No, 109 The past year and more
By Tiiu-Imbi Miller | Newsletter No. 109 November 2021

Welcome to the Rainforest Saver newsletter no. 109 - November 2021.  The past year and more 

 

I apologise for the lack of newsletters for the past six months.  All the countries we work in have had lockdowns.  Some work has been possible throughout, but much had to be postponed.  Fingers crossed, things do seem to be looking up now. So here is a catch-up report, including some exciting plans for the future.

 

 

CAMEROON, according to the work of each of our main partners.

 

 

Gaston Delor Bityo   For the first six months of the current period covid lockdown prevented Gaston from doing fieldwork.  However, in October he was able to resume his travels round the Francophone region beginning with visits to the three villages of Oveng, Ndziefidi and Metet close to Yaoundé.  There he met with several farmers who had already started Inga plots.  He supplied more Inga seeds to some and encouraged them all to maintain their plots and start Inga nurseries to expand.

 

Later that month he was able to make a second visit to Mouanko on the West coast. There the fishermen had been cutting down mangroves for firewood to dry and smoke their fish.  Gaston gave a well-attended training presentation showing several farmers and fishermen the Inga system, supplying and helping plant Inga seeds to start a nursery and explaining that there would be useful firewood from the Inga trees which could benefit both farmers and fishermen. It is our hope that this firewood could be used to dry and smoke the fish instead of cutting down mangroves.

 

In November he and his co-driver, Calixte Ebolo, visited the Sanaga Yong chimpanzee rescue centre. The rescue centre helps people in the surrounding villages, which is where Gaston took the Inga.  He held four meetings in the villages which were attended by farmers from 10 of them.  He explained how Inga Alley-Cropping works and gave them Inga seeds which they planted in plastic pots and took home to start their own Inga nurseries.  Everyone was very happy with this. In May Gaston went back to Sanaga Yong taking 250 Inga seedlings with him and visited the same villages again.  He was pleased with how the farmers had cared for the seeds he gave them in November.  He set up little Inga demonstration plots in each village.

 

In early January Gaston visited Messamena and there held a successful preliminary meeting. He returned in June with 250 Inga seedlings which he distributed to the farmers.  He went to meet local officials and found one of them had two Inga trees for shade.  He said the villagers could take pods for seed from these.

 

In early February he visited Bengbis and Allen and, later that month, he went to Akonolinga and Fang Biloun.   He introduced the next project where we will be doing some research into why we get such huge variation in the yields from the Inga plots, and whether two crops could be grown in each year in an Inga plot. 

 

 

Mrs. Mendo’s plot at Allen (near Bengbis) being pruned.

 

Linus Arong Melike

Linus continued working with 9 villages near the Korup National Park, particularly the six where the Inga was ready for pruning (Fabe, Meangwe 2, Mundemba, Masaka, Mokange and Lipenja 2 )

He started with the first village in 2017, and increased the number of villages over the  years, ending with 9 to date, and two more waiting.  A total of over 27,000 Inga trees have been planted in that time by 245 farmers with Inga alley cropping.  A further 470 Inga were in cocoa farms.  Not all farmers in each village joined the Inga project in the beginning, and some left after they had joined.  But when the harvests came in and they saw how good these were the ones who had left came back, and more wanted to join, and of course were accepted into the project. The good harvests have also convinced many farmers also in the neighbouring villages to want to join the project.  The yields from both the alley cropping and cocoa farms were good, and much better than from plots without the Inga.  They grew a variety of crops in the Inga alleys: - maize, groundnuts, plantains, pineapples, cocoyams, cassava, bananas and other vegetables.

 

Preparing an Inga nursery at Mundemba

 

Linus has been greatly concerned about the extensive, illegal hunting in Korup National Park. Many of the hunters are from his own home village, Fabe.  They have agreed to stop hunting if we provide them with pigs, or in some cases chickens, to farm and sell. We are in process of planning and budgeting to fund this.  Once the project is well established it will become independent, with those who have pigs rearing them and giving piglets to those who initially did not have them. We hope that the increased yield from Inga plots will provide some of the food for the pigs.  We will be doing a crowd funding shortly for this exciting pilot project.  If it succeeds in Fabé village, where it will be tried first, then spreading it widely in Cameroon and other tropical countries could make a huge difference to both the survival of the rainforests and the wildlife in them, and the well-being of the local people.  The only ethical, and probably the only successful, way to save the forests is by providing for the people who live there. 

 

 

 

Atanga Wilson Nebafor 

Atanga continued his work in villages in and around Buea following up farmers who have started Inga plots and helping them with pruning, seed planting, and harvesting. Funded by a consortium of Rotary groups he contacted farmers and set up Inga plots in two new villages – Alori and Ntambu. 

Village meeting at Ntambu village.

 

 

He continues to be highly enthusiastic about the system asserting that it is much easier to manage than slash and burn and gives better yields and that his farmers are very happy with it. Many more farmers want to start.

