To save rainforests and alleviate poverty by teaching a new, sustainable, organic farming technique, to replace destructive slash and burn farming, to 23 rural schools in Honduras.
Help us to provide farmers’ children in rural schools in Honduras with education in sustainable farming with Inga alley cropping, as we did for Cameroon schools last year.
Help us to teach them to do
THIS instead of THIS
Inga alley cropping is a wonderful alternative to the slash and burn agriculture which is destroying rainforests but keeping the farmers poor.
- To live, farmers must keep destroying new forest, because cleared rainforest land quickly loses its fertility
- The farmers remain very poor
- The local ecosystem is destroyed
- Carbon is pumped into the atmosphere and biodiversity is lost
- Forests help to maintain rainfall, so that too is diminished
- Farmers can grow enough to eat and sell
- The same plot is used long term so no new rainforest has to be destroyed
- No artificial fertilizers or pesticides are required, so the system is affordable and safe
- The production of firewood by this system takes pressure off the rainforest
Inga trees are planted as hedges with alleys between them. The trees are pruned and crops are grown in the alleys, with the prunings fertilizing the alleys. The animation shows how this works in a section across one alley for the first three years.
This solution is so unbelievably simple and yet so effective. It is not a hand out. It is a way for local populations to break out of poverty and become successful farmers without destroying the environment.
The diagram shows just how effective we have found the Inga system to be in a small trial in Cameroon.
With your support, our Honduran partners will pass on this technique, together with further relevant environmental education, to farmers’ children in up to 23 more schools in Western Honduras. They will teach the children’s teachers, hoping to include about 140 of them, if we raise enough funds. The teachers will then pass on the knowledge to succeeding classes of students.
The teaching wll be done at ‘hub’ schools, where teachers from the surrounding area will come. Seedlings will be offered to teachers willing to establish alleys at their school, and previous experience has shown that most will take up the offer and include the children’s parents in the venture.
The teaching will be led by Dr. Guillermo Valle, professor at CURLA University (part of the National University of Honduras), assisted by other professors from there who will teach their own specialties. Whenever possible besides agroforestry (Inga is agroforestry) the course also includes plant physiology, tropical soils and seedling nursery management.
This is being done in association with a government sponsored tutorial system (“SAT”, or Tutorial Learning System in English) which operates in 12 of the 18 departments of Honduras. Careful and necessary follow-up will be provided in the early years.
As you can see from the map below, a great start has already been made. The teaching methods have been tried successfully.
Honduras is a poor and mountainous country, with most of Western Honduras being the most mountainous part. Yet people have to cultivate these steep slopes. The photo below shows where the land, originally all forested, has been cleared for cultivation, generally by the slash and burn method. Even the very top (top left corner) of the mountain is now bare.
With slash and burn after harvest the ground is left bare. It is not hard to see that the soil gets washed away by the heavy tropical rains. As it is red soil you can see the flooded river in the photo (below right) has
Hillside cleared for slash and burn farming, and the resultant sediment turning the river orange and overflowing. Western Honduras. Photo Warren Darrell.
turned orange with the sediment. Obviously such loss of soil leads to poor harvests, which in turn leads to poverty and malnutrition. There is much poverty throughout Honduras, but specially in Western Honduras, where 40% of children show stunting from malnutrition.
The loss of forest also means that the water from heavy rains runs off fast, and the photo below shows a farmer’s maize crop totally destroyed by such a flood in the region.
Sediment from slash and burn farming has caused the river to becom shallow and flood this field of maize. Photo Warren Darrell.
The UN has declared this year as the year of the soil. The world’s soil is being steadily depleted by current agriculture, and there is a dire prediction that we may have only 60 more years’ of good growing soil left worldwide. Inga alley cropping adds rich, nutritious (for plants, not for you and me!) mulch year by year to build up the soil/growing medium in the alleys. It also forms a substantial barrier to erosion on mountain slopes. So the farmers get better harvests year on year, and do not need to destroy the remaining rainforest in order to get fertile soil.
The young are the most receptive to new ideas. Therefore what better way could there be to change this disastrous slash and burn farming than by educating the young in better ways? Though, as you will see from what has already been done, this education is reaching some of the older folk too.
