The people of Wabane and Alou Sub-divisions have validated a proposed Management Plan for the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS). Tofala, as it is simply called, is one of Cameroon’s newest protected area created in 2014 in the Lebialem Division by a Prime Ministerial Decree for the conservation of some close to 40 Cross River Gorilla, over 150 Nigerian Cameroon Chimpanzees, unknown population Drills and other biodiversity species.
The validation was done during two separate sub-divisional validation meetings. This meeting brought together representatives of Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, local administration and related services, traditional authorities of adjacent villages, representatives of Village Forest Management Committees, Conservation and Development Partners, youth, men and women representatives and other invited personalities.
The Divisional Officer (DO) of Wabane Sub Division, Augustine Chi, presided over the Wabane Sub-Subdivisional Validation Meeting, May 9, 2018 in Bamenda, while the outgoing DO of Alou, Mr. Akombo Joseph Neba, presideded over the Alou Sub-divisional Validation Meeting, May 18, 2018, also in Bamenda.
Speaking during the validation meeting, DO Augustine Chi, just like his counterpart of the Alou Sub-divison, underscored the need for the proper management of natural resources within THWS given that the resources are “inelastic while man’s needs for them are very elastic”. He regretted the fact that the validation meeting was taking place out of Wabane due to ongoing Anglophone crisis in Cameroon.
The Sanctuary Service on its part, presented some management activities, which were appreciated as a true reflection of the on-going collaborative management activities with local communities and other stakeholders by representatives of both subdivisions. The Conservator of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Thomas Amin Njimin, gave a panoramic description of the proposed management programmes of this protected area including administration and finance, park protection, collaborative management and local development, ecotourism development, research and monitoring, which were adopted.
Meanwhile the proposed zoning plan and management guidelines were endorsed by the traditional authorities, VFMCs, youths and women representative of all adjacent villages to Tofala. The management zones include the Core Conservation Zone (CoCZ), Limited Use Access Zone (LUZ), Community Zone (CZ), and the Peripheral Zone (PZ).
The traditional authorities and village representatives were however unanimous that community zone be separated from the core zone with a limited access use zone. They also underscored the need for boundaries of the wildlife sanctuary to be demarcated on the ground to the visibility of the local communities.
In the Wabane Sub-divisional Validation Meeting, traditional authorities recommended that the communities be allowed to always choose the alternative livelihood they needs. The youths on their part, beckoned that MINFOF and her technical partners offer scholarships in the domain of conservation to them so they can effectively get engaged in the conservation of the biodiversity of the protected area. Meanwhile, all village representatives and local administrators of Wabane Sub Division disclosed the vision they have for the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary; “ that by 2023 wildlife population should increase and the integrity of the sanctuary maintained”
In the Alou Subdivisional Validation Meeting, traditional authorities recommended that MINFOF continues with sensitisation and consultation of local communities with emphasis on the village development committees/associations of the various Fondoms as an ongoing activity and their concerns integrated into the management plan. They underscored the need for participatory farm assessment and categorization to be carried out within the wildlife sanctuary and agreed farms management measures implemented. It was also resolved that an ecotourism strategy should be developed taking into consideration cultural and social tourism and integrated into the management plan. The traditional authorities and village representatives from Alou were unanimous that MINFOF organises a meeting with the Fons and local development committees/associations presidents to agree on a joined participatory vision towards the management of the sanctuary.
Road Treaded So Far
Haven successfully facilitated the creation of this protected area, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) could not let its dream of ensuring the long term conservation of endangered biodiversity species in the area, most especially the Cross River Gorilla, Nigeria Cameroon Chimpanzees and Drills amongst others to be watered down by unsustainable anthropogenic activities.
To avert this plight, the Cameroon’s leading conservation non-profit organisation, last January, 2017 joined forces with Rainforest Trust USA and initiated the process for the elaboration of a Management Plan for Tofala. They trained and equipped some nine government Eco-Guards and six community Eco-Guards with the necessary knowledge and tools like global positioning System (GPS), cyber trackers and camera traps, to crack down on deviant behaviours in and around the sanctuary. This was accompanied by additional survey and zoning of the protected area by ERuDeF Biologists and GIS specialist respectively. Village Conservation Committees were also reorganised with members trained and implored to follow up and ensure that protected species are not hunted and new farms are not opened within the protected area.
In April, 2017, the Conservator of Tofala transmitted a letter the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife requesting the putting in place of a technical committee for Tofala Management Plan elaboration.
An approval degree to this effect was signed last July, 2017 by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlilfe Ngolle Phillip Ngwesse. In August 30, 2017 the Technical Committee was installed and a roadmap for the elaboration of the management plan produced. This was proceeded by the adoption of the first draft management plan, February 19, 2018 during the second technical committee meeting in Mbalmayo.
With the proposed management plan now validated by the Wabane Subdivision, the next step will be to ensure that it is also validated at the level of Lebialem Division, as well as at the regional and national levels.
Once these are done, the Management & Business plans will be finalised following recommendations from national validation and submitted to the Minister MINFOF, who will transmit to the Prime Minister for approval and distribution. Once the management and business plans are distributed, the only thing left will be to ensure effective implementation and monitoring.
By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh