No. 59B Up-date on Honduras
By Warren Darrell | Newsletter No. No.59B January - February 2015

We support 3 projects in Honduras: FunaVid, environmental education and provision of Inga plots at high schools under the leadership of Dr. Guillermo Valle, and a small project starting on a farmer’s steeply sloped land. There is a lot of collaboration between these.

Warren Darrell visited FunaVid and sent an interesting report in December, which is presented below.

Sustainable Agroforestry at FunaVid

By Warren Darrell

Beans growing in the Inga alleys on a FunaVid Mountain demonstration plot.The Inga rows are planted along the slope contours. The thick mulch of Inga leaves and prunings protects the soil from erosion. The beans and the Inga are leguminous, thus naturally fertilizing the soil with nitrogen, and mycorrhizae (fungi) in its roots take up and recycle phosphorus. Loss of phosphorus is a key reason for slash and burn plots becoming infertile so quickly. Inga edulis is believed to be native to the Amazon, but has become naturalised also in Central America.

 

Inga Agroforestry is a sustainable agricultural system. By promoting it FunaVid aims toImprove nutrition, food security, and living standards of rural families

  • Better harvests without expensive and potentially harmful chemical inputs
  • Agricultural and forest soil protection and enrichment
  • Strengthen the capacity of subsistence farmers to withstand droughts and floods
  • Protect the regional environment from expanding slash and burn agriculture and the resulting soil and water degradation
  • Protect the global environment by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and incorporating it into the soil 

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Location of the Inga sites established by Funavid and Dr.Guillermo Valle of CURLA University. This view is looking southeast; the Caribbean is in the lower right. One can see the landscape mosaic of cultivated hillsides. Current hillside agricultural practices  degrade the soil and water.



Why Does Honduras Need Sustainable Agroforestry?

To Fulfill Human and Environmental Needs

 

 

 

The rural poor of Honduras cannot afford soil and water degradation. 

 

 

 

The United Nations World Food Program has written:

 

Honduras, a low-income food deficit country…  third poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean. One-third of the population lives on less than one dollar a day… 1.5 million Hondurans face hunger…

Honduras…vulnerable countries to natural disasters… weather conditions frequently …ruin crops and prevent access to food….

Chronic malnutrition can reach 48.5 percent in rural areas, with a stunting rate of 34 percent.

       

Slash and burn near Lucinda, just east of FunaVid.

 

 

 

This soil will erode during the intense tropical downpours.

 

The North Coast of Honduras receives about 130 inches of rain per year, twice that of humid New Orleans, Louisiana

If the vegetation debris on this cleared slope near Balfate is burned for quick but temporary fertilizer, as is usual, the soil will erode within a few years.

 

This land drains into the Caribbean, so eroded soil is carried away from the land, where it does good, and into the sea, where it does harm.

 

The Cayos Cochinos are visible in the distance

This soil profile near Funavid shows almost no dark organic layer, as is typical for the humid tropics.

 

Although the forest (what remains of it) is rich and diverse, the soil is poor.

 

Lacking soil conservation measures, tropical slash and burn agriculture quickly depletes the soil; crop yields fall within a few years, and the farmer moves on to clear some more land in a continuing cycle of poverty and destruction. Sustainable agroforestry preserves and enriches the soil, and eliminates the need to clear additional land.

FunaVid is working with Honduran CURLA University to bring improved techniques to subsistence farmers.

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Dr. Valle and Luis (employee of FunaVid) ready to survey the FunaVid Mountain Inga plots

Research is needed to discover why some Inga trees on site 4 have not survived.

At site 5, these Inga are intended for seed production; they are not pruned, and no crops are interplanted.

At site 3, beans and pineapple are intercropped in the Inga alleys.Planted 2 years ago, the pineapple have produced 3 good harvests. The beans were planted about one month ago. Monkeys and birds have eaten some of the Inga seeds. Seed production here has been good.

 

 

 

Seed Pod

Pineapple is growing well at site 3.

 

The mulch of Inga leaves and prunings conserves soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and provides natural nitrogenous fertilizer.

 

 

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Funavid Inga vivero (seedling nursery).

 

About 7000 seedlings will be distributed to local farmers and will be used for the Guama (Inga) system demonstration at FUNAVID. CURLA students will be involved with distribution to farmers.

 

 

 

With students of ages similar to those in a high school in the USA, La Escuela Diamante de Sión, Jutiapa, Honduras, maintains an Inga nursery and grove.

 

Dr. Valle and School Prinicpal Maestro Jose Benevita del Cid conferring at the vivero.

Inga and pineapple on the school grounds.

Seed production is good at the school site. The students open the seed pods and eat the sweet pulp.

 

 

About 300 seedlings are growing at the school vivero.

 

 

Dr. Dodson (director of FunaVid) and Dr. Valle discussing the day’s observations