No.12 From mountain top farmers to the coral reef: our Inga alley cropping project
By Tiiu-Imbi Miller | Newsletter No. 12 June - July 2009

An integrated project based on Inga alley cropping.  Part 1                          

Rainforest Beauty

                       Rainforest Beauty . Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

 

Rainforest destruction

                          Rainforest destruction. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

I went to Honduras in May, at the invitation of Dr. Dodson of FunaVid and Dr. Valle of CURLA.   

FunaVid (Fundacion Agricola Vid) is a small NGO founded by Dr. Dodson, at

Dr Vallepresent without a website, which I have promised to make for them. I will tell you more about them in a subsequent newsletter. CURLA (Centro Universitario Regional del  Litoral Atlantico) is part of the Autonomous National University of Honduras.  It is the practical part, teaching such subjects as economics, nursing and agroforestry.  They have a large campus, but little money. It is one of the earliest research stations for the Inga alley cropping.  The first Inga was planted there in 1997, covering approximately 3ha. Dr. Valle has been in charge of the Inga alleys on the campus for many years, but much of the work he does, or rather would do if he had the money, with the Inga is not paid for by the university.

 

 

 

            Dr Valle.  Photo byTiiu Miller 2009.

In Dr. Valle's words, the project we are now supporting can be summarised as follows:

  "It is very important to visualize agroforestry  as an integral activity, because we can   protect offshore reefs by controlling sediment runoff   which can smother reefs and decrease nursery space for spawning fish and moluscs. The avoidance of these terrible things plus a sustainable agriculture will enable producers and fishermen to start eco-agro-tourism in the slopes and beaches of our area and other regions. So, our vision, which starts with agroforestry, emcompasses all this.
Also, in the long run, carbon sequestration will contribute to normalize climate and avoid out of proportion hurricanes, cyclones, flooding and much more. FunaVid and CURLA had a commitment from the US government for more than half a million dollars because of WW2BW(1), but along came hurricane Katrina which destroyed New Orleans and so that money was used for reconstruction. Now, we have a global crisis and money is scarce.
So, we appreciate any help and look forward to working with the RainForest Saver foundation in this sustainable approach to improve living conditions of thé more poor and also help the environment. " 

 

White Water

 

WW2BW stands for White water to Blue water.  You start at the top of the mountain by using Inga alley cropping to restore the land degraded by slash and burn. This gives the farmers a much better living, and they don't need to cut and burn more

rainforest. It also stops the terrible erosion produced by slash and burn, which is silting up the rivers and smothering the reefs. So you get the white water properly restored, and as it reaches the sea you get good quality blue water.

 

White water. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

 


Blue water

Blue water: view of the sea from the mountain. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

We are currently fund raising for the first phase of the project.  This would cover the work that is planned up to about April 2010.  Obviously a great deal more funds will be needed later, and we will describe more of the project and further plans in later newsletters.  Here we want to give you some more details of this first phase.

A few years back Dr. Valle tried to hold classes for the farmers but that did not work out well as they had too many problems in attending. So he now has started classes with older agricultural high school students. The course encompasses more than just the Inga alley cropping, and is both theoretical and practical.

Class on Inga

        Class on Inga for senior high school students. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

 It takes place over several days at intervals during the year.  FunaVid provide the schoolroom and vehicles for transport. However our money to help to pay for the diesel to transport the students and the meals that are provided for what is a day's attendance each time was very gratefully accepted.  There is now little available for that otherwise. Dr. Valle arranged one of these training days for when I was in Honduras. In the morning he gave them a class on the Inga system, then, after a break, a shorter class on another sustainable agricultural system, and after lunch we all went up the "FunaVid mountain" for a practical demonstration of Dr. Valle's Inga alleys there.

 Taking the students up the mountain

                       Taking the students up the mountain to the Inga plantations. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

 Dr. Valle's Inga alleys on the mountainside

                   Dr. Valle's Inga alleys on the mountainside. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

 Inga class in the alleys

                          Inga class in the alleys. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

Besides teaching about the Inga system the students also got to plant some seeds and are encouraged to take them to plant out in their communities. A further important aspect of this will be a follow up by Dr. Valle of anyone who might like to take up the system, and he will of course provide any assistance, such as seed, that is needed.

One of the things we now need to help fund is next year's classes and this follow up.

Another part of this first stage will be a field trip with 10 - 15 adults selected from among the people who had been to Dr. Valle's training sessions, to show them different agroforestry systems, including of course the Inga. Dr. Valle hopes that some of these people will then help as extensionists in the FunaVid area to help to extend the word about agroforestry, especially Inga, as good systems to reduce poverty

Mature well maintained Inga alley at CURLA

               Mature, well maintained Inga alley at CURLA. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

  Another part of the project is to bring the mayors and/or city environmental officers from four neighbouring towns or cities to visit the Inga system. As the environment is important to many people, that is, it gets votes! -  Dr. Valle thinks that they are very likely to take up the Inga system in their districts and will provide money for it. One of the problems they will want to solve is the damage that erosion from the slash and burn of the mountains above the cities is doing to their water supplies.

The whole project is carefully planned. Other aspects, which may not yield immediate results in terms of farmers taking up the Inga, but are of future importance, are an assessment of the state of the coral reef in the FunaVid location, an assessment of land ownership and poverty levels in that region, and areal photographs of the area.  This will yield valuable information for how to proceed, and allow for the future assessment of the success of interventions.  If after the slash and burn areas on the mountain have been replaced by Inga alleys (more of that in another newsletter) we find the state of the coral reef much improved this will be a valuable result both to encourage other coastal areas to take up the Inga. Even areas further inland may be interested, as the prevention of erosion is vital in any farming.  It will also be a valuable ‘visible' result to encourage donations.

Knowing the poverty levels will enable the assessment of results, and knowing who owns their land will help in determining whom to approach, as farmers who own their land will be much more interested in a permanent form of farming than those who don't.

I emphasise that this is just a first phase.  Some ways of following this up look obvious, but there are very many possibilities, and a lot will depend both on what results we get and how much money we can raise.

                                                  

Hibiscus flower

                     Hibiscus flower, Honduras. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.

Reference

(1) A. E. Lugo and M. Parsons Honduras Assessment report

http://www.yale.edu/tri/pdfs/sustainable%20development/honduras_assesment.pdf