The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2014 Finalist

Land For Life Programme

Land For Life Programme

This project aims to create sustainable rural livelihoods in tropical areas across the world, removing the need for farmers to slash and burn rainforests. Worldwide, an estimated 300 million people rely on traditional slash and burn subsistence farming methods. Every year, each farmer clears a football pitch-sized area of forest to create new nutrient-rich soil.

Inga alley-cropping is a tested and proven organic technique that, through the planting of Inga trees, enables an area of previously cleared, infertile land to regain the nutrients required to remain fertile, year after year.

Through providing farmers with hands-on training, Inga tree seeds and ongoing support to enable them to establish alley-cropping upon their land, the initiative creates a sustainable rural livelihood for farmers and their families, providing them with food security and the ability to grow cash-crops.

Mike Hands, founder and director of the Inga Foundation 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 in the UK, and the Inga Foundation’s main project ‘Land for Life’ in Honduras.

Mike established the Inga Foundation to help spread the revolutionary agricultural system of Inga alley cropping which he developed after years of scientific research into slash and burn farming. Through the Inga Foundation he is now working closely with local communities to implement this new and sustainable alternative.

For Honduran campensinos (subsistence farmers), changing the way they farm is a huge and difficult decision. Given that their lives depend on the food they produce, these farmers have good reason to be conservative in their decision-making. Mike has always emphasised the importance of establishing trust and understanding and working together with the local people. To this end, the Foundation has established a demonstration farm in one of the local communities and they run regular open days to allow families from across the area to come and see for themselves the benefits of Inga alley cropping.

Aside from creating the demonstration farm, the Foundation employs a dedicated team of Hondurans who are well-known and respected within their community.

These efforts have paid off and the The Inga Foundation has become recognised and trusted and their programme now has over 100 families involved in it. Even better, word of Inga alley cropping and the advantages it brings is now starting to spread organically from farmer to farmer, as those who have been convinced by the efforts of the team in turn convince others, getting their neighbours, friends and family involved too.

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