Kiaruwa Eco Sanctuary Project – Palawan

Kiaruwa (meaning “life force”) is a working example of a viable resilient biodiverse Regenerative Agroforestry Farm which regenerates soils and educates visitors, while making a unique contribution to the local community.

Our Mission:

To be an ecological sanctuary unique for the climate, biodiversity, and people of Palawan.

To regenerate the land on this site by creating productive and diverse ecosystems.

To educate visitors to the eco sanctuary on the principles and philosophies implemented on this site.

To become an eco-tourism destination with accommodation options that financially supplement the site’s agroforestry production.

To establish a welcoming and co-operative relationship with the local community

To protect, conserve and restore this incredible planetary biodiversity and thriving ecosystems

To help people to build relationships and co-create and facilitate local holistic agriculture systems transformation through focusing on the high percentage of small farmers

To enable farmers to switch away from the input based model to the process based, from linear to cyclic, from entropic to syntropic model of Regenerative Agroforestry farming

To be a driving force and inspiration in the healing process of our ecological, spiritual and social reconnection to self, others and the environment

To be committed to work with Space (Stratification) and Time (Succession & Lifecycles) in our production Landscapes

To always create conditions conducive to life

The Island of Palawan:

Palawan is a slice of heaven, that teems with exotic wildlife, quaint fishing villages, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Much of the island remains traditional and is considered by some as under-developed. Abundant wildlife, jungle mountains, and some white sandy beaches attract many tourists, as well as international companies looking for development opportunities. Much of the island remains covered in dense jungle and teems with wildlife.The Palawan Biosphere reserve is also home to approximately 57 ethnolinguistic groups with 3 indigenous peoples: the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, and the Bataks.

Based on the IUCN classification, it has 105 out of the 475 threatened species in the Philippines. Of the 105 threatened species, 67 are endemic to the Philippines, while 42 of the 67 Philippine endemics are Palawan endemics. It also harbors several marine mammals such as marine turtles, dugong, and whale shark. The characteristics of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems are also diverse. It is composed of oldgrowth and secondgrowth tropical rainforest, karstic limestone, forest over ultramafic rocks, casuarinas and beach forest. The island’s variety of exotic terrain includes rainforests, lush green hills and plains by pristine beaches. It is home to many species of African and endangered Palawan animals including Palawan monkeys and parrots, bear cats and peacocks, as well as mongoose, scaly anteaters, porcupine and mouse deer, which are protected in the Calauit Game Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary. Its 2,000- km (1,243-mi) coastline is renowned for having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world, with thousands of square kilometres of protected coral reefs.

In 2007, National Geographic Traveler magazine rated Palawan the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region, having “incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. One of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines. The island has had a Biosphere Reserve status since early 1990s, showing local interest for conservation and sustainable development”. As of 2016, the main island of Palawan is rated the “Most Beautiful Island in the World”


The 3Ha site where Kiaruwa is based has historically been used for rice production. In the Palawan region, traditional methods of small scale, community minded rice growing has been heavily impacted by industrial growing techniques over the past 20-30 years. Incentives from the Philippines Government to promote the use of chemical fertilizer and weed suppression as well as the use of modified rice cultivars suited to such growing techniques resulted in wide scale conversion of farming land to this industrial method.

The perception amongst local farmers is now that this high chemical use production method is the only option available for the large-scale production required to remain financially viable. Many farmers in the area have since stopped production on their land as the financial input required for each crop outweighs production outputs. In total approximately 1.7Ha of the site has been used in this way with little utilization of upper sections up until approximately 5 years ago when new owners took over the site. These penultimate owners had an interest in permaculture-based land management principles and thus commenced planting a variety of productive trees and crops on the upper sections of the property. Some effort to convert the lower rice growing sections into a more diverse tree growing area is also evident.


