[one_half][/one_half]The Bechati Fondom is one of the villages in the Wabane Sub Division of the South West Region, Cameroon. With a population of over 3000 inhabitants, this village is found in the heart of the tropical rain forest and constitutes a significant portion of the proposed Tofala wildlife hill Sanctuary. This forest block is home to 40-60 one of world’s most critically endangered great ape-the Cross River Gorilla and over 200 endangered Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees. For decades, the natives invaded this forest and hunted down these endangered species but today, the hunters are telling a different story thanks to conservation education.
The hunters and trappers belonging to the Bechati Hunters and trappers organization have laid down their guns in favour of conservation. This decision was made known on the 22nd of January, 2013, during a tour of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation and her oversea partner Man and Nature.
The hunters said thanks to sensitization on the importance of protecting the endangered cross River Gorilla and the Nigeria/Cameroon, they have desisted from hunting in the Bechati forest. Speaking with the president of Hunters/trappers Union, Menkemndeh Simon Ndeh, he revealed that the conservation of cross river gorillas and the Nigeria Cameroon Chimpanzees in the Tofala forest block is very important now more than ever hear him “For more than thirty years in Bechati, I hunted all kinds of animals and because of my expertise, I was nicknamed fombeh meaning chief of the forest. But I have come to realize that hunting down these rare species is not good given that if these species go extinct, our children may never get to see these wonderful creatures. It was thanks to conservation education I received from ERuDeF that I decided to drop my gun and focus on bee hive farming and cocoa production”. The 47-year-old explained that he now advices his peers on the importance of conservation. Mr. Simon however used the platform to call on well wishers to assist them in their farming activities they have now taken up such as the provision of dryers to dry cocoa. This he explains is given the fact that for some time now, the government of Cameroon has rejected cocoa coming from Bechati saying it was not dried under appropriate conditions. Another hunter Njong Ben whom hunting has been his source of income for more than 20years said quitting the forest makes him feel bad given that hunting was not just a source of livelihood, but also a heritage from his forefathers. Mr. Njong explained that with the coming of the oil mill, life would be better “ We know the oil mill will be installed in our village and this will permit us to mill our palm nuts and have more quality and quantity of oil”
The Fon of Bechati, HRH Nkemtaji Jerry on his part lauded ERuDeF’s initiative of conserving wildlife and providing alternative sources of livelihoods to the people. He however wished that a vehicle be provided which can transport the nuts from farmers farms to the oil mill to put the machine to full utilization.