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 developed the revolutionary agricultural system of Inga Alley Cropping through years of scientific research into slash and burn farming and founded the Inga Foundation to help popularise this method. He is now working closely with families to implement this sustainable method in place of slash and burn practices.
For Honduran campensinos (subsistence farmers), changing farming methods 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, a Cornish farmer as well as an ecologist, has always emphasised the importance of establishing trust, understanding and compassion when working together with the local people.
Mike Hands – no. 44 in top 100 contributors to saving the planet” – THE GUARDIAN
An 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 with Inga alley cropping that does indeed seem to be the case: 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 showcase our work, 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 the benefits for themselves. Aside from creating the demonstration farm, Mike has employed a number of other approaches to gain credibility with local families. Conscious that a brand new idea was unlikely to be accepted if suggested by an unknown gringo (foreigner), the Foundation employed 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 only employs officers who believe in the model enough to use 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 its benefits is now starting to spread organically from farmer to farmer. Those who have been convinced by our efforts are in turn convincing others and getting their neighbours, friends and family involved too.