SUFACHAC project signs Agreement with Community Initiatives

The
Sustainable Farming and Critical Habitat Conservation (SUFACHAC) through its
implementing partner, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF),
developed and signed agreements with some community initiative from Kupe
Muanenguba and Lebialem Divisions. This was done through a participatory
selection of these initiatives in a workshop that took place on April 14, 2020,
in Dschang . The gathering brought together four community initiatives (3 from
Lebialem and 1 from Kupe Muanenguba) represented by two members, each to
jointly select  and develop business
agreements.

The Sustainable Farming and Critical Habitat Conservation (SUFACHAC) project seeks to promote biodiversity conservation and mainstreaming in Bakossi-Banyang-Mbo-Lebialem production landscape of South West Cameroon through sustainable farming practices that improve community livelihood options and commercial opportunities.

The
project focus is to conserve critical habitats of endangered species in the
landscape.  The Bakossi-Banyang-Mbo-Lebialem
landscape includes the following areas; Bakossi National Park (BNP),
Banyang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWS), Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS),
proposed Njoagwi Fotabong III Essoh Attah Wildlife Sanctuary, proposed Mount Muanenguba
Herpetological Sanctuary and proposed Mount Kupe Integral Ecological Reserve.
The goal of the project is to complete the official creation of the Bakossi-Banyang/Mbo-Lebialem
(BBML) Technical Operation Unit (TOU) as well as to strengthen and manage its
protected areas network. The specific objectives are;

  • To
    establish
    the Bakossi Banyang Mbo Lebialem (BBML) Technical Operation Unit (TOU), To
    classify and support new protected areas for Tofala, Mt Muanenguba, and
    Mak-Betchou forests,
  • To
    develop, a common
    M&E framework for socioeconomic & environmental performance of
    conservation & development initiatives in the landscape. 
  • To achieve the goal of
    this project, in order to strengthen the economic potential of the surrounding
    communities around these protected and proposed protected areas.

The meeting was attended by 10 participants. After
creating a forum for each community initiative to make a short presentation on
its activities, number of members (men, women and youths) and the difficulties
they face. Nature’s Gift based in Fontem, Wola Multipurpose, CIG based in
Bangem and Lewoh Women Cooperative based in Lewoh were shortlisted based on the
criteria that had been put in place. In the days ahead, after discussions with
the SUFACHAC Project Management Unit, ERuDeF will be contacting the two
community initiatives that have been selected with their agreements.

Lake Oku: Home to the endemic clawed frog (Xenopus longipes)

Lake
Oku is a crater lake on the Bamenda Plateau in the Northwest Region of
Cameroon. It is located at 2,227 metres (7,306 ft) on Mount Oku, and is
completely surrounded by cloud forest. Lake Oku has no specific protection but
is surrounded by montane forest, with a thin belt protected as a government “Plant
life Sanctuary”. The rest of the forest is under community-based management and
there are no settlements around the lake.

The
lake is the only known habitat of the Lake Oku Clawed Frog. The Lake Oku clawed frog (Xenopus longipes) is a species
of frog in the family Pipidae. It is a small, dark-coloured, fully aquatic frog
with males growing to an
average of 28–31 mm and females 32–36 mm. The name results from the claws at the ends of its two
hind feet. Its back is brown and the belly is speckled black on an orange
background. The frog is fully aquatic, never observed to come out of the water.
The International Union for Conservation of
Nature has rated this frog as “critically endangered” on the basis of
its small area of occurrence at a single location, and the possibility that
introduction of non-native fish into the lake could cause the frog to be wiped
out.

ERuDeF at the heart of waste recovery in the Mount Bamboutos landscape

The problem of
land degradation and declining soil fertility is a reality in the steeply
sloping lands of Mount Bamboutos. In order to fight against this land
degradation and biodiversity loss, a “Forest Garden” project was
initiated to plant trees and help farmers improve their income. As part of the
capacity building component of the project, theoretical and practical training
on composting was given to 150 farmers from 12 villages in the Mount Bamboutos
early this year.

Compost represents a real alternative to chemical fertilizers, especially for poor rural populations that often encounter difficulty in using the various local wastes. The proposed technique was simple, flexible and accessible to all. The training was followed by a theoretical phase, which explained the different inputs used in the compost, and the practical phase, which allowed each group to set up a compost heap.

