From Sand to Food Forest: Our Permaculture Gardens

Founder Nina Flohr, refers to BCSS as “a dream turned into a reality through love and respect for Mozambican nature and culture”. Our care for Mozambican nature and culture is at the core of everything we do, thus being situated on a small island in the heart of the Bazaruto Archipelago, we felt it was our mission to build a zero-waste, sustainable station. 

Designed to blend with the surroundings, causing minimum impact, and hand-built using the island’s skilled residents and local materials such as coconut wood and roof thatching, the BCSS station represents a unique field station model. Committed to minimising both CO2 and potential pollution, the station has a waste management facility and is powered by renewable solar energy. To be as self-sufficient as possible, we built gardens on the BCSS premises based on permaculture principles. 

Deploying circular, non-invasive ways to grow vegetables and fruits, the gardens improve soil fertility, conserve water, produce less waste, lower the station’s CO2 emissions and reduce costs.

The practice of permaculture is designed to teach people to harness patterns and features evident in the natural world, and to combine those with the ways we produce food. This way, a self-reliant system that is not harmful to the environment can be created. At the core, the aim is to adopt arrangements observed in flourishing natural habitats. Deploying circular, non-invasive methods to grow vegetables and fruits, the gardens improve soil fertility, conserve water, produce less waste, lower the station’s CO2 emissions, reduce costs and maximises biodiversity.

Arlindo harvesting pineapples in April, winter season. (Photo by Iris Uijttewaal)

A Philosophy and Practical Approach to Sustainable Development

Permaculture is a term deriving from the words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’, originally referring to cultivating land without harming the environment or humans. By making the most of existing resources (e.g. rainwater, shade, sunshine) there is no need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides  or fossil fuels, while simultaneously the food grows organically, the soil becomes more fertile, and waste and CO2 emissions are minimal.

The overall principles guiding permaculture implementation at BCSS include the following:
• The natural vegetation and ecosystem remain undisturbed as best as possible. 
• Projects are regenerative, e.g. disturbed land is re-vegetated. 
• There should be minimal waste e.g. recycling, composting, water use. 
• A yield is obtained with minimal inputs e.g. food is produced organically using water conscious techniques. 
• Guests are invited to participate in specific permaculture related activities. 
• The community can benefit from outreach projects.

Meet our Permaculture Team

After receiving a year-long thorough training from permaculture expert Chloë Wallace to Sergio and Arlindo the sustainable practices have simply become second nature. Every day, they make sure that the on-site food gardens are thriving. Sergio and Arlindo are also responsible for recycling food waste and using the compost afterwards. Always searching for new ways to improve and expand our existing gardens and food forests sustainably, their passion for permaculture is infectious. 

Together with Sergio, Arlindo is responsible for the gardens on the BCSS premises – from the vegetation to the food forest. Together they make sure the natural resources around the station are maintained and flourishing. Keen to continue learning, you can often find him in the kitchen in his spare time; assisting in the kitchen to prepare the garden’s harvests.

Sergio has been with BCSS since February 2020, with his first project being the iconic BCSS pathways, connecting all BCSS areas and buildings. He has since received extensive gardening training and fills his days with looking after the plants and food forest. He loves how nature surprises him often; not a day is the same.

Food Waste Recycling

Permaculture principles are also applied in the kitchen. The food waste from the kitchen is being repurposed using ‘Bokashi’ bins which turn the leftovers, peels and scraps into compost through fermentation. Mature compost is either used for the nursery or directly on vegetable or planting areas, contributing to our zero-waste philosophy.


Benguerra Island is a relatively dry island, and the BCSS premises consisted of many bare areas when the station was being built. Over the years, the gardening team has revegetated many of these bare gaps using indigenous trees and grass to preserve biodiversity, provide more shade, prevent soil erosion and reduce water loss. Each newly revegetated area needs to be temporarily fenced off, during and after planting, to allow the initial establishment of young plants without animal disturbance.  

Arlindo planting lettuce in the kitchen garden. (Photo by Hollie French)

Sergio, Arlindo and chef Ana harvesting leafy greens from the salad and herbs garden. (Photo by Karen Bowles)

Food forest

Another exciting permaculture project is our food forest. Following a Brazilian agroforestry model called syntropic agriculture (agro-syntropica), the BCSS food forest was designed a few years ago. Tree crops (fruit trees) are grown alongside a diversity of subtropical food crops. The model aims to mimic a forest ecosystem that has many layers, though the difference between a ‘normal’ forest and a food forest is that the majority of the species of a food forest are edible. All the subtropical species chosen are adapted to the hard climate and poor soils on the island, however some soil remediation when planting is required to improve bare ground. Below, you can see three examples of indigenous tree species. 

From left to right: l. Resin tree (Ozoroa reticulata), 2. Phoenix palm (Phoenix reclinata), 3. Marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea). © Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten, Petra Ballings and Meg Coates Palgrave 2007-22

Our visitors and scientific training participants often show interest in our closed-loop food gardens, and we love providing them with a tour, explaining more about permaculture practices and showing examples of successful revegetation. Would you like to see our permaculture gardens? Please do not hesitate tocontact us for a walk around and a delicious meal made of our local produce fresh from our gardens.

A typical March harvest: marula, lemongrass and pineapples. (Photo by Iris Uijttewaal)

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