Reserve Guidelines

"Maya Reserves are radical urban nature reserves where nature and community are in balance."


Maya Reserves are based on the principles of permaculture and seek to create a balance of caring for earth, caring for people and sharing what we have with others. The specific design of the reserve and representation of each of these elements is decided in using an adaptive co-management approach with the local community using the reserve and members of the Project Maya team.

The following are key guidelines and must be followed in the development and maintenance of a Maya Reserve. 

Core Reserve Principles

CORE RESERVE PRINCIPLE 1 –  Maya Reserves look after the earth and re-build its capital. The Earth is a living, breathing entity. Without on-going care and nurturing there will be consequences too big to ignore. A Maya Reserve works to rebuild natures capital. A Maya Reserve must not damage nature and should work to increase biodiversity on the Reserve. For example, using native hedging around the site, creating wildlife houses, leaving dead wood piles, creating ponds, wildflower meadows, planting native species, mulching the ground, using bio-char, protecting the soil and ensuring all gardening activity is organic.

CORE RESERVE PRINCIPLE 2 - Maya Reserves look after people. We must look after self, kin and community. Maya Reserves encourage self-reliance and personal responsibility. Self-reliance becomes more feasible when we focus on non-material well-being, taking care of ourselves and others without producing or consuming unnecessary material resources. A Maya Reserve should work to look after people and increase community well being, for example, through the creation of food growing areas, fruiting trees, community parties and education events, natural play park areas, camping sites, compost toilets, areas for outdoor cooking, a café/canteen on site, social areas with lot’s of lovely places to sit and areas for reflection and meditation.

CORE RESERVE PRINCIPLE 3 - Maya Reserves are a place of sharing. Maya Reserves should redistribute surplus. There are many ways that we benefit from giving a fair share to others and the environment. A Maya Reserve should work to reduce inequality in resource distribution, for example, a communal tool shed, distribution of abundant harvests (remembering to also share some with the wildlife that depend on it), creating wildflower meadows just for bees, time banking, skill-share events, free on site library.


Reserve Management

  1. Location: Reserves should be situated in areas accessible to people. Ideal areas for Maya Reserves are densely populated areas where people and nature have reduced space. A Maya Reserve can range from a rooftop garden to a substantial acreage of land.
  2. Social Enterprise: A Maya Reserve should be self financing. We encourage on site ethical enterprise (from café’s, farmers markets to barn dances) as a means of maintaining and improving the quality of the reserve over time. Maya Reserves should not to rely on donations or grant funding for improvements. Maya Reserves operating at a significant profit may donate surplus finance to Project Maya for the purchasing of further Maya Reserves.
  3. Building: Where building is to take place it should enhance our way of life while minimising long-term impact. For example using passive solar design (sun oriented glazing and shading, passive venting), natural construction materials: (earth, strawbale, lime plaster, round pole, stone), water harvesting & waste reuse (water tanks, compost toilets and reedbeds), biotechture (manipulation of tree form to grow structures and buildings), earth sheltered construction (“earthships” and other designs that build into the ground).
  4. Tools & Technology: Maya Reserves should reuse & creatively recycle materials, reserves should make use of traditional hand tools, human powered transport, efficient and low powered wood stoves, fuels from organic wastes (bio-diesel, methanol, biogas and wood gas) biochar from waste to build soil fertility and help carbon capture, use of micro-hydro & small scale wind power, use of technology to store energy, and materials to retrofit existing buildings.
  5. Education & Culture: Maya Reserves encourage education that is participatory in approach to activities, we recommend a focus on action learning to improve practice.
  6. Health & Spiritual well-being:  Maya Reserves honour local traditions and cultural practices whilst remaining open and accepting of others. Health & spiritual well being is often of significant importance to core principle 2. Reserves may have available yoga/tai-chi, mediation, mindfulness activities, herb gardens and permaculture classes.
  7. Finance & Economics: In all enterprise schemes reserves should be mindful of life cycle accounting when making purchases, resource sharing, fair trade purchases, local food and support of wwoofing and using other local producers where possible, all Maya Reserve banking will be ethical where possible. 
  8. Community involvement: We encourage management and maintenance of reserves and decisions to be made in relation to this to be by those who live and work in the area local to the reserve. These decisions include how to represent all three of the core guiding principles of Maya Reserves. Reserves will make use of consensus decision-making and work to generate an inclusive atmosphere allowing representation regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Reserves should make particular efforts to include under-represented voices. Maya Reserves have a 2-3 year period of establishment in order to work on building community capacity and infrastructure to achieve affective, sustainable long-term management.
  9. Work with nature: Maya Reserves use compost to build soil fertility, make use of double digging, companion planting and natural pest control to produce the maximum amount of food in the minimum area, forest gardening, organic methods, natural farming, keyline water harvesting, welfare friendly aquaponics, and gleaning (collection of mulch and manure from elsewhere to improve reserve fertility).
  10. Maintenance: regular meetings will need to be held involving (where possible) a member from the Project Maya team to discuss on-going maintenance of the reserve and to ensure it is achieving it’s goals under the core principles. We expect reserve to be managed using an adaptive co-management approach (i.e. one that is participatory and adapts according to lessons learnt). Management should be flexible and inclusive.
  11. Sustainability: It is important to create real, effective, long-term partnerships and keep in regular contact not only with those that are involved in the management of your reserve but also with us, Project Maya. Exchanging information with us is vital so that we can map, monitor and evaluate how well we are performing. As Maya Reserves are where people live and work it is particularly important that attention is paid to ensuring the reserves are beautiful, well maintained, well thought out and professional in design. For example by planting colourful wildflowers and using high quality materials.
  12. Raises Awareness: Maya Reserves work to raise awareness of the importance of green spaces for wildlife and people, as well as educating others about more sustainable, fairer ways of living. So, Maya Reserves should be well maintained to be colourful, beautiful and visible. The more a Maya Reserve educates and includes others in our vision the better!