Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Can Poetry Help to Plant Trees?


Having been involved with the charity Rainforest Saver since its inception, I have always been conscious of how a relatively small charity, based in Edinburgh, can make a big difference to the lives and livelihoods of poor peasant farmers overseas. Yet the problem of tropical rainforest destruction can seem so huge, that I have also been conscious that however much RFS manages to raise, through the generosity and efforts of its supporters, there is so much more that could be done, if we only had a bit, or preferably a lot more money. I have always been interested in how the arts can help to raise the profile of issues, and possibly even attract more supporters to a cause and raise a few funds to add to the kitty. One only has to think of Live Aid to see how artists, if sufficiently inspired and engaged can come together to make a huge difference. Alas though, I’m not a famous musician with a bunch of famous musician contacts and friends, so Rainforest Aid might have to be put on hold for a while. Indeed, if I have any artistic talent, it lies merely in sometimes being able to string a few words together in a way that some people sometimes appreciate. I have always loved poetry (even at times if I didn’t really understand what the poet was going on about) and in recent years I have started writing it again. What I often enjoy doing is trying to write poems about subjects that might at first glance not seem so poetic, or even attempting to put into poetic form issues that might more sensibly be covered in an article or even a book. Trying to tell the story of Inga Alley Cropping and the creation and development of the charity Rainforest Saver probably falls into that second category. Yet poetry can sometimes connect with and reach people in a way that factual, even well written articles seldom can, and so I have decided to write a 24 hour poem on Facebook to try and raise the profile and some much needed finds for Rainforest Saver.

What poetry can sometimes do very well is tell stories. One only has to think of ‘The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner’ or ‘The Ballad of Reading Jail’ to realize how effective it can be in both keeping the reader in suspense, and relating tales that can haunt, fascinate and move the heart and mind. Poems can also help to educate. I was helped to read by that wonderful book The Cat in the Hat, which in a very funny way made the challenge of deciphering the letters a very enjoyable task . Many people know that tropical forests are being destroyed for timber or to plant palm oil, or to clear space for roads or mines or cattle, but not so many realize that they are also being destroyed by millions of poor peasant farmers, who are merely trying to feed their families. What I find so wonderful about the Inga Alley Cropping Ssytem is that it both offers these poor farmers a chance to obtain better harvests and a more secure future, and ensures that more of the precious rainforests, so vital for preventing erosion, storing carbon and preserving biodiversity, are left intact. If my poem can in some way get across how remarkable that is, I will feel I’ve at least partially succeeded.

Of course the other measure of success will be how close I come to my fundraising target. I realized it was a bit ambitious when I set it, yet had previously done a 24 hour Facebook poem for RFS and raised over £500, so I considered my £1,000 target at least feasible. After all, didn’t I now know so many more people that cared about green issues, many of who’m I also counted as friends. What I perhaps failed to take into account though was the time in which I was asking for money. The midst of a global pandemic, in which the economic future for numerous people is worrying and uncertain, is perhaps not the best time to start pestering people with my RFS begging bowl. Yet when this awful pandemic is finally over, I trust that most people I know in the UK will still have a roof over their heads and be able to put food on the table. We are right to be worried about our own future, but if Covid 19 has taught us anything, it is that when it comes to nature, we are all very much connected. If the tropical peasant farmers continue to destroy the land, they’ll have no choice but to move to the shanty towns in the cities. The land they farmed will have been stripped of trees, leaving only barren wastelands under which impoverished villages will be more likely to flood. That vital store of carbon will have all been burnt away, and who knows how much the dread factor of global warming will have been accelerated. So, is it not worth supporting this gardener-poet, for all funds raised will go to try and ensure this nighmare scenario on numerous tropical hillsides doesn’t happen. Such an outcome will not only affect poor farmers and their families, but will increase the chances of more of us, wherever we are in the world, experiencing more severe droughts, fires and floods.

Yet, having visited some hillsides in Honduras, I prefer to imagine a very different scenario. Inga Alley Cropping can give poor farmers a chance to grow food in a sustainable, organic way in landscapes that are both beautiful and biodiverse. If I’m ever lucky enough to have grandchildren, I would like them to visit a Honduran, Ecuadorian or Cameroonian Inga Farm, not only to maybe buy some delicious fruit and vegetables, but also to experience the wonder of the rainforests with their parrots, toucans, monkeys, snakes and butterflies. All of us have the power to either save or destroy these vital treasure-chests of biodiversity. It is the farmers though, if they are given the support and opportunity that can help stem the tide of destruction. So, if you can afford anything, please donate to my forthcoming poem. All donors will receive a copy of the finished work with a few added pictures thrown in. One of the great things about writing poetry is that it’s a lot easier than trying to farm infertile tropical hillsides.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Has Anyone Else seen the Croydon Rainforest?

Clearly this is a ridiculous question. Yet though the title of this blog may seem utterly absurd, I would dare to claim that it is perhaps not quite as mad as it might first appear.

Of course Croydon, one of London's largest boroughs, is situated in a temperate region and though it contains a number of woodlands, none of them is in the least way tropical. Some of the nearest actual rainforests are more than 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic in the snake like strip of land called Central America. Yet, when I see bindweed trying to creep up the hoardings of the new Box Park, when I see buddleias sprouting from Croydon’s urban rooftops, and our native wildflowers taking over any area of vacant land, I see the same force that drives all the vital green growth of our world, whether it reveals itself in the cactae of the deserts, the bluebells in our native woodlands or the giant Kapok Tree of the rainforests. During the day, I may walk the hard unrelenting streets of Croydon but at night in my dreams, I may wander in the footsteps of the jaguar under the dense, green canopy of the rainforest. Sometimes, dreams being what they are, the two become muddled, and I might be sitting on top of a Croydon tram, spotting toucans flying through the windows of Croydon’s abandoned office blocks, watching capuchin monkeys pinching bananas from the Surrey Street Market, and admiring beautiful orchids, growing between the lianas, that have draped themselves over the multi-coloured Saffron Tower.

OK, so I admit that the Croydon Rainforest exists only within the slippery realm of my subconscious, yet this obvious fact doesn’t seem to make it any less real. For in some very tangible ways, there are signs of the rainforests all around us. The chocolate and coffee on our supermarket shelves, the sweet corn, bananas and pineapples at Surrey Street Market, and the pepper with which we season our food, are merely a very small example of the variety of foods that come from the rainforests. As the average Croydonian goes about his or her business, they may hardly give the distant rainforests a second thought, yet most of us come in contact with a product from the rainforests on a daily basis. Yet this valuable human larder is under serious threat from many sources; illegal deforestation, the cutting of forests by large companies to grow the ubiquitous palm oil, and the destruction of rainforests by poor peasant farmers, who are using a technique of farming that is no longer sustainable. It is my involvement with a small UK charity that is offering such farmers a more sustainable alternative, thus providing them with a better livelihood and helping preserve the forests, that has perhaps led to my fascination with these incredible habitats, the most biodiverse eco-systems on our ever shrinking planet.

The charity is called Rainforest Saver – and like many other small charities, it faces a constant struggle to acquire adequate funding to help support its partners in Honduras, Ecuador and Cameroon. This article is written in the hope that I might find a few other Croydonians, who share a similar passion to do what they can to help prevent the destruction of these vital and fascinating habitats. Thus, I have decided to set up Rainforest Saver’s first ever local group in the biodiverse urban jungle of Croydon. I would like such a group to take on two projects each year, one to help raise funds for poor farmers that are in desperate need of the simple technology that Rainforest Saver can provide and the other to increase biodiversity or environmental awareness within Croydon. Yet, as in my dreams, I do not see the projects as entirely separate entities. If you have an interest and active involvement in your own local environment, you are perhaps more likely to be interested in the wider environment. We are all interconnected – If we want poor local people in distant countries to look after their environments, perhaps we will have more credibility if we are also trying to look after our own. After all, our own biodiversity has also diminished drastically in the last hundred years. As well though as attempting to take on these two practical objectives, I hope that our little group will also bring some of the exotic colour, vitality and wonder of the rainforests to some of the barren, litter-strewn streets of Croydon.

Croydon of course has its own biodiversity, but this tends to be more to do with the variety of different races and cultures that have ended up in our own unique metropolis. Much as I value this exciting and stimulating melting pot, I am conscious that Croydon, like so many other towns, has for various reasons, squeezed out much of its own natural biodiversity. Sixty years ago when it was still a Surrey Market town, the surrounding nature and countryside was much closer to the average Croydonian’s doorstep. One hundred years ago, the average Croydonian would have been able to name most of the plants and animals within the area. Today, though, we have lost much of this traditional knowledge, which is not only often useful but also brings a fuller connection and communication to the place that we inhabit. One of the aims of The Croydon Rainforest Club would be to generate a greater interest and knowledge of our own natural surroundings, and to try and bring back some of the biodiversity that Croydon, like numerous other towns, has lost over the last hundred years. Whereas the inhabitants of rainforest areas are losing their biodiversity, due to illegal deforestation, the ravages of agri-business and the use of non-sustainable farming techniques, Croydon has lost much of its own through the spread of urbanisation. Yet cities do not have to exclude nature, and can indeed encourage it. The recent wildflowers grown at the Croydon Saffron Farm on the site of a temporarily vacant building plot, should act as a catalyst for re-greening the whole town. If the Council really wants local people to engage more with local parks and gardens, this desire to reclaim some of our traditional biodiversity should be an impulse that it both supports and encourages.
Yet, much as I would love to see wildflower roundabouts and green rooves all over Croydon, I also believe that we shouldn’t merely live and work in our own little bubble. Our advanced communication technology enables us to be more aware than ever of what is happening around our shrinking globe. We are also more knowledgeable about how about how inter-connected everything is. If we allow the rainforests to disappear, we not only lose one of the most useful, precious and beautiful habitats in our world, we also release an enormous amount of carbon into the atmosphere, hastening the dangerous effects of global warming. One of the reasons the charity Rainforest Saver so appeals to me, is because it offers the opportunity for poor farmers, not only to improve their own livelihoods but also to play a crucial role in helping to preserve these vital eco-systems on which they, and to some extent we, all depend. The latest newsletter of Rainforest Saver -  about the life of a poor Cameroonian farmer - perhaps puts some of our own urban worries, concerns and anxieties into a wider perspective. 

One of the ways that I would like the Croydon Rainforest Club to both highlight one of Croydon’s environmental problems and the valuable work of Rainforest Saver is by creating an artificial rainforest in Croydon, made out of the litter on Croydon’s streets, re-used paper and cardboard and unwanted bamboo canes.  The first meeting of The Croydon Rainforest Club will discuss how such an art installation might be created as well as what other crazy but joyful activities we might get up to, both to improve our local environment and raise funds to help poor farmers to protect their own rainforests.  This is a social club that’s free to join but I would hope that most people that do so, would make an active contribution to whichever projects it takes on. Together, we could really make Croydon the greenest and most biodiverse borough of London, as well as doing our bit to help protect one of the most vital eco-systems for the continuing wealth and health of our planet. The first meeting will take place on Wednesday 7th of December at 7.30pm at Mathews Yard, just off Surrey Street. If anyone would like to get involved but can’t make the first meeting, please email me at, and if  anyone knows where I can pick up some unwanted bamboo canes, I’d be delighted to hear from them. 

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   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 - .

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.

Charles Barber
Chairman of Rainforest Saver -  

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.

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

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.