The Cuero Valley, Honduras
This is a 10-year program which aims to support up to 200 families in the Cuero Valley area to give up the practice of slash and burn and switch to sustainable agriculture using Inga alley cropping, improving their food security and livelihoods in the process.
We will do this through working with each family to implement the flexible Guama Model for Inga alley cropping in the way which best meets the individual needs of each family. At present we are aiming to bring on board 40 new families each year. Each new family will be asked to plant a small number of Inga trees as an orchard to provide enough seed for a further 3 families to take up alley cropping.
The Cuero Valley is of critical conservation importance as it is located within the buffer zone of the Pico Bonito National Park. The National Park holds a large area of primary tropical rainforest that supports many endangered and threatened species. As well as this, the Park also provides important ecosystem services, including generating rainfall, maintaining and regulating the flow of the area’s rivers and preventing soil erosion and landslides on the steep mountainous terrain. Slash and burn farming is a major threat to the Park, with much of the buffer zone already degraded by subsistence farming practices and the core zone increasingly at risk.
Our New Project Center
We have just purchased a 7ha piece of land in the Cuero Valley on which to set up a Project Center.You can see follow our progress in getting the Center up and running and see all the latest pictures from the site on our Pinterest Page.
Once its complete, the Project Center will contain:
An Inga Seed Bank – Each new family needs 5000 Inga seed to begin alley cropping. A reliable supply of large quantities of Inga seeds is therefore essential for our work in Honduras to be able to expand. We have now finished planting the seedlings that will become the Seed Bank – they will start to produce seeds in just 2 years time.
A Tree Nursery -A temporary tree nursery has already been set up and is currently full of freshly germinated Inga seedlings which we will use to create the demonstration Inga alleys for the Project Center.
In future, the Tree Nursery will also be used to grow seedlings of rainforest tree species to be used for reforestation. Because alley cropping allows families to meet all their food and fuel needs from a much smaller area of land, it frees up a large portion of the land that families previously farmed. Therefore, as well as breaking the cycle of shifting cultivation created by slash and burn, the Guama Model also allows families to reforest a significant proportion of their land if they wish to. We will use the tree nursery to supply the native tree seedlings needed for this reforestation.
Demonstration Alley Cropping Plots – Work started this month on the planting of several hectares of demonstration plots. Changing how you farm is a huge decision to take when your livelihood depends entirely on what you grow. Our work has shown us that in this case, seeing really is believing – by far the most effective way to convince farmers is to show them Inga alley cropping in action, making these Demonstration Plots essential.
Cash Crops Experimentation & Processing Facilities – Alley cropping has been successfully used to grow a number of cash crops such as pepper and pineapple (see pictures above). We will use some of the Center’s land to experiment and perfect techniques for additional types of cash crops, such as vanilla, and to propagate seedlings of crops already known to be successful, in order to supply local families.
Transporting crops from the remote Cuero valley to market can be challenging for farmers, as can securing a fair price for their produce. We will therefore also work with the local families to establish a farmers co-operative so that the families will have the collective bargaining power necessary to secure a fair price for their produce. The Project Center will serve as a hub for the storage and processing of cash crops from these farmers co-ops and we will also aid with transporting crops to market.
Latest photos from the new Project Center: