ERuDeF Launches the Deng Deng-Belabo Conservation Corridor Project Steering Committee

The Environment and Rural Development Foundation
(ERuDeF) in its mission to save the Western Lowland Gorillas, other species and
impact lives, recently reached another milestone, after the launching of the
steering committee of the Deng Deng-Belabo project on Tuesday October 13, 2020 in
the East region of Cameroon, Bertoua. This meeting brought together local
authorities, NGOs, government officials and other stakeholders, ensuring the
effective Implementation of the Project.

ERuDeF has been working tirelessly in communities
within Deng Deng to Belabo, to create two Community Forest Reserves
respectively of 5,000 ha
and 4,588 ha,
to preserve a vital corridor between Deng Deng National Park (DDNP) and Belabo
Council Forest in Eastern Cameroon. This forested link is currently threatened
by habitat loss from timber extraction and clearance for subsistence farming.
The project is needed in order to preserve the forest habitat for a wealth of
resident endangered species including but not limited to the Western Lowland
Gorilla, Central Chimpanzee, African Forest Elephant and two species of
Pangolins (Giant and White Bellied Pangolin).

According to the Regional Delegate for Forestry and
Wildlife, George Amougou, who chaired the meeting, their main objective is to
increase the protection of Wildlife. “There is a new initiative already
practiced by other countries, which is to join all protected areas by a corridor.
This corridor must be protected to stop the destruction of our wildlife. This
is a very great ambition that will need to take into consideration  all actors and sensitizing our population. We
are hoping for the best”.

The President/CEO
of ERuDeF  Louis Nkembi noted that, the
project seeks to put in place a continuous forest platform from Deng Deng
National Park down to Dja Reserve, where these animals could get down to Dja
and back to Deng Deng, and even going right far into the other central African
States where the governments of the countries are putting together the same
platforms to support  the integral
management of biodiversity especially the migratory specie. “When the animals
stay in the same location, it will lead to genetic isolation and inbreeding
which begins to reduce the genetic strands of the animals, and eventually they
might  all die. We want to make sure the
different sub populations of these species are able to interact with other sub
populations of different locations. We  have to bring together all stakeholders on the
same platform in order for them to understand the project for all of us to
promote sustainable development for our own benefits.  This steering committee is very important so
we could put the various opinions together and address them.” He stressed.

Two new community forest reserves will be gazetted as
an outcome of the project along with the approval of two simple management
plans. The impact of this will be to support continued survival of critically
endangered species and prevent fragmentation of the forest blocks from southern
Deng Deng National Park and improve conservation awareness and practices
amongst local communities. Local communities will manage the benefits derived
from the forest through sustainable harvest practices bounded by the management
and business plans.

REDD +, an incentive for restoration

The fight against climate change is one of the major challenges of our time. Forests play a fundamental role in climate change mitigation- by removing COfrom the atmosphere and storing it in biomass and soils. This also means that when forests are cleared or degraded, they can become a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by releasing that stored carbon. So, halting deforestation and restoring degraded land are cost-effective actions that has a clear impact in reducing global GHG emissions. With the aim of restoring 2 million hectares of degraded land in Cameroon by 2035, ERuDeF is highly contributing to the fight against climate change.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, plus the sustainable management of forests, and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+), is an essential part of the global efforts to mitigate climate change. Indeed, REDD+ is a financial incentivization mechanism that has been developed to recompense tropical countries for their efforts in reducing forests destruction. Indeed, the carbon sequestered by the REDD + activities implemented is sold on the carbon market and these revenues are reversed to ensure sustainable local development. REDD + financial incentives prove to be an additional motivation in addition to the goods and services from which the populations benefit from the restoration of degraded areas. However, few restoration projects track forest carbon impacts, since pledges are mainly based on area to be restored, and many projects do not include the establishment of reference levels or carbon monitoring in their activities.

ERuDeF through the Carbon Forestry program
of its Department of Forestry, would like to register on carbon market its
restoration projects: the MBI project in the mount Bamboutos landscape and the Forest
Gardens Project in West High Plateau and the Nlonako Muanenguba Mountains landscapes
. This will enable local population benefit from their contribution to the
fight against climate change through the implementation of green practices in
their activities such as sustainable agricultural practices and tree planting. The
success of this initiative would stimulate other communities to engage in the
process of restoring the forest thrive in a safe environment.

ERuDeF to create the Lebialem Highlands Cooperative Union

To advance the conservation program of the Lebialem Highlands, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) Plans to create a cooperative Union to help generate households’ income. Most communities in the area had cooperative societies created to help generate households’ income, but the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon has slowed down the functioning of these primary societies.

Conservation
activities in Lebialem Highlands have been completely halted due to the
Anglophone crisis. This crisis has chased out government management authorities
of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and the Delegation of Forestry and
Wildlife.

ERuDeF in an
effort of attaining her goal for the conservation of great apes and building an
effective movement of institutions and leadership to address current and
emerging threats to great apes’ conservation started developing a holistic,
collaborative and long term sustainable approach through the growth of a
multi-actor approach from community level through government to international
levels.

Through the SUFACHAC Project with goal to promote sustainable farming and critical habitat conservation to achieve biodiversity mainstreaming and effective protected areas management in Western Cameroon, ERuDeF is seeking for funding to support the creation of this cooperative Union.

Most communities in the Lebialem Highlands are highly affected by the Anglophone Crisis leading to massive destruction of properties and home, thus forcing them to flee to the forest for shelter in search for livelihoods and to protect themselves from both separatist fighters and the state arm force. This has caused emerging threats to biodiversity in the area and hence an urgent action needs to be taken to address these current and emerging threats. ERuDeF has put forward four realistic objectives to help the communities and reduce the immense threats posed on the biodiversity in the area

The Lebialem
Highlands is located on the mountainous northeastern part of Cameroon’s South
West Region. It is bordered to the East by West Region, South and South West by
the Banyang – Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWS) and North by Momo Division in the
North West Region. Lebialem Highlands is a global biodiversity hotspot. The
Highlands’ dense, lush rainforests have been blessed withfour flagship species,
three of them primates: the Critically Endangered Cross
River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla deilhi) of which less than 300 remain in the
wild;
the Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes
ellioti
), the most threatened of chimp subspecies likely numbering fewer
than 6,000 individuals; the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus); Preuss’s
guenon (Cercopithecuspreussi) as well
as the Vulnerable African forest elephant (Loxodontacyclotis) as reported in Ekinde& Khumbah
2006, Nkembi et al. 2006 and IUCN 2009.

Managing water resources through, conservation and restoration of riparian forests

According
to the 2019 UN report, 2
billion people around the world still lack access to safe water and sanitation.
UNICEF also reports that at least 600
children
die everyday from
water related diseases such as diarrhea caused by poor
water, sanitation and hygiene
around the world. Water
resources are facing a host of threats, all of which are caused primarily by human
activities These threats include sedimentation, pollution, deforestation,
landscape
changes
, wetlands removal, urban growth and a host of others.
Each type of change to a landscape will have its own specific impact, usually
directly on natural ecosystems and directly or indirectly on water resources. For
a proper water management, a holistic ecosystem approach is strongly
recommended. This involves maintenance of water catchment recharge and the
protection of riparian forests.

A riparian forest is the forested
area of land adjacent to a water body, stream, river, bay or marsh. Riparian forests
form the transition between the aquatic and the terrestrial environment. These
forests form a canopy, which shades the stream. The shade moderates water
temperature and protects the water against fluctuations in temperature that can
be detrimental to the stream ecosystem’s health. Riparian forests also stabilize
stream banks by providing deep root systems which hold the soil in place and by
providing a degree of roughness capable of slowing runoff velocity and
spreading flow during storm events. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of
the importance of retaining the riparian vegetation and therefore clear the
land right to the edge of the stream

To fill the knowledge gap, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) together with her partners (the International Tree Foundation (ITF), TreeSisters, Darwin Initiative, and the government of Cameroon) are committed to sensitizing the local population on the importance of conserving riparian forests and restoring degraded ones by planting trees. Indeed, trees will help attract rain, retain water in the soil and recharge groundwater tables. Trees will also keep nutrient pollution from agricultural sources out of the water by recycling excess nitrogen and reducing soil erosion. The ongoing project on this direction is found in Mt Bamboutos landscape that cuts across three administrative regions of Cameroon, the Northwest, Southwest and the west regions. The Mount Bamboutos Initiative, as this project is called seeks to restore 35000ha of the degraded Mount Bamboutos through the planting of 15 million trees in 15 years. Riparian forests in this landscape are increasingly being leveled down to make room for agricultural land that is in high demand.

ERuDeF and her partners this year (2020) spearheaded tree planting in Mount Bamboutos landscape to restore these riparian forests, likewise water catchments across the landscape. Femmouck village in the West Region of Cameroon is one of the villages where trees are being planted planted in riparian forests. Femmouck village, it should be noted is a horticulture hub and the practice of “dry season farming” is very common hear. This explains why most riparian forest are increasingly being evaded. As a result of continues sensitization, locals of this community just like other communities in the Mount Bamboutos landscape, are surrendering “riparian forest converted to farm lands” for tree planting.

locals of Femmouck after planting Trees in Riparian Forests

Tacuzine Brigitte is a mother of 5. The 48-year-old is amongst the pioneers of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative in Femmouck village. She owns a farm near one of Femmouck’s mean river. This river has no riparian forest again given that it has been converted to farmlands. Brigitte just like many others surrendered part of his farm near this river for trees to be planted on. “I didn’t know the importance of riparian forests until ERuDeF and her local partners schooled us on their importance. We had ignorantly levelled them down to make room for farm lands. Am personally pleased that we a re reversing this unfortunate situation with the planting of trees. I hope that in the next five years to come, most of our rivers will be covered with trees once again” Tacuzine Brigitte said with a beaming smile on her face. 

Tacuzine Brigitte

Mount Bamboutos is the second most
important water tower in Cameroon after the Adamawa plateau but it is already
losing its functions because of severe human pressures such as the expansion of
settlement and agricultural lands on the mountain and poor irrigation
practices. Indeed, farmers irrigate their crops in the dry season and watershed
does not recharge since the degraded nature of the mountain does not promote
catchment recharge. This situation is negatively impacting 81,257 people living
downstream given that there is acute water shortages. ERuDeF is contributing to
the restoration of about 5,000 ha of riparian forest in this landscape and is
planning to expand that surface area in the coming years by extending to other
landscapes such as the Adamawa Plateau and the Mandara Mountains. ERuDeF will
continue to engage local and international partners likewise the government of
Cameroon in order to achieve this dream.  

The illegal wildlife trade: Why Elephants around the Deng Deng National Park are in Trouble

The African forest elephant (Loxodontaafricanacyclotis) has been widely hunted for its tusks and more recently for its meat, threatening its future survival. The population of African forest elephant has fallen by over 30% in the last seven (7) years largely due to poaching (NPR, 2016). The elephant population in Cameroon was estimated at 21000 in 2010, according to the national strategy for elephant management, the rise in poaching which led to the m mass killing of about 300 elephants in the Northern part of Cameroon in 2012 has contributed to the significant reduction in elephant population (TRAFFICK, 2016).

According to WWF, 2016, Cameroon is a key transit route for ivory from central to West Africa and then Asia. The Deng Deng National Park, Eastern Cameroon, is home to a small population of elephants migrating from other neighboring protected areas such as the Dja Biosphere Reserve and the Mbam Djerem National Park. This species is facing a number of threats amongst which,

Increase Human Population is one of the factors that have aggravated illegal wildlife trade especially elephants in this park. The presence of Government, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Economic Operators and external development bodies (Cameroon Oil Transportation Company – COTCO and Electricity Development Cooperation – EDC) in the area has together promoted influx of human population (both employees and job seekers) into the villages around the Deng-Deng National Park. This has led to over exploitation and great loss of biodiversity. The increase human population has also led to the high demand for bush meat in the area thereby promoting illegal hunting, trade of bush meat and ivory in and around the neighboring countries.

The high demand for bush meat and ivory trade across
border regions has also catalyze the poaching of elephants in the Deng Deng National Park. Earlier,
hunting mainly employed traditional trapping techniques but with the increasing
demand for bush-meat and ivory, modern techniques are now being used such as
wire snare, modified den guns and rifles for hunting, especially when elephants
are targeted to meet up the high demand of bush meat and ivory.

Equally, the construction of the Lom panger  and the Chad- Cameroon oil pipeline has facilitated poaching in this park. The construction of Dam in Lom Pangar, led to the destruction of habitat and an increase in water level which draw fisher men from the Northern part of Cameroon and other neighboring countries. It also facilitates access to remote areas and increase influx of labour population, hence increased demand for bush meat. Other contrary uses that followed these major projects has been the clearing and opening of large forest tracks for the construction of roads to facilitate transportation of project equipment and the construction of settlement camps for workers at the detriment of biodiversity and easing transportation of bush meat and ivory to urban markets. This has greatly facilitated the wildlife trade in this area.

More so the Cameroon railway which
passes through the peripheral areas of the park has led to environmental noise,
facilitate access to remote areas and also increase transportation of bush meat
and ivory to urban markets.

 Inadequate skills in monitoring and law
enforcement is also another factor which has spurred the poaching of elephants
and other species in the Deng Deng National Park. Law
enforcement is crucial to curbing threats occurring in the target areas and
remains an essential determinant factor for the conservation of large mammals
in the park. High concentrations of hunting signs in the parks, particularly in
the enclave north eastern portion, north of the Lom River, highlight the
limited law enforcement activities in the Deng Deng National Park. More so,
eco-guards who are posted in the areas are student coming directly from school
without any field exposure and hence they face challenges translating
theoretical knowledge into practice. Hunters take advantage of their limited
skills to exploit the park.

