Energy Globe World Award 2016

Finalist in the category Earth

Submitted by: THE INGA FOUNDATION
Country: Honduras

Land for life

Slash-and-burn subsistence agriculture has fed millions of families in the world's tropics over past centuries; today it maintains some 250-300 millions of their descendents in poverty; and its widespread failure is an underlying cause of rural-urban migration in the tropics. The consumptive process by which forest cover is converted to invasive grassland, over vast swathes of former tropical forest, is estimated to be contributing around 2 billion tons of CO2 annually to the atmosphere; more than all global transport combined. Neither this process, nor the families' attempts to feed themselves, are sustainable today. The fertility of the soil decreases drastically after burning the rain forest. In a research project by Cambridge University basic grain crops were repeatedly planted in the resulting swidden and yields were monitored over 7 years. They were grown in 4 parallel systems, including alley-cropping. A major scientific breakthrough was made in understanding the impact of the burn and how the so-called Inga system functions in preventing the loss of key nutrients. Inga is a tree of the nitrogen-fixing genus. The Inga alley system was the only system to emerge as sustainable from 7 years' rigorous trial; it does, however, need to be supplemented with light applications of rock-phosphate. Many Inga species tolerate the acidity which typifies rain forest soils; the trees retrieve, retain and recycle the essential phosphorus whilst smothering weed growth and physically protecting the soil. The system provides the family's entire needs for domestic firewood. These factors proved to be key and the Inga Foundation is today seeking to establish successful examples of the system, with whole communities, as a model for the whole region. The foundation is pioneering the introduction of a revolutionary, minimal-input agricultural system aimed at subsistence farmers in the humid tropics; a sustainable alternative to slash-and-burn. Its mission is to turn the tide of unsustainable destruction; to address one of the world's massive environmental problems and the food-insecurity that is its principal cause. The last Cambridge project ended in 2002 with successful on-farm pilot trials in the buffer zone of the Pico Bonito National Park. Since then, Inga Foundation has been able to achieve a much expanded program, demonstrating the system to farmer groups and helping them through the 2-3 year period of establishing the system on each family's land. Today, there is a demo farm of 8 ha and around 200 participating families. The families' plots and the demo farm are becoming a model of sustainable rural livelihoods for the humid tropical regions of Central and South America. Since 2012, 1 million trees have been planted and estimations indicate that the fields of the 200 families will sequester 2 m tons of CO2 within 100 years.

Earth - Finalists

  • Project: Land for life
    Applicant: THE INGA FOUNDATION
    Country: Honduras
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  • Project: Wastewater treatment for agricultural use with minimal Greenhouse Gaz Emission in Asselda Village, Morocco
    Applicant: AMSED, Association Maroc-Suisse pour l’Environnement et le Développement
    Country: Morocco
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  • Project: Community-based conservation of village common forest in Rowangchari, Bandarban
    Applicant: Tahzingdong
    Country: Bangladesh
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