The Guama Model

The Guama Model ( Guama is the local name for Inga) delivers a sustainable, resilient rural livelihood that allows an escape from poverty and an end to the practice of slash and burn.

In Honduras the average area of land (usually degraded and steeply sloping) available to a family for slash and burn agriculture is cited as 8 hectares. Normally, several hectares must be slashed and burnt each year simply to meet the family’s basic food requirements. None of the 8 ha. can be used for anything other that slash and burn because all 8 ha. need to be used in rotation for burning at 2-3 year intervals in order to produce enough food to feed the family.

Furthermore, since nutrients are leached from the soil with every burn, the harvests obtained decline year on year, even with rotation of the plots burned. Ever declining yields draws families deeper and deeper into poverty, even as they work ever harder each year in order to make ends meet.

Inga alley cropping, in contrast, is highly efficient and 2 ha is more than enough to provide food security for the whole family, as well as firewood with which to cook. This therefore frees up, on average, 6 ha of land per family which the family can then choose to employed in other ways in order to help lift themselves out of poverty.

The Guama Model contains our estimate of maximal utility for a family to generate a secure and sustainable livelihood that will be resilient to threats from climate change or economic instability. It is important to stress, however, than none of our recommendations are compulsory and families are free to pick and choose what elements of the model, if any, they feel will best suit them.

The Guama Model: Creating Sustainable and Resilient Rural Livelihoods

Food security is the essential foundation for any sustainable low-input rural livelihood and 1-2 hectare of Inga Alley Cropping is enough to deliver this. Aside from these 1-2 ha of Inga alleys for food crops, the elements included in the Guama Model are:

 – Inga alleys for production of cash crops – a range of cash crops can be produced successfully and organically using Inga alley cropping, including pineapple, black pepper spice, vanilla, yams, plantain, chili, cardamon etc.

 – Low maintenance fruit trees – We are currently supporting families to plant up to 2 ha of fruit tree crops. These can include an number of highly valuable cash crops such as cacao, rambutan, citrus, avocado etc. and help to diversify the farm, thereby making it more resilient to climate or economic shocks.

 – Reforestation – We are supporting the families who are willing to reforest as much of the the remaining land as possible, which could easily be up to 5 ha. Apart from the obvious environmental benefits of this, it also benefits families as in future they can sustainably harvest timber from this reforested area forest, providing them with another dependable source of income as well as materials for house construction. Many families have commented that they are keen to do it as it is one of the best ways they can leave a secure inheritance to their children, given that they often do not have access to banking services.