Thursday, 28 May 2015

Helping to Spread a Beautiful System

Helping to Spread a Beautiful System

Many poor farmers in tropical rainforest countries today are trapped in cycles of poverty with very little hope of improving the livelihoods for themselves and their families. The only system of farming that they know is called slash and burn agriculture, but this method is no longer environmentally viable. The farmers themselves know that it is destroying the vital natural resource, namely the soil, that they rely on to provide them with decent harvests. It is also destroying more and more  of the rainforests, seriously harming biodiversity and releasing enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This adds to the phenomena of climate change, making the poor farmers more susceptible to adverse and extreme weather conditions. Yet for most slash and burn farmers around the world, there seems to be no choice. Their harvests may get worse year on year, but it is the only way they know how to feed their families, and the only other possible alternative seems to be to desert the land and go and join the expanding populations of the polluted, desperate shanty towns.


Yet there is an alternative, if they only knew about it. An agricultural technique called Inga Alley Cropping can help preserve the vital structure and fertility of the soil, and help prevent the destruction of countless areas of rainforest. By sowing their crops between rows of particular species of Inga tree, which are pruned regularly to create a mulch, not only is erosion significantly reduced but the vital elements of nitrogen and phosphorous are retained within the soil. This means that poor farmers can continue farming on the same plot for year after year without having to move and burn more rainforest every two or three years, as slash and burn farming currently obliges them to do.



                                                       Inga Alley Cropping                   What slash and burn leads to
                                                                                                      

Rainforest Saver, a small UK based charity is doing it very best to disseminate information about this technique around all tropical rainforest countries. At present though it is focusing mainly on Honduras and the Cameroons as it is in these two countries, that it has developed good relationships with various partners, who have the same dedication to improve the livelihoods of poor farmers and help save the rainforests. At present, Rainforest Saver has already funded training sessions for teachers and the setting up of 6 Demonstration Inga plots at 6 High Schools in Eastern Honduras, for it is the young farmers of tomorrow, who will be most open to new ideas. This has been carried out by our dedicated partner Dr Valle, who works at CURLA university in La Ceiba, and is part of a recognized government scheme to improve environmental education throughout Honduras. Unfortunately the Honduran government is very poor and so such worthwhile initiatives wouldn’t take place without the support of an overseas charity. Dr Valle would now like to extend this scheme to schools in Western Honduras but to do so needs considerable extra funding to pay for the transportation of seedlings and accommodation for himself, his colleagues and assistant. Rainforest Saver has therefore set up a Crowd Funding Project and very much hopes you will be willing to help support our vital project. If enough young farmers of today are educated in more sustainable agriculture, poor communities that are at present destroying many of the rainforests, could both improve their own livelihoods and become the effective guardians of these crucial eco-systems. By giving knowledge and resources to those that work on the land, we can help transform both their livelihoods and their environment for the better. Our ultimate aim for this crowd funding project is to train 140 teachers from 23 schools, and reaching our target will enable us to make a substantial difference to environmental education in this area. Changing a whole system of agriculture is not an easy task, but you can help seed this transformation in Western Honduras, as we are already doing with considerable promise near the North coast of Honduras.


                                                  Our partner Dr. Guillermo Valle, teaching students in an Inga alley


We are offering a variety of prizes to encourage you to open your heart and wallet. Yet whether you buy some cards, calendar or a T shirt, get your children’s faces painted as rainforest animals, commission a poem or request a rainforest tale, I hope your main reward will be to keep an eye on the Rainforest Saver web site and see the project that you helped fund come to fruition. So please click on http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/sustainable-farming-to-save-rainforestshonduras-2   and help young Honduran farmers learn how to make a more sustainable and productive living from their land and enable them to help save the rainforests.    

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Being Part of a Beautiful Crowd

Being Part of a Beautiful Crowd


The charity Rainforest Saver has just launched its Crowdfunder Project to raise money to help schools, farmers and rainforests in the tropical regions of Cameroon. The beauty of the project, if funded, is that it will place the vital Inga Alley Cropping technique at the heart of communities that can most benefit from it. This technique can free slash and burn farmers from the cycle of poverty, in which they are currently trapped, and will enable them to engage in a form of sustainable agriculture that helps conserve the precious rainforests.

Their current method of farming merely depletes the fertility of the soil, brings in lower and lower yields and destroys the rainforests. Inga Alley Cropping though, allows the farmer to improve the fertility of his or her plot so that they are no longer forced to burn new areas of rainforest every two or three years, but can stay on the same piece of land and look forward to improved harvests and better livelihoods. It also allows the remaining areas of rainforest to be spared from the farmers' matches, which can wreak such terrible destruction.

The funds raised by the Crowdfunder Project will enable Rainforest Saver and its Cameroon partners to plant Inga Alley Cropping plots and Inga Seed Nurseries in 5 schools in the rainforest areas of Cameroon. It will also enable our partners to teach both the children and their parents (the vast majority of which are farmers) about this vital, livelihood enhancing and environmentally sustainable technique.

Allowing a few trees to set seed will enable local farmers in the community to begin their own Inga plots, and so the new system will gradually be disseminated around the local area. As well as growing food for the children of the school in the Inga Plots, the production of seeds and seedlings will also enable the schools to raise much needed funds to improve the facilities they can offer to their students.

Handing out Inga seedlings to school kids
Our Partner Attanga Wilson, handing out Inga seedlings to children.

If you would like to help these children and their parents to grow a better future for themselves, please consider pledging your support to the save-forests-with-sustainable-farming crowdfunder project - http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-rainforests-with-sustainable-farming .

There are a variety of rewards on offer and we hope that both our old and new supporters will help us to achieve the necessary total by the 10th of July. We need to have that amount pledged by then, or else Rainforest Saver and its hard-working dedicated partners will receive nothing. Your pledge can help ensure we reach our total and so are able to help poor schools and poor farmers to grow their way out of poverty. It will also help ensure that more of  Cameroon's biodiverse rainforests are saved for future generations.

Environmental club and staff at Lycée de Nkoumadjap
Environmental Club at the Lycee de Nkoumadjap, keen to start planting their School Inga Plot.

Money, it seems to me, is rather like seed. It can be wasted (ie thrown on stony ground), it can be saved for a rainy day (and then quite often be forgotten about until it's too late) or it can be invested in projects that make the world a better place (ie sown on fertile ground). If you invest in the Rainforest Saver Crowdfunding Project, I promise we will do our utmost to ensure that the schools, the farmers and the local rainforests will receive the maximum benefit from your support. If you've read to the end of this blog, please take one step further and click on the link below to pledge your support.

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-rainforests-with-sustainable-farming


Charles Barber
Chairman of Rainforest Saver - www.rainforestsaver.org  



Saturday, 9 November 2013

WANTED - A School with Courage, Commitment and an Adventurous Green Spirit

WANTED… A School with Courage, Commitment and a Green Adventurous Spirit


There is a secondary school in the south of the Cameroons on the edge of the rainforest that is looking for a school in the UK to take part in a joint educational project, that would enable both schools to learn more about both their own environments and cultures and also those of their partner school. It would also like to plant an enduring educational resource in its grounds. This resource could help the local rural population to overcome the most serious environmental, economic and social problem in the area. At present one of the largest threats to the health and survival of the rainforests, comes from a method of agriculture practised by millions of poor farmers, that in most rainforest areas is no longer sustainable. Slash and Burn Agriculture depletes the nutrients and destroys the structure of rainforest soils so that areas that once contained lush rainforests can be turned into barren wastelands.

                                       An example of how continual slash and burn agriculture
                                       can turn lush rainforests into degraded land, where hardly 
                                       anything will grow.

