In 2010, Dr Jackson undertook an expedition to Malawi.
Upon arrival in the capital city of Lilongwe, he was met by Chris Dohse from Treecrops, a local company aiming to promote the health and nutritional benefits of indigenous plant crops. Despite 20 years of research on Kigelia, it was not until this expedition that Dr Jackson had the privilege of seeing the tree in its native habitat - which just happened to be in the back garden of the Treecrops office!
Dr Jackson then travelled to the Nidi-Moyo Centre in Salima. Set up by Lucy and Tony Finch, the centre provides palliative care for patients with HIV and cancer using natural products alongside Western medicine. It also runs workshops for medical professionals on the benefits of using natural products to treat serious illnesses.
His final visit was to Anamed, a German NGO working to provide primary healthcare using natural products to communities who are unable to afford Western medication (the main areas of treatment are HIV and malarial infections). Anamed have an amazing programme growing Artemisia as a source of artemisin, which can help control malaria symptoms.
While Dr Jackson was in Malawi, he also secured the supply chain for the Baobab extracts and Kigelia used in Dr Jacksons products.
Dr Jackson got his first taste of living in a primary rainforest (and loved it!) back in 1992, as part of his undergraduate degree.
With several of his fellow students and lecturers, he undertook an expedition to Sumba to study the rainforest architecture and speciation of rainforest plants. It was working alongside the International Council for Bird Preservation, now known as Birdlife International, on an expedition to study the Sumbanese green pigeon that Dr Jackson first encountered the use of plants as medicines in traditional cultures. The expedition won a BP nature award for the set up of one of the worlds first nature reserves in a primary rainforest.
While in Indonesia, Dr Jackson also had the privilege of visiting the Herbarium at Bogor, where he met Professor Kostermans, a truly amazing character. Together with his staff, the professor was responsible for the collection of over 2 million different plant species, found in five thousand forests spread out over 3000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago. Dr Jackson spent a particularly memorable afternoon in Professor Kostermans study, hearing about his fascinating life story. As with many Dutchmen of his generation, the professor was taken prisoner in the second world war and sent to Thailand to work on the infamous Burma railway. Among the experiences and illnesses he recounted were distilling bones to make illegal alcohol and overcoming deadly gangrene using medicinal plants found alongside the railroad. With this, Kostermans love of nature was born, and he devoted the rest of his life to studying medicinal plants.
Professor Kostermans has since passed away, but he had a profound impact on Dr Jackson, inspiring him to study the medicinal effects of plants before it was too late.
In 1995, Dr Jackson took part in the Pharmacy from the Rainforest conference, organised by the American Botanic Council. This was his first overseas lecturing experience - and also the first time he had given a presentation using chalk and blackboards by gaslight!
The conference was based at the Amazon Centre for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation, a laboratory and research station based in the heart of the Amazon basin. It was in this incredible place that Dr Jackson got to meet some of his ethnopharmacology heroes, Tip Tyler, James Duke and Mark Blumenthal to name a few.
The ACEER Foundations mission is to promote the conservation of the Amazon by fostering awareness, understanding, action and transformation. It aims to achieve this by initiating environmental education programmes, supporting basic and applied research, and protecting unique tracts of land. ACEER has been a dynamic force for rainforest conservation for over 20 years.
Dr Jackson travelled to the river Zambezi to work with NGO organisations and help set up supply chains for future products.
He visited KAITE, an initiative founded to promote sustainable human development. KAITE aims to contribute to the comprehensive development of individuals, society and the environment. It has a holistic approach that encompasses integrated economic, social and cultural development forms.
Dr Jackson spent some time with KAITE founder Dominikus Collenberg, working on a project that certifies its partner farmers to cultivate and process organic essential oil crops, as well as herbs and spices, using locally engineered solar dryers. KAITE also links its partner farmers to international fair trade markets so that they can directly benefit from the sale of their produce at favourable world prices.
Another organisation that Dr Jackson visited was Speciality Foods of Africa, whose Tulimara brand works to sustainably commercialise indigenous natural resources. This provides alternative incomes for rural producers while encouraging the conservation of natural resources. Their vision is to be the leading producer and supplier of fairly traded, natural food products from Africa. The Tulimara branded products are manufactured entirely from natural and indigenous ingredients. All raw products are purchased from rural community groups or small-scale rural farmers from around Africa.
SFAs products are marked as:
Natural - produced without the use of chemicals and artificial substancesHealthy - their nutritional composition means they are full of health benefits Fairly traded - everyone along the production line is fairly remunerated for their contribution to the finished product
These attributes give SFA products the potential to tap niche markets both locally and overseas.
Expedition Manna Pool
It was in UNESCO World Heritage Site Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, that Dr Jackson found a whole colony of Kigelia trees living by the edge of the Zambezi river. Dr Jackson worked with a conservation programme through which his colleagues map and log the trees to study their ecology and help conserve this area for future generations. The idea is to use the information gathered here to support the sustainable farming of this key indigenous species and others elsewhere in Africa.