Wendell Berry, a naturalist and writer once said, “the earth is the only thing we have in common”, so why would we want to destroy the only thing which bonds the human race? Our world was created naturally with so much riches, with enough for both humans and species to live on. Due to anthropogenic activities, our world is quickly crumbling with many species quitting the stage, and going into extinction. Nevertheless, with such calamity befalling the only thing we have in common; all hope has not been lost. Mother earth still remains the only place where humanity and indeed plants and animal can find refuge.
This decade has been termed as the UN decade on ecosystem restoration. Like many have put it, there has never been a more urgent need to revive damaged ecosystems than now. It is now or never. The UN decade on ecosystem restoration calls on all government and indeed everyone to prevent, halt and reverse degradation of areas such as grasslands, forest, oceans and mountains, essential for the survival of human beings on earth. The ball has been set rolling with the launch of this campaign in June 2021. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is quoted as saying; “We are ravaging the very ecosystems that underpin our societies, and in doing so, we risk depriving ourselves of the food, water and resources we need to survive.”. Where did mother earth go wrong but for her patience with the destructive actions of human beings?
It would be needless to start pointing out the tones of effects accompanying our wanton destruction of Mother Earth’s capital. The Coronavirus virus pandemic is a glaring example of the toxic relationship we have developed and nurtured with mother earth. If the present status quo is maintained, we can only expect the worst to happen, God forbid!
Cameroon has had its own fair share of the effects of the global problem of consistent biodiversity loss and the destruction of the very fabric that holds the earth together. Desertification is engulfing the Northern part of Cameroon, species are going into local extinction and land degradation is now a reality like never before in Cameroon. To add to the unending list of these effects, floods are very rampant in cities like Douala and Limbe. All these re-echoe the calls that we need to collectively restore the earth before it becomes inhabitable again.
Cameroon is committed to restoring 12 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2030 as part of the Bonn Challenge. This together with local and other international commitments such as the Paris Climate Agreement assure us that there is a will and indeed there is hope. While we do agree that where there is a will there is a way, action on the ground needs to be stepped up and more importantly, environmental non-governmental organizations and the Cameroon state functionary need to act together like never before.
The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), has been working to protect forests and flagship species of plant and animals for more than 20 years. ERuDeF works with the government, companies, communities and other stakeholders to promote certification for responsible forest management practices: combat illegal logging, reform trade policies, protect forested areas, and more. In this light, our main priority in ecosystem restoration is to plant 300 million trees in 15 years, to restore degraded lands in both Cameroon and the Central Africa Sub-region. We launched this commitment as our own litle way of contributing to the global narrative of ecosystem restoration.
In August 2018, we launched one of our flagship projects, the Mount Bamboutos Initiative to restore 35,000 hectares of the degraded Mount Bamboutos ecosystem with the planting of 15 million trees in 15 years, piloting till 2021
As the 3-year pilot phase of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI) project, supported by TreeSisters and Darwin Initiative drew to an end on March, 31 2021, ERuDeF was able to secure new funding from the German based organization, ECOSIA SA, in order to continue to support the goals and objectives of the initiative
This project which will run for an initial one year was launched in February 2021.The project titled “Restoring the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the degraded Mount Bamboutos Landscape” will protect and restore over 1500 hectares of degraded riparian forests, sacred forests and water catchments by planting 700,000 native and agroforestry trees. The project is implemented in some selected chiefdoms namely: Bafou, Bangang and Babadjou in the West region, Bamumbu in the Southwest region and Menka in the Northwest region of Cameroon.
ERuDeF has also been in the forefront in protecting bird species. “Birds connect our world” pronounced last year’s migratory bird day theme. This theme shows us how interconnected our world is and the 2021 migratory bird day and on April 09 2021, ERuDeF Celebrated the World Migratory Bird Day under theme “Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a bird!” tells us how glamorous the earth is.