The main elements used were wood ash, chicken and pig droppings, bean and maize crop residues and certain herbs. They were schooled on the insecticidal role that certain plants such as Thithonia diversifolia or Tephrosia vogelii could play, or the fertilizing role that plants such as Acacia sp and Leuceana sp could play.

 Between March 16 to March 30, 2020, the
populations of the Bamebim, Bamaka, Bamessuing, Batomenie, Bagading II,
Baladjeutsa, Bawa Fido, Bamelo, Balepo, Pinyin, Menka and Buchi Villages built
their community compost pits.

COVID-19, a Huge Challenge for IDPs

The Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Cameroon have been going through untold hardship in
their new settlements. These people, who have been displaced because of the
Anglophone crisis, now live at the mercy of God and largess of people of good
will, since they abandoned their sources of livelihood. Some of them helplessly
saw their farmlands, shops and houses razed to ashes. In frustration and
fright, they fled for safety to areas where they considered more secure.

In their new
stations, the IDPs live under very miserable conditions –filthy and congested accommodation,
without any sure source of income or livelihood. Feeding, shelter, health care,
clothing and the education of their children remain pre-occupying and the
future apparently very bleak for them. In fact, the socio-economic impact of
the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis on the IDPs and even the host communities are
far-reaching and despicable

In this
misery and destitution, COVID-19 has come to compound their pains. The deadly
pandemic has necessitated the implementation of some measures by the WHO and
individual countries of the world.  In
her strife to contain the spread of the disease, a number of measures were
taken on March 17, 2020, by the government of Cameroon—social distancing,
suspension of schools, closure of bars, compulsory wearing of face masks among
others.

Although the
disease is no respecter of personalities, ethnicity, government or race, the
vulnerability of the IDPs is indisputably high. How can social distancing be
respected by seven people who share a small plank room? How can good hygiene be
observed where water is as scarce as dog’s tears? How do people who sometimes
cannot afford for bread or a cup of “garri” now afford for face masks and
sanitizers? It should be mentioned that some of the IDPs had become sales
persons in bars, and restaurants, while others who were engaged in some petty
businesses like roasting of fish in front of some bars are now stranded with
the closure of these places. Life has suddenly become unbearable for the IDPs.
In fact, the weight of the Anglophone crisis and CVID-19 is very heavy and
suffocating to them.

According to
Rose Arrey,a mother of 5, who is a widow 
as a result of the Anglophone crisis, her house was razed in Mamfe,
making her to relocate in Buea. “I am surviving because of the mercy of God. I
can’t even feed my five children talk less of purchasing face masks, hand
sanitizers and other things to prevent the coronavirus. We live in a single
plank room and my children usually hawk fruits around town, to make small for
our daily survival. With the coming of this virus, they no longer hawk and my
small business which I usually carry out  at night, in front of a bar has crumbled,
since all bars close at 6:00PM. The month is coming to an end and I don’t know
how I will pay me rents.” Madamme Arrey’s ordeal is similar to that of most
IDPs.

Not only
have most of the IDPs lost their little sources of survival, but more
painfully, their benefactors too. Necessary here to underscore that some of the
IDPs’ rents were paid by relatives abroad who have now lost their jobs due to
coronavirus. Consequently, they can’t continue to assist these IDPs, thus,
aggravating the already precarious situation the more. Even humanitarian actors
in Cameroon find it very difficult to carry on humanitarian activities as most
of them now only work online.

In fact, the
more than 700,000 IDPs in Cameroon are currently undergoing hard times. Their
socio-economic conditions in our towns (both French and English speaking towns)
are disheartening. The weeks or months ahead are extremely gloomy, full of
uncertainty and hopelessness with so many questions on their lips.—“How are we
going to pay rents?” “How do we feed?” “How do we pay bills?” “When is the
pandemic going to end?” These are the most common worries raised by a good number
of them.

MBI midterm review meeting held: path covered in the first pilot phase of the life changing project, challenges and ways to overcome them

The midterm debriefing meeting for the first pilot phase of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI) project has taken place. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation, ERuDeF in Buea on Friday April 3, 2020.

The review meeting which took place in the presence of the CEO of ERuDeF, Louis Nkembi, consultant of the review, Mr.Atabong Alex, project manager, Deh Nji Hermann and local Community Based Organization (CBOs) representatives was aimed briefing ERuDeF on the findings in the field, the challenges and identification of gaps. Also in the menu of discussion was devising means of getting funding for the 15-year project.

