The Guama Model
The Guama Model delivers a sustainable, low-input rural livelihood that allows an end to the practice of slash and burn.
It reflects a demographic fact in Honduras; the average area of degraded (usually steeply sloping) land available to a family for slash and burn agriculture is about 8 hectares. This formerly forested land will almost invariably be covered in, at best, secondary scrub vegetation, or more commonly, in fire-climax grassland. It will be degraded in fertility and structure; and, because of the dominance by perennial grasses will be exceedingly hard to keep weed free.
Normally, several hectares must be slashed and burnt each year simply to supply the family’s basic food requirements. No alternative use of any of the 8 ha. can be contemplated because all of it will be used for short-rotation burning at 2-3 year intervals. This burning is insufficient, by a huge margin, to replenish the the soil’s fertility and nutrients are leached out with every burn. Yields decline year-on-year; and weeding becomes increasingly difficult and time consuming (One hectare can require up to 150 days of weeding per year, and figures of 60 days per hectare are common.).
In contrast, Inga alley cropping achieves near 100% elimination of grasses and weeds, with the mulch from each pruning smothering any weed regeneration. And we have witnessed farmers harvest successful maize crops with absolutely no weeding effort on Inga alley plots.
This allows the Guama Model to not only provides families with food and fuel security close to home, but also halting further deforestation and free up currently cultivated land for reforestation, as all a families food and fuel needs can be met from just 1 ha.
A Flexible Formula
It is important to emphasise that the model is not rigid or prescriptive and the fractions of the total 8 hectares dedicated to different needs can be tailored by each family to meet their individual needs and aspirations.
Food security is the essential foundation for any sustainable low input rural livelihood and a single hectare of Inga alley cropping is enough to deliver this. When compared with the 8 ha of unsustainable slashed and burnt scrub/grass on which families typically struggle to grow enough to meet their needs, the power of the Inga alley-cropping system is becomes evident.
Taking the model at its simplest, once food security is achieved 7 ha remain which can be put to other uses. For example a family could decide to have:
1 ha. for basic food crops.
1 ha. for cash crops.
1 ha. of low maintenance fruit trees (eg. citrus) as a low input cash crop.
5 ha. of degraded land for reforestation and carbon-capture.
….or whichever combination of components; on whatever area of land, the particular family sees fit.