WHY WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT, GENDER EQUALITY MATTERS IN RESTORATION

Ecosystem
restoration is reversing degradation of ecosystems, e.g. forest landscapes,
mangroves, watersheds, dry lands- to regain their functionality for the people
and for the planet.    

More than 75 percent of Earth’s land areas are substantially degraded, undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people, according to the World’s first Comprehensive, Evidence-based Assessment. These lands that have either become deserts, are polluted, or have been deforested and converted to agricultural land. If this trend continues, 95 percent of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050. That would potentially force hundreds of millions of people to migrate, as food production will collapse in many places. However, rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the main driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and impacting food security, water purification, the provision of energy, and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached “critical levels” in many parts of the world. Underlying drivers of land degradation; the high-consumption lifestyles in the most developed economies, combined with rising consumption in developing and emerging economies, continued population growth in many parts of the world, are driving unsustainable levels of agricultural expansion, natural resource and mineral extraction, and urbanization.

We’ve
known about this for over 20 years but it is only getting worse. how about we trying
out some approaches which have been neglected in the quest to restore degraded
ecosystems such as Gender-responsive restoration, since gender gaps persist,
pervade across sectors: women’s knowledge, needs, priorities, experiences, capacities
still undervalued and ignored, roles and responsibilities are differentiated
between men and women. Women tend to have fewer livelihood alternatives due to
sociocultural barriers consequently, access, control and benefits remain wildly
inequitable, while impacts of degradation affect those already vulnerable most acutely
(women).

Have we
ever thought that Women’s empowerment and gender equality makes a difference
for restoration?

Women
and men contribute differently to restoration options and value benefits differently
– opening new possibilities for restoration, therefore, could be a crucial
opportunity for women’s economic empowerment. Gender-responsive restoration secure
land and resource rights, moving ecosystem restoration towards more sustainable
livelihoods, ecosystem management & outcomes while ensuring a climate
resilient earth.

Taking
restoration to another level, and ensuring sustainable results of ecosystem restoration,
we must conduct gender analysis, ensure equitable decision making, improve land
and resource rights, partner with women, collect disaggregated data and use
gender indicators, facilitate dialogue on access, control, grievance mechanisms
develop gender-responsive policies and plans, exchange knowledge, share
information. Both women and men must have equal say in all decision making, restoration
efforts must reflect the priorities, interests and knowledge of both women and
men.

How we are applying this

The award winning NGO, Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) is currently carrying out ecosystem restoration activities on the Mt Bamboutos, in its flagship project, Mount Bamboutos Initiative. This Mountain was once one of the richest mountain biodiversity hotspots in Africa. It is also the second highest water tower in Cameroon which has nearly been completely degraded. In the quest to carrying out restoration activities in the Mt Bamboutos landscape, gender analysis is carried out to make sure at least 50% of the local population taking part in this process are women and youths, who are the most vulnerable. Women and youths are involved in decision making, public consultation meetings, economic empowerment and many more aspects concerning the restoration process.  

Mrs.Tacuzine Brigitte is one of the most active women as far as the Mount Bamboutos Initiative. She is one of the women leaders in her native Femmouck village, in the West region of Cameroon. To her women voices need to be heard in all aspects of human endeavor. She mobilizes women to actively take part in the Mount Bamboutos Imitative in her village like no one. “this is one of the ways we make our voices heard. We are the most affected as far as the degradation of the Mount Bamboutos is concerned. Crops yields are falling drastically, due to the degradation of this mountain. We have to take the lead in it’s restoration”

Ndoh Agness is another woman who is so passionate about the Mount Bamboutos initiative. To her, the coming of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative to village, Buchi, in the Northwest Region of Cameroon is serving as an eye opener to the women folk. She is the leader of the women folk of her village. “Mount Bamboutos is like a religion to us” Ndoh Agness said. She continued “This project has drawn the women folk of my village closer than ever before. We are now aware of how crucial we the women folk are, as far as the restoration of the Mount Bamboutos is concerned”

The
Environment and Rural Development Foundation has continued to train women
around the Mount Bamboutos landscape on sustainable agricultural practices such
as agroforestry. With support from Trees for the Future, the Environment and
Rural Development Foundation is gradually transforming the lives of those
living around Mount Bamboutos through the introduction of the Forest Gardens Programme.
Barren lands are gradually being transformed into productive lands. Crops are
much more diversified and soil fertility is gradually being improved.

