Honduras is the second-poorest country in Central America, and although its economy relies heavily on agriculture, about 1.5 million Hondurans are still food insecure. Barriers like natural disasters and unpredictable weather continue to threaten the country’s food production, but recently, advancements in agroforestry are restoring the faith in farming nationwide. Alley cropping, a new method of agroforestry, is steadily showing how it is improving food security in Honduras.
For years, agroforestry has been transforming the lives of farming families by increasing food security in Honduras. However, before the introduction of alley cropping to farms in the country, crop failure continued to devastate farmers. While other agroforestry techniques have minimized the damage resulting from flooding, erosion and drought, alley cropping has proven to be a more successful method of crop farming. Alley cropping involves planting rows of crops between trees. This methodology creates an integrated ecosystem that improves and nourishes soil that supports both crop quality and quantity, thus increasing the amount the farmers are paid so that they can afford to support their families.
The Inga Foundation was the first to introduce and teach alley cropping techniques to Honduran farmers through demonstrational farming. These farmers also had the opportunity to obtain seeds from the demonstration and start their own alley cropping systems. According to the Inga Foundation, more than 300 farming families have been able to achieve food security through the new alley cropping method, and this number is only increasing as alley cropping starts to catch on.
Benefits of Alley Cropping
Alley cropping regenerates degraded land, which helps crops grow.
Alley cropping increases the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
Unpredictable weather can be withstood, meaning crops are more resilient.
Alley cropping is sustainable and benefits the natural environment.
Families can stay on one plot of land without having to migrate to others due to soil degradation.
Inga Trees in Alley Cropping
In Honduras, Inga trees are among one of the most popular and successful trees used in alley cropping systems. The Inga Foundation’s demonstration farm showcased hedgerows of Inga trees, which are known to revitalize the soil and support crop growth. Here are a few reasons why the Inga tree was chosen as the model for alley cropping.
Inga trees grow fast. This allows farmers to quick-start their alley cropping without much of a waiting period.
Not only do Inga trees tolerate poor soil, but they nourish it.
Inga trees reduce weeds.
Seasonal pruning of Inga trees generates firewood and fuelwood for families.
Inga trees produce edible fruit.
Because the Inga tree is both incredibly resilient and easy to grow, more and more farmers are seeking out their seeds in order to better provide for their families. This tree, when paired with agroforestry, is playing a huge role in improving food security in Honduras.
The benefits that come from agroforestry methods like alley cropping can mean the difference between life and death for some families in Honduras. Thankfully, the Inga Foundation has allowed for the breakthrough of improved farming which has saved hundreds of Hondurans from the burden of food insecurity.
– Hadley West