MY OBSERVATIONS ON THE LAND

Even though I only wrote these observations the other day, I have gleaned more information today that I would like to add to this blog entry as it is relevant. As well as that, some of my dear blogger friends have asked me questions about the water situation in relation to farming and growing crops which I have tried to answer, but I am constantly learning more about the situation on Gozo and so I want to update my writing, it is still only my own observations, and they will change as I learn more about this beautiful and attractive island. Thank you to Lydia (Lyart) and Mary Tang for asking me questions which made me think deeper and search for more answers.

Ever since we came to the Maltese islands nearly two months ago I have been looking for signs of agricultural activity, and in particular have I wondered if there were people practicing permaculture, or growing vegetables organically. I have looked for signs, asked around and checked the internet, and slowly I am forming a picture of what is happening on this front here on Gozo. I think from what I gather from the papers that back in 2008 some people wanted to see Gozo turn into an ecological island, growing crops organically, preserving water and stone, but there are many challenges and they are not easily overcome, and I don’t think much progress has been made, but don’t take my word for it. I am only observing, one needs to be longer in a country to be sure of what the real story is, what the problems are, and what progress is being made. I did see quite a few crops even this early in spring, the grains such as barley or oats seem to have been harvested already. Large cabbages were in some of the small fields, as were plenty of onions. When we came early in March the vineyards were still looking very bare, but now they are beautifully green and flourishing despite the drought. Yes, it actually has not rained here since the New Year, you can see some of the wild plants are wilting, and growth is stunted.  From what I notice there are a lot of small farms, or areas for growing crops, apparently there are not that many full time farmers on Gozo, but quite a few part-timers, people who have inherited farmland and work the land as a matter of course.  It is very noticeable when travelling around the island that an effort is being made to utilise every bit of available land to grow crops.   But today we had a chat with a local woman at Dwejra, she gave us information about the small farmer, the ordinary householder who will have a garden full of vegetables, will keep chickens for the eggs, will grow plenty of tomatoes, and some of those who have more land will even grow some grapes for wine making.  She told us that when the produce was plentiful people would share out to family and friend, a practise which is age old and so sensible and to be appreciated.

Terraced small fields at Xlendi
Terraced small fields at Xlendi, soil looking good.

The prickly pear is used in jam and liqueur making, the local wines are delicious.

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Some of the soil is very stony, just like it is in Ireland!  Of course seeing that it is a very dry climate here, the soil everywhere I looked was totally dried out, still the crops looked fresh and full of foliage, when items are planted the Gozitans make a bit of a pit and put the plant in there and water it, this keeps the plant more moist and preserves the water I guess.  The darker the earth, the more fertile it is.

On the water questions, many of the people on Gozo use their own wells, but the water table is becoming lower and lower because of the lack of rain. The Maltese islands do have a problem with drought, they get their water for a certain percentage from wells and the rest from desalination using electricity to transform it. Small organic farms may still be possible but there are other factors to consider, when it does rain there is often flooding. A lot of area on the island is urbanised but not enough water is collected and stored in cisterns (I read recently).  According to our local source the ground water is being depleted, which is not surprising when there is not enough rain to replenish it and at the same time there is more tourism and this industry uses a lot more water than does local living, what with swimming pools and many more people actually utilising water.  I am sure that there is much more to be said and thought about with regard to water provision and regulation, that I do not know about.  Gozo does have water reservoirs, and I read that there is constantly improvement being done. Check this document too http://www.fao.org/3/a-a0994e.pdf

Some kitchen gardens at Mgarr, typical between the high-rise flats
Some kitchen gardens at Mgarr, typical between the high-rise flats

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This is a farm where, we were told are cows but we did not see any and were told that the cows are kept inside here on Gozo, not sure if this is true but I did not see more than two or three cows outside.  Some of the milk is imported from Italy.  There is excellent sheeps cheese produced on Gozo, a favourite of mine.  I also saw goats but was not able, so far, to source goats milk.

