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 – 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.

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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.

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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

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 . 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

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, 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 -  . 

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 .
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.