Talking during the meeting the, the CEO of ERuDeF
gave an over view of the MBI. He underscored the importance of restoring the
Mount Bamboutos ecosystem functions after 3 decades of continuous degradation
resulting from human activities. The Mount Bamboutos, Louis Nkembi posited, “is
the third elevation in Cameroon after Mount Cameroon and Mount Oku,
respectively”. The mountain, he continued, “is the second watershed in Cameroon
after the Adamawa Plateau”, wandering what would become of rivers and streams
that depend on this towering watershed if left to be degraded by indiscriminate
human activities. 

The consultant of the the midterm review, Mr. Atabong Alex presented his findings gotten from the 16 villages where the MBI project is taking place. He appreciated the efforts made by ERuDeF and its local partners in making the project a success in the first pilot phase. He equally pointed out some shortcomings he witnessed during his field assessment of the project. Among these shortcomings are: poor database of trees nursed and planted, a lack of mastery of the project document of funding partners (TreesSisters, Trees for the Future and Darwin Initiative) by ERuDeF’s local partners (Green Impact, Operation Green Space and PEDER). Mr.Atabong lamented the fact that the database of farmers taking part in the MBI project is not reflective enough. He equally recommended that communication should be improved at the level ERuDeF hierarchy and the technicians in the field. Mr. Atabong also suggested that nursery attendants should equally ensure a good follow up of nurseries so that nursed trees should not wither off as the case of some nurseries.

As concerns the gender aspect of the MBI project Mr. Atabong appreciated the work done so far by the gender team of ERuDeF as close to around 31% of the women are fully taking part in the project. To him, if the present momentum is carried forward to the second pilot phase of the project, the gender aspect of the project would be achieved in no distance time. He appealed that more and more youths should be made part of the project, as the youths are still to be fully involved

As concerns the long term funding of the project, there was a general consensus that more avenues should be explored to get funds in order to ensure the sustainability of the project. Also, it was observed that local CBOs lack the capacity to produce quality financial and narrative reports as expected by the funding partners of the MBI project, despite the fact that they have been trained on reporting, by the project accountant and manager respectively. More so, financial reports are not always submitted on time by these CBOs, making pre-financing inevitable. This is because ERuDeF disburses money only after such financial reports are submitted on time with adequate receipts.

Local CBOs representatives

Mr. Atabong also appealed that more online exposure
should be given to the Mount Bamboutos project.

All in all the meeting ended in a satisfactory note
with the CEO of ERuDeF, Louise Nkembi urging every one involved in the MBI
project to do what was left undone in the first pilot phase of the project in
the second pilot phase of the project. He acknowledged that there would still
be challenges but such challenged would be dealt with if team work and
dedication is put into practice by every one involved in the MBI project.

It should be noted that the Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI) is a project for the restoration of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions of Mount Bamboutos in Western Cameroon. It is a joint initiative of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), Cameroon and the International Tree Foundation (ITF), UK in collaboration with the government of Cameroon. The Mount Bamboutos ecosystem by 1960 was one of the most biodiversity rich mountains in continental Africa. Due to indiscriminate human activities in and around the Mount Bamboutos, the mountain has undergone tremendous degradation in the last 3 decades, thus the need to restore its ecosystem functions.

Partners

Proposed zoning plan in the Mount Bamboutos area

The Mount Bamboutos area is a cosmopolitan environment characterized by varied land use patterns which generate conflicts between farmers and grazers, farmers and farmers and between villages. Also the population is facing a decrease of agricultural yields, a lack of water, erosion etc. To meet these needs, it is necessary to introduce and establish land use and effective governance systems for the Mount Bamboutos ecosystem.

Local development plans and council development plans are elaborated in these villages, but do not take into consideration all of the natural resources. These plans are oriented to social infrastructures (education, health, hygiene and sanitation). The objective of this zoning plan is to provide a tool to help take biodiversity and the ecosystem into account in land use planning by defining the different zones of intervention.
Specifically it was about:
 Identify and map the different land use types in a participatory manner
 Define the different allocations (Zones) of the land use types that are agroforestry zones, agricultural zones, and conservation / protection zones.
The land use types identified in the area are: sacred areas, rural agricultural, animal rearing (pastoral) and grazing land, water bodies, vegetation/forest, quarry, rural build up and transportation

