Maize, Firewood and Biological Weed Control
Israel Matute is a farmer who lives at Aguas Calientes near San Lorenzo in Yoro, Honduras. His Inga plot was established with help from FUPNAPIB (Fundación Parque Nacional Pico Bonito) in a follow-on project from the Cambridge Inga Project. Israel described how the original site was covered by invasive grasses and was completely infertile, after having been slashed and burnt a few years before. Once planted the Inga alleys recaptured the site over a 2 year period. Israel planted his first maize crop in 2005, which required a small amount of light weeding. In 2006 they then carried out the pruning of the entire plot, gaining a very large amount of Inga stems and branches for use as firewood. About one week after the pruning, once the mulch had settled, they sowed the second maize crop within the alleys. His second harvest was heavier than the first and the crop required no weeding at all as the mulch had achieved 100% weed control. The maize grown fed his immediate family for the whole year. Since this initial success, Israel has increased his Inga planting.
Israel calculated that if he had employed people to carry out the pruning, and had then sold the cargas of firewood at the current rate of about 10 Lps. (about US 50 cents), he would have made a small profit on the operation. In actual fact, he decided to distributed the firewood amongst his extended family, where it amounted to the equivalent of 3-months’ worth of kitchen stove-fuel for six households.
Subsistence farmers in Honduras attempting to nurture developing maize plants on slashed and burned hillsides distant from their homes, face a daunting task in weed control amongst the invading grasses. It is common for the amount of labor needed to simply to grow enough food for themselves and their familes to exceed 150 days per ha. per year. In contrast, Inga alley cropping has allowed Israel to grown his maize crops and his firewood on his own doorstep with no time spent weeding and no need to travel to his plots.
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