Inga cropping exhibit
In our exhibit in the Rainforest Biome, we explore the use of the inga plant (Inga edulis) in agroforestry systems to shade trees and to produce timber and fuel. This amazing plant also produces fruit that tastes like ice-cream and takes in nitrogen from the air and turns it into plant food for the soil, via their roots, helping neighbouring plants at the same time!
How inga is boosting sustainability
In Central America, desperate farmers have been forced to 'slash and burn' to clear areas of rainforest to enable them to grow food to feed their families. This ruins the soil, rendering it useless to grow plants, so the farmers then move on and chop down more rainforest. It’s a vicious circle, but now, the inga plant is changing the lives of these farmers
Inga plants are grown in lines - or 'alleys' - and then crops such as cacao, coffee and bananas are grown between the alleys. The inga provide shade for the other crops as well nutrients in the soil. Inga plants can be grown on very steep slopes and in very poor soil. They are tolerant to drought and their leaves act as mulch for the surrounding crops.
Our research trip to Honduras
Lucy Wenger, specialist horticulturalist at Eden, went to Honduras with the Inga Foundation, a charity devoted to restoring land and saving rainforest. She visited families benefiting from their work bordering the Pico Bonito National Park, and the Las Flores demo farm to harvest, prepare and sow inga and cacao seed.
“As we fly into Honduras, the Pico Bonito National Park stands out as a forest-covered peak in a barren slash-and-burnt wasteland. From above, you can see devastated pockets of farmland, with the added indignation of criss-crossed, diamond patterned fields of oil palm and pineapples.”
Lucy Wenger, specialist horticulturist, Eden Project
Las Flores farm
At Las Flores farm, Lucy witnessed the Inga Foundation’s work, seeing that the farm is abundant with life and crops with shady tunnels of inga harbouring crops of cassava and turmeric, vines dripping with ripening black pepper, cacao pods swelling on the network of trees covering the steep hillsides, making a mockery of the weedy oil palm plantation on the hillside opposite.
Lucy was introduced to local farmer Don Pablino, whose farm is a haven of productivity in amongst hillsides of slash-and-burn and tough invasive grass. Previously, this land had not been able to be farmed for the last 100 years - it was barren, raw, and completely uninhabitable.
Lucy went on to visit Martine at his parent’s farm where he harvests cacao. Inga to Martine is a new life - it’s food for his family, it’s education and the ability for his grandchildren to attend university. It’s the first time he has been able to smile throughout a lifetime of hardship. Martine is now earning 20 times as much as he was as a slash-and-burn farmer, just a few years ago.