The Inga Model means resilience and stability for families and the rainforest habitats alike, recognising that a holistic solution to rainforest deforestation must address both environmental and social issues at the root of the problem. Inga Foundation’s Land for Life programme is one of the only initiatives in the world that addresses, either directly or indirectly, at least 15 of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Its far-reaching benefits include:
The involvement of the entire family in its own livelihood
The dilemma so often facing the mother of the family is that this year’s slash-and-burn plot is so distant that she can neither take young children with her to assist in its management, nor can she safely leave them alone. If the plot is permanently located close to home, this dilemma is resolved and family cohesion enhanced.
Ease of management
The easing of labour demands in crop nurture, harvesting and processing (where appropriate); ease of access; freeing the breadwinner’s time for more productive activities other than hours spent in climbing steep terrain.
Probably the most important benefit of all. When employing Inga Alley Cropping, 1-2 hectares 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 employ in other ways to help lift themselves out of poverty. It means an easing of the anxiety that is inherent in slash-and-burn subsistence agriculture.
Better quality of staple crops
Higher nutrient content of basic grains (evidence from the Cambridge Inga projects 1989-96).
This particularly applies to the quality of protein and the nutritional well-being of children.
Resilience to variations in climate
Physical protection, by shade or mulch, of the vital upper soil layers and conservation of soil moisture and structure. One of the most important factors here is in the shading of the soil, preventing it becoming overheated and desiccated by solar radiation; or eroded by intense rain.
Domestic firewood produced where it is consumed
The ability to produce massive quantities of the favourite domestic fuelwood for the kitchen stove; often their only source of heat for cooking.
Security of cash crops
The ability to guard, protect, nurture and process perennial cash-crops close to the home. We are seeing this in the present projects in which the male breadwinner tends to produce the green pepper crop and the lady of the household invariably takes responsibility for the processing and marketing of the dried, black product.
Achieved, firstly, by the Inga shade prior to pruning and secondly, by smothering under deep, tough mulch after pruning. In almost all cases, maize crops can be produced without the need of a single day’s weeding effort.
Biological pest control
The well-known ant and wasp associations supported in Inga by the trees’ possession of extra-floral nectaries for these symbiotic insects. Both predatory insects forage for grubs in the tree foliage and in the crops.
Self-reliance and autonomy
The nurturing of the sense of pride and self-reliance that is ingrained in the families that we are working with. Autonomy brought about by minimal dependence on externalities; especially freedom from debt.
Watershed protection; clean water and soil conservation are among these benefits. Inga alleys have consistently endured violent and prolonged rain storms, including three hurricanes, without significant loss of soil.