The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), remains resolute in conserving, restoring and connecting the integrity of ecosystems that support the movement of migratory birds, which face many difficulties as they connect the world. ERuDeF honors these beautiful winged creatures, and also raises awareness on the need for international cooperation to conserve them. Migratory birds undertake regular seasonal movement often north and south along flyway between breeding and wintering grounds. Today, migratory birds still face serious threat, from loss of habitat, climate change, poisoning, power lines, illegal hunting, pollution and natural disasters. ERuDeF therefore used the opportunity for world migratory bird’s day celebration, to call on each and every individual to step up actions and adopt sustainable natural use methods to better protect migratory birds and the habitats they need to survive and thrive. On May 21, 2021 ERuDeF also observed the world Endangered Species Day in order to recognize the national conservation efforts to protect our nation’s endangered species and their habitats.
In Eastern Cameroon, ERuDeF is currently working on the Deng -Dja Conservation Corridor Project, to save western lowland gorillas and many other IUCN Red List Species. We continue to make advances in marine and mangrove conservation, ecosystem restoration, agroecology restoration as well as amphibians and great apes conservation. In the Lebialem Highlands, ERuDeF is also working to save IUCN Red List Species, such as the Gross River Gorilla, the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee which are critically endangered.
ERuDeF looks forward to spreading its tentacles to other countries in order to ensure the earth is connected and safe. It is our collective responsibility to save our biodiversity habitats, and secure the ecosystem’s future for the people who depend on it.
Around the world, ecotourism has been hailed as a panacea: a way to fund conservation and research, protect fragile and pristine ecosystems, benefit rural communities, promote development in poor countries, enhance ecological and cultural sensitivity, instill environmental awareness and social conscience in the travel industry, and satisfy and educate the discriminating tourist. At the threshold of the new millennium, tourism has emerged as the biggest industry of the future. Ecotourism today is an economic activity of immense global importance. Perhaps there is hardly any other field of activity where it captures the mind of so many people around the world and involves many people directly and indirectly.
Known as “the town of the rising sun”, the Eastern region of Cameroon is one of the most extensive regions of the country with an ecologically friendly environment. To the north, it is bordered by Adamawa, to the east by the Central African Republic, the south by the Republic of Congo and to the west by the center region. It is made up of national parks such as the Lobeke National Park with a rich and varied biodiversity in plants and wildlife resources with over 45 mammals species, 305 birds species, 18 reptiles species, 134 fish species, 764 plant species belonging to 102 families which have been identified (cameroontravelandtours.com), the Boumba Bek national park which according to the Environmental News Service, “encompasses a biodiverse group of plants and animals, Chimpanzees, forest antelope, crocodiles and bongos are all found in the Park. The Deng Deng National Park is also an interesting attraction site which harbors great apes, gorilla, chimpanzee and other endangered species such as forest elephants. A population survey conducted around the Deng Deng National Park area revealed that more than 300 western lowland gorillas and 600 chimpanzees live within the National Park. The Dja Fauna Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed in 1987 and one of the largest and best protected reserve within the rainforest zone of Africa is also found in the East. It harbors a wide range of species such as chimpanzees, more than 1,500 known plant species, over 107 mammals (including forest elephants, African forest buffalo and leopard) and more than 320 bird species waterfalls and crater lakes.
Aside from the natural attractions around the region, other exciting sites to visit include;
The old colonial prison at Dume; the now abandoned prison was constructed in 1909 and it went operational in 1911. It partly hosted the administrators and had sections for prisoners. It also hosted a guillotine for execution of “notorious” activists and some buried alive. Today the structure has been abandoned by locals because of the agony surrounding the structure.
Also very exciting is the boat and canoe ride along rivers like the Sanaga, Lom, Pangar, Mbouti and Djérem that meanders within the Deng Deng-Dja Conservation corridor.
A visit to one of the oldest and largest college in the East Region; Ecole de Salle, constructed by the catholic missionaries in March 03, 1949 will be a great site for religious tour. The college partly hosted the bishop and established as an Apostolic Vicariate of Doume.
The culture of the people of East Cameroon will give you an unforgettable experience. The East region is dominated by the pygmies who are the oldest inhabitants of the region and the country as a whole. They have one of the ancient traditions and are adamant to change. They have refused to led the western culture erode their culture and way of life. The East is made up of the Gbaya and Baka who inhabits the area. Most of the original inhabitants of the region live in the hinterland with hunting being their main occupation. They have secret sites where they do healing and cleansing of the land when there are problems. They equally have very interesting traditional dances which are mostly exhibited during national days and cultural festivals. Participating in their traditional dances, their hunting methods, farming methods and different meals will give you an unforgettable experience. The land of the rising sun is indeed a place to visit.
