Crowd Funder:Alleviating poverty and saving rainforests by empowering local farmers

CLOSING DATE: midnight GMT Sunday 7th May 2017

Training small-scale tropical farmers in sustainable agriculture as an alternative to destructive slash and burn, thereby providing them with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty and malnutrition, without the need to destroy more rainforest.

 Hi I’m Abi and I've been in Honduras doing an internship in sustainable  agroforestry, which means growing trees in conjunction with crops. I recently visited a project that inspired me, and that is in desperate need of funding.

 

The project is in El Pital in the Cangrejal River Basin on the edge of the Pico Bonito national park in Northern Honduras, and is managed by Marco, a Honduran biologist, in association with Rainforest Saver. There are four plots belonging to four local farmers, the oldest of which is a completed demonstration site planted four years ago.

 

 

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Meet Alejandrino, who owns the original, most established plot created in 2013 and has become very familiar with the Inga system (see below) over these last years. He now has more than 2,500 nitrogen-fixing Inga trees. He grew beans between the oldest Inga trees after their first pruning.

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Alejandrino with Abi and one of his young Inga trees

Since then, he has helped establish plots for three other local farmers.

The Inga System is a sustainable alternative to slash and burn farming. It improves the crop yield, providing a way for farmers to increase their income, most of whom survive off less than $1 per day.

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Alejandrino with his contour planted Inga rows

Alejandrino trains other farmers who are interested, and there are plenty who want to start using the Inga system, including Pedro, who owns more than 4 hectares on the mountainside, one of the larger-scale farmers we are working with. Introducing more farmers is key to spreading the knowledge and decreasing the number of farmers who are slashing and burning.

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Mature Inga alley

How Inga alley cropping works. See 'Further Information' below for more explanation.

Demonstration of the Inga alley cropping system is crucial to prove to other farmers just how much more successful a harvest can be when grown using this system. A local high schoolteacher’s plot is in plain sight coming down the main road which connects all the other villages in the Cangrejal River Basin. He passes on his knowledge of agroforestry to the children, parents and other teachers at his school.

Please donate to enable Marco and Alejandrino to continue this very promising project.  For as little as £500 (about $620) the work can proceed smoothly, until we expect other funds to become available. But it is not an all or nothing fund raiser.  We will be grateful for whatever you donate,  and make good use of it.

REWARDS

We like to say Thank You, so there are a limited number of rewards for your donations, which are listed on the right side of this page. If you wish to claim a reward, (if one is still available), please write its code in the ‘Purpose’ line on the PayPal payment form.

 

 

 

 

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FURTHER INFORMATION

 

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Burning in the Cangrejal valley

Slash and burn is the practice of cutting down all the trees on an area of land and burning them to create fields for growing crops. There are approximately 300 million subsistence farmers worldwide, each burning approximately a hectare of rainforest per year, or every two years. Alternatively, they leave their plots fallow for too short a time, because of population pressure, and that can totally destroy the land. 

 

End result of repeated slash and burn farming. There was forest here once. Photo © Trees for the Future

Slash and burn is probably still the single biggest cause of rainforest destruction, contributing approximately up to a third of all destruction.

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The loss of forest cover that I saw in the Cangrejal valley

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Aerial view that shows how widespread the deforestation is

Here in Honduras I’ve seen so many brown denuded patches in the beautiful mountainous rainforest which saddens me greatly. The hillside shown in the image used to be completely covered in forest. There is freshly slashed and burnt ground and also areas in the process of very slow recovery, most likely to be burned and planted again long before they have had a chance to fully recover.

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Bare eroded soil in a hillside plot of maize

Without the shelter of the trees, with a lack of root structure and the heavy rainfall in the tropics the soil erodes, leaching out all the nutrients the crops need. The soil washes into rivers, and later into the sea damaging coral reefs. The first yield of crops on a new slashed and burnt forest plot is good, the second may be reasonable, and by the third year practically nothing except weeds grow. So every one to two years the farmers need to burn a new plot.

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Under our Inga tree

 “Agroforestry is the growing of both trees and agricultural / horticultural crops on the same piece of land”

Inga Alley Cropping is the most efficient agroforestry system for the tropical slopes, such as in Honduras, which is 80% hillside. The Inga edulis tree (locally known as Guama) is fast growing and prospers in acid, nutrient depleted soil such as that which has been left barren after slash and burn farmers have moved on. Grown in rows with crops growing in the alleys between, the row of trees create a natural barrier to prevent erosion. After approximately three years the trees have grown sufficiently and the plot is ready for planting crops. The canopy which has shaded out any weed growth is coppiced right back allowing light to reach the ground. The wood is used as cooking fuel and the leaves are deposited as mulch, through which crops grow easily but weeds cannot. Inga edulis is a nitrogen fixer and also has fungal associations on its root system which help it absorb nutrients, including phosphorus, the lack of which has been found to be a major reason for the soil losing it’s fertility so quickly. The rains wash it out.  Through depositing Inga leaves on the ground as mulch the plants are provided with compost rich in nutrients and nitrogen extracted by the trees. After harvest the canopy is left to grow over again to maintain a weed free plot for next year. This is an indefinite system and each year the crop yield can increase. It frees farmers from the hard work of chopping down trees and the dangers of burning, plus they can grow surplus crops to sell and they don’t have to keep moving on.

Please donate to enable Marco and Alejandrino to continue this very promising project.  For as little as £500 (about $620) the work can proceed smoothly, until we expect other funds to become available. But it is not an all or nothing fund raiser.  We will be grateful for whatever you donate,  and make good use of it.

 

THANK YOU VERY MUCH