Alley cropping is a fantastic alternative to slash and burn. Using the native plant inga edulis we grow it in alleys 4 metres wide and 1 metre between trees.
This system regenerates old disused cattle fields and prevents farmers deforesting land looking for fertile soil. In between the alleys a rich mulch is formed with soil full of microorganisms. It is a nitrogen fixing tree and also brings up phosphorus.
Working with www.rainforestsaver.org and Unidad Juan Jimenez ( an agricultural college in Ecuador) we grew 4000 inga trees, trained 400 students and farmers and established the first 20 demonstration farms in the Ecuadorian Amazon. There are now 65 demonstration farms.
In 2020 on my last trip to Ecuador I established a number of comparison sites where we grew the same number of seeds inside the alleys and outside to compare the difference in yield and health. We have achieved remarkable results.
One of the exciting finds is how we could just save chocolate !! Cacao is a forest tree and due to the high demand it is now planted in monocultures. This has weakened the trees and they have succumbed to fungal pod rot. Farmers have been forced to spray cacao trees with fungicides however when they can no longer afford the agro chemicals they abandon their plantations. We have discovered that by growing inga next to cacao they become resistant to pod rot. In the world of chocolate this is very exciting news.