 

Along with Gaston Atanga is also taking part in the ‘Research’ project funded by the Conservation, food and health Foundation (see the section on Gaston above).

Mami Mary Ngum Poses for a picture, obviously very proud of her little Inga seedling.

 

KENYA

 

Pastor Nsandah Premous Forzong 

Previously Pastor Nsandah had given a training session to 5 farmers at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) in the Lake Victoria Basin Eco-Region Research Programme in Maseno sub county in Kisumu county Western Kenya. This is the area of Kenya where there is rainforest and the climate is suitable for growing Inga.  He had also established an Inga nursery with 500 seeds/seedlings. In June 2020 he went back there and distributed these to the five farmers.  He inspected them again in November. All the young Inga trees were doing well and he was very impressed.

Pastor Nsandah also studied at the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF), where he started an Inga nursery and gave a talk to the other students. Unfortunately this took place in May 2020 during the pandemic and that reduced the attendance.  Even more unfortunately the man who promised to water the seedlings while the place was closed because of covid left without telling Pastor Nsandah and the seedlings died.  Pastor Nsandah will replant them.  There is some land there too for planting them out as a demonstration plot for Inga alley cropping.

 

 

 

 

HONDURAS

 

Dr. Guillermo Valle and his assistant, Hector Talavera   The project was intended to promote Inga Alley Cropping in schools by teaching the teachers and providing Inga alley plots at the schools.  Most unfortunately this has not been possible for the past two years.  Schools have been closed due to drought, hurricanes and COVID19.    Meanwhile Hector has been promoting sustainable farming as best he could.  This has included establishing and maintaining Inga nurseries, establishment of an orchard planted with sweet potatoes, beans, squash, watermelons, tomatoes, and corn, planting Inga and setting up a garden at a school, delivering talks to housewives and peasant women and handling worms for the production of vermicompost.  It is expected that schools will re-open in January 2022 and the main project can then go ahead.

 

Marco.            Marco has continued his work with  7 farmers at El Pital village on very steep, severely degraded slopes.   Most of these plots were not yet mature. Harvests of beans sown in two mature plots were lost to Hurricane Eta in October. We have started to consider how the farming in these very difficult conditions could be improved as we think that the yields are not as good as in Inga plots in other places.

 

The steep slope that Marco’s farmers have to farm, staked out for a row of Inga following the contours to reduce erosion.

 

 

ECUADOR

 

Jose     The year started in COVID lockdown. Jose has been with us since April 2018. He was unable to visit any farms from April till the end of May, when movement started to be allowed on 3 allocated days each week, only in one’s own canton or the one next door. On May 30th he visited a farmer called Santos Quesada who he had talked to at the end of 2019, and discovered he had sown 3000 Inga trees in 40 alleys after they spoke, without any outside help.

 

Jose managed 12 farm visits in June and 11 in July. He gradually got back round all the participating farms, though it was not till September that he was allowed to return to Cuyabeno Canton, the most distant at the time, where we have a very valuable teacher who has planted Inga. She has now got us started (Aug 2021) in the adjoining Canton of Putumayo, so we have Inga now in every Canton in the province. 

In November Jose went with Nathaly Grefis from the Universidad Estatal to present to farmers in Alto Sucumbíos canton; we now have Inga plots at 800m altitude on the edge of La Bonita forest. We also planted Inga higher at 1800m and demonstrated conclusively that it will not grow at that height – the seeds germinated but hardly grew.  

In December Nathaly delivered a workshop on making Biochar with Jose to the Indigenous community at Centro Shuar; they are growing an interesting range of crops including medicinal plants to protect against COVID.

 

 

Nathaly also made a start on measuring the carbon content of the standing forest on the farm of Yulitza Ramirez; this lady has huge success with pineapples growing in Inga alleys. 

COVID has been a problem in the cities, but not a big issue in rural areas. The biggest impact for us is where it affects the colleges we work with, who are still not running practical sessions on the Inga plots - so the plot at the mother college in Lago Agrio is still waiting for pruning when they can run a practical. 

In January Jose went with Nathaly to Puyo (in Pastaza province 200 Km South) to visit the community farm where she planted Inga alleys in April 2020, and help with weed control. The 8 month old trees are 80cm high, growing in 20 alleys. 

 

 

First results from comparison plots include maize at the college in Shushufindi where plants  inside the Inga alleys produced 3 times the weight of plants outside the Inga alleys, and the plot held by Angel Encarnacion, where he harvested 48 Lbs of Maize from 300 plants inside the alleys, but those outside grew but produced no cobs at all. It will be interesting to see what the next harvest produces after the second pruning. 

 

We are collecting data from the different places where we work, demonstrating how effective the Inga is, and exploring ways to maximise the benefits and find what constitutes best practise.  

 

Weighing the produce at Mrs. Mendo’s plot at Allen.

 

Another important and exciting development is starting to seriously look at Inga alley cropping from the carbon sequestration perspective.  The improved soil in Inga alleys clearly holds carbon, and the long term sustainable nature of the system saves the forest and its carbon and biodiversity.  

 


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