A summary of the general benefits of Inga alley cropping as an alternative to slash and burn agriculture
1 Preserves primary tropical forests
If we are to save the remaining tropical forests, 300 million slash and burn farmers have to be given an alternative means of feeding their families. Inga Alley cropping can be this alternative for many of them.
Forest waterfall, Honduras. Photo by Antony Melville 2007.
2 Creates natural wildlife corridors
Deforested areas are soon invaded by weeds, which create barren, treeless wastelands. For much of the wildlife used to the cover of tropical forests this closes migration routes and severely reduces the extent of their habitats trapping them in rapidly dwindling patches of forest. Reforestation can also be supported by the use of Inga trees.
3 Reduces carbon emissions
Slash and burn farming releases hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year. Settling farmers onto a single plot stops the endless cycle of slashing and burning, and would massively reduce carbon emissions in the tropics from the burning of the forests, and moreover leave the forests to absorb more carbon.
4 Creates carbon sinks
Not only is the cycle of destruction stopped, but converting grassland by means of inga alley cropping could mean more carbon being absorbed per hectare per year. Inga alley cropping per se may not be a good carbon sink, but if the land is no longer needed for slash and burn it could be replanted with new forest. This could be a valuable carbon sink. Inga alley cropping can be used to ‘recapture' this degraded land for reforestation.
Honduras. Photo by Antony Melville 2007.
5 Reduces rural to slum migration
With land available to slash and burn farmers rapidly disappearing, many farmers are being forced into poorly paid plantation work or worse into burgeoning city slums. If farmers could be settled on small plots of land, this would not only make the farmers self sufficient and therefore not a burden on the state but would also slow the growth of the unsustainable slums.
6 Natural birth control
Slash and burn farmers have large families as a form of insurance. All the family work together to put food on the table, whether that's on the land or for an industrial plantation company etc. Evidence suggests that greater food and land security leads to reduced family sizes.
7 Establishing New Communities
Stabilizing several poor families in one area may well lead in the longer term to the development of villages, schools and other institutions beneficial to all.