Land For Life: Organic, Regenerative Agroforestry for 100% Food Security with the Inga Tree Model

Mike Hands
Published: 30 July 2021
Last edited: 30 July 2021
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Since 2012, the Inga Foundation’s simple agroforestry system of Inga Alley Cropping has empowered 300+ families who have planted over 4 million trees dramatically transforming their lives.The ability of the resilient Inga tree to anchor, enrich, and regenerate depleted soil provides food security with 100% success for families with 2 year-old alleys. These fast-growing native Inga species which fix nitrogen in the soil  provide organic cash crops as well as significantly reduce global carbon emissions, protect wildlife and marine habitats, preserve water sources and yield a year’s worth of firewood. The basic grains/cash crops are grown without herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or heavy equipment.  Inga seedlings are planted in rows on steep, degraded slopes and require no technology or heavy equipment.  The Model positively addressing 11 of the 17 United Nations SDGs with NO NEGATIVE IMPACT whatsoever on the remaining 6.


Central America
Scale of implementation
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Disaster risk reduction
Erosion prevention
Forest Management
Gender mainstreaming
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Indigenous people
Local actors
Traditional knowledge
Other theme
Co2 sequestration/avoidance
Families not forced to become climate refugees
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Land and Forest degradation
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Infrastructure development
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 13: Safeguarding genetic diversity
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Sendai Framework
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030
Target 4: Reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030
Target 5: Increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020
Target 6: Enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this Framework by 2030


Atlántida, Honduras


FINANCIAL-Nature-based solutions face the reality that less than 3% of public investors support agroecology.
WEATHER-The Inga alleys have survived back-to-back hurricanes with no damage, 8 inches of rain falling in 18 hours, and 7 months of drought. The trees and thick mulch stop all erosion and mudslides and several dozen springs have appeared in established alleys.

COVID-19-Training is entirely outdoors with an entire family participating so the foresters/field technicians are able to wear masks and train/plant seedlings with the family at their plot. With military lockdown, we are fortunate there is only a delay in training new families at the farm.


Rural, subsistence farming families achieve true sustainability-eliminating their dependence on slash-and-burn and they are not forced to become climate refugees.


How do the building blocks interact?

The Wikipedia entry on Land Degradation says: 

"It is estimated that up to 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded." 

Small-scale farmers in developing countries are already bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, yet they have received little of the promised funding to help them adapt to degraded land, drought, flooding, and heat.
Now in year 10, the resilient Inga Tree Model, with its integrated benefits, fulfills the primary needs of subsistence farmers by providing sustainable agriculture with no barriers. No group has ever been turned down to receive instruction. The grassroots program provides training and planting assistance as an alternative to slash-and-burn without debt, and families who see the program are eager to participate, learn from each other, and pay it forward--giving farmers the power to regenerate historically degraded soil on long-deforested hillslopes with a multiplier effect, spreading agroecology knowledge and experiences with full participation for women and young people.


Inga Alley Cropping- model of sustainable best practice in rural livelihoods

  • Environmental--stopping slash-and-burn agriculture in the humid tropics (practiced by 200 million smallholders) with a proven alternative (Inga Alley Cropping) which promotes local practices, native seed, organic food sources, and knowledge while adapting to climate crisis conditions; sequestering and avoiding massive amounts ofCO2; regenerating steep, highly degraded land; stopping all erosion and mudslides, eliminating all agrochemical inputs; watershed protection; The Inga tree alleys were unscathed from the Nov. 2020 back-to-back hurricanes with no damage at all to the 300+ tree alllleys and farmers were able to plant on schedule
  • Social-100% food security for farmers; annual, renewable firewood so forest trees are not cut, protect habitats and increase biodiversity; livelihood improvement from sale of cash crops. Large savings on labor for weed control (reported by farmers to save 60 days/year). The family is trained together and work close to home. Families are not forced to become climate refugees
  • Economic-livelihood improvement from sale of cash crops; farmers have no debt, loans or microloans; firewood produced from annual pruning may be sold or traded.


Mike Hands

When he could find work-- Damas Nunez could earn $2 a day. He reached a point of desperation and decided his only option was to flee north as an undocumented worker. But a visit to a friend in the Cuero Valley who had implemented Inga Alley Cropping astounded Dumas, who subsequently received training/seeds from Inga’s team, showing him how to regenerate his degraded plot. Damas now has food security for his family and cash crops to sell.
The cycle of poverty/food security & increasing climate shocks force continued slash and burn agriculture and there is no technology/infrastructure for most remote smallholders. But low-cost, regenerative agroforestry with Inga alleys provides options, opportunities,& promotes land stewardship- true and sustainable "Land For Life."

Contributed by

ingatrees_36024's picture

Lorraine Potter the Inga Foundation

Other contributors

Royal Botanic Garden, Kew