Making a seed nursery in the Amazon: preparing the soil

Preparing soil for seedling bags is not as easy as it may seem: local soils are very poor clays and finding ingredients for something resembling a potting compost can need a lot of resourcefulness

Whilst Inga grows well in very acidic degraded and poor soils these are not the best soils to start seedlings off in a nursery prior to planting them out. We want to produce strong vigorous seedlings that will have the best start that they can when they are planted out in the poor degraded soils that they are set to restore. Continue reading Making a seed nursery in the Amazon: preparing the soil

How to prepare Inga seeds for sowing

Inga seeds come in several colours, the ones shown above are all from the same pod and more or less at the same stage of development

We are planning to trial three or four native species of Inga, the most common of which is the domesticated Inga edulis. Because we want to develop the approach in a way that can be easily be replicated by our partner communities we source seed locally. Inga seeds are known as recalcitrant seeds, that is they have no dormant stage as most seeds do and so cannot be stored for any length of time. So the seeds strategy is to hit the ground running and  it is not uncommon for the seeds to germinate in the pod. It also means that we need to sow the seeds within 48 hours of harvesting them.  Continue reading How to prepare Inga seeds for sowing

Our strategy for delivering Inga agroforests

By working through the process of producing an agroforest with each community and having them make key decisions at each step we aim to generate capacity as well as buy-in for this attempt at permaculture

Agroforests were first promoted in the 1980’s but have never taken off in Latin America despite substantial investment through the World Agroforestry Centre. We don’t know why this is the case: whether too much burden of risk was placed on poor farmers, whether there was not enough engagement with farmers or whether the investment just never made it to the ground.  To try and avoid the same fate  we aim to Continue reading Our strategy for delivering Inga agroforests

How we plan to restore and maintain soil fertility using Inga

Inga agroforest as we plan to have in place by 2015
We are planning for the Inga seedlings that we sowed in October to be of sufficient size to plant out by March 2014 and for these to have grown to 2-3 m by 2015

Using densely planted rows of Inga we plan to harness the tree’s ability to colonize degraded acidic soils and use bacteria to generate the nutrients it needs. Together with this ability to increase nutrient levels necessary for plant growth, rapidly growing Inga trees also shade out invasive weeds and produce a rapidly degrading leaf litter that will kick-start the development of a productive soil Continue reading How we plan to restore and maintain soil fertility using Inga

Why does slash and burn not work?

This field was created by logging and then setting fire to a patch of forest and then sowing maize seeds. It is a lot of effort and will result in two years worth of cultivation after which time it will be abandoned

Looking at 40 m high trees in the Amazon rain forest it must be counter-intuitive as a farmer to think that these are poor soils. If you can grow giant luxuriant trees then surely maize should be no problem? Well the thing is Amazonian soils are very poor and acidic and don’t support that wonderful forest. Continue reading Why does slash and burn not work?

Four communities developing Inga-based permaculture

The community of Motacusal subsist from harvesting Brazil nuts. They are one of the first communities in Bolivia to participate in the Latin American phenomenon of ‘Bosque de los Niños‘ whereby forest is set-aside to be managed by the children of the community.

Continue reading Four communities developing Inga-based permaculture

Our 13,000 seedlings start germinating…


A member of the community of San José inspecting the germinating seedlings that he helped plant and has been tending. They took two weeks to get this big, about 15 cm. Once they are 40 cm tall, they will be planted out in rows four metres apart where over the course of a year they will develop into small trees and start to enrich the soil and sustain agriculture. Well that’s the plan at least.