Climate data obtained for the local area for consideration during this design are as follows:

  • Wet-tropical climate (10deg from equator) consisting two main seasons, wet and dry
  • Wet season between May and September
  • Dry season between October and April
  • 2000mm annual rainfall
  • Driest month is January, 47mm rainfall
  • Wettest month is October 272mm rainfall
  • Annual average temperature is 26 Degree Celsius
  • Hottest month is May 29-degree Celsius average
  • Coolest month is January 24-degree Celsius average
  • Two main wind directions, North-easterly (Amihan) and Southwesterly (Habagat)


The township of Abaroan Candelaria consists a population of approximately 3500 local residence. Main employment opportunities include farming, road construction and van or tricycle operator. Infrastructure in the town include a public school, plant nursery, emergency evacuation center, and outdoor basketball court. Nearest medical center, supermarket, farm supply store and government office is in Roxas.

There is one main road through Abaroan Candelaria leading to Port Barton, a popular tourist destination, to the North from Roxas, an industrial hub, to the south. Although this district is not currently a tourist destination, many tourists pass through on the way to Port Barton making this a viable option for those seeking a more unique eco-tourism experience.


This property has two raised land masses on the far east and western ends of the site with a wide, level, low lying area between them. The raised area to the east is approximately 0.8Ha in size and is surrounded by a lower section to the east and the past rice field to the west. This land mass hosts the main road access and existing household. The raised area to the west is approximately 0.3Ha in size and is the lower section of a much larger hillside that continues toward the west away from the property boundary. The wide, levelled, lower section previously used for rice production is approximately 1.7Ha in size. Productive rice fields boarder this lower section beyond the property boundary to the north and south.


Existing site structures include:

  • Main household consisting of 3 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, study, living area, verandah and small water tank for capturing roof runoff
  • Connection to mains electricity and water
  • One bamboo hut constructed by the current owner
  • Degrading timber fence surrounding the main household constructed by the previous owner
  • Dilapidated bamboo gazebo constructed by the previous owner
  • Graveled driveway
  • Wire fences around the property boundary
  • Hammock
  • Clay fire pit
  • Worn timber storage hut



Drinking water for occupants on site is collected from a nearby shop that filters town water and distributes in 30L containers. The site currently has several available non potable water supplies including:

  • Town water supply
  • Roof capture and tank storage
  • Channel for low section flood irrigation

Overland stormwater flow paths from offsite move from north to south. The larger central low-lying area is subject to flooding in the wet season and will carry nutrients onto site from neighbouring rice fields to the north. The low-lying section to the east is subject to flooding from road runoff and has been seen to rise as much as two meters above static levels.


Electricity is supplied by a connection to the main town power supply. Brown outs frequently occur, up to 4-5 times a week. There is currently no redundancy on site for loss of electricity supply.


At present the most significant transfer of nutrients from off site to on site is conducted via importing of food for occupant consumption, which is then captured on site via deposits to the compost toilet or septic tank. Waste organic matter from food preparation is composted throughout the various existing garden beds. Carabao manure is infrequently collected at offsite locations for the preparation of new garden beds and planting areas on site. There is currently no import of compost, mulch or artificial fertilisers. Biomass from leaf litter, chop and drop species and the large volume of grass growing across the site is used as mulch around the existing trees and new garden beds.


Flora Existing site flora diversity includes a range of various canopy, shrub sized, and ground covering species. Productive species currently established on site include:

  • Calamansi
  • Mandarin
  • Mango
  • Cashew
  • Jackfruit
  • Pineapple
  • Cassava
  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Banana
  • Sweet potato
  • Papaya

In addition, there are several ornamental and native plants contributing to the diversity of the site, providing ecological functions in the form of habitat, pollen production, biomass growth and shading.


