Our work has grown from purely scientific beginnings in the mid-1980s to the present day where we are seeing Inga-Alley-Cropping being increasingly adopted. During this time, we have had fruitful collaborations with over 25 institutions and communities, both large and small, and we have worked with partners from six different countries. Today we are working with a range of different organisations on a variety of projects.
We have collaborated for many years with forest botanists at Kew on a number of projects, such as establishing experimental Inga alley plots at San Juan in Costa Rica.
Today, we are collaborating on several fronts, with enquiries about the applicability of the Inga system coming in from many parts of the tropical world. Kew’s tropical legume specialists and ourselves are actively seeking legume species that might function in other tropical forest regions as Inga does for us in the Central America. Underlying this is the view, held by the vast majority of professional conservationists and ecologists, that the introduction of Inga as an exotic to other regions of the world, however well-intentioned, would be irresponsible.
Our objective therefore is to identify as many indigenous candidate species as possible from regions throughout the tropics that could be used locally for alley cropping, as Inga is used in Central and South America, and to mount screening trials for these species. We are currently investigating setting up projects to work on this in a range of areas, including West Africa, Congo and Central Southern Africa, plus potentially a second project in Madagascar.
The Honduran NGO Mosquitia Pawisa (MOPAWI) has been a valued partner for many years. Their remit is the conservation of the cultural and ecological heritage of one of Central America’s last wilderness areas, the Mosquitia. They are running a rural development project in the communities around Capapan, Olancho, where they have a logistics base. Capapan is located in the upper watershed of the Patuca river and is close to the advancing front of logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. Inga Alley Cropping, including Inga alley cultivation of cacao as a cash crop, is one component of an integrated approach MOPAWI are using to try to slow the deforestation and protect the Mosquitia
Inga Foundation are channelling funds from Frances Murrell to the operation as a holding measure until major funds can be secured.
In a particularly exciting development, EcoLogic are working to introduce Inga alley cropping to the Maya heartland. Their former (now-ex) Regional Director, Sebastian Charchalac, first encountered the Inga alleys at our Demostration Center in 2000. In 2007, they began establishing alleys with two Maya communities in Tikal and Sarstoon. Our Extension Officer, Faustino Reyes, was “borrowed” in late 2010 to demonstrate pruning of the Inga alleys and helped to plant maize within the pruned alleys. They have also established control plots growing maize conventionally next to the Inga alley plots, in order to demonstrate the different results of the two methods. Very low yields were produced by the control plots, while the Inga plots gave a high yield and achieved this without any weeding. This clear demonstration of the benefits of Inga has helped to convince the local people and EcoLogic reports that the communities are now converted “Guameros locos” and are eager to plant more Inga alleys.