Figure: Zoning map of Bamumbu, Bangang and Bafou

The land use types were grouped into 6 land use zones based on the consultation of local stakeholders and the ERuDeF’s restoration strategies. These are Protection / conservation zone, agroforestry zone, agricultural zone, pastoral zone, agro-industrial zone and infrastructural Zone
In Cameroon, the zoning that has been carried out relates only to the forest sector since 1993. Very few actions were carried out in the context of zoning in rural areas in a context of loss of biodiversity and degradation of natural resources. It was in 2011 that the law (n ° 2011/008 of 06 May 2011) on Land Management and Sustainable Development was enacted.
This Law, aims to integrate the management of national space within development policies, in order to give more visibility and method to land allocation; to balance the distribution of activities, infrastructures, equipment, services, and populations across

Training of farmers on nursery establishment on Mount Bamboutos landscape

The Forest Gardens Project II kicked off on March 2020, with the training and practical establishment of nurseries in each locality in Mount Bamboutos landscape. Nursery establishment is the preliminary stage of trees planting. Being a special site for the production and breeding of seedlings before planting, with its aim to obtain quality plants, i.e. lignified, capable of withstanding bad weather, from the moment of planting till the period of out planting. These nurseries were established in pots and bare-rooted.

Thus the populations together with all the Forest Gardens of Project II previously registered and grouped together were trained on the choice of the site of the nursery, the material necessary to set up the nursery, the pre-treatment of the seeds and the maintenance of a nursery. All this knowledge was put into practice with the creation of nurseries in Bamebim, Bamaka, Bamessuing, Batomenie, Bagading and Baladjeutsa villages between the 12th -20th March 2020, the populations. They have systematically planted trees that will serve for the future protection of their forest garden, namely Acacia (Acacia sp), Leuceuna (Leuceana leucocephala), Tephrosia (Tephrosia vogelii) and Pygum (Prunus africana). The commitment observed among the population gives hope that the forest garden project will be a complete success

Smoking of fish; big threat to the Mangrove Ecosystem

Mangroves are facultative halophytes that occur as forests at the confluence of the land-sea interface and are limited to the tropical and subtropical coastlines of the world. Despite their limited geographical range, mangroves are among the most productive ecosystems in the world.

They offer a wide range of goods and services which include provisioning services like food, construction materials; regulatory services like water purification, pollution control, carbon sinks, and protection of coastal communities from tropical storms; ecological benefits such as breeding and spawning grounds for fish, nesting sites for important migratory birds, and socio-cultural factors, among others.
While it is now unequivocal that mangroves are important, both by the nature of services they provide to humans and other ecosystems, the sustainability of mangroves are seriously uncertain. Like most tropical forests, they are being degraded and destroyed globally.

The Southwest Coast of Cameroon has extensive mangrove forests, on which local communities depend on for their livelihoods. The most important resource drawn from this ecosystem in the Southwest of Cameroon is wood, used for fish smoking, and the magnitude of mangrove wood exploitation has been identified both locally and regionally as a major threat to this ecotone. Studies have indicated that more than 102,650 m3 of wood is being extracted annually for fish smoking in each fishing zone within the Southwest region of Cameroon, which is a great threat to the ecosystem.Hence, urgent measures have to be taken in other to regulate such harmful activities.

Final vision for Great Apes in the Lebialem Highlands

The historic entrance of ERuDeF into the great apes conservation in the Lebialem highlands started in 2004, when she discover another sub population of the cross river gorilla in what is known today as the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. Since then, research efforts led by ERuDeF have resulted to creating the first distribution map of great apes in the Lebialem highlands.

ERuDeF launched its conservation efforts to provide long term protection of these great apes species populations in 2010 with focus on cross river gorillas and the Nigeria Cameroon chimpanzees which are located in the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS), Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary (MBWS), and Tofala-Mone Wildlife Corridor. Hence, leading to the creation of the THWS in 2014 and currently concluding the process for the creation of the proposed MBWS (4000ha).
Additionally, ERuDeF has secured the protection of 30000 ha of wildlife corridor linking THWS and the Mone Forest Reserve to serve as a genetic corridor for the cross river gorillas in the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and greater Takamanda National Park. ERuDeF is currently supporting efforts to link the Bayang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary (69145ha) to Santchou Game Reserve 7000ha through Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary and a series of interconnected corridors of community reserves amounting to 7000 ha.

