No. 54 Would you like them to find a cure for cancer?
By Tiiu-Imbi Miller | Newsletter No. 54 July 2014

You would? Then take a look at these interesting facts:

1. One of the very first successful medicines for cancer was vincristine for childhood leukaemia. That, and other cancer drugs made from the rosy periwinkle of Madagascar changed survival rates of certain cancers from 10 or 20% to 80 to 95%. Madagascar’s rainforests have been devastated, and the rosy periwinkle is now thought to be extinct in the wil

2. About a quarter of all our medicines contain an ingredient originally derived from the rainforests, but according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, more than two-thirds of all medicines found to have cancer-fighting properties come from rainforest plants

3. To digress a little from cancer, a potential cure for AIDS was discovered in a vine in a rainforest of Samoa. That rainforest was being sold to loggers until the intervention of a single American anthropologist.

4. A potential cure for AIDS was discovered in the bark of a gum tree in a rainforest in Malaysia. Two years after taking the sample, researchers returned to find that the forest had been cleared and the tree was no more. Totally gone. But then, after an extensive search, they found that the British had planted it in the Singapore Botanic Garden.

5. According to a report in the Journal of Natural Products around 70 percent of all new drugs introduced in the United States in the past 25 years have been derived from natural products.

6. It is estimated that scientists have studied less than 1% of what the rainforests contain.

7. Since 1950 we have lost about 50% of the rainforests.

8. Many rainforest places are unique, with plants and animals not found in other rainforests, or anywhere else.

9. It is estimated that due to rainforest destruction, we lose to extinction somewhere between 100 and 800 species every day, many in the rainforests, as these contain about 50% of all species.

10. Thousands of new species are being discovered every year, which emphasizes just how much we still have not studied.

11. One hears a lot about logging, palm oil, cattle ranching and plantations like soya, but not so much about slash and burn farming, as destroyers of rainforests. Does that mean that slash and burn is unimportant? I haven’t been able to get very recent figures, but take a look at the 2007 figure below.

12. All this destruction keeps the farmers and their families alive, but in poverty. Unless we enable them to adopt a new, better way of farming they have no other choice. There are not enough jobs or training opportunities in the towns to accommodate them. 

13. With Inga alley cropping these farmers can stop clearing more forest and make a better living, growing both their own food and cash crops. One hopes that this will enable them to improve their circumstances in general, like affording health care, schooling and so on.

At the moment we are fund raising to assist six rural Cameroon schools to teach the Inga system to their students, and simultaneously demonstrate it to their parents, who are mostly slash and burn farmers.

Please make a pledge to donate at

They are waiting for us to complete this fund raising so that they will have the resources to do the teaching in September, and plant Inga plots at the schools with the students.

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The headmaster of the Lytée de Nkoumadjap showing Gaston Bityo where they want to plant the school Inga alleys in September.

Any pledge, large or small, is very welcome. We have to raise the whole £2000, otherwise we get none of the money. We cannot do it without your help. We are very grateful to these of you who have already pledged.  

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