Rainforests consist of several evergreen forests and are major players in preserving our fragile ecosystem. Did you know that some of these rainforests are as old as 70 million years? Unfortunately, due to human expansion, rainforests have been dealt a heavy blow. But many ecologists and environmental activist groups are on the forefront, fighting for ecological rights and educating people along the way. As we experience drastic climate change, the need of the hour is to preserve rainforests.
While urban development has affected rainforests, the traditional agricultural system of slash and burn has also created a problem. In this slash and burn system, farmers clear an area by chopping down the forest and burning the trees. Then they plant their crops, only to abandon the patch of land a few years later. They do this because the fertility of the soil goes down since they don’t use any modern preservatives. And so, the cycle of slash and burn continues.
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The devastating thing about this is that the trees in the rainforests, some 70 million years old, are chopped down to bits. They also take longer to grow again, which marks another ecological disaster. It’s not only a loss to the diverse flora and fauna, but also for us humans.
Fortunately for the farmers in the tropics, a renowned ecologist, Michael Hands, is leading a wave of change. He has introduced and made popular a new farming method, inga alley cropping.
Ecologist Michael Hand is a part of the Inga Foundation. They are dedicated to teaching Honduran and Costa Rican farmers the sustainable technique of farming.
The inga alley cropping system makes use of the Inga trees. These trees are known for growing tremendously fast. Moreover, their roots are incredible at fixing nitrogen in the soil, replenishing it in the process.
In this method, farmers clear a patch of land and cover it with Inga tree seeds in systematic rows. Once the trees grow, the land is ready for cultivation. The shade of the trees kills any weeds growing. This method is especially beneficial while growing beans and maize. The Inga trees are given a little pruning from time to time so that the crops get proper sunlight.
Michael stated that the farmers deep in the rainforests were not aware of other methods of farming. He added that they believed slash and burn was the only way to farm as they have been practicing it since time immemorial. But times have changed. Now, we need to be extra careful about our activities and the way it impacts our environment.
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Since the introduction of the inga alley cropping system, the traditional slash and burn method has reduced significantly. It has led to a decrease in carbon pollution, unnecessary labor, and has helped to preserve rainforests.
Furthermore, the Inga trees’ roots enrich the soil all year round. Now, the farmers don’t need to shift their farm every few years. This is truly a transformative moment and a major leap towards preserving rainforests.