 As more and more rainforest is burnt and more and more nutrients are washed away, the farmers’ lives become harder and harder so that many are forced to migrate to the slums of a nearby city. Yet there is an alternative, which could both provide farmers with a better, more secure livelihood, and help prevent the continued destruction of the rainforests. The Inga Alley Cropping System has been shown to provide farmers with much better yields and also most crucially retains the nutrients in the soil so that the farmer can continue farming on the same plot of land, and no longer needs to move every two or three years to burn more and more rainforest. The Lycee de Nkoumadjap, a Secondary School in the South Region of the Cameroons, would like to set up both a Demonstration Plot of the Inga Alley Cropping System and an Inga Nursery in their grounds to teach both the children and their parents about this new system. The local people will then have the expertise and the resources (ie the necessary Inga seedlings and training) to be able to begin their own Inga plots. The charity The Rainforest Saver Foundation – www.rainforestsaver.org is offering an English Secondary School the opportunity to take part in this exciting project to help this school in the Cameroons to realize its dream.

Displaying SDC11662_2.jpg
The Lycee de Nkoumadjap

The joint venture would also enable the students of the UK school to discover more about their own local environment, to learn more about rainforests and to improve and practise its use of the French Language. The students of the Lycee de Nkoumadjap would learn to value and be proud of their local rainforests, discover more about the environment and culture of the UK and practise its use of the English Language. Both schools would also be able to provide valuable new information about the little known town of Nkoumadjap on the worldwide web through the medium of Wikipedia.

The Lycee de Nkoumadjap is in a French speaking part of the Cameroons. Most Cameroonians speak their own native language and either French or English but are not usually fluent in both. Rainforest Saver are fortunate to have a dynamic Cameroonian partner called Gaston Bityo, a trained botanist and farmer who runs his own NGO, Volunteers Serving Development, who can speak both European languages. He has said he is willing to help liase the joint educational project and will be the Inga Alley Expert, who helps the school to set up its Demonstration Plot and Nursery. He is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Cameroon’s rainforest plants and will I’m sure also provide some useful knowledge for the new site that will be created on Wikipedia.


Displaying SDC11654_2.jpg
Gaston Bityo and Mr Akono, the Headteacher of the the Lycee de Nkoumadjap, carrying the first Inga seedlings, that will create an Inga Seed Nursery.

The projects will enable both schools to get a greater understanding of both their own local environments and the very different environments of their partner school. Both schools will also be able to work together to help create a lasting educational resource that will enable local farmers and their children to farm more sustainably and so help protect the rainforests.  If you are at all interested in such a project please contact me, Charles Barber, the Rainforest Saver Education Co-ordinator by email at charles.barber13@gmail.com.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Can Poetry Help Save The Rainforests


Can Poetry Help Save The Rainforests?


Like many adolescents, I dabbled in the writing of poetry but in later years by and large gave up poetic scribbling until about 2 years ago. I then discovered the online writers and readers site called Jottify.com . I posted up one or two pieces and was surprised to find that some people actually seemed to appreciate what I’d written. This encouraged me to see the writing of poetry as a craft or art in which I might actually be able to improve. I also became interested in how one could use poetry to promote good causes, raise awareness and perhaps even stimulate people to become more involved in the important issues of the day, (or at least in what this particular poet considers to be the important issues of the day). In my last blog ‘How to Grow Rainforest Saver’, I suggested that our small charity needed to be more active and imaginative in its efforts to raise more funds and attract more members. As Chairman and blogger, I feel it is incumbent on me to set an example in this respect, and I am therefore going to see if I can use my poetic skills to raise money for Rainforest Saver’s vital work.

