82% of Honduras is mountainous. It is estimated that 300,000 families live on the slopes, nearly all subsisting on less than $1.00 per day by slash and burn farming. Child malnutrition is common. World wide it is estimated that between 200 and 600 million farmers and their families, about a sixth of the world’s population, depend on this type of farming. It destroys the rainforests, and can ultimately lead to desertification as the tropical rains wash away any fertile topsoil. But the farmers remain poor. Rainforest Saver and our partners in Honduras are promoting Inga alley cropping (or farming) as a tried and tested alternative.
Above left is the end result of repeated slash and burn. Photo by Trees for the Future, (www.plant-trees.org) and on the right is a fertile field of Inga alley cropping. Photo by FUPNAPIB 2006. Which do you like?
Help us to achieve an exciting vision of creating a showcase area of Inga alley farming in the FunaVid region of Honduras and spreading the knowledge about this system. This will substantially improve the lives of the local poor and protect and restore the natural environment. Only when both these aims are achieved together will there be long lasting benefit.
Honduran family from near FunaVid. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.
Once established, this showcase area will be vigorously and actively used to promote a sustainable approach throughout Honduras, and beyond. This provides the farmers with a better and sustainable livelihood without the need to keep destroying more rainforest. It substantially reduces erosion. Unless such a sustainable approach is disseminated throughout the small farms on the steep slopes of Honduras slash and burn farming will destroy any remaining rainforest. Then the soil will be washed away into the sea, leaving the land infertile and the coral reef seriously damaged by washed down sediment. The farmers cannot grow crops to feed their families without the soil. Both fishing and tourism depend on the coral reef. How will the people live?
View of coral reef from the FunaVid mountain. The reef is at risk of damage from sediment washed down from slash and burn farming in the mountains. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.
The river on the left is silted up with sediment washed down from deforested mountains, while the mountains behind the river on the right are still forested. Photos taken near FunaVid, Honduras.Photos by Tiiu Miller 2009.
On the left it is easy to see that rain on the bare cleared slopes would wash the soil away. On the right is a row of Inga planted along the contours. It provides a permanent cover on the soil and greatly reduces erosion. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.
We hear a lot about logging and cattle ranching destroying the Amazon. Yet of 40% of rainforest destruction is still by slash and burn farming, making this the single biggest cause (http://www.rainforestsos.org/book pages 34 – 35). Perhaps no one wants to be seen to be hard on poor people who are destroying the forest only because they know of no other way to make a living. And indeed, one cannot tell them to go away and starve, even if it were possible to enforce this, which it isn’t. The only solution is to provide them with an alternative. Inga alley farming is such an alternative. We intend that the demonstration area to be set up at FunaVid in Honduras will become a potent force to spread this sustainable system far and wide, including to the Amazon basin.
We are working with an experienced local team in Honduras (Dr. Dodson of FunaVid and Dr.Guillermo Valle of CURLA (the university), and their associates) to provide education and demonstration farms for this vital alternative. Our goals are:
§ Train 360 teachers in 25 centres throughout Honduras
§ Establish a demonstration plot at each location
§ Demonstrate the technique to NGOs, key influencers and local farmers
§ Demonstrate recovery of a local coral reef
§ Establish an Inga seedling nursery that can supply 8000 to 10000 seedlings at a time
§ Establish an area of rainforest and coral reef as recognized reserves
FunaVid is located near the Northern coast of Honduras.
A rough location map. Honduras is coloured/outlined in red and the mountainous area is roughly coloured in as brown on the second map.
The project builds on existing resources. We do not need to find salaries for the professors from CURLA (part of the National University of Honduras), neither for the teaching nor for the invaluable advice they are giving. CURLA students provide some labour and FunaVid’s employees and existing machines are being used when possible. However there are considerable other expenses that Rainforest Saver needs to meet if this project is to be a success.
FunaVid land for the main demonstration area, close up photo and as seen from a distance – highly visible. Photos by Tiiu Miller 2010.
The plan is to plant a demonstration area of the Inga technique high up the mountain. The fragments of rainforests left in the deep ravines will of course be left, and the Inga planted will be planted on the deforested land in association with local farmers. Some of the land above this area belongs to farmers who will also plant Inga. As their plots are quite small they cannot afford not to get crops for the two or three years that the Inga takes to mature before the plots can be planted with crops. So Dr. Dodson intends to give them crops that he can grow on other land which he has, until the Inga plots become productive. Then, when these farmers get a surplus, they will in turn use it to help another farmer to start the Inga.