There is great potential for permaculture, and for growing vegetables, crops and vines without using pesticides and fertilizers, imagine what it could mean for Gozo if it became know for its pure and healthy food production, as there is a growing market for such produce all over Europe, and as the Maltese islands would not be at a danger of becoming contaminated with genetically modified pollination once seeds are kept out of the islands, this could be an ecological paradise.

 

24 thoughts on “MY OBSERVATIONS ON THE LAND

    1. That’s a good question, the Maltese islands do have a problem with drought, they get their water for a certain percentage from wells and the rest from desalination using electricity to transform it. Small organic farms may still be possible but there are other factors to consider, when it does rain there is often flooding. A lot of area on the island is urbanised but not enough water is collected and stored in cisterns (I read recently). There are a lot of questions, like everywhere, to be answered if a country wants to grow it’s crops without pesticides and fertilizers, a lot of adjustments are needed. I’m not sure in the case of Gozo how much fresh food is actually imported.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope that the rains come soon, and or that the problem with water storage in a large way gets sorted big time. With climate change every country has to rethink it’s ways of dealing with stuff like that, Ireland has a lot of problems with flooding in recent years and is trying to deal with that too, very costly.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny that I should not have mentioned water at all in my observations 🙂 Lyart asked me same question. They do have natural springs which are used, and for the rest they obtain their water supply from desalination. They do not have enough of private cisterns in the mainly urbanised island. Gozo does have water reservoirs, and I read that there is constantly improvement being done. Check this document too http://www.fao.org/3/a-a0994e.pdf
      Coming from a country where it rains most days of the year, I totally overlooked water provision when I was writing about the agriculture on Gozo.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes Mary and with changing climate there will be stricter rules. Only in Ireland where it rains too much is water freely available, but it still has to be maintained. In Belgium many houses but especially schools and large buildings have huge underground rainwater reservoirs, very clever!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I guess this could be a unique chance, even the water drought can be resolved… but my mind was thinking: Who is going to do that? There are only a few people who would want to take up that challenge of starting up permaculture or any other selfsustaining alternative…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, but at the same time there is more and more awareness all over the world that we need to provide better quality of foods, grown without the dangerous chemical pesticides and fertilizers, some of them being banned altogether.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on agoyvaerts and commented:

    Even though I only wrote these observations the other day, I have gleaned more information today that I would like to add to this blog entry as it is relevant. As well as that, some of my dear blogger friends have asked me questions about the water situation in relation to farming and growing crops which I have tried to answer, but I am constantly learning more about the situation on Gozo and so I want to update my writing, it is still only my own observations, and they will change as I learn more about this beautiful and attractive island. Thank you to Lydia (Lyart) and Mary Tang for asking me questions which made me think deeper and search for more answers.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Water management is definitely an issue for all, whatever the circumstances. Reflecting on what you’ve told us about the Maltese islands, I can think of two immediate ways to capture and store more water: swales and hugel beds.

    I only have rudimentary understanding swales but the basic idea is that water from natural springs is stored in situ (where it will naturally remain) until it is needed.

    As for hugel beds, they work by storing water in the decomposing wood within – apparently they only need to be deliberately watered in the first year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is very good information Helen, I did not know that Hugel beds could work that way, but it makes sense, something to remember. And Swales I have never heard of, might google that in a minute. Thanks for that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, look up swales. A bit like a reservoir but small-scale and where the water is needed, so you don’t have to pump it about the landscape.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have not looked it up yet but from what you just described they do that here but with each individual plant or tree, making an indentation, or hole and putting the plant in it, they even do that here for each little flowering plant in a park. I shall look into it further though.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You can only have a swale on a contour, I understand, so unless all plantings are on a contour, what you describe is possibly a different technique. Of course, I’ve not seen it, let alone talked to anyone about it, so I can only guess that the hole is to direct any water (from deliberate watering and rainfall) to the place where it is most needed (ie the roots).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Great find, Agnes! Thanks for sharing it on your blog…. My apple tree would benefit from something like this but I would have to find out if it was on a contour first.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting. I’d love to go to Malta and immerse myself in the history. The colours look like Australia and we also have the same lack of water and dry soil.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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