The Mount Bamboutos Fons’ Association gains Legal Status

The Mount Bamboutos Fons’ Association (MBFA) has gained its legal status. This was early January 2021 after receiving the declaration certificate from the Senior Divisional Officer of Bamboutos in Mbouda. The news which came as a breakthrough from the president of the Association, His Majesty Senator Fon Lekunze Andreas Nembo of Bamumbu, was received with a lot of effervescence by the members of the Association. The Association which constitute all the paramount chiefs of the chiefdoms in Mount Bamboutos was initiated on 19th of April 2018 during a meeting held in Bafoussam with some paramount chiefs and sub-chiefs around mount Bamboutos. The creation process was facilitated by the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), with financial support from the French Global Fund for Environment – Small Grants Programme (FFEM-PP1) through the International Union for Nature Conservation – French Committee.

“I am
very happy that after close to three years we are able to legalise MBFA. This marks
a turning point in the life the Mount Bamboutos Initiative. We shall speak now
in a much louder voice” the president of Mont Bamboutos Fons’ Association, Fon
Lekunze said.

The CEO and President of ERuDeF, Louis Nkembi on his part could holdn’t his joy after receiving the news. Hear him “MBFA is a very important body as far as the Mount Bamboutos Initiative is concerned. Since we started the implementation of Mt. Bamboutos Initiative in 2018, fons have played a vital role. The acceptability rate of the project is high thanks to the efforts made by these fons. Am very happy receiving the news of the creation of the MBFA”

MBFA is a non-profit community-based association
whose members are to work in accordance to the LAW No. 20/053 of December 1990 on the liberty of
Association in Cameroon.

The
goal of this association is to ensure effective grassroots participation and
involvement in the sustainable management of the Mt. Bamboutos ecosystem
through a “bottom-up” approach.

The objectives of MBFA are:

  1. To contribute towards sustainable land use
    management in the Mt. Bambouotos landscape by taking and implementing concrete
    decisions;
  2. To lobby and influence the government of Cameroon
    to invest in the sustainable management of the Mt. Bamboutos ecosystem;
  3. To ensure transparency and accountability in the
    management of financial and material resources for the sustainable management
    of natural resources in the Mt. Bamboutos ecosystem.
  4. To collaborate with the government of Cameroon
    and local/international non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the development
    and implementation of projects for the wellbeing of the rural population living
    around the Mt. Bamboutos area. 

The Association is constituted of paramount rulers of the following chiefdoms that surrounds the Bamboutos mountains: Bafou, Bangang, Babadjou and Fongo-Tongo (in the West Region); Bamumbu, M’muock Fossimondi and M’muockmbie (in the Southwest Region); Pinyin, Menka, Buchi, Ashong and Guzong (in the Northwest).

The
legalization of MBFA will give it more impetus to champion the fight for the
restoration of the severely degraded mount Bamboutos ecosystem. It should be
noted that even when the Association was not yet legalized, the members have
played very vital role in the success of the pilot phase of the Mount Bamboutos
Initiative, serving as entry points to local communities and taking vital
management decisions.

More sub-villages in Bangang village embrace the Mount Bamboutos Initiative

The people of Bameghuie I, Bameghuie II and Bamelang in the Bangang chiefdom, one of the villages in the mount Bamboutos Landscape, situated in Batcham sub-division of the Bamboutos Division in the West Region of Cameroon, have embraced the Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI) project. This was during a series of sensitization meetings organized in the palaces of these respective communities from 10 -15 December 2020. The objective was to create awareness on the need to restore the severely degraded mount Bamboutos ecosystem. To better appraise the degradation of the landscape and help convince the people to see the need for restoration, a participatory land use mapping exercise was carried out to map the current land uses in the respective villages. The map was also going to facilitate the development of a land use plan for the Bangang community.

Participants in these meetings were the chiefs of the sub-villages and their subjects. According to the chief of Bamelang H.R.M. Tsonva Domenigue, the MBI project and its participatory land use planning activity will go a long way to help his people as his community is gradually becoming much populated and land allocation and land use conflict are increasingly a problem. Hear him “my community is privileged to part of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative. This projects assure my much alike my subjects that the future will be void of conflict when it comes to land use. Am also very assured that the biodiversity of Mount Bamboutos will be restored with sustained collective effort” “we are ready for this”, he assured. For him, the land use planning would help manage such conflicts, ease tensions and bring about more effective and efficient use of land and its natural resources in his community.