To consolidate the conservation of great apes and other threatened species in Eastern Cameroon, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) through financial support from World Land Trust (WLT), UK, launched the Deng Deng-Belabo Conservation corridor project in 2020. This project is just a small fraction of the bigger corridor initiative between the Deng Deng National Park and Dja Biosphere Reserve. The main goal of this project is to preserve quality habitat of 7406 ha between the Deng Deng National Park and Belabo Council Forest for the migration of the western lowland gorillas and other threatened species.
The Deng Deng National Park and Dja Biosphere Reserve are two protected areas found in the East region of Cameroon. These two protected areas now occur as isolated block of forest due to increase human pressure that has caused the fragmentation. The increased human pressure has also caused a small population of the western lowland gorillas and the central chimps to be isolated in the Deng Deng National Park and another population of these species also isolating in the Dja Biosphere Reserve. These two isolated groups are under serious threat and could possibly get extinct in few years to come due to inbreeding.
To curb the occurrence of inbreeding and possible extinction of the species, ERuDeF is supporting the creation and management of an ecological corridor in the said area through the community forestry approach. Two community forests of sizes 5000 ha and 4,588 ha ha between the Deng Deng National Park and Belabo Council Forest are currently under creation.
Biological surveys (both fauna and flora) have been conducted in the two community forests and the surveys recorded 8 primate, 7 ungulate, 7 rodent, two reptile and one carnivore species in communityforest one and 7 primate, 7 ungulate, 7 rodent, two reptile and one carnivore species also recorded in community forest two. Some species of birds were also recorded including the threatened African Grey parrot. The surveys also recorded 145 plant species in 41 families in community forest one and 156 plant species in 41 families in community forest two.
Socioeconomic and household surveys were conducted and a total of five villages with a total population of 2244 people border Community Forest one, while five villages with a total number of 3920 people border Community Forest two.
Sensitization meetings were also organized where the key stakeholders including the local people were sensitized on the project and its importance to the communities. The two community forests were named as KEBO and ADEMKEPOL by the local people in an awareness meeting.
Two legal entities in the form of Common Initiative Groups (CIGs) have been put in place. The two community forests boundaries have been mapped out; a public notice have been signed informing the communities of the intension of creating the community forests which will be placed under the management of the management institutions. The Articles of association have also been drafted and approved by all relevant stakeholders awaiting legalization at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
At the end of this project, about 5000 local people will be impacted while over 600 western lowland gorillas will be saved and protected as human pressure on their habitat must have reduced by 80%.
Deforestation and forest degradation are the biggest threats to forests worldwide as most of the world’s forests are gradually vanishing into thin air. Deforestation occurswhen forests are converted to non-forest uses, such as agriculture and road construction and forest degradation occurs when forest ecosystems lose their capacity to provide important goods and services to people and nature. Today, most forested areas are being converted to non-forest land use such as arable land, urban use, logged area or wasteland. Combatting deforestation and degradation have undoubtedly been a daunting task to most national and international organizations.
The world’s forests absorb 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, one-third of the annual CO2 released from burning fossil fuels. Forest destruction emits further carbon into the atmosphere, with 4.3–5.5 GtCO2eq/yr. generated annually largely from deforestation and forest degradation.
Over half of the tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed since the 1960s, and every second, more than one hectare of tropical forests is destroyed or drastically degraded. This intense and devastating pressure on forests is not limited to the tropics – an estimated 3.7 million hectares of Europe’s forests are damaged by livestock, insects, diseases, forest fires, and other human-linked activities. Some of these activities including; expanding agriculture, due to an increased population and shifts in diet, are responsible for most of the world’s deforestation. As the human population continues to grow, there is an obvious need for more food, logging, construction, bushfires, etc.
However, forest loss is both a cause and an effect of our changing climate. Climate change can damage forests, for instance by drying out tropical rainforests and increasing fire damage in boreal forests. Inside forests, climate change is already harming biodiversity, a threat that is likely to increase.
