No, 81 Why do we do it? The benefits
By Tiiu Miller | Ultimas Noticias No. 81 June 2081

Welcome to the Rainforest Saver newsletter no. 81 June 2017. Why do we do it? The benefits


This is the third and last newsletter in a series to remind ourselves, and particularly those who are new to Rainforest Saver, of the basics. The previous two talked about why the Inga tree is so suitable for this form of agroforestry, and about the soil, as without the soil there could be no agroforestry. If you missed these, they are at


Why do we do it? The benefits of Inga alley cropping


In slash and burn farming the forest is cut and burned to clear the land for cultivation. The first year the soil is fertile, but after harvest the soil is left bare and the rains wash out the goodness. In a year or two a new plot has to be cleared. Gradually the forest is destroyed, but the farmers remain poor. In earlier times with lesser population densities it worked because the cleared plot was given plenty of time to recover. But now a plot has to be reused too soon and so it keeps losing fertility, and eventually can become useless.


Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Fund raising:Crowd funding 2017 Baka:webBaka:Inga_desertWeb.jpg


Inga alley cropping restores and maintains the fertility of degraded land.


So obviously the farmer benefits, and we all benefit because we all need the rainforests.


Why do we need the rainforests? Most of you will know most of this already, but it is handy to have a list.


1.     Rainforests store huge amounts of carbon. If we lose them global warming is almost certain to exceed any remotely acceptable level

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Website_Newsletter:June 2017:WebJune2017:forestWeb.jpg

The dense, rich, diverse rainforest. Honduras.


2.     They produce oxygen

3.     They help to maintain local rainfall

4.     They also recycle water to provide rain over a wide area. It is now thought that the Amazon forest provides a lot of the water to the major agricultural areas of North and South America.

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Website_Newsletter:June 2017:WebJune2017:AmazonWaterCycleWeb.jpg

A diagram of the water cycle in the Amazon. No man made plantation has the power of the great Amazon rainforest to recycle water and provide rain to some of the  agricultural areas of N. and S. America.


5.     By taking water in through the tree roots they reduce flooding.

6.     They stabilise the soil on slopes and so reduce landslides

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Website_Newsletter:June 2017:WebJune2017:Inga_on_slopeWeb.jpg

Inga trees planted along the contours of a slope so that, like a natural more dense forest, they too reduce erosion.


7.     About a quarter of our medicines and half to three quarters of cancer medicines contain an ingredient from the rainforests. We have studied less than one per cent of what is there so there is likely to be much more for us to find. But we are destroying them fast. The rosy periwinkle from Madagascar’s rainforest, which provided one of the earliest cancer cures, is now extinct in the wild.

8.     They are the wild source of many food plants and we need the wild variety of genetic materials to improve things like disease resistance or coping with climate change in our crops.

9.     They contain a great many plants and animals that we value for their beauty and their own sake

10.  They are a home to many people. When these are forced out they frequently become marginalised and very poor and lose their culture.


Description: Macintosh HD:Users:tiiuimbimiller:Inga Project:Website_Newsletter:June 2017:WebJune2017:forest_homeWeb.jpg

The Baka (pygmies) of the Cameroon rainforest, who lived on the bounty of the forest until they were moved to roadside villages where they are marginalised and poor.


11.  Not only the people who live right in the forests but many who live near them use forest resources for food, medicine, cooking fuel and building material.


Inga alley cropping can provide a decent, sustainable living, where the farmer can become independent. If we do not provide sustainable alternative ways of farming for the millions who live in these tropical rainforest regions they will have no option but to slowly destroy the forests. Then when the forests are gone and the soil degraded, how will they survive?

They need to grow food. There is not enough work for them in the towns, and even if it were possible to provide it someone would still need to grow the crops to feed them.


What happens when people’s livelihoods are destroyed? That they suffer great hardship is obvious. Some will become immigrants – poverty refugees. Whether you think we should welcome such refugees or reject them, there can be little doubt that the best place for these people is in their own countries so long as they can make a decent living there.

The other option for some of them is even worse: to join terrorist groups.


So preserving the rainforest is in the common interest of all of us.


With my best wishes to all of you,




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