The world’s rainforest is being destroyed at an alarming rate. The biggest single cause of this is slash-and-burn farming. An estimated 300 million farmers worldwide feed their families by hacking down and burning forest to clear space to grow crops there, moving on after only one or two years because the cropped land quickly becomes infertile. Years ago, with plenty of forest and fewer farmers, the practice was sustainable. Today, farmers have to walk miles from their dwellings to find new land, often on hilly slopes unsuited to farming. In desperation, they are forced to destroy patches of forest that they would normally leave alone to regenerate forest.
Twenty years of perseverance by tropical ecologist Mike Hands, of Cambridge University, has led to an organic solution. Known as “Inga alley-cropping”, the technique uses a native species of tree, Inga, which recycles soil nutrients and prevents weed growth. In Honduras, the system has been successfully used by over 100 farmers since 2001. The method enables farmers to successfully cultivate the same patch of land year-in-year-out. This helps stop global warming too – one fifth of which is caused by rainforest loss. Funding is required for Inga seeds, demonstration farms and technical assistance to help farmers adopt this new rainforest-saving technique.