Deforestation is very alarming as its detrimental both to our lives and our planet. Trees play a key role in the local water cycle by helping to keep a balance between the water on land and water in the atmosphere. But when deforestation or degradation occurs, that balance can be thrown off, resulting in changes in precipitation and river flow as watersheds that once supplied communities with their drinking water and farms with irrigation water, have become subject to extreme fluctuations in water flow. The loss of safe, potable water puts communities’ health at risk for a variety of communicable diseases.
Fortunately, this so-called degradation can be remedied by us, if we are committed and determined. This can be done through actions like: Countries and other land owners are committing to FLR (Forest Land Restoration) through the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to restore 350 million hectares of degraded landcapes by 2030, launched by IUCN and Germany in 2011. The Bonn Challenge has so far generated pledges from governments and organizations to restore over 210 million hectares. In line with this, Cameroon is committed to restoring 12 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030. Improving the health of these forest ecosystems and introducing sustainable management practices increases the resilience of human and natural systems to the impacts of climate change. However, in case of already damaged ecosystems, ecosystem restoration is the ideal solution, it’s for the people and for our planet.
Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) has been working to protect forests for more than 20 years. ERuDeF works with governments, companies, communities and other stakeholders to promote certification for responsible forest management practices, combat illegal logging, reform trade policies, protect forested areas, and more. In this light, our main priority is ecosystem restoration where we have a vision of planting 300 million trees on 3 million hectares of degraded land in 15 years. This will be done across several Mountainous landscapes in Cameroon and the Central African sub-region. In 2018, we launched the Mt Bamboutos Initiative with a vision of planting 15 million trees on 35000 ha of degraded land impacting 30000 lives. As we continue with our efforts in restoring the Mount Bamboutos we are hopeful that with your support we are going to halt the phenomenon land degradation and massive deforestatio1an intact forest
Mount Nlonako has been termed as a veritable hotspot of African amphibians, mammals and reptile species. Unfortunately, these species are said to be teetering near extinction in recent times due to numerous human interferences. The Nlonako mountain is home to the largest and longest living frog on earth, the Goliath frog. It measures between 17 to 52cm and weighs 3250 grams. The population of the goliath frog in the wild is rapidly decreasing due to accelerated habitat loss through degradation/deforestation and hunting of their meat for food and for the expanding bush meat trade. The most threatening, are the new sophisticated traps used in catching these species now been scrupulously used in the Nkongsamba area of Cameroon. The Nlonako Mountain is ranked among the top 10 mountain ecosystems in Cameroon. The mountain is known to host a total of 93 amphibian species (Hermann et al., 2005a) which constitute Thirty-nine percent (39%) of all 236 amphibian species recorded for Cameroon (Lebreton, 1999). Mt Nlonako is the most species rich single-locality of amphibian fauna in Africa (Hermann et al., 2005). Historically this area has served as a refuge during drastic climate fluctuations. The fluctuations and refuges played an important role in the evolution of the high number of (endemic) amphibian species.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Goliath frog is an endangered species because of a 50% decline in population size in the last three generations. Lack of employment and livelihood opportunities has pushed the local and indigenous population in and around the Mount Nlonako area to engage into hunting of this charismatic amphibians for income and protein. Following a study carried out by the Environment and Rural Development Foundation in 2016 it was discovered that on an average the local hunters hunt twice a week and harvest an average of 10-15 frogs a week, resulting to an estimated harvest of 19,440 frogs every peak season.
In order to curb threats to the Goliath frog and other threatened amphibian species of Mount Nlonako, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) is committed in saving the endangered wildlife and their habitat. ERuDeF aims to save this species through the creation and management of the proposed Ekom Nkam waterfall Sanctuary; promotion of applied research; promotion of good landscape governance; restoration of degraded habitat; promotion of education for sustainable development and promotion of local economic development and sustainable finance.
ERuDeF’s plan to rescue amphibians and curb the illegal wildlife and bush meat trade is critical. Every Goliath frog rescued is important to the survival and continuation of the species. The only real hope for these amphibians is the preservation of their rainforest home. Those that cannot survive in the wild are given a life-long home. However, their offspring are candidates for future reintroduction into the wild.