculture plantations have been established, mainly as an economic investment, these monocrop plantations of Paulownia, teak, balsa, and African palm–misleadingly called “reforestation”–are not establishing desperately needed biodiversity.

Well intended massive reforestation projects, often led by local authorities and NGOs, are copies of these industrial plantations. In one day hundreds of enthusiastic young people plant thousands of saplings, as part of an event such as Earth Day. If the action is well coordinated and with a good maintenance follow-up, years later we will find a boring monocrop forest. But most of the time, only a few trees survive, and the tree planting day stays only in the memories of the participants.

That said, it follows that our approach is Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR), with the focus on family farms.

In many locations, even in the most deteriorated areas, roots and seeds of endemic species are sitting in the ground, ready to grow as soon as the first rains come. This natural regeneration can be very robust, but we should assist nature´s efforts by prohibiting fires, by keeping cattle from trampling the new shoots, and by keeping the new growing trees free from the weeds. In addition, we can bring in exotic species that support the natural regeneration of the area.

We can assist you with the regeneration plan of your property in several steps:

– making an inventory of the most successful endemic species in your area
• setting out the contour lines and defining the space between the lines
• defining the species and the density of exotic species to combine with the endemic species (trees, bamboos, vines, etc.)
• elaborating an ANR management plan
• producing the desired species in our nursery.

 

Our tree and bamboo nursery

The best way to restore biodiversity on your property and enhance the resilience of the landscape is by carefully choosing the species that are complementary to the natural regeneration of the area. Keep in mind that massive planting of one species is a recipe for failure, go step by step with many different species.

We produce small amounts of trees and bamboos upon your request. Take into account that it may take a couple of months in order to produce and deliver plants grown from seeds.

If your property is located in a tropical or subtropical area, similar to the Valley of the Mira River, where the temperature is an average 22° Celsius with an average rainfall per year of 1900 mm.

We recommend to include the following trees and bamboos in your ANR mix:

• Albizia guachapele, (family Fabacaceae), common name: Guachapelí, excellent timber, nitrogen fixing, vigorous growth.
• Terminalia Amazonia, (family Combretaceae), common name: Roble, excellent timber, difficult to reproduce.
• Casuarina equisetifolia, (family Casuarinaceae), common name: She oak, excellent timber, nitrogen fixing, vigorous growth, easy to reproduce.
• Cordia alliadora, (family Boraginaceae), common name: Laurel, timber for doors and windows, grows straight, excellent as shade tree for coffee plants.
• Calliandra pittieri, (family Fabacaceae), common name: Turo o Carbonero, nitrogen fixing, slow growth, melliferous.
• Grevillea robusta, (family Proteaceae), common name: Silk Oak, excellent timber, fast growing, difficult to reproduce, melliferous.
• For Bamboo species, see chapter about Bamboo.

Contact us for details about the assistance we provide, both in landscape design and in the choice of plants.

Also, we are constantly looking for new species that can be combined with ANR and be reproduced in our nursery. Let us know if you have any species with good qualities in mind. We can grow them from seeds, sticks or layering.

 

Three private rooms and a dormitory are available for visitors, in the style of Bed & Breakfast.

The rooms are family rooms with several beds and have a private bathroom with shower.

Two of the rooms have a porch with hammock. We do not offer lunch and dinner, but the kitchen is at the disposal.

The dining room has three big tables..

Dormitory

$15/person
  • Price per day
  • included breakfast
  • Private bathroom with shower

The property is 15 hectares and has a self-guided path (about 45 minutes walk), which brings you along the different bamboo species and the Guallupe river. From Parque Bambú, various hikes with fantastic panoramic views take you through the hills:
A down-hill walk from “El Puerto” (2,5 hrs), the walk along the Guallupe river (2,5 hrs), the hike on the “Palo Blanco trail” (4 to 5 hrs), bringing you through a nice primary forest (for experienced hikers).

The hikes to the Highlands (Páramo) of El Angel and the remote village of Morán are organized by two knowledgeable guides: Carlos Castro and Hugo Quintanchala. Contact us for details.

A good breakfast in Parque Bambú
Three private rooms in Parque Bambú
two guides bring you to the Highlands of El Angel

Vetiver Ecuador

Vetiver, a perfect solution for soil restoration. Of all methods applied so far, Vetiver has proven the best tool for soil conservation, erosion control en regenerating the soil.

Watch our video now (spanish version with subtitles). >>>

Where we are located in Ecuador (Map of the Bamboo Park)

Parque Bambú | Bamboo Park | Vetiver | Bospas | Bosque de Paz

Contact Us

Tipos de Servicio

2 + 1 =

Parque Bambú Ecuador

Km 108 desde San Lorenzo a Ibarra

El Limonal | Imbabura | Ecuador

Teléfono: +593 (06) 3 016 606

Piet Sabbe