Inga Alley Cropping for sustainable farming

About Solution

For generations, slash-and-burn agriculture has been a way of life for subsistence farming families in the tropics around the world. Families clear cut and burn patches of rainforest to create plots of fertile soil on which to grow their basic food crops; the soil fertility, however, does not last. Crop failure and subsequent erosion forces families who depend on slash-and-burn to keep clearing new patches of rainforest every few years just to survive. More than 200,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed every day, and more than two billion tons of carbon - more than all global transport combined - are released into the atmosphere every year. But there is a solution. Inga Alley Cropping is a simple, scientifically-proven, and sustainable solution to stopping the devastation of the world’s tropical rainforests while providing food security. This revolutionary agroforestry system uses nitrogen-fixing tree species from the genus Inga to regenerate land depleted by slash-and-burn, sequester thousands of tons of carbon, and transform the lives of subsistence farming families. Inga Alley Cropping is a fully integrated ecosystem that naturally recreates conditions on the forest floor. This not only stabilizes and replenishes the soil but also prevents erosion and protects watersheds, wildlife and marine habitats. Inga Alley Cropping also effectively anchors a family to a single plot of land, allowing the entire family to work together close to home and eliminating their dependence on slash-and-burn-- allowing them to achieve “land for life.”  Inga seedlings are planted in rows on steep, degraded slopes and require no herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, technology or heavy equipment. After one-to-two years, the trees are pruned, with the branches supplying a year's worth of firewood and the leaves a soil-protecting mulch. Crops are planted between the rows and shaded as the resilient trees regrow. After the crops have matured, they are harvested and the cycle repeats. Since 2012, the Inga Foundation’s simple agroforestry system of Inga Alley Cropping in Honduras has planted 3 million trees and dramatically transformed the lives of over 250 subsistence farming families. After 20 years of scientific proof of concept, we have proof in the landscape in the two valleys in Honduras for seven years (assisting over 2000 people). The ability of the resilient Inga tree to anchor, enrich, and regenerate depleted soil provides food security with 100% success for families with two year-old alleys. Most are seeing improved incomes from their long-term cash crops such as pepper, pineapple, turmeric, vanilla, cocoa, and rambutan.

These fast-growing trees block the growth of weeds in their shade and in-between the alleys organic cash crops are planted. The alleys significantly reduce global carbon emissions, protect wildlife and marine habitats, preserve water sources, and yield firewood. The organic cash crops and nourishment crops are grown without chemical fertilizers (just a side dressing of  inexpensive rock phosphate and K-mag).

The alleys survive hurricane rains and months of drought, stop erosion and mudslides, provide habitats for animals, and retain and filter the water protecting coral reefs and aquatic life. Inga Alley Cropping is implemented by the families and for the families, led by the Honduran team of foresters, agronomists and nursery staff. Without debt, the entire family is enabled to transform their own livelihood from the precarious and food-insecure present condition in dependence upon slash-and-burn practices to a sustainable and productive low-input permaculture, raising the crops they choose on regenerated land. Change occurs by the family itself which achieves as near self-reliance and autonomy as is possible. This low-input, debt-free, and bottom-up program is available now and gives families the means to farm their plots with truly sustainable agricultural practices. 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. Farmers in the humid tropics are eager to plant Inga alleys. We are solving multiple problems with one "wonder tree" which has 300+ species indigenous to the entire tropics. Inga Alley Cropping is not just an alternative to the systemic problem of cutting/burning of tropical rainforests for growing food, it is a solution to stopping it altogether.

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