Inga Foundation Founder and Director Mike Hands has been working to halt the destruction of the rainforest for over 20 years. An experienced tropical ecologist and scientific researcher, Mike divides his time between his farm in Cornwall, UK, and the Inga Foundations chief project, the Land for Life Project in Honduras.
Mike established the Inga Foundation to help spread the revolutionary agricultural system of Inga alley cropping which he developed after years of scientific research into slash and burn farming. Through the Inga Foundation he is now working closely with the local communities to implement this new and sustainable alternative to slash and burn.
For Honduran campensinos (subsistence farmers), changing the way they farm is a huge and difficult decision. Given that their lives depend on the food they produce, these farmers have good reason to be conservative in their decision making. Mike, as a Cornish farmer as well as ecologist, has always emphasised the importance of establishing trust and understanding and working together with the local people.
“Mike Hands -no. 44 in top 100 contributors to saving the planet” – THE GUARDIANAn essential part of the work of the Inga Foundation’s Land for Life project has therefore been to gain the credibility and trust of local families. They say seeing is believing, and in Inga alley cropping that does indeed seem to be the case, as the surest way to convince farmers to take the risk and give up slash and burn is to show them a working example of Inga alley cropping. To this end we have established a demonstration farm in one of the communities where we work and run regular open days to allow families from across the area to come and see for themselves the benefits of Inga alley cropping.Aside from creating the demonstration farm, Mike has employed a number of other approaches to gain credibility with local families. Conscious of the fact that an idea so different from the norm was unlikely to be accepted if suggested by a unknown gringo (foreigner), the Foundation employs a dedicated team of local Hondurans who are well known and respected in the communities where we work. Mike maintains that it is vital that our local extension officers lead by example and so has therefore only employed extension officers who not only say they believe in the Inga alley cropping but also who clearly demonstrate that belief by using the technique themselves to produce their food.
And these efforts have paid off. The Inga Foundation has become recognised and trusted in the communities where we work and our Land for Life Project now has over 100 families involved. Even better, word of Inga alley cropping and the advantages it brings is now starting to spread organically from farmer to farmer, as those who’ve been convinced by the efforts of our team, in turn convince others, getting their neighbours, friends and family involved too.