Across the site there is an array of wild and domestic animal observed moving through out the site. Wild animals include:

  • Stalks
  • Squirrel
  • Mice
  • Gecko
  • Praying mantis
  • Moths
  • Butterfly
  • Ants
  • Termite
  • Earth worm
  • Mosquito
  • Bees
  • Wasp

Domestic animals include:

  • Carabao
  • Chickens
  • Dog
  • Cats

The Regenerative Agroecosystem at Kiaruwa Eco Sanctuary:

Aims and Benefits:

Ecologically Regenerative (maintining and improving the quality of natural resources and the relationships of each ecosystem we work in)

Economically (potential for higher income as farmers work with higher diversity of crops and no need to buy outside inputs)

Socially (Inclusion of the poorest farmers and higher food security,higher incomes)

Cultural( Respectful and open to learn from traditional pre industrial revolution practices and culture)

Political and Ethical (transcendent moral values, fair share, non hierarchical, cooperative)

Creating Resilience against:

  • Typhoon and Natural Disasters
  • Climate Crisis
  • Extreme Weather
  • Food Insecurity
  • Dwindling Fresh Water Supply – Palawan is in the red zone for water stress in the future!

Our Integrated Strategy to improve health of the farmers and the local environment:

  • Native Timber Trees Narra, Ipil, Molave, Yakal, Akle, Dao Mahogany , etc

(Few people know that there are ca. 40 superb quality hardwood species in the Philippines and even more sub species)

  • Native Fruit Trees more Typhoon resistant – Calamansi , Pili Nut , Breadnut
  • Pureiria and Desmodium as Permanent Groundcover
  • Integration of Mainly Perennial Leaf Crops to increase access to nutritional diversity of local Farmers: Taro,Moringa,Sesbania,chicken spinach
  • Integration of “non rice” Starch/Staple Crops which need less water and fertilzer; Cassava, Corn, Taro, Breadfruit, Sweet Potato , Plantain , Millets
  • Diverse Income Generation and Harvests all year round: Cacao,Black Pepper,Ginger Tumeric,Coconut,Rambutan,Durian,Mangosteen,Abaca, Hardwood Timber
  • Medicine and Spice; Ginger Tumeric Black Pepper, Chilli , Holy Basil
  • Perennial and other Vegetable crops: Green papaya, Green Mango, Green Jakfruit, Pumpkin, Chayote , etc.
  • Fiber; Native Abaca Banana
  • Legume to enrich simple rice focused diet further: Pigeon Pea and other legumes to combine with rice to get full protein
  • Permanent Groundcovers to reduce erosion, weeding and evaporation: Pureiria and Desmodium
  • Mushroom Production once the system is at a later stage!
  • Animal Integration where possible and desired: Ducks, Chicken, Bees, Geese , Carabao
  • Sustainable Access to Firewood through managing certain species within the Agroecosystem as a coppice to obtain fire wood for cooking
  • Long Term Valuable Timber Crops for retirement fund and further generations which will enable multi generational care of the Agroecosystem
  • Education of the production of simple Biofertilizers, Compost Teas, Chop and Drop of Biomass Species, Management of Grass Strips to get sustainable organic fertilization of the Agroecosystem , Pruning techniques to manage shade, light requirements and density

Comparison of Yield in Philippines:

  • Agroforestry System: 49mt/ha/year of edible biomass
  • Paddy Rice Monocrop: 20mt/ha/year (3 crops) of edible biomass

Yield: per acre organic vegetables – 2700kg per month


Agroforestry 5000kg per Acre per Month, Fruits, Nuts, Herbs, Vegetables etc.

The Regenerative Agroeocystem Deisgn:

Main Crops of the System through succession:

Early stage mid.Stage:

Seasonal vegetables like Pumpkin,Rocket,Beans,Chilli,Eggplant, Sweet Potatoes, Taro , Banana, Papaya, Ginger, Tumeric ,Pineapple , Cassava , Moringa , Sesbania,

Later Stage :

Cacao , Pili Nut , Coconut , Durian , Jakfruit , Breadfruit/nut ,Banana , Abaca , Black Pepper , Ginger, Tumeric , Native Timber Species

Spacing Pattern:

Several options, the general pattern can be adapted to needs of density, focus of main crop, management (mainly pruning in this case) time

Spacing mentioned for example: Cacao 3m * 4m means 3m meter spacing within the tree line and 4m between Cacao Tree lines

Main Long Term Crops:

Emergent or High Layer: Coconut, Pili Nut , Fruit or Nut Trees , Native Timber : 9m*9m or 9m*18m