As someone old enough to have been educated without the assistance of computers or the World Wide Web, it is taking me time to fully understand how such tools as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube might be used to further the cause of Rainforest Saver. It is all very well having a Facebook presence and persuading people to Like it but this doesn’t bring in any extra funds, which is what Rainforest Saver, like every other charity, needs to continue its crucial work.  I have therefore come up with the idea of writing a 24 hour sponsored poem on Facebook, posting at least 12 lines every hour, and finding at least 12 extra lines, thus making a poem of 300 or more lines. I will ask people to sponsor me per line and I will take my laptop into my local town of Woking to promote both the writing of the poem and the work of Rainforest Saver. The poem will be called ‘A Love of Trees’ and will be both a personal response to our arboreal friends and a more general reflection on the importance of trees to our environment and society, focusing particularly on the work of Rainforest Saver. This will happen later today at dawn 1st of June and you can check my progress at https://www.facebook.com/rainforestsaver

Although the actual poem will be written on the day, I will carry out research, make notes and even converse with our sylvan brothers in order to hopefully get some inspiration. However, this poet also needs help from other people and so I will be asking people to send me their favourite photos of trees, or links to favourite paintings of trees. Of course I can not promise that I will write anything of any merit for my muse might be offended at the whole idea of producing poetry by the hour, and might decide to take the whole day off. I can only promise that I will try my best to write something that you might like to read.  In return I hope that you might be willing to encourage this apprentice poet and support Rainforest Saver by sponsoring me. Usually my inspiration doesn’t come from the prospect of personal profit, but as on this occasion any money raised will go to ensure more Inga trees are planted and more farmers helped to farm sustainably, the more the total increases at my Virgin Money Giving page, the more inspired I’ll be to write a half decent poem. After all it’s not every day you get the opportunity to help save the rainforests, improve the lives of poor farmers, and, admittedly in a minor way, be a patron of the poetic arts.

If anyone has any queries or suggestions, please email me at charles.barber13@gmail.com, making the subject heading Sponsored Poem. I hope that some of you that read this will be willing to sponsor me via the Rainforest Saver web site and I look forward to the challenge of trying to create a poem that is worthy of Rainforest Saver - www.rainforestsaver.org  . 

It is rather late in the day to provide this footnote, but I would just like to say thank you to all those that sponsored me and helped me raise over £500 for Rainforest Saver. If anyone would still like to read the poem it can be viewed at http://www.rainforestsaver.org/news/no43-love-trees .
I make no great claim about the merit of the poem but if you get bored reading it, warmly recommend you have a look at our fascinating web site.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

How To Grow Rainforest Saver


How To Grow Rainforest Saver

For the last few years I have had the privilege and honour of being involved with a charity I care deeply about. As a gardener, who loves trees and is somewhat concerned about the state of the planet, Rainforest Saver is an organization that I’m very pleased to be a part of. I have seen it grow from difficult beginnings into a charity that, thanks to its UK supporters and its partners, is making a real difference to more sustainable farming in both Honduras and the Cameroons. It is partnerships such as ours that can not only help many poor farmers lift themselves out of poverty, but also ultimately save millions of acres of biodiverse rainforests for all our futures.


What we are trying to prevent. Hillsides that were once lush rainforest made barren by continual slash and burn agriculture.


Yet the scale of what we are trying to do can sometimes feel a bit daunting. At present we are a small charity with a limited membership and income. It was very pleasing in the autumn of 2012 to be able to celebrate the first Inga Alley Harvest in Africa and to know that 20 more farmers will soon be able to follow suit. However, there are so many more farmers that we could help if we only had more funds.  If we are really going to change an entrenched but unsustainable system of agriculture, that is damaging numerous rainforest eco-systems in numerous countries, we have to find the resources to grow. Those resources are to be found not only in our current membership and partners but also in our future ones. If we want to help our partners produce the vital Inga seedlings to get Inga Alley Cropping established in different regions, we need more members, raising more money to enable more sustainable Inga farms to be created.


