No, 79 The Soil
By Paul Messing | Ultimas Noticias No. 79 March 2017

This is the second in a short series of newsletters giving brief accounts of the basics of what we do, how and why, particularly for these of you who have subscribed recently, or to refresh your memory if you came across us a long time ago.


The Soil

By Paul Messing

The answer to everything lies in the soil according to Arthur Fallowfield in the comedy radio programme "Beyond Our Ken" in the 1960s.  The audience laughed but Arthur was right..  In fact about 90% of what we eat and drink starts off in the soil and when the soil is poor we go hungry.  This is the core of RFS and it is about replenishing the soil naturally to support year after year of growing crops in the same place instead of hacking into the jungle and burning the trees to enrich the soil - which lasts only 3 years at best.


Slashed and burned plot, Honduras.

 The UN General Assembly realised the importance of soil and declared 2015 the InternationalYear of Soils.  Not a very inspiring slogan but RFS has been ahead of the game.  The Inga plant with the help of special bacteria extracts nitrogen from the atmosphere, collects it in the leaves which are spread on the ground to compost and thereby enter the soil to feed whatever plants grow there which can then feed the farmers.  This clearly is beneficial in every respect compared to slash and burn especially when we see harvest yields of up to 10 times more under Inga plantings. 

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A well cared for young Inga plot, belonging to Mr. Denis Amougou, Cameroon. He got 15 times more maize from it than from an adjacent comparison plot without the Inga.


Editor’s note.

If the farmer gets as many as 3 years of decent harvests from the same burned plot he is doing really well. Generally it’s one or two years. Of course they don’t always clear more forest. They leave their plots fallow to recover, but for proper recovery something like 20 to 30 years is needed, and with present population pressures that is not possible. So the land can become more and more degraded, till it is no use for anything.


This was once forest. Photo © Trees for the Future

Our very best Inga plot yielded 15 times more maize than the adjacent, no Inga comparison plot. The latter was very poor, showing the power of the legume Inga tree to re-fertilize badly degraded land.

With best wishes and thank you for your continued interest in our work,