Many people know that the rainforests are some of the most biodiverse and threatened eco-systems on our planet. However, far fewer people know that many of these precious habitats are threatened by poor farmers, who are merely trying to feed themselves and their families. In many areas, the slash and burn agriculture these farmers practise is no longer sustainable as plots are over-farmed and their vital nutrients exhausted. The Rainforest Saver Foundation is promoting a more sustainable alternative called Inga Alley Cropping, which can both provide farmers with more secure livelihoods and help save rainforest areas. We believe that good environmental education is vital for the preservation of the environment, and so we are looking for an environmentally aware secondary school to take part in an exciting educational project with a secondary school in the South Region of Cameroon. The Lycée de Nkoumadjap is situated on the edge of the rainforest and is looking to link with a school in the UK to share knowledge and experience about their respective environments and cultures. They also hope that a UK school will be willing to assist them to create a permanent, living, educational resource, which will be of lasting benefit both to the school and the local community.
Freshly burned land for farming on the left, and the ultimate result of repeated slash and burn on the right (Photo Trees for the Future, www.treesforthefuture.org)
At present all the farmers in the local area have no choice but to use the slash and burn system, as this is the only method that they know. It used to be a system that worked, as when the land was less densely populated, farmers would farm an area for a few years, and then leave it to regenerate for maybe 20 or 30 years before farming the same plot again. Now that there is more competition for land, the farmers are forced to return to farm the land before it has had a chance to restore its nutrients, with the result that the fertility and structure of the soil is continually diminished. More and more rainforest is also burnt so the system merely traps farmers in a cycle of poverty and reduces biodiversity. Inga Alley Cropping on the other hand is a method of farming that constantly recycles the nutrients on the farmers plot, so that fertility is maintained and the farmer no longer needs to keep burning more and more rainforest. It works by growing crops between hedges of regularly pruned Inga trees, which are then placed on the ground as a mulch. This mulch not only helps prevents weeds and erosion of the soil, but also helps recycle the vital nutrients. Our Cameroonian partner, Gaston Bityo, is keen to help the Lycée de Nkoumadjap to set up a Demonstration Inga Alley so that both the students at the school and the surrounding farmers can learn how to farm using the Inga system.
Mr. Gaston Bityo (our Cameroon partner) on the left, with Mr. Akono, headmaster of the Lycée de Nkoumadjap, on the right, holding Inga seedlings.
At present The Rainforest Saver Foundation is a small charity with limited resources, trying its best to help tackle a serious, global environmental problem. So we are not currently in a position, where we can find all the funds for this worthwhile project. However, the Head Teacher of the Lycée de Nkoumadjap is a committed environmentalist, who runs a Nature Club at the school and is very keen to link with a UK school. We therefore thought a UK school might be willing to help its Cameroonian partner to fulfil its dream of planting an Inga Demonstration Plot by doing some fundraising for such a worthy cause. Rainforest Saver would of course be willing to provide materials and advice to help such fundraising be both financially and educationally effective. We would also provide as much assistance as we can to ensure that the UK school and the Lycée de Nkoumadjap get as much educational benefit as possible from such a link. The opportunity for both schools to learn about the very different environments and cultures of the other would enable students of both schools to have a better global appreciation and understanding different parts of the world. As the Lycée is in a French speaking part of Cameroon, both schools will also be able to take part in a bi-lingual project. We also hope that the information they both discover will be shared with a wider online international audience through such media as websites, blogs and YouTube. Indeed we hope that this pioneering educational project might provide a blueprint that other schools will be able to follow.
Tall maize ripening in an Inga alley, and some of the subsequent harvest.
If you know of any school that might be interested in taking part in such a project or are yourself a teacher that is keen to do so, Rainforest Saver would be very pleased to hear from you. Please email me, Charles Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back in touch with you as soon as I can. We would also recommend that you have a look at our web site at www.rainforestsaver.org . Any school that agrees to take part in this project will be given due credit on our website and will also receive a special Rainforest Saver Certificate. We believe they will also be giving the children in their school the chance to take part in an interesting, exciting project that will enable them to become more environmentally knowledgeable and aware global citizens.