Tag Archives: Forestry

First Inga agroforest plot in the Amazon planted

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Planting the first Inga agroforest plot at the Motacusal community. It took us two days to plant ca 1,300 seedlings. Click on the image to see a clip of the planting.
Over two days at the end of February,  together with Terry Pennington from Kew and Jaime Leon from Peru our team worked with the community of Motacusal to plant the first Inga agroforest plot in the Amazon.  We planted 1,300 seedlings in a mixed system, 0.23 ha for annual crops (rice, maize, beans etc) and 0.7 ha for fruit trees (acaí, Cacao, Annona, acerola, cupuaçu). Inga edulis seedlings were planted in rows 4 m apart. Within each row the spacing for the production of annual crops is 50 cm for the production of fruit trees , 4 m. 

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Our project team in Bolivia and the UK

Rolman Velarde, our agroforest manager based at Herencia. Rolman has overall responsibility for overseeing the seedling nurseries and developing agroforest plots. Together with Jazmin he also plays an essential role in liaising and developing our relationships with each community
Rolman Velarde, our agroforest manager based at Herencia. Rolman has overall responsibility for overseeing the seedling nurseries and developing agroforest plots. Together with Jazmin he also plays an essential role in liaising and developing our relationships with each community

Our project aims to reduce pressure on natural forests in the Pando by supporting Inga-based agroforest systems, identifying non-timber products and raising awareness of the economic and biodiversity value of these forests. This requires a dedicated team of people in Bolivia but also in the UK where some of the technical expertise and the funds reside. Our team comprises people from the Bolivian NGO Herencia, the  Noel Kempf Mercado Natural History Museum in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Jazmín Daza, our community outreach and Bosque de los Niños coordinator. Jazmín is based with Herencia in Cobija, Bolivia and has helped set up the Bosque de los Ninos plots in the Pando
Jazmín Daza, our community outreach and Bosque de los Niños coordinator. Jazmín is based with Herencia in Cobija, Bolivia and has helped set up the Bosque de los Ninos plots in the Pando

Continue reading Our project team in Bolivia and the UK

Three months on: how our seedlings are developing

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Rolman Velarde at the Motacusal nursery with one the seedlings sown in October. Note the length of the roots!

It is now three months since we sowed our first seed and most of the seedlings are now 40  cm tall and ready for planting out. Together with Terry Pennington I am planning to travel to Bolivia in a couple of weeks where with Peruvian Jaime Leon  we will assist with establishing the first Inga agroforest plot in the Amazon. The only problem is that most of the community members are deep in the forest harvesting Brazil Nuts!

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Monitoring our progress

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Jazmín Daza is a vital part of our team and engages with the four communities in a participative manner, collecting baseline data and facilitating the decision-making within each community needed to make sure that our agroforest plots are serving their purpose

As highlighted in an earlier post the use of Agroforests have not been widely adopted in Latin America. Whilst we don’t know why this is we intend to maximise its chance of success in the Amazon by ensuring that the communities who adopt it are fully engaged and in control of how it is delivered. This we hope will make it more likely to keep it going once our intervention is complete. This approach involves participative monitoring of progress and consultation over where plots are located and what crops are grown as well as the provision of training that will see them masters of the technology and potential teachers to other communities in the region. Continue reading Monitoring our progress

Secondary forest on bauxite in Brazil

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Secondary forests can be recognized by the species and life-forms that they include and which are notably absent. Also by the uniform diameter of the canopy trees and it’s relatively low stature

Secondary forests are those that grow back in places that have been deforested. They are forests composed of species often known as ‘pioneer’ or ‘secondary’ that are adapted to colonizing disturbed sites and so very different from those that composed the original forest before they were cut down. I have been interested in secondary forests for many years, beginning with my PhD in forest fragments in the Amazon and later working in the secondary forests that dominate Belize and then again in the shade-coffee farms of El Salvador. I find these forests fascinating for several reasons: firstly they are growing rapidly in importance due to extensive deforestation and yet remain poorly studied, secondly they contain species that are often important sources of fuel and materials for local people, and thirdly they contain species that are often able to establish themselves on the incredibly poor soils found in much of the Tropics without recourse to the rich leaf-litter or root-mat layers that enable the original forest to survive, and so are very interesting in their own right. Continue reading Secondary forest on bauxite in Brazil

Two months on: how the seedlings are developing

It is over two months since we planted our first seeds and after a good start our seedlings are  thriving despite the unwanted attention of crickets. Some of the seedlings are now 35 cm tall and will be ready to plant out within a few weeks.

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The seedling nursery at Motacusal has done very well. The community have even prepared and planted some additional seed (Image: Rolman Velarde)

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Inga seedling nursery: the main causes of mortality

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Crickets have turned out to be a major source of mortality for our seedlings. Note that although the cricket has decapitated this seedling a secondary shoot lies in reserve ready to replace it

As Inga has never before been trialed for agroforestry in the Amazon it is important that we record the scale and different causes of mortality to inform other attempts. This is done by Rolman Velarde our chief engineer on the ground in Bolivia together with each community. The main cause of mortality so far has been the failure of ca 8% of seedlings to germinate, probably because we are still learning how to  optimize the processing of seed. Surprisingly the consistent second cause of mortality is the very neat and precise decapitation of seedling by what our communities think are crickets. Continue reading Inga seedling nursery: the main causes of mortality

Our strategy for delivering Inga agroforests


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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

Our 13,000 seedlings start germinating…

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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.