Rainforest Saver stall at a public meeting
                                          

So what are the key ingredients or nutrients that Rainforest Saver needs to grow. We have come into existence at a time when there are more methods to get one’s message across than ever before. The potential of new means of communication such as Facebook, Twitter, skype and blogs is immense and Rainforest Saver is certainly more well known thanks to such media. However, clicking a Like button on a Facebook page won’t of itself provide Rainforest Saver with any more money to fund its vital work. We somehow need to activate some of the interest and awareness generated through such media into more serious commitment to help, which will be shown in increased donations or membership. Such donations and new members are more likely to come about if the person who discovers us on the net, can get involved in a more direct and active manner. If he can go and listen to a talk or take part in an event, or even merely sponsor someone else who is raising money for us, then there is more chance of getting a donation or recruiting a new member. In short, we ourselves need to be more active, giving talks, staging fund-raising events and trying to persuade any likely contenders to join the cause. Yet, I do not pretend this is easy as our limited membership probably all have very active lives already but if enough people are willing to spend a bit more time promoting the charity, we will be able to grow and do so much more.


RFS member repairing and selling bicycles to raise money for Rainforest Saver


As a charity that can play a key role in saving the rainforests, we should have environmentally concerned citizens from all over the world, eager to become members. Our mission is crucial, worthwhile and exciting but there is a huge pool of potential members that still need to be convinced. I believe that we need a more ambitious vision and a more global perspective to convince them. I have just had a look at the Greenpeace web site and was impressed to discover that there are now 50 Greenpeace organizations in different countries. As a charity that is promoting a simple technology that could be used in all rainforest countries, it is not inconceivable to me that at some point in the future, all those countries could have Rainforest Saver organizations, helping to fund and promote our work. Yet before such grandiose plans can even be considered we need to be a much more effective and popular organization within the UK.


First Inga Alley Cropping Maize Harvest in Africa


This is difficult when our limited membership is scattered around the UK. However, we do have two areas where there is a slightly larger membership, Edinburgh where the H.Q. is located and London and the South-east. If each of these areas could organize themselves into more active local groups and plan at least one fund-raising and awareness raising event each year it would make a start. This is not to decry all the individual efforts that have already been made by individual members, for such fund-raising work has been and will continue to be invaluable. However, if we can sometimes work together as groups, there is a potential to raise even more funds and attract more new members. Having written this blog, I now feel a rather uncomfortable obligation to try and set an example. So in the coming week I will try and persuade my fellow members in the South-east of England to collaborate with me to stage some form of fundraising event that will hopefully also raise the profile of Rainforest Saver.


The kind of Rainforest flower that we wish to preserve.


I am painfully aware that I do not have all the answers.  Setting up and running a successful charity is not easy. In many ways it is a tribute to our members that we have managed to achieve so much in such a short space of time. However, I do believe we could achieve so much more with a larger more involved membership. I am under no illusions that achieving such a goal will be either quick or easy but I’m hoping that in writing this blog, I might encourage a few more people to take a more active part in Rainforest Saver. With more support we can help numerous poor farmers lift themselves out of poverty and also help save some of the most precious eco-systems on our planet.

Monday, 26 November 2012

First Inga Alley Harvest in Africa


First Inga Alley Harvest in Africa

Mrs Antoinette Mendo has become the first farmer in tropical Africa to harvest a crop, using an exciting new technique called Inga Alley Cropping. She obtained more than 3 times the yield of maize that was grown on an adjacent plot, farmed in the traditional way. If the Inga method were to be widely implemented, it would help improve the livelihoods of millions of poor slash and burn farmers and help save millions of acres of rainforests.

In most tropical forest areas the traditional method of slash and burn farming is no longer sustainable. Due to population pressure the poor farmers are forced to move and farm on new plots that are becoming less and less fertile. Thus in some areas of tropical hillsides, land that was once lush tropical forest now appears completely barren, unable to support either forests or agriculture. Inga Alley Cropping can prevent this continual destruction and provide farmers with more secure, sustainable livelihoods.

