We are in year 7 of the 10 year "Land for Life" project in Honduras. We will continue to add 40 families this year as we create a critical mass. Our project is unique as no one else in the world is implementing this kind of scientifically-proven, complete, and integrated ecosystem at the density and scale that we have achieved. Inga alley cropping can be easily replicated and scaled to the entire tropics using 300+ native, nitrogen-fixing species.
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Slash-and-burn is a subsistence farming method used by millions of families in the tropics. Annually, slash-and-burn contributes around two billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere--an amount greater than all global transport combined. Families cut down and burn a patch of forest in order to create an area of fertile soil on which they can grow their food. The soil fertility, however, does not last. Crop failure and erosion drives families who depend on slash-and-burn to clear fresh areas of rainforest every few years just to survive. Inga alley-cropping is the revolutionary alternative to slash-and-burn. Developed by the Inga Foundation’s founder and director, Mike Hands, in partnership with Cambridge University and resulting from over twenty-five years of research and development, the model is Inga Foundation’s response to the present and widespread problem of land degradation due to repeated slash-and-burn agriculture. Of the different potential options investigated by Hands, the only sustainable system to emerge from years of scientific research was Inga’s system of alley-cropping, which uses nitrogen-fixing tree species from the genus Inga. Inga trees maintain soil fertility and good harvests annually, thus breaking the slash-and-burn cycle and allowing families to gain long-term food security on one piece of land. Inga alleys out-compete aggressive and invasive weeds which dominate the farmers’ plots. This closed system is a revolutionary cycle--organic food for the families, organic cash crops, and a sustainable system which also protects water sources and prevents erosion.
The success of Inga Alley Cropping is due to the families who participate. The Inga system has ALWAYS been a bottom-up process. As our numbers have grown, there has emerged a self-perpetuating momentum. Because this is a relatively new system, it is necessary to provide one-on-one support for a family for 2 years. We are reaching a "critical mass" of families with 100% success---and a waiting list of families since the first season.Neighbors see and want for their own families the food-security and cash benefits of the Inga Alley-cropping system which contains the seeds of its own replication (literally and figuratively). There is no short-cut to the self-perpetuating momentum that is our ultimate goal. Our 240+ families serve as a model of sustainable good practice and we anticipate a doubling of the number in three years. Crucial to a rapid scaling-up of Inga Alley-cropping is the education piece for running open courses for groups of visiting government and non-government agencies, farmer groups, etc. from all over the tropics.
Subsistence farming families who have planted Inga alleys have increased incomes, improved livelihoods, a more nutritious diet to help combat stunting and a resilience that works in harmony with their resources. In 4 years we will have completed the Land for Life Project (now in year 7), and every year we have been on target and under budget. We have planted over 2 million trees and we will continue to add at least 40 families a year (we have a waiting list as demand for trees outpaces the capacity of our two nurseries). We have built the capacity and experience to scale-up to other regions and the experience to provide training to many other tropical regions. With Inga alley cropping in Honduras, for the first time ever, families organically grow their own sustainable food supply as well as cash crops; millions of tons of carbon have been sequestered by the anchoring of families to their land and their not moving deeper into the rainforest to slash and burn new farming plots; families for the first time are able to sell cash crops such as pepper, turmeric, pineapple, cacao, and and vanilla; rainforest and wildlife habitats are being protected as the family now has “Land for Life;” (our project name), soils are being enriched by the nitrogen-fixing Inga trees; steep and once-depleted soils are stabilized by the protection of the Inga tree’s foliage as well as by means of leaf mulch when the trees are pruned; firewood is supplied by the pruned trunks and boughs of the Inga tree, which is an important part of the process; water sources are protected and erosion stopped as the soil is now stable and does not wash away protecting rivers, streams, coral reefs and ocean life. Delegations we trained from Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala, and other regions are implementing the Inga model and we want to get our stories out to a wider audience and show the world what needs to be scaled up. We present a compelling case for doing what is good for local economies and the environment by investing in practices that restore degraded lands and enable farmers to adapt to climate change. Our original demonstration farm borders a National Forest and it is gratifying to see species of birds and amphibians that were not on our land a few years ago have returned. No one else in the world is doing this type of complete agroforestry system at our scale and size.
|Projected Cumulative Lives Impacted||25|
|New Implemented Countries||Dominican Republic, Peru|
|Recruit||20 volunteers and 10 part-time instructors|
|New Feature||Regional/national teaching centers/regional nurseries|