How Inga Alley Cropping Can Help Save The Rainforests
Mrs Antoinette Mendo has become the first farmer in tropical Africa to harvest a crop, using an exciting new technique called Inga Alley Cropping. She obtained more than 3 times the yield of maize that was grown on an adjacent plot, farmed in the traditional way. If the Inga method were to be widely implemented, it would help improve the livelihoods of millions of poor slash and burn farmers and help save millions of acres of rainforests.
In most tropical forest areas the traditional method of slash and burn farming is no longer sustainable. Due to population pressure the poor farmers are forced to move and farm on new plots that are becoming less and less fertile. Thus in some areas of tropical hillsides, land that was once lush tropical forest now appears completely barren, unable to support either forests or agriculture. Inga Alley Cropping can prevent this continual destruction and provide farmers with more secure, sustainable livelihoods.
It works by cleverly imitating the natural recycling process of the forest eco-system. The Inga trees are grown in alleys and when they’ve reached a certain height their branches are pruned and laid within the alley. Seeds are then sown within the decomposing mulch, while the trees rapidly re-grow. As the Inga mulch continuously re-cycles the nutrients and minimises erosion, the plot is able to maintain its fertility. This means that the farmer can get higher yields and continue to farm on the same plot year after year. Usually slash and burn farmers have to move every 3 years or so, burn another area of rainforest and start a new plot because they have exhausted the fertility of their old one.
Mrs Mendo was helped to start her plot in by Gaston Bityo, who runs the NGO ‘Volunteers Serving Development’ and by the UK charity ‘Rainforest Saver’ (www.rainforestsaver.org) . Twenty more Cameroonian farmers have also started Inga plots and if sufficient funding can be found, the potential benefits of using the Inga system in the tropical areas of Africa, Central and South America, and South-east Asia are immense. Regions in which both peoples and forests are currently struggling for survival could be transformed into places, where both humans and forests are once again thriving. All the farmers need are the Inga seedlings and the necessary training and they can begin to improve both their livelihoods and the environment. All that Rainforest Saver and their partners need are the funds to make this happen.