Land for Life: Inga Alley Cropping-the Revolutionary Solution to Saving Rainforests, Transforming Lives, and Regenerating Land

Our mission secures food & ends rainforest destruction & slash-and-burn agriculture by replacing it with Inga alley cropping in the tropics.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

The Inga Foundation

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $100k - $250k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Honduras: Las Flores, Cuero and Capapan river catchments Also, we have trained delegations spreading our work in: Belize Nicaragua Guatemala Peru


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

300 million+ families in the tropics use slash-and-burn to grow their food. Farmers cut and burn a patch of forest for fertile soil to grow crops, but the harsh climate strips the bare soil of nutrients and crops fail after only two years, forcing farmers to clear new rainforest to survive. Food security is precarious; children—malnourished; livelihoods—endangered; rainforests habitats—destroyed; water sources—contaminated by unstoppable erosion; and billions of tons of carbon—released every year.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

The Inga Foundation’s simple but revolutionary system of Inga alley-cropping is the proven solution to stopping the devastation of tropical rainforests. Its ability to regenerate land dramatically transforms the lives of subsistence farmers by providing food security and organic cash crops as well as significantly sequesters carbon. By the initial demonstration of the planting of Inga alleys, followed by grassroots expansion, and backed by agricultural support over the adoption period of two to three years, this bottom-up approach provides local farmers and their families the means to achieve sustainable, organic agricultural practices and put an end to slash and burn. We invite NGOs and other government farming entities to join us in this critical food security/land restoration movement to scale up. Mike Hands was selected as a climate SOLVER at MIT in June 2017 (1 of 6 in the world competition), & OFIA​ ​Grand​ ​Prize recipient for Organic Farming Innovation​ ​in Nov. ​2017.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Since 2012, the debt-free, bottom-up, low-cost, and scientifically-proven agroforestry model of Inga alley-cropping in Honduras has planted 1.75 million trees, helped over 240 families organically and sustainably grow food and cash crops, sequestered millions of tons of carbon by the anchoring of families to their land and their not moving deeper into the rainforest to slash-and-burn new farming plots, allowed families for the first time to sell cash crops such as pepper, turmeric, pineapple, cacao, vanilla, and protected rainforest and wildlife habitats as families now have “land for life.” About 5000 acres of once-depleted soils are enriched & stabilized by the nitrogen-fixing Inga trees and the protection of the tree’s foliage and leaf mulch when the trees are pruned; trees supply sustainable firewood by the pruned trunks/branches of the Inga tree, which is vital for families; and water sources are protected and erosion stopped as the soil is now stable and does not wash away.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

We are in year 6 of our ten year Honduran Land for Life project with a yearly budget of $200K--with an all-volunteer staff in the US and the UK. Cuero operation was established w/ Vanderbilt Family Foundation funds originally managed by the Honduran NGO Fundación Parque Nacional Pico Bonito-FUPNAPI 1. Individual gifts through the website and solicitations are about 50% of our annual income. 2. Grants account for approximately 40% of our support. 3. Corporate contributions are a small part of our funding (about 10%). 4. We have no earned income. No one else pioneers this type of complete agroforestry system (scientifically-proven, significant carbon sequestration, firewood, mulch, weed control, water source protection, erosion prevention, nitrogen-fixing, low-cost).

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Some NGOs combat deforestation through reforestation, but this does not address the root of problem. Slash & burn is ecologically devastating, yet a way of life for subsistence farmers for generations. Families do not just need trees; they need solutions. Inga alley-cropping is an integrated ecosystem that provides an organic, sustainable, and resilient means for farmers in the tropics to achieve food security. Mike Hands was the first to implement this complete, proven, agroforestry system.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

As a surveyor in Central America the 80s, Mike was horrified to see the devastating impact that slash & burn subsistence agriculture had on rainforests in the world's tropics. While a researcher at the Univ. of Cambridge he found that science could not explain the underlying ecology of the process—nor indicate a solution to the problem of a newly burned site losing fertility in 2-3 years. Breakthroughs in the ecology of soil phosphorus in the laboratory in Cambridge cleared away confusion and contradiction in the literature and opened the way to a promising set of field trials. These upheld the original hypotheses and led to the alternative agricultural system that Inga Foundation is now promoting. Our teams in Cent. Amer. are led by local foresters and agronomists who have extension assistants trained by them on our demonstration farms, & we train delegations from many other countries.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

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Attachments (3)

8. Sustainable firewood produced by Inga alley-cropping.jpg

When Inga trees are pruned, the boughs and branches provide valuable firewood for the family cookstoves—saving native trees and rainforests from harvesting for fuel. A family’s Inga alleys provide all the fuel needed and many have firewood to share, trade or sell in rural Honduras. Notice the trees grow well on the steep slopes and there is thick mulch to protect and enrich the soil.

2. Inga Seedlings.jpg

1000s of Inga seedlings in one of our 2 nurseries in Las Flores, Honduras

Pineapple Crop.jpg

Hundreds of pineapple plants started in our nurseries and planted in the alleys of Martin Garcia in the Cangrejal valley of northern Honduras. Martin’s Inga alleys support a family of 12 individuals and pineapples are a cash crop. Through revolutionary Inga alley cropping slash and burn stops, rainforests and their diverse habitats are protected and families have food security and organic cash crops. No pesticides or herbicides are used and soil is enriched by the nitrogen-fixing trees.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Really exciting work Congratulations.

Photo of Samantha Hoover

How exciting!

Photo of Godfred Bozumbil