Cover Crops in Hillside Agriculture: Farmer Innovation with Mucuna
With the fertilizer bean, cowardly land becomes brave.
— Teodoro Reyes, La Danta, Honduras
In the developing world, agriculture is essential to sustainable and equitable development. The rural poor often earn their living on small farms, and this is no different in Central America.
A persistent bane of the small farm is land degradation, especially on hillsides. In finding solutions to this problem, the farmers of northern Honduras are at the forefront. Having been excluded from the prime coastal lands by the elite classes and large agroindustries, these farmers have been developing ways of managing an aggressive vining legume called velvetbean (Mucuna spp.) and adapting it to the needs of maize production. The practice that they have developed over the past 20 years both enhances productivity and conserves the resource base — a rare combination in a hillside environment.
This book provides a comprehensive evaluation of the use of velvetbean as a cover crop on the hillsides on northern Honduras. It sheds light on the opportunities and constraints presented by cover crops in the humid tropics and, perhaps most importantly, tells a story of successful farmer innovation.
Daniel Buckles is Senior Program Officer at the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.
Bernard Triomphe is Research Associate at the Mexico City office of The Rockefeller Foundation.