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.
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!
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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.