By Lorraine Potter, Inga Foundation • A model of this text was initially revealed on Forest News.

Five years in the past, farmer Damas Nunez had reached some extent of financial desperation. He had determined the most suitable choice to feed his household was to flee north to the United States from Honduras, regardless of the dangers concerned.

He made a farewell go to to a buddy with a farm in the higher Cangrejal Valley and was astounded to see a wonderful crop of corn and a big stack of firewood, plentiful sufficient to final a yr.

His buddy Eli Cruz had carried out a brand new agroforestry system referred to as alley cropping, launched to Honduras by the Inga Foundation. The technique had remodeled his fields.

Damas visited the close by Inga Foundation demonstration farm. He acquired his personal seeds to plant, and the group confirmed him how one can revitalize his degraded plot of land by planting hedgerows of Inga edulis. Damas now has meals safety and money crops to promote.

Since 2012, the Inga Foundation’s revolutionary agroforestry system of Inga alley cropping in Honduras has dramatically remodeled the lives of 300 subsistence farming households, planted over three million timber, and change into a mannequin for true environmental sustainability and ecological resilience.

Damas and his household have been following in the footsteps of 40 households that in 2012 planted half their land – lower than a hectare in dimension – in Inga alleys, and half utilizing conventional cultivation strategies.

Inga Alley Cropping

Severe drought adopted by torrential rains affected Central America that yr, and the households feared their crops would die. However, the Inga timber proved their resiliency. There have been solely a handful of losses. And though the crops planted between the alleys produced modest yields, there was a fundamental supply of meals at a precarious time. The farmers noticed that their plot handled with swidden methods produced nothing, and the soil washed away, whereas their first alley produced a yield.

The native, fast-growing Inga edulis is the primary tree species, however different indigenous species are additionally used. Overall, the Inga group has planted three million timber since 2012. And nurseries have supplied 250,000 cacao vegetation, Rambutan, citrus, avocado, and 75,000 black pepper vegetation. More than 100,000 hardwood tree saplings have been distributed, and species embody Caoba (Swietenia macrophylla), Laurel Negro (Cordia megalantha), Nogal (Juglans olanchana), and Marapolán (Guarea grandifolia). In 2019, distributions included Ciruelillo (Astronium graveolens), Granadillo (Dalbergia spp.), and 70,000 Redondo (Magnolia yoroconte, which is listed as extremely weak).

The Inga Tree Model relies on over 25 years of analysis and Cambridge University trials by Inga’s founder and director, tropical ecologist Michael Hands. His analysis focuses on farming methods that shield towards land degradation. Through the usage of swidden, a standard technique referred to as shifting cultivation or, previously, “slash and burn,” to organize the land for planting, land turns into infertile, is taken over by weeds, erodes, and leaves farmers with restricted hectarage unable to provide wholesome crops. In former instances, farmers would simply transfer on to a different parcel of land.

Now, via the implementation of Inga alley cropping, households obtain “land for life,” the power to stay on the identical plot of land indefinitely – regenerating steep, degraded land that has been deserted as “sterile” for over 50 years. Hands and a group of Honduran foresters, agronomists, and subject and nursery employees have facilitated native Inga alleys in 15 international locations, together with Honduras, with coaching and seeds accessible for free of charge.

The Inga Tree Model as Solution to Slash & Burn

Pruned inga alley cropping
A plot at Centro Universitaro Regional del Litoral Atlantico (CURLA). Ten days after pruning the Inga alley, the branches/firewood have been eliminated and no weeds develop via the mulch — no herbicides are used in any respect. Young corn vegetation are rising between the alleys. Inga Foundation/Mike Hands

The Inga Tree Model isn’t just an alternative choice to swidden; it’s a answer to stopping it altogether. Rarely has there been a extra profitable, easy answer to our most severe international issues.

Now in yr 9 of the 10-year “Land for Life” program in Honduras, Inga alley cropping has at all times been a bottom-up program, and over 200 households are on a ready listing for seeds and coaching to begin their very own alleys.

The fast-growing, wide-ranging Inga (there are 300+ species of Inga) are straightforward to germinate, immune to illness, capable of thrive on steep, degraded slopes surviving each seven-month droughts and eight inches of rain falling in 18 hours. When the Inga timber are about 10-15 ft excessive, they’re pruned to chest-high, the leaves stripped and utilized as mulch, and the branches change into useful firewood.

The timber require solely an occasional aspect dressing of Okay-Mag and rock phosphate, via which the 15+ years of trials and demonstration plots from the Cambridge University analysis, Hands cracked the issue of soils. He realized that failing availability of phosphorus was the important thing.

The solar is best capable of attain the corn or bean seeds planted between rows of timber. And when their season is completed, the Inga have regrown, and the cycle repeats.

The program creates an built-in ecosystem that gives an natural and resilient means for subsistence farming households in the tropics to realize meals safety whereas defending wildlife habitats, water sources, and enhancing soils.

Benefits of Inga Alley Cropping

Inga alley cropping addresses:

  1. Food insecurity – 100% of the households with established Inga alleys (1½ to 2-years outdated) obtain meals safety
  2. Slash and burn agriculture unsustainability and unintended escaped fires
  3. Carbon seize/carbon sequestration and avoidance (180,000 tons from 2012-2019)
  4. Regeneration of degraded land – steep, sterile, deserted land greened in 1 ½ years (2500 acres from 2012-2019)
  5. Nutrition-improved and stunting decreased – all natural grains/crops (black pepper, turmeric, pineapple, allspice, Rambutan, citrus, cacao, vanilla)
  6. Watershed safety of rivers, ocean, and reefs
  7. Improving rural livelihoods – money crops equals no debt or loans for the households
  8. Erosion and mudslides eradicated
  9. Renewable firewood from yearly pruning with out harvesting forest timber
  10. Reducing migration to cities and reduces local weather refugees
  11. Eliminating herbicides and pesticides
  12. Eliminating chemical fertilizers and high-inputs, GMO seeds, and heavy tools
  13. The total household works collectively, near dwelling – no know-how wanted
  14. Climate shocks withstood – households have grown bean and corn crops with no irrigation or a drop of rain (the thick mulch retains the bottom cool and retains water)
  15. Positively addresses 11 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals with no damaging impression in any way on the remaining six.

Regenerating Land & Livelihoods

Regenerating steep degraded land is the most important and lowest-cost carbon sequestration panorama restoration alternative. Sterile, eroded land is restored in two years with the Inga Tree Model to sustainable plots for meals safety, ecosystem restoration, and financial administration.

The Inga Foundation mannequin could be replicated, at scale, throughout the entire of the moist forest zone of Honduras, the remainder of Central America, and into South America. We have facilitated Inga alley replication in 15 international locations with farmer/NGO/authorities teams by offering coaching to households.

“I was working for so little for someone else, when I could find work, that I could not feed my family. But now, with the Inga tree alleys for planting, I am a producer,” Damas stated.

Tell us in the feedback:

  • What do you suppose? Does this text provide you with some hope?
  • Have you heard of the Inga alley cropping method?
  • What different sustainable agroforestry methods are you conscious of?

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