An Amazing Agroforestry Story: The Inga Model in Central America

MON, FEB 22, 2021

Tropical ecologist Mike Hands has spent 35 years in the field looking for an alternative to the slash and burn method used by many peasant farmers living in tropical forests to improve soil fertility and gain a year or two of crops. He looked for successful adaptations some farmers in Central America and in Africa had developed, and eventually found a tree, a particular species of the Inga called the Guana, that was being used by farmers in Costa Rica to shade their coffee. In 2012 he began the Land for Life program that concentrated on saturating two river valleys in Honduras with an alley cropping technique using the Inga tree that has improved soil fertility, provided food security—even through drought and hurricane—and eliminated the need to further destroy tropical forests.

Distinguished professor Rattan Lal will be talking with Mike Hands about the program’s success and promise.

+ BIO: Mike Hands

Inga Foundation Founder and Director Mike Hands has been working to halt the destruction of the rainforest for over 20 years. An experienced tropical ecologist and scientific researcher, Mike divides his time between his farm in Cornwall, UK, and the Inga Foundations chief project, the Land for Life Project in Honduras.

+ BIO: Rattan Lal

Rattan Lal is a soil scientist. His work focuses on regenerative agriculture through which soil can help resolve global issues such as climate change, food security and water quality.

He was awarded the 2019 Japan Prize for the sustainable soil management for global food security and mitigation of climate change.

On June 11, 2020, Professor Lal was named the recipient of the prestigious World Food Prize-2020. His research diverged from the conventional 1970s soil fertility strategy of heavy reliance on commercial fertilizers. His research led a better understanding of how no-till farming, cover crops, crop residues, mulching, and agroforestry can restore degraded soils, increasing organic matter by sequestering atmospheric carbon in the soil, and help combat rising carbon dioxide levels in the air.

Lal worked as a Senior Research Fellow with the University of Sydney from 1968-69, and then as a Soil Physicist at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria, from 1970 to 1987. In 1987 he returned to Ohio State University, where as of 2019 he was a Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center.

Lal served as President of the International Union of Soil Science for the 2017-2018 period.

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