Island Secrets: The Story of the Snake Gourd

A story by Ritu Mathur, Area Permaculturist, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani.

As a permaculturist, the ethics of earth care, people care, and fair share are deeply ingrained as part of my lifestyle. They form the foundation of permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies. As a result of living the life of a permaculturist for the last 10 years, these have become a part of how I live my life.

Since joining Soneva, I have questioned the concept of ‘fair share’ here. Unlike the rest of the world, where the fair share question arises in the form of, “Are humans sharing enough with all the other species around them?”. Here the question was “are the other species like the cuckoo, bunnies, chickens and crows leaving anything for us humans to eat?”. In the Organic Gardens at Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, the fauna have memorized our break times over the years and now know exactly when the team will be away. They jump at the chance to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

At Soneva Jani, we recently tried growing snake gourd, a vine that is known to fruit abundantly and is consumed by many people across Asia. A verdant green vine covered the trellis, and soon it was full of tiny white, lace-like flowers. I visited the garden each day to see if the crop had grown, but unfortunately, we weren’t in luck. I then discovered that the Koel (cuckoo bird) was eating the tiny fruits when they formed after pollination. The cuckoo was in paradise and happily enjoying our hard work.

We formed a strategy within the team, where one person would stand guard against the persistent cuckoo, but we soon found this effort to be futile as well. Initially, it was not easy for the team to see the remnants of the cuckoo’s snacking and their efforts going to waste.

After a patient wait, nature’s abundance prevailed and we started to see more and more snake gourds maturing on the vine. Finally, the snake gourd was producing more than the cuckoo could consume, and we were able to start harvesting our share. We have since had our first successful harvest and the second is soon on the way!

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