Medium Layer: Banana/Plantain/Abaca 3m*3m , smaller fruit trees like native Calamantsi if wanted can be planted

Low Layer: Cacao : 3m * 3m , Black Pepper climbing onto Coconuts and other Fruit or Nut trees or support trees like Gliricidia Black Peeper kept at a height of 2-3m for easy harvesting , Ginger and Tumeric planted in available shaded gaps

Species per heactar of Main Crop: approximately 900 Cacao and Banana approximately 150-200 Coconut or Fruit or Nut Trees (High or Emergent Layer)

These are approximate numbers as from our experience every site, client, context is different and the map doesn’t reflect the territory means reality on site so we have to be flexible, adapt to challenges and flow with it.

  • The tree lines are usually aligned East-West for maximum sun exposure.
  • Planting of the system us done when seasonal rains start as most sites don’t have irrigation available.

The importance of the Placenta:

We are birthing and co-creating a new forest organism and we need to but the Placenta in place to ensure proper future functioning. Species we will use to fulfil this function are:

Rocket, Radish , Chilli , Eggplant , Sunflower, Sesame, Hibiscus, Pigeon Pea , Crotolaria , Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, Corn , Canavalia , Cassava , Pineapple , Papaya , Macaranga , Sesbania , Castor ,

The Grass Strip for fertiliziation:

In between the tree lines we will keep the current grass strip for use as mulch and also stage by stage introduce Pureria and Desmodium for permanent groundcover in most areas.

The Biomass Species for Chop and Drop Fertilzer and Mulch:

In most Tropical climates we find an endless amount of fast growing legume and non legume species that can be pruned heavily and afterwards organized around the trees as fertilizer and mulch. Some of the species we will be using here are:

Crotalaria, Sesbania Species , Macaranga , Mexican Sunflower , Gliricidia , Banana , Golden Shower (Native) , Brazilian Fern Tree , Rainbow Eucalyptus(Native from Mindanao) , Cassia Nodosa (native) , Acacia Magnium (Native) , Melia Dubia , Gmelina Arborea , Fire Tree ,

Key Principles:

Stratification: How plants behave in their environment. Considering the quantity and quality of light that the plants need to be healthy.

Natural succession: How plants behave across time. How long it takes them to reach their full life cycle or how long it takes until they reach maturity in their stratum.

Mulching: The importance of keeping the soil covered with organic matter and how to plant a system whilst always keeping the soil covered.

Species Consortiums: How to combine plants in an Dynamic Agroforestry System: explanation and exemplification on how to design and plant the species combinations. A dynamic agroforestry system permits a high diversity and high density of crops with different life cycles and different light requirements to grow together without much competition but in mutual cooperation. All species have a role and a function.

Management: pruning, stratification, selective weeding and synchronization

Some parts of the new organism:

Preperation of soil done by local methods of using animal power as no machines are available here! Cheap and sustainable no fossil fuels used!

The Tree lines is covered with a very high amount of biomass to keep the soil covered and when the rains start we plant the species consortiums

Starting of a simple way to get species for the system, we collect often native species from the surrounding areas to be planted in the system here native Philippines Mahogany. Our experience shows planting them directly in the soil needs less water during the dry season and we don’t need to use plastic bag which often are a once off unsustainable

On another part of the land we are demonstrating how to retrofit an existing monoculture, this is a native lemon species called Calamantsi. Our concept is to introduce more diversity of plant in terms of Stratification and Lifecycles.

Another of our aims is to introduce the Silvopasture system idea into this area where Buffalos and Cows can graze ROTATIONALLY (to avoid typical overgrazing) in between productive Tree lines.

Another possible variation of the design to convert an abandoned rice field into what we call a “ Regenerative Chinampa Agroforestry System”. This could be an exiting experiment for future projects in Asia .

Layout Design Plan of the “Regenerative Chinampa Agroforestry System”.This is our adapt to diversify the hugh amount of monoculture rice fields again which often break up forest corridors and prevent wild life to move through different forest patches.The hugh amount of rice fields all over Asia has often caused Forest Ecosystem Fragmentation.