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.

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

How Agroforestry is Alleviating Poverty in Haut-Nkam

Agroforestry which is a science of integrated farming that includes trees, crops and animals on thesame piece of land, has proven to be a means through which poverty can be  reduced especially in rural communities.

During a recent impact assessment trip to Haut-Nkam, West Region of Cameroon by ERuDeF’s Director of Development and Philanthropy, farmers practicing agroforestry in this area attested they are witnessing a steady increase in yields.  These farmers are part of ERuDeF’s Forest Garden Project ongoing in the Mount Bamboutos landscape that cut across three administrative Regions of Cameroon.

Mrs. Gahatchamgoue Grace has been practicing agroforestry since ERuDeF introduced this system of agriculture in Haut-Nkam where she is based. “I have received training on agroforestry practices particularly by using the forest garden model from ERuDeF. My output has increased significantly since i diversified my farm, fodder (usually acacia) helps in increasing soil fertility, some of the trees like “neem” are very medicinal and the wood is used as fuel for cooking. I sell surpluses from crops harvested and earn additional income. This allows me to pay my children’s school fees with ease. Am very grateful to ERuDeF and her partners for introducing this life-changing system of agriculture in my area”, said Mrs. Gahatchamgoue Grace.

Agroforestry
has proven to be a system which is not only ecologically friendly but also
economically sound. This is very evident in Haut-Nkam where most households
depend solely on agriculture. Soil fertility has been improved considerably
given the diversification of crops. Incomes of farmers just like that of Mrs.
Gahatchamgoue Grace has increased substantially.

The
environment and Rural Development Foundation will continue to give technical
training as well as financial assistance to farmers willing to adopt this
system of Agriculture not only in Haut-Nkam but all over Cameroon.

MBI midterm review meeting held: path covered in the first pilot phase of the life changing project, challenges and ways to overcome them

The midterm debriefing meeting for the first pilot phase of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI) project has taken place. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation, ERuDeF in Buea on Friday April 3, 2020.

The review meeting which took place in the presence of the CEO of ERuDeF, Louis Nkembi, consultant of the review, Mr.Atabong Alex, project manager, Deh Nji Hermann and local Community Based Organization (CBOs) representatives was aimed briefing ERuDeF on the findings in the field, the challenges and identification of gaps. Also in the menu of discussion was devising means of getting funding for the 15-year project.

Talking during the meeting the, the CEO of ERuDeF
gave an over view of the MBI. He underscored the importance of restoring the
Mount Bamboutos ecosystem functions after 3 decades of continuous degradation
resulting from human activities. The Mount Bamboutos, Louis Nkembi posited, “is
the third elevation in Cameroon after Mount Cameroon and Mount Oku,
respectively”. The mountain, he continued, “is the second watershed in Cameroon
after the Adamawa Plateau”, wandering what would become of rivers and streams
that depend on this towering watershed if left to be degraded by indiscriminate
human activities. 

The consultant of the the midterm review, Mr. Atabong Alex presented his findings gotten from the 16 villages where the MBI project is taking place. He appreciated the efforts made by ERuDeF and its local partners in making the project a success in the first pilot phase. He equally pointed out some shortcomings he witnessed during his field assessment of the project. Among these shortcomings are: poor database of trees nursed and planted, a lack of mastery of the project document of funding partners (TreesSisters, Trees for the Future and Darwin Initiative) by ERuDeF’s local partners (Green Impact, Operation Green Space and PEDER). Mr.Atabong lamented the fact that the database of farmers taking part in the MBI project is not reflective enough. He equally recommended that communication should be improved at the level ERuDeF hierarchy and the technicians in the field. Mr. Atabong also suggested that nursery attendants should equally ensure a good follow up of nurseries so that nursed trees should not wither off as the case of some nurseries.

As concerns the gender aspect of the MBI project Mr. Atabong appreciated the work done so far by the gender team of ERuDeF as close to around 31% of the women are fully taking part in the project. To him, if the present momentum is carried forward to the second pilot phase of the project, the gender aspect of the project would be achieved in no distance time. He appealed that more and more youths should be made part of the project, as the youths are still to be fully involved

As concerns the long term funding of the project, there was a general consensus that more avenues should be explored to get funds in order to ensure the sustainability of the project. Also, it was observed that local CBOs lack the capacity to produce quality financial and narrative reports as expected by the funding partners of the MBI project, despite the fact that they have been trained on reporting, by the project accountant and manager respectively. More so, financial reports are not always submitted on time by these CBOs, making pre-financing inevitable. This is because ERuDeF disburses money only after such financial reports are submitted on time with adequate receipts.

Local CBOs representatives

Mr. Atabong also appealed that more online exposure
should be given to the Mount Bamboutos project.

All in all the meeting ended in a satisfactory note
with the CEO of ERuDeF, Louise Nkembi urging every one involved in the MBI
project to do what was left undone in the first pilot phase of the project in
the second pilot phase of the project. He acknowledged that there would still
be challenges but such challenged would be dealt with if team work and
dedication is put into practice by every one involved in the MBI project.

It should be noted that the Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI) is a project for the restoration of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions of Mount Bamboutos in Western Cameroon. It is a joint initiative of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), Cameroon and the International Tree Foundation (ITF), UK in collaboration with the government of Cameroon. The Mount Bamboutos ecosystem by 1960 was one of the most biodiversity rich mountains in continental Africa. Due to indiscriminate human activities in and around the Mount Bamboutos, the mountain has undergone tremendous degradation in the last 3 decades, thus the need to restore its ecosystem functions.

Partners

Proposed zoning plan in the Mount Bamboutos area

The Mount Bamboutos area is a cosmopolitan environment characterized by varied land use patterns which generate conflicts between farmers and grazers, farmers and farmers and between villages. Also the population is facing a decrease of agricultural yields, a lack of water, erosion etc. To meet these needs, