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Tag: 2020

Can Poetry Help to Plant Trees? (August 2020)

By Charles Barber | Newsletter No. 105 August 2020

An Inga Nursery in Cameroon

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 slash and burn 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 funds for Rainforest Saver.

Atanga Wilson, An Inga Teacher & Farmer in an Inga Alley before it was pruned for its vital mulch 

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 Gaol’ 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 small-scale farmers, who are merely trying to feed their families. What I find so wonderful about the Inga Alley Cropping System is that it  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.

Cameroon Farmers taking part in an Inga Alley Cropping Workshop

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 whom 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 slash and burn 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 nightmare 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.

A Cameroon Farmer with a large maize, grown in an Inga Plot

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.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-poem-to-plant-trees-and-help-poor-farmers?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR0kzu0u1-NBgEwO-zrvqpr5Iu3t6K5fFk_4xR2WMDXvw4r5ZK2sMrLOMyo

An Appeal (July 2020)

According to Oxfam ‘By the end of the year, 12,000 people per day are at risk of dying from COVID-19 linked hunger – potentially more than the disease itself.’

Which shows how vital it is to build up the capacity of the poor to grow their own food. 

Inga alley cropping is designed to prevent hunger, even during such crises when food distribution systems may break down. It enables the poorest farmers to feed themselves and their families, bringing the food right to where it is needed, while stopping the need to burn more rainforest to get fertile soil.  And once the Inga plot is established it keeps on producing year after year without the need for the addition of chemicals. 

Tall maize grown on previously degraded land in an Inga alley, Meangwe 2 village. Photo Linus Arong.

Close up of maize from Inga alley, Meangwe 2 village. Photo Linus Arong.

We have told you about the good work our overseas partners are doing.  They work hard for very little money, but they cannot work without some money, and we are running very low – running out in fact for some of our excellent projects. Some of you have already made donations and we are very grateful for that.  And some of you will not be able to afford any. But if you can, we would be very grateful for anything that you can give, be it a lot or only a very little. It all adds up. Thank you very much for your consideration. 

You can donate by PayPal on our website www.rainforestsaver.org

You don’t need a PayPal account, just a credit card. 

Or you can send a cheque made out to the Rainforest Saver Foundation to

The Rainforest Saver Foundation

33 Pentland View

Edinburgh

EH10 6PY

UK

Thank you very much. 

Other ways that you can support us without it costing you a penny.

Easyfundraising and Give as You Live

These are both ways to get online shops to donate to your favourite charity, which of course is us, whenever you shop in them without any extra cost to you. 

We registered RFS with Easyfundraising a few years ago and have collected £759 through them to date. Help us to double that

Easyfundraising is accessible via the link on our home page

1.      Go to www.rainforestsaver.org

2.      Scroll down to bottom left of the Home page (links are on other pages too)

3.      Under Easy Fund Raising click on ‘Click this link’ – and you’re there.

4.      You will see us on the right. Click on ‘Support this cause’ under our name and logo

5.      You will then be asked to either log in if you are already registered, or create an easy to set up free account

6.      You then select the shop you want to shop at from the many online shops that are listed on their website, and the shop makes the donation to us without charging you anything extra. Thank you very much.

Give as You Live

This is similar to Easyfundraising. We have only recently registered with them, so no takings to report yet. 

Go to the Give as You Live website

https://workwithus.giveasyoulive.com/charities/choose

 and sign up for free and create your free account.  

Select  Rainforest Saver as the charity you want to support. Then  access the shops from the Give As You Live website  browse retailers like Marks & Spencer, Body Shop, John Lewis etc  before clicking the “shop and raise” button and shopping as normal. Once the retailer informs Give As You Live of the purchase, Give As You Live then emails you direct as a supporter advising you of how much you have raised.

The donations per individual shop may be small, but if we all do this it soon adds up.  We need every penny you can raise for us.  Thank you very much.

COMMUNITIES OUTREACH, CONSOLIDATING AND SCALING-UP: THE ADOPTION OF INGA ALLEY CROPPING IN CAMEROON. (July 2020)

By Atanga Wilson Nebafor

I am very pleased to put forward my news on my Inga Alley cropping project, and how targeted farmers are responding to the project. As new communities are asking for the project to be taken to their communities, the older communities that started the project previously are increasing their Inga hedge rows and their Inga plot sizes, while other farmers are carrying out the pruning and Inga farm management themselves.

In my outreach I am training the new farmers on Inga Alley cropping and setting up nurseries which will be used to establish Inga Alley cropping plots.

Ntambu community training on Inga alley cropping, supported by International Rotary.  Note the A-frame in the back left corner. This is used for planting along the contours on a hillside to prevent erosion.

With slash and burn farming the farmers’ yields are sometimes good for the first year after clearing and burning the forest, but it is not always a good yield. The yields and the quality of the crop from the Inga plot after pruning is far better than in the first year after clearing and burning the forest.  In addition farmers have been able to grow different crops. Ngu Divine had never planted yams in the area where he established his Inga plot. But with the Inga he can now grow yams and they are growing very healthily. 

It is 10 times easier to plant Inga tree seedlings than to clear the same sized area of forest. Pruning Inga alleys is also easier because you are cutting Inga trees in hedge rows but in the forest you have other things to cut off as well. In Inga alley cropping there is no undergrowth once the Inga has covered the alley and is ready for pruning.

Inga Seedling ready for planting (Alori Community)

I am also conducting hands-on training to improve the farmers’ skill on Inga plot management.

Nibaba Community Inga Plot 1 year after planting

Pa Aldolfshu measuring his height with a 1 year Inga tree

The farmers talked of ‘the Inga tree as a wonderful tree that grows day and night’.

Mrs Elizabeth Inga farmers Munam Community

There are some insects attacking the Inga tree which need to be looked into. You can see their effect on the Inga leaves.

Cocoa cultivation is one of the major drivers of deforestation. Farmers of Buea (Muyuka, Yoke, Malende, Banga Bankundu, Bombe Bakundu and Balangi villages) turned to cacao farming since independence.  As the soil becomes degraded the cacao trees start dying. After about 15 year the cacao trees started dying because then there was no more soil fertility and no shade that the cacao tree needed.

When I started the Inga project I had to take some Inga seedlings to plant in cacao farms. This was to improve the lost soil fertility, provide shade and firewood that is used in the drying of cocoa beans. It has been shown that cacao under Inga grows better and faster,

Cacao farmer Julius Awah says that his cocoa trees were dying but after planting Inga in the cacao plot the cacao trees stopped dying and are growing very green now.

On the left healthy cocoa bush under Inga. On the right not as healthy cocoa without Inga. 

Inga provides the much needed fertile biomass for the cacao tree to grow better.

In total I am working with 125 farmers with Inga Alley cropping and 22 farmers with cacao and Inga in 13 villages of the South West and North West Regions of Cameroon.

Best Regards

Atanga Wilson Nebafor

Tel: 237 677812631/237660791262

Editor’s note

Mr. Atanga Wilson is one of our partners in Cameroon. He has been working with Rainforest Saver for several years as part of the Cameroon Inga Project.  He is based in Buea in SW Cameroon. He was trained to do Inga alley cropping by Mr. Gaston Bityo in 2016 with a grant from the Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission, and currently a lot of his work is supported by Rotary International. 

Remember the Baka? (June 2020)

In 2017 we did a very successful crowd funding to enable Gaston Bityo, our Cameroon partner, to take Inga alley cropping to the Baka (Pygmies) of SE Cameroon, who had requested it.   We thank again all these of you who contributed. 

The Baka need all the help that we can give them. They are being driven out of their forest home and left to settle in roadside villages with minimal resources. The Inga enables them to make the most of any land they have.  It increases the fertility of the soil so that each plot can be cultivated long term with good yields without having to clear any more forest to get fertile soil. 

Gaston visited the Baka in September 2017 at Lakabo and gave the training and provided some Inga seedlings. He re-visited them in 2018. You can read about these visits in the newsletters of 2017 and 2018 on our website (www.rainforestsaver.org) under News. However two Baka made the long journey of two to three days from Moloundou to Lakabo to get the training so that they could establish Inga alley cropping in their region also. 

The fund raising and training were organised by Rainforest Saver and Gaston’s VSD (Volunteers Serving Development)  in close association with Global Music Exchange (http://globalmusicexchange.org), who have been supporting the Baka for a very long time. It is not easy to get information about how the Baka are doing, particularly the ones in far away Moloundou,. But Andi Main, from Global Music Exchange, has visited them and has sent us several photos. 

Update by Andi Main.

This is a seed nursery for Inga and vegetable seeds on the left and the first alley on the right. Photos by Andi Main, December 2018.

Resting under the Inga trees, the alley pruned, and furrows made for planting. Photo Andi Main, January 2019. 

First visit.

The first alley in Gbine (near Moloundou) was in good shape.  It was pruned in January. The Baka have created furrows and transplanted tomatoes and peppers. 

The tomatoes and chillies did well. They even had some to sell. But insects ate too many of the cabbages and lettuce. Marie grew a good crop of maize beside the first alley. 

The planting in green leaves was a trial, but there were also dead leaves on the ground from leaf drop before any pruning that would have begun to rot down to give the soil fertility.  Even the green leaves are useful as they provide good ground cover and suppress the weeds.  

When I left they had over a hundred bedding in the driveway and a hundred more in the nursery. 

Second visit.

This year Francoise and I went out in November. When we arrived it was to find the original alley in fine form and the 120 seedlings I had left in the nursery had been planted out in three more alleys.

         In the first weeks of our stay the team pruned the mature alley and cleared around the younger trees. 

The alley before pruning, and freshly pruned. Photo by Andi Main, November 2019.

Beans and tomatoes were grown in a seed bed and when the Inga leaves had dried out a couple of rows were planted in the alley, again not really the season but a complete planting out will wait for the rains. 

Seed bed, and Ndondi preparing sieved soil for the seed bed. Photos by Andi Main January 2020.

The pruned alley in January 2020 with the leaves from the prunings rotting down nicely, and the Gbine Inga team, Kommanda, Sonossi and Guy. Photos by Andi Main, January 2020 and November 2019.

        Our “mother ” tree has flowered but gave no seed this year but it is still young. At the moment we have almost 300 trees in 5 alleys but no seedlings.

I don’t know how this year’s planting has fared. We left two rows of tomatoes and two of beans both of which should have been eaten by now. And they had a lot more to sow and plant out with the rains in April /May I have had no direct news since leaving in February.

Wishing you all good health and keep safe,

Tiiu and Andi,

Rainforest Saver and Global Music Exchange.