Land for Life
Valle de Cuero, Atlántida, Cuero and Capapan river catchments in northern Honduras
Slash-and-burn subsistence farming, practiced widely in the tropics by 300 million families adds over 2 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year – more than all global transport combined. Once cleared of trees, burned, and exposed to the strong tropical climate, the bare soil loses nutrients and erodes quickly. Within 2 years, crops fail and families resort to clearing fresh areas of rainforest every few years just to survive.
We have an innovative, scalable solution to the urgent problems of food insecurity, saving rainforests and reducing atmospheric carbon levels. From years of scientific research, Mike Hands identified that alley-cropping (planting trees in rows with the crops planted in-between) with nitrogen-fixing Inga trees maintains soil fertility and ensures good harvests every year. This system breaks the slash-and-burn cycle, allowing families to gain long-term food security on a single plot of land (saving rainforests, wildlife habitats, protecting watersheds and soil). Led by Honduran foresters and field managers, the Inga team has planted nearly 2 million trees in the last 6 years, transforming the lives and landscapes of over 240 families. Within 2 years, a family gains lasting food security and they pay it forward by helping new families with their alleys.
Over 240 families now sustain themselves on their original land plots by growing organic nourishing food (beans, maize, rice) and cash crops like pineapple, turmeric, vanilla, and pepper. Since the first year of recruiting families the demand for trees has far exceeded the supply. Inga alley-cropping is not just a system which saves rainforests, sequesters carbon, protects water sources/reefs/marine wildlife by preventing erosion, and provides firewood; it is a simple yet integrated, agroforestry ecosystem that provides an organic, sustainable means for subsistence families to be food secure. Families who have planted Inga alleys have increased incomes, improved livelihoods, a more nutritious diet (to help combat stunting) and a resilience that works in harmony with their resources.
Mike Hands and the Honduran team are working hard to provide seedlings, plants, and support for more families for the low-input, debt-free system. The simple but revolutionary system of Inga alley-cropping is not just an alternative to slash-and-burn; it is a solution to stopping it altogether. The model has become a farmer-to-farmer movement which we want to scale to the entire tropics.
This system breaks the slash-and-burn cycle, allowing families to gain long-term food security on a single plot of land (saving rainforests, wildlife habitats, protecting watersheds and soil).