The Inga Model

The Inga Model delivers a sustainable, resilient rural livelihood that allows an escape from poverty and an end to the practice of slash-and-burn.

Why should farmers switch away from slash-and-burn?

In Honduras, the average area of land available to a family for agriculture is cited as 8 hectares, often steeply sloping and with degraded soil. Normally, several hectares must be slashed and burned each year simply to meet the family’s basic food requirements. The land can’t be used for anything other than slash and burn: to produce enough food to feed the family, all 8 hectares need to be used in rotation, burning at 2-3 year intervals.

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

What’s the alternative?

Inga alley cropping, in contrast, is highly efficient and 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.

The Inga 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. However, none of our recommendations are compulsory and families are free to pick and choose which elements of the model, if any, they feel will best suit them. Aside from the 1-2 ha of Inga alleys for food crops, these may include:

  • 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 to name a few.
  • Low maintenance fruit trees – We are currently supporting families to plant up to 2 hectares of fruit tree crops. These can include a 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.

How does Inga help to regenerate and reforest?

We support families who are willing to reforest as much of the remaining land as possible, which could easily be up to 5 hectares. Apart from the obvious environmental gains, this also benefits the family, who will be able to 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 said this 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.

What are the costs to the family?

The family’s investment derives from its own efforts in establishing the Inga. Without the mineral supplements, they will see no immediate benefits from the system for perhaps 2-3 years from taking the decision to sign up for the Inga system. The fact that so many are now seeking us out in order to do just that is testament to their faith in what they are seeing in our demo farm and on their neighbours’ farms.