It works by cleverly imitating the natural recycling process of the forest eco-system. The Inga trees are grown in alleys and when they’ve reached a certain height their branches are pruned and laid within the alley. Seeds are then sown within the decomposing mulch, while the trees rapidly re-grow. As the Inga mulch continuously re-cycles the nutrients and minimises erosion, the plot is able to maintain its fertility. This means that the farmer can get higher yields and continue to farm on the same plot year after year. Usually slash and burn farmers have to move every 3 years or so, burn another area of rainforest and start a new plot because they have exhausted the fertility of their old one.

Mrs Mendo was helped to start her plot in  by Gaston Bityo, who runs the NGO ‘Volunteers Serving Development’ and by the UK charity ‘Rainforest Saver’ (www.rainforestsaver.org) . Twenty more Cameroonian farmers have also started Inga plots and if sufficient funding can be found, the potential benefits of using the Inga system in the tropical areas of Africa, Central and South America, and South-east Asia are immense.  Regions in which both peoples and forests are currently struggling for survival could be transformed into places, where both humans and forests are once again thriving.  All the farmers need are the Inga seedlings and the necessary training and they can begin to improve both their livelihoods and the environment. All that Rainforest Saver and their partners need are the funds to make this happen.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

An Introduction to Learning about the Rainforests

It is both a cause for concern and a matter of some regret that in spite of serving on the committee of a charity called Rainforest Saver, www.rainforestsaver.org,  my genuine knowledge of the rainforests could probably be squeezed onto an A4 sheet of paper.  In some ways this doesn’t matter too much. I know enough about them to know how precious and important they are. I also understand how the system of agriculture we are promoting called Inga Alley Cropping can not only lift poor slash and burn farmers out of poverty but also potentially save millions of acres of rainforests from destruction. Yet having visited our project partners in Honduras in September 2010 and having experienced a little of the rich diversity that tropical rainforests possess, I would like to gain a greater understanding of these remarkable eco-systems. 

I would also like to give a voice to the peoples that live in and around the rainforests, who know and value these eco-systems and whose very livelihoods depend upon them. It is the rights of these people that are so often overlooked by Western politicians when making their deals at conferences. It is these people that are sometimes thrown off the land they make their living from by decisions which claim to be protecting the rainforests. It is these people, who should hold the keys to protecting these vital eco-systems but who are too often ignored in decisions which affect their future livelihoods.

Yet one of the most encouraging signs of change is that such people are beginning to stand up for their rights. They are joining together to campaign for a fairer deal in this rapidly changing world and using the web to get their voices heard.  They are joined also by a few people in the so called ‘developed world’, who wish to help both protect the rainforests and the livelihoods of the people that live amongst them. To be effective in doing this though, it is helpful if they know as much as possible about both the lives of the people and the lives of the rainforests.  If you are asking people to give money to support projects, it is good to know not only about how this or that particular project will help the land and people, but also to be able to tell people details about the lives of the rainforest lands and the peoples. Thus in trying to learn more about the rainforests, I hope that I will not only be satisfying my own curiosity but also making myself a better advocate for the cause.

But I need help!!! I want to hear stories from the peoples that live in and around the rainforests. I want to know about the trees, plants, animals and people – about their daily lives, about their struggles, about their pleasures and their pain. I hope that the people and organizations to whom I send emails will provide much of the material for the first 4 blogs that I intend to write. They will be an introduction to the rainforests of four regions of the world – Central America, South America, Africa and South-east Asia. Hopefully when I have finished this task, I will know a little bit more about both the peoples and the habitats of the rainforests.


If anyone reading this has a story about a rainforest they would like to relate to me, I'd be delighted to hear from them and can be contacted at charles.barber13@gmail.com .

Charles Barber
Chairman of Rainforest Saver – www.rainforestsaver.org

Other Organizations that are worth checking out

The Global Forest Coalition - http://globalforestcoalition.org/