At the end of these meetings, community members gave their free and prior consent to the MBI project. It should be noted that before carrying out sensitisation in these new sub-villages, MBI has been implementing its activities in 3 other sub-villages in the Bangang chiefdom. These include: Mekoup, Balekeu and Tsopeua. These and the new sub-villages are sub-villages situated on the mountain ecosystem and their activities are greatly affecting the health of the ecosystem. To demonstrate their interest in the project, the people of Bameghuie I, Bameghuie II and Bamelang have started putting materials together in order to set up a tree nursery that will produce agroforestry and native trees for the restoration of degraded farms, riparian forests, water catchments and sacred forests.

Deh Nji Hermann is te
coordinator of Mount Bamboutos initiative, according to him, the coming on-board
of these villages is a is a sign that Mount Bamboutos initiative will achieve
it gaols even before the 15 years that the project is due. “Am very pleased to
see this villages joining the Mount Bamboutos Initiative. We ae going to work
with them to bring back Mount Bamboutos closer to what it was some 10 decades
ago”

The Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI) project is a joint initiative of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) and the International Tree Foundation (ITF), UK in collaboration with the government of Cameroon to support the urgent restoration of the highly degraded ecosystem and biodiversity of Mt. Bamboutos. It is a 15-year project to be implemented in three phases across three regions of Cameroon, (South West, West and North West). The project’s overall goal is to restore the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of Mount Bamboutos ecosystem, while securing the livelihoods of the local and indigenous communities. The project envisages to plant fifteen million trees in 15 years to restore 35,000 ha of degraded lands and to secure livelihoods for 30000 people across the Mount Bamboutos landscape

Discover how primates, locals of Cameroon’s Deng Deng National Park are exposed to zoonosis

Primates
in the Deng Deng National Park such as the endangered Gorillas and Chimpanzees
are likely to suffer the effect of Zoonosis (transfer of diseases from humans
to animals and vice versa). This is so due to the high encroachment into
wildlife habitat. The life cycle and mode of transmission of intestinal parasites increase
the chances of cross host infection between phylogenetically related or
non-related species and re-infection of species.

The serious threat that parasites can  impose  on  endangered  wildlife  species  is  increasingly  recognized,  as it  is    important  in  preserving biodiversity in wildlife ecosystems and controlling the emergence or re-emergence of diseases. Sensitization and mindset change is of great importance in the communities around the Deng Deng National Park to secure the future of primates and prevent the outbreak of diseases.

Human encroachment into wildlife habitat may increase rates and severity of parasitism via the direct route of cross-host transmission between phylogenetically related species (Preslar, 1998) and in some instances non phylogenetically related species (Linda, 2013).

Angwa Gwendoline has been working closely with communities around the Deng Deng National Park for some years now. With the emergence of COVID-19 and other zoonotic diseases, she is very worried at the rate at which locals of this area are getting close to primates most especially, and other wildlife species. Hear her “the rate at which people in this area are increasing getting in contact with primates and other wildlife species is alarming. This increasing contact will probably expose them to zoonotic diseases”

Many species of wildlife today,
inhabits relatively small areas because the vast forest that existed in the
past has been destroyed by human activities and as a consequence, diseases
appear to be more common in wild populations (Kock, 1995; Lilly et al., 2002
and Gillespie et al., 2008). To support this fact, a survey of emerging
pathogens in wildlife was conducted in North America by Dobson and Foufopoulos
in 2001and they found out that human involvement facilitated 55% of pathogen
outbreaks.

233 critically endangered species listed by the IUCN, were alleged threatened by infectious diseases (Smith et al., 2006). These diseases are regarded as the cause of fluctuation or decline in biological population (Macphee and Greenwood, 2012). Wildlife diseases have historically gained attention primarily when they were considered a threat to agricultural systems and the economic, social, or physical health of humans (McCallum and Dobson, 1995; Holmes, 1996; Daszak et al, 2000).  These parasites may be very important to determine the host-health and show  significant  influence on survival and reproduction of populations (Scott 1988; Lewis et al. 2002; Roberts & Janovy 2008).

Coupled to the above, primates as well as other species of
wildlife in the Deng Deng national Park are facing numerous problems amongst
which are, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, illegal hunting, and a hosting
of others. The Environment and Rural Development Foundation through its
flagship program, Eastern Biodiversity Initiative is working to create a
corridor from Deng Deng National Park to the Belabo Council Forest with support
from World Land Trust. This corridor will provide and enhance suitable conditions
for the movement of endangered species and prevent occurrences of inbreeding
resulting from habitat fragmentation. ERuDeF is also 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