It has been called a ‘groundbreaking way to stop vast areas of rainforest from being destroyed’1.
For the Awajun communities of Huaracayo and Urakuza, it’s increasingly being known as a sustainable way to make an income that works with, not against, their forest.
Inga, a nitrogen-fixing tree thrives in the warm, damp conditions of the Peruvian Amazon. And when planted in alleys, inga trees provide shade, outcompete invasive weeds and, over time, restore degraded soils. These alleys of inga also provide optimum growing conditions for other crops like cacao, turmeric, peanuts and the lucrative ‘plant of gold’, black pepper, to thrive.
Cool Earth sponsored Marin and Felix to travel from Urakuza to visit the Inga Foundation in Honduras. They returned with some example plants, enthused and full of knowledge to share their newly learned skills with the wider community.
But it took time, and dedication, for them to convince some community members to give inga a go. Some were hesitant to move away from traditional methods of slash and burn, seeing intercropping as too time-consuming and complex to implement.
A pivotal moment came last June. When the local Dads gathered to help build a fish pond for their local school, they also tried their hand at pruning the example inga trees. They soon realised that the method of alley cropping could give them a host of benefits. Maintenance is easy, other lucrative crops can be grown alongside, it can be a sustainable source of firewood and harvesting can be done close to their own houses.
“Inga is the way to mitigate excessive deforestation here.
Our children and the next generations have the right to a clean and pristine environment”
– Fernando Orrego Ipukui, Huaracayo, Inga Beneficiary
Since then, the number of individuals keen to try it out as a source of food and income has continued to grow and despite the unusually heavy rains, Marin and Felix have been busy providing support and training. The optimum temperature, rain and microorganisms in this part of the Peruvian Amazon, combined with inga, have restored degraded soils and topped them with a healthy layer of organic matter. The way the forest floor should be.
Next up will be to optimise these soils to grow short-cycled crops such as corn, tomatoes and cocoa. The recent hiring of an inga manager will help take this forward with the current 14 beneficiaries and encourage more families to get involved. The team hopes to replicate the success of inga across the Awajun partnerships, sharing knowledge and building capacity in other areas like the Asháninka.
With the potential to improve food security, provide a reliable source of income and reduce slash and burn agriculture, we look forward to the impact of inga continuing to grow.