Growing Maize with Inga
In the year 2000, Ruben Mendoza took his first maize crop for many years from a site, near his village, which had previously been incapable of producing a harvest. The site had been slashed and burnt years before and had become overrun by grasses and scrub vegetation. In 1997, Ruben planted Inga alleys with seedlings from our project nursery. The trees required 2 years to reclaim the site, but succeeded and after those 2 years where at the stage where they could be pruned ready for a crop to be sown.
Ruben is a member of the Pech Maya tribal community in Carbon, Olancho, and, therefore is a descendant of one of the major corn cultures of Pre-Columbian Middle America. His trial area was initially small, 1/10th ha., and his only inputs were his own labour and a half-bag of rock-phosphate donated by the project. These very affordable inputs resulted in a maize crop equivalent to over 2 tonnes per ha. Moreover, the first prunings yielded enough firewood for 3-months’ use in the kitchen stove.
It is typical of shifting agriculture in these areas that farmers can walk 2-3 hours each way every day to their current “milpa” or plot, and each year a new plot has to be established. Part of what made Inga alleys such a change for Ruben was that he could see his maize crop from his back door. This may seem trivial but the extra hours that this frees up each day make a huge difference. Ruben’s yields of both food and firewood, coupled with a massive reduction in hours spent both walking and weeding, have impressed him deeply. He has now taken his third successive maize crop and is expanding his planting of Inga alleys.
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