Alley cropping is the growing of crops between rows of trees in the spaces between the rows – the alleys. Inga alley cropping is the growing of crops between rows of Inga trees. The Inga trees are pruned before crops are planted in the alleys. Before they are pruned the trees shut off the light from the alleys so that the weeds die. The pruned leaves and small branches are left in the alleys to rot down to form a mulch that fertilizes the soil. This eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers. The trees then regrow rapidly so the cycle of pruning and planting crops is repeated year after year. The system also provides firewood for cooking, thus taking further pressure off the forests.
This increases yields and maintains the plot’s fertility long term, thus eliminating the need for the continual burning of the rainforest to get new fertile plots (slash and burn or shifting cultivation). Rainforest Saver is supporting Inga projectsin Honduras, Cameroon and Ecuador.
The Inga tree is native to many parts of Central and South America, but has been found to grow well in other parts of the world in the tropical rainforest belt. It makes a good shade tree for coffee and cocoa and has therefore been taken to many tropical countries.