The schools are divided into three groups – see the map above. The six schools from the first group (blue on the map), and at least two from the second group (green) have all participated, and Inga alley plots have been planted at most of them. Some of these have now grown well, have been pruned and have reached the crop planting stage.
The above photo is of Dr. Valle teaching a class at a place called Cacao, one of the first batch of schools. The class consists of not only the students, but also teachers and a water board official. The water board are interested because deforestation has caused erosion in the water catchment area which is damaging the water supplies. Inga is useful for stabilizing the soil.
The photo below shows students from Las Marias school, a school high up the hillside, using an A-frame to make sure that the Inga rows follow the contours of their sloping plot. That ensures that the Inga reduces erosion.
Students learnig to create Inga alleys on a hillside with an A-frame. Photo Guillermo Valle.
Parents and anyone else interested from the community are also invited to see how the Inga works, so we hope that this will start to spread the system to the local communities. We did not expect that there would be much interest until we could show good harvests, and it is early days for that yet, but in fact about 30 students and 4 teachers from several surrounding communities have already asked for seedlings to take home, totaling about 500 seedlings, which will be supplied. This is very encouraging.
The photos below show well-grown Inga waiting to be pruned in the background, and pruned Inga and the firewood produced from the pruning in the foreground. The leaves left on the ground will rot down to form a fertile growing medium. Pruning also lets in the light for the crops grown in the alley. After harvest the Inga will regrow. The photo on the right shows the Inga nursery at Diamante de Sion school, one of the first six schools to plant Inga plots.
Pruning and Inga nursery at Diamante de Sion school. Nursery photo Guillermo Valle.
The money will be used to teach teachers from many schools (if we achieve the stretch goals about 23 schools with 140 teachers) in Western Honduras about Inga alley cropping, and to provide school Inga plots. It will pay for
- Travel expenses for Dr. Valle, his assistant and fellow professors who will do the teaching
- Board and lodging for them as Western Honduras is too far from La Ceiba, where CURLA is situated, for daily travel.
- Fuel and truck hire to transport Inga seedlings to the schools
- Meals for all participants of training sessions
- Follow up travel, including to schools already in this program, and delivery of more Inga if needed
This project can be delivered very economically because we do not have to pay salaries for Dr. Valle or his colleagues, and the salary for his assistant is already covered from other sources.
Reaching our target will cover most, but not all, of the 23 schools with 140 teachers in Western Honduras. so we hope that the target will be exceeded
You’re probably familiar with the immense value and beauty of natural rainforest, but here are some facts you might not know:
- They recycle water to provide rain over large areas and reduce flooding and landslides.
- We have studied less than one per cent of the plants and animals in them.
- About a quarter of our medicines contain a rainforest derived ingredient, and half to three quarters of cancer medicines do.
- The rosy periwinkle from Madagascar’s rainforest, which provided one of the earliest cancer cures, is now extinct in the wild.
- They are the wild source of many food plants. We need the wild genetic materials to improve pest, disease and climate change resistance
- They contain half the world’s species
The fertility of rainforests is in the trees, not the soil. In an intact rainforest the nutrients are recycled from leaf litter through the tree roots to the trees. As the trees drop leaves the cycle is repeated.
Slash and burn farming removes the trees. After the crop is harvested the rains wash the nutrients out of the bare soil, so the farmer must clear more forest to survive. The Inga tree is a legume that increases fertility by fixing nitrogen and recycling nutrients, particularly phosphorus, with the aid of bacteria and fungi in its roots. Inga alley cropping imitates the natural rainforest by recycling the nutrients and providing a permanent protective cover of leaf litter on the ground.
Rainforest Saver is a small yet passionate UK based charity working with local organizations, currently in Cameroon and Honduras, to promote Inga alley cropping.
In Honduras we work with Dr. Guillermo Valle, professor at CURLA (part of the National University of Honduras), and he and we also work with FunaVid (www.funavid.com), who have provided many facilities for the teaching.
Dr. Guillermo Valle, and with students explaining about the Inga system within an Inga alley on the FunaVid mountain, N. Honduras
For more information visit www.rainforestsaver.org
Or email us at [email protected]
Rainforest Saver is a registered charity in Scotland SC039007.
We are crowd funding for more money to build on the excellent ground-work already done in Honduras. To thank you for your support we have designed many rewards which we hope you will like.
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