Lastly, Inadequate sensitization and collaboration
between multiple stakeholders has also ease the poaching of elephants in this
park. There is limited community education and awareness on conservation and
the involvement of other relevant stakeholder Therefore, more intense
sensitization and awareness campaigns is needed to improve networking and
collaboration between multiple stakeholders and will attract their interest in
the protection of the wealth of biodiversity in the park. In this context, the
focal agenda to address illegal trade in elephant will be to promote improved monitoring at entry and exit point
and investigating criminal network to deter and reduce ivory trafficking and
illegal wildlife crimes in the Deng Deng National Park.

The Environment and Rural Development Foundation
(ERuDeF), will be supporting both the local communities of the corridor area
and the Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife for Lom,  to create two Community Forest Reserves of
respectively 5,000 ha and 4,588 ha, to preserve a vital corridor between Deng
Deng National Park (DDNP) and Belabo Council Forest in Eastern Cameroon. This
forested link is currently threatened by habitat loss from timber extraction
and clearance for subsistence farming. The project is needed in order to
preserve the forest habitat for a wealth of resident endangered species
including but not limited to the Western Lowland Gorilla, Central Chimpanzee,
African Forest Elephant and two species of Pangolins ( Giant and White bellied
Pangolin). Whilst the forest is still relatively intact, a window of
opportunity exists to preserve it against a trajectory of rapid forest
conversion in the region.

Acacia tree, Secret To Improved Soil Fertility And Optimum Production

“I will never use any chemicals fertilizer on my farm again.” Says Kedni Joseph, a Forest gardens farmer in Bana village, West Region of Cameroon. With the introduction of the Forest Gardens Program by ERuDeF, farmers in Cameroon’s Western High Plateau and Nlonako-Muanenguba Mountains have boasted their agricultural production substantially. Their farms are much more diversified and and they now produce all year round. Also, farmers involved in this program have completely abandoned the use inorganic which is not only costly to buy but also degrade the soil, in favour of organic fertilizers.

A section of Kedni Joseph’s forest garden

Kedni Joseph is an experienced forest gardens farmer based in Bana village, West Region of Cameroon. He testifies that his secret all along to optimum production and fertile soils is acacia. Acacia is a small tree or shrub belonging to the genus Acacia, of the mimosa family. They are nitrogen-fixing trees that are very good for improving or boosting soil fertility.

 Kedni Joseph has over 5 hectares of land in which he cultivates diverse food crops, economic fruit trees such as plums, avocados and medicinal trees like neem, prunus, sesbania and many more. In addition, he has a reservoir which irrigates his field during periods of no rains. At some sections of his forest gardens, he has a piggery, sheep, and another section with vegetables and pepper cultivated in about 0.25ha.  He was introduced to Agroforestryby ERuDeF, several years ago which is today known as the Forest Gardens Program.  Joseph says before the soils were not fertile. When he introduced the alley cropping system where he planted mostly acacia in alleys, he noticed improvements. As years passed by the soils became more fertile thus his crops were doing so well. Today he has over hundreds of thousands of acacia trees in his forest garden. “I cultivate pepper, vegetables only with the use of acacia leaves as my own organic manure. I want to thank ERuDeF and Trees for the Future for ‘opening my eyes’…” ,Joseph said. He says acacia leaves are fodder to his sheep and pigs.

Nitcheu Jean his farm

Just like Kedni Joseph, Nitcheu Jean in Bakassa, Western Cameroon is also one of the successful farmers as far the Cameroon Forest Gardens Program is concern. Before the introduction of this program, Nticheu Jean was spending a lot of money in buying chemical fertilizers. His fields were fast losing their fertility as a result. “I don’t use chemical fertilizers again. I use inorganic fertilizers which is less costly and soil friendly. I have planted nitrogen fixing trees like acacia around my farm which helps in improving soil fertility. Before I used to spend not less than XAF 100,000 in buying fertilizers to apply in my farm. Now I spend nothing, my fertilizer is right here in my farm” Nitcheu Jean said.

The Cameroon Forest Gardens Program is the project of the ERuDeF’s
Department of Agriculture. This program aims to improve on the food security,
nutrition and incomes of resource-poor farmers through the development of
climate-smart agriculture and improvement in multiple income streams in
diversified and optimized family farms extending from 0.1 ha to several
hectares.

The program also integrates the restoration of degraded
agricultural lands through multiple soil health improvement modules. The forest
gardens approach delivers first and foremost, improved soil quality, while at
the same time increasing food production and nutrition, enhancing food
security, increasing labour opportunities, generating important additional
products such as fuel wood and fodder, timber, fruits and medicine, and
eventually higher farmers’ incomes. In the next five years, the program seeks
to create about 10,000 forest gardens in Cameroon. It currently operates in the
Western Cameroon region including the Northwest, West, Littoral and Southwest
Cameroon. In the last two years the program activities have been focused on the
Mount Bamboutos, Western High Plateau and the Nlonako- Muanenguba Mountains
Landscapes.

This project is funded by Trees for the Future, USE