The plantation on the mountain will be on a scale that will be noticed and that will signify our own confidence in the system. An account of a successful means of re-greening the Sahel also emphasizes the benefits of a large area: “What so impresses the delegations he takes to Niger, says Reij, “is the scale of it. It inspires you. You can’t help but learn a lesson.” ‘Land of Hope’ by Alex Perry/Archers Post and Kareygorou (www.time.com/time/magazine)
The coral reef will be assessed before all the Inga is planted, and then again later.
Piece of dead coral washed ashore near the foot of the’ FunaVid mountain.’ Photo by Tiiu Miller 2010.
Stabilizing the soil with the Inga is expected to lead to considerable improvement in the health of the reef. This in turn will benefit fishing and tourism.
A mature, well-maintained Inga alley at CURLA, and a worker at CURLA showing a maintenance tool paid for by Rainforest Saver. Photos byTiiu Miller 2009.
1. Set up the whole area as a demonstration to the wider community, both within Honduras and elsewhere.
2. Improve the living standards of the local farming families.
3. Preserve and enhance the local natural environment, consisting mainly of rainforest and the coral reef.
4. This will provide clean water for mangroves, which are being planted by the shore. These will in turn furnish a place for fish to breed, as well as protecting the shore from storm damage, and
5. reduce the flooding of the road from streams, which overflow in the rainy season and can make the roads impassable. Inga stabilizes the soil.
Flowering rainforest tree in regenerated rainforest on FunaVid land. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.
1. Create a large seedling nursery and Inga orchard, to supply up to 8000 to 10000 seedlings at a time.
2. Plant the large area and some of the farmers’ plots high up the mountain to stabilize the soil, thus greatly reducing erosion and stopping the sedimentation of the rivers and the coral reef, allowing fish stocks to recover.
3. Show the system in use by farmers to NGOs, key influencers and other local farmers
Creating large seedling nursery at FunaVid. Photos by Dr. M. Dodson 2011.
Dr. Valle and his colleagues from CURLA have been teaching a comprehensive curriculum of sustainable farming to students from 2 local schools. Besides Inga alley farming this includes topics like properties of soil, plant growth, propagation, pests and diseases, river basin management, agroforestry with cattle, leadership, and more. This program is now to be rolled out over much of Honduras, but instead of teaching the students directly the teachers will be taught. The first group of teachers from eight local schools have already been taught successfully, with considerable interest and suggestions from them.
Dr. Valle teaching a class on Inga at FunaVid. Photo by Dr. M. Dodson 2009.
12 of the 18 departments of Honduras have rural high schools with a government-sponsored program of tutorial teaching. It is the teachers from these schools that will be in this program. The schools are divided into 47 groups of 4 to 6 schools per group, with an average of 15 teachers per group. Obviously only a small proportion of these can be covered in any one year.
The schools that have been selected for the program.
The teaching of each group of teachers takes 2 days and is done by several of the CURLA professors, who each teach their own specialty. Only 7 groups are close enough for the professors to return home each day, but for the remaining 40 they will need to stay in hotels at least 2 nights.
To cover all 47 groups the total distance to be travelled is 21,617 kilometres in the first instance. There will be more travel when follow up visits are included. Also as each school is to be provided with a small Inga alley plot seedlings will need to be transported. Hence a truck, tough enough to withstand Honduran roads, is needed. Also Dr. Valle will need an assistant, particularly to ensure proper planting and maintenance of the Inga plots at the schools.
Dr. Valle of CURLA teaching Honduran agricultural students about Inga alley cropping within an Inga alley on the FunaVid mountain. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.
Each central school is to be provided with a small Inga plot.
Gift an Inga demonstration plot to a Honduran school.
It costs only £30 ($50) and the benefit will be long lasting. These plots can be used to demonstrate the Inga system to the neighbouring farmers as well as to the students. You can give this as a simple donation, or you can give it as a gift to a friend.
This program has been partly funded by crowd-funding by Rainforest Saver in 2015, but more is needed to employ an assistant to Dr. Valle to enable the work to go ahead well.
We need your support. Please help us by donating whatever you can afford
with any major credit card or post a cheque to
The Rainforest Saver Foundation
33 Pentland View
All donations, large or small, are very welcome and will be put to good use very quickly.
An eco-tourist trail, and tourist facilities, are also being set up. These will provide income for local people, any surplus will be used to support the promotion of the Inga, will give the local people a long-term incentive to preserve the rainforest, and will greatly facilitate showing off the Inga at the end of the trail. You can read about the initial work for this at Eco-tourism at FunaVid
Northern coast of Honduras. Waves breaking over the coral reef out at sea. You can see the potential for tourism. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.
FunaVid (Fundación Agricola Vid) is a small NGO based on the Northern coast of Honduras. The board of trustees is made up of both Americans and Hondurans. See www.funavid.com. It was founded in 2004 by Dr. and Mrs. Dodson. They now live in Honduras at FunaVid. Dr. Dodson is a retired American doctor. He came to Honduras some years earlier with a colleague and they established a hospital. But in a few years Dr. Dodson saw that the environment was rapidly deteriorating. The mountainsides that had been covered by rainforest were being cleared for slash and burn farming and the resulting erosion was smothering the coral reef at the foot of the mountains. The previously ample fish stocks were dwindling. FunaVid is therefore now working to improve the lives of the local people and the environment.
House at FunaVid. Photo by Guillermo Valle 2009.
Dr. Dodson has invested over 2 ½ million dollars of his own money in establishing FunaVid. He has provided FunaVid with good infrastructure, including dormitories and a large area suitable for use as a schoolroom. They also own 160 hectares of land on the mountainside. There is a little primary rainforest there, but most was degraded cattle pasture when Dr. Dodson bought it 9 years ago. He allowed the natural forest to regenerate and now higher up, where the soil had probably been cultivated for a shorter time and therefore retained more fertility, pretty good secondary rainforest has regrown. Lower down it is regenerating at a slower rate. FunaVid also owns a little flat land near the shore.
Dr. Dodson on the road in the FunaVid forest. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2009.
Dr. Dodson has brought clean water down from the mountain not only to the FunaVid premises, but also to the little community of about 50 people who live next to the FunaVid premises. He has also helped them with building houses and bathrooms. Currently he is installing hydroelectricity and solar generators at FunaVid. He wants to generate his electricity by renewables, and the Honduran electricity supply is unreliable. He is also in negotiations to get a substantial World Bank loan for an algae farming project. This can be established on unproductive land, so it does not compete with food production.
Some years back Dr. Dodson visited CURLA and there learned about the Inga alley cropping system. He views this, with much justification, as the way forward for Honduras and other rainforest countries and is planning the above projects to promote it, in collaboration and with advice from Dr. Guillermo Valle of CURLA. His own financial resources are now much depleted to the point where he can no longer fund further projects such as the one outlined here.
Dr. M.L. Dodson, Mrs. Donita Dodson and Dr. Guillermo Valle
CURLA (Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlantico, Honduras) is part of the Autonomous National University of Honduras. Its mandate is to benefit the people of Honduras. There are 6 faculties, all with a practical slant. In spite of a serious lack of money they seem to be doing a lot of good work, and maintain large tropical tree plantations (germplasm banks)
The building at CURLA (university) where Dr. Valle works, and the extensive tropical fruit tree plantation at CURLA. Photo by Tiiu Miller2010.
Rainforest Saver works primarily with Dr. Guillermo Valle. He has a PhD from the University of Florida at Gainesville, Florida, on Animal Nutrition and Sustainable Agricultural development (agroforestry).
Since 2002 Dr. Valle has had experience with the Inga alleys. He is currently doing research on Inga and also some other trees that have similar properties to see if they too might be suitable for agroforestry, and has written a manual for doing Inga alley cropping. Dr. Valle and Dr. Dodson collaborate closely. Dr. Dodson has provided some land on the mountain where Dr. Valle has planted six small plots of Inga alleys for both teaching and research. Some of these will now provide seed for Dr. Dodson’s nursery.
Dr. Valle’s Inga alleys on the FunaVid mountainside. Photo by Tiiu Miller 2010.
Dr. Valle, assisted by other professors from CURLA, has been teaching final year agricultural high school students about Inga alley cropping and sustainable farming in general using the school room at FunaVid. This pioneering approach has been hampered by lack of funds, even though the expenses are small: meals for the students and staff, and diesel to ferry them to and from FunaVid and CURLA. However Rainforest Saver has been able to provide the necessary funds for the past two years.