Inga in Action
Inga alley cropping has enabled many families over the years to give up slash and burn and change to a more sustainable and easier way of life. Here are just a few of their stories:
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.
Victor and Rosa: Pepper as an Organic Cash Crop
Victor and Rosa Coronado and their family live in the buffer-zone of Pico Bonito National Park, high up near the crest of one of the Park’s mountain ridges. In 1998 Victor decided to plant a trial area of Inga alleys. Shortly after he expanded this area but rather than plant more basic grains he chose to use the Inga alley system to grow pepper as a cash crop. He planted the pepper together with the necessary living support trees (Gliricidia sepium) in the knowledge that he could not expect any return for perhaps four years.
The pepper vines began a light production of pepper, a little prematurely, in 2002. Victor and his wife Rosa took in the crop. Rosa then carried out the processing. She washed, hot-dipped and sun-dried the crop, eventually producing dried black peppercorns. Instead of selling directly to a local buyer, she borrowed a grinder and ground the pepper. To this, she added about 25% by volume of ground cumin (which is local custom) and packed the resulting mixture into small plastic packs. She sold these small packs individually to households and restaurants in La Ceiba. The product created was both very fresh and completely organic. In this first venture into “value-added” production, she made around $200. At the second cropping, she repeated the process and made around $900.
Israel Matute: Maize, Firewood and Biological Weed Control
Israel Matute is a farmer who lives at Aguas Calientes near San Lorenzo in Yoro, Honduras. His Inga plot was established with help from FUPNAPIB (Fundación Parque Nacional Pico Bonito) in a follow-on project from the Cambridge Inga Project. Israel described how the original site was covered by invasive grasses and was completely infertile, after having been slashed and burnt a few years before. Once planted the Inga alleys recaptured the site over a 2 year period. Israel planted his first maize crop in 2005, which required a small amount of light weeding. In 2006 they then carried out the pruning of the entire plot, gaining a very large amount of Inga stems and branches for use as firewood. About one week after the pruning, once the mulch had settled, they sowed the second maize crop within the alleys. His second harvest was heavier than the first and the crop required no weeding at all as the mulch had achieved 100% weed control. The maize grown fed his immediate family for the whole year. Since this initial success, Israel has increased his Inga planting.