ERuDeF vision in this landscape in the next fifteen (15) years is to consolidate the management of a system of protected areas and corridors, to support the long term conservation of great apes using collaborative management approach. According to the ERuDeF Director of Biodiversity and Protected area creation, before the end of this 15 years project, a total surface area of 130,482 ha would have been collectively protected with 88,225 ha of protected area (THWS 8080 ha, the proposed MBWS 4000 ha, the Bayang- Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary 69,145ha and Santchou Game Reserve 7000ha) and 42,257 ha of corridors in the form of community forest (Tofala-Mone Corridor (25,000ha) linking Mone Forest Reserve to the THWS and the Bayang-Mbo, Mak-Betchou and Sanctchou corridor with area of 17,257 ha) will be effectively manage in these highlands to secure and ensure genetic connectivity and migration among species.This will lead to the protection of 60 cross river gorilla sub population, 1000 Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees, 200 African forest elephants as well as other IUCN Red list species such as Drills, Preuss’s monkey, many species of birds, amphibians and reptiles.

In order to improve on the sustainable management of biodiversity through human welfare development and reduction of human pressure on key biodiversity targets in the Lebialem landscape, ERUDEF envisage to invest ten (10) billion CFA to support community development projects.

Conservation efforts in Ebo Forest National Park goes in vain

The proposed Ebo Forest National Park that cuts across the Sanaga Maritime and the Nkam divisions in the Littoral Region of Cameroon is one of the most important remaining tracts of closed-canopy forest in the Littoral region. It covers a surface area of 111, 2880 hectares of lowland and montane forests and contains one of the most complete populations of a wide variety of forest mammals in Cameroon. Also, it is an important cultural and livelihood resource for more than 40 forest adjacent communities.

According to Bethan Morgan, a conservation Researcher who has been
working in the Ebo Forest for the past two decades, the area is an important
functional biodiversity hotspot (Morgan, 2003). It is home to a potential new critically
endangered gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) subspecies, most important population of the
endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan Troglodyte’s ellioti), the only chimpanzee population
in the world to both crack nuts and fish for termites. This area also
host an important remaining drill population (Mandrillus leucophaeus) (Morgan
et al 2013), Forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), one of the two
remaining populations of the critically endangered Preuss’s red colobus
(Piliocolobus preussi).  Apart from
Mammals, the area equally  host at least 12
plant species new to science like Talbotiella ebo, Ardisia ebo, Crateranthus
cameroonensis, Palisota ebo, Gilbertiodendron ebo, Inversodicraea ebo,
Kupeantha ebo etc. all of which are threatened, and most of which are globally
unique to the Ebo forest. In addition a diverse bird community including grey
parrot (Psittacus erithacus) also occur in the area (Whytock & Morgan 2010).
 

Recently, the government of Cameroon has
signed two decrees on the 4th of February 2020 which was made public
 on the 9th of March 2020
proposing the gazettement of two Forest Management Units(FMU) (FMU 07-005 and
FMU 07-006), that will replace the proposed Ebo Forest National Park. The FMU is a production
forest, managed by an economic operator in collaboration with the state, mainly
for the exploitation of timber for commercial purposes. This FMU will have a detrimental effect not only to the species, but also
on the environment as the area is known to sequestrate 35 million tonnes of
carbon (Global Forest Watch, 2020). More so, all communities surrounding the area
rely on the forest for non-timber forest products such as food and medicines.
Close relatives of many community elders, are buried throughout the forest and
the traditional chiefs of most of these communities are members of the legally-recognized
traditional chief’s association (Association des Chefs Traditionnels Riverains
de La Forêt d’Ebo (ACTRIFE), who have long campaigned for the protection of
their land for conservation and to protect their cultural heritage (Mfossa
et al
2017).Furthermore, these communities received no notice of the planned
logging concessions as  official notices,
were posted at the senior divisional office just one day before the first
legally designated consultation meeting. Free prior informed consent of local stakeholders must
be secured before creation of any protected area or UFA. Until now, all
consultation has been regarding the creation of a national park. Alternatives,
such as conservation with strong local community involvement should also be
considered. The forest is also an internationally recognized Centre of
research for academics and students based in international and national
universities.

Conservation organizations both national and international in Cameroon
strongly disagree with this decision and urge the Government, through the
Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, to stand by its commitment to protect the
Ebo Forest for its globally significant conservation values as   this decision is totally against all
conservation effort made by International and National organization, for the
protection and conservation of this unique biodiversity hotspot.