Creating food security and saving the rainforests – could this model be the answer?

The Inga Model helps farmers to move away from using unsustainable farming practices to grow just enough food to feed their families, and instead build a system that provides a sustainable supply of food, generates further crops for selling, reduces deforestation, mitigates climate change and reduces biodiversity loss.

October 16th is World Food Day, an international event created by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Food is a universal human need, yet millions of people worldwide do not have secure access to it. If we are to feed every person on our planet without destroying it – up to 8 billion people – one of the major changes that we need to make is in agriculture.

Across the tropics, it is estimated that up to 300 million families are growing just enough food for themselves using slash-and-burn agriculture, which involves burning large areas of forest, growing food in the nutrient-rich ash for two to three years, after which the land becomes unusable, leaving farmers no option but to begin the process again on a new section of forest, trapping them in poverty as their land produces ever weaker crops.

The Inga Model is an agroforestry system that uses Inga trees cropped in alleys to bring nutrients back into the soil, increase yields and provide firewood. This dramatically reduces the amount of space a family needs to produce enough food to sustain themselves, freeing up additional land to grow cash crops and build their way out of poverty.

The Inga Model also has the global benefits of reducing deforestation, tackling climate change and increasing biodiversity, but the original reason the Inga Foundation was created was to tackle poverty and food insecurity. Dr. Mike Hands, Tropical Ecologist and founder of the Inga Foundation commented, “When I started the research in the mid-eighties climate change was still being debated hotly. My objective was to take people out of abject poverty, food insecurity, and to protect what little remaining forest we have.”

With our flagship Land for Life project in Honduras, we are proving that the model can provide food security and reduce poverty for farmers, whilst also benefitting the planet by supporting 15 of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (UDGs). The next step in our journey is to take our method to other parts of the tropics, but we cannot do this without building international awareness and support for the project.

To help us do this, please sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our on-the-ground projects helping farmers to give up the practice of slash and burn and switch to sustainable agriculture, improving their food security and livelihoods in the process.

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