What are mixed forests?
Mixed forests provide a habitat for a variety of different plants and animals and are very sustainable. With mixed forest cultivation, we come closest to wild nature and still produce enough income to be able to live on it. Mixed forests are, so to speak, the antidote to destructive monocultures.
More than just "organic".
Organic certifications are very helpful, but they paint a very simplistic picture. Healthy ecosystems are much more than just the "organic" seal of a product. In the end, an organic seal says little about the health of the soil, biodiversity and the quality of life of the farmers. That's why it's worth taking a closer look. Only mixed forest cultivation is truly sustainable agriculture for all living beings.
Mixed forests protect the biodiversity in the rainforest
TheMaya Mountain Research Farm counted over 150 different bird species in their mixed forest. In conventional monocultures not nearly as many animal species find protection. Mixed forest systems, also known as permaculture, can be used anywhere in the world. The permaculture movement has resonated with farmers around the world. And that's hardly surprising. Permaculture saves farmers a lot of work and allows them to plan decades into the future.
Mixed forests secure the income of the farmers
Imagine you are a cocoa farmer and you have a monoculture for cocoa beans. So they are all you can sell. At least a few tons of cocoa beans per year. But now imagine that the world market price for cocoa, which is traded on the stock exchange, crashes. Suddenly you may have lost money this year instead of earning it. You have to take out a loan in order to be able to continue to do business.
Or worse, imagine your cacao trees getting sick. Suddenly you can only bring in 50% of your harvest, but you have even more costs because of pesticides (for cocoa that is not organic). You are facing bankruptcy.
On the other hand, if you manage a mixed forest farm, you can still sell your vanilla, or your bananas, or your coffee, or your nutmegs... You get the idea: the possibilities are (almost) unlimited. So which system would you choose - monoculture or mixed forest
Logical, because only mixed forests create a sustainable economic climate for the producers of tropical export goods.
How mixed forests keep the soil healthy
Soils are sensitive ecosystems that have evolved over tens of thousands of years. They are full of nutrients. If only one type of crop is grown on a soil system, then only certain nutrients are removed from the soil. When this happens, the missing nutrients have to be artificially supplied as fertilizer.
In nature, however, there are of course no artificially produced fertilizer nitrates. Nature has developed a sophisticated ecosystem in which one plant species provides the other plant species with exactly the nutrients they need to survive. Exactly these symbioses are tried to be used in mixed forest cultivation.
Mixed forests generate higher income and more stable food security for the farmers
In a long-term study over 20 years, the Research Institute for Organic Farming (FiBL) compared mixed forest systems with conventional monocultures. What they found out The organically farmed mixed waters achieve the lowest cocoa yield per hectare in comparison - overall, however, the farmers can achieve a higher income and a more stable income security. They are less dependent on international price fluctuations or crop failures because they grow many different products. You can find the study here.
Learn more about the exciting topic of mixed forest cultivation
Find more resources on permaculture & agroforestry systems in the tropics here
The Maya Mountain Research Farm is a living example of the future of permaculture in the tropics (and they make great videos).Here go to their website.
The Ghana Permaculture Institute deals intensively with the topic of permaculture and agroforestry.Here you can find their website.
A good blog article by Readcacao Magazine on cocoa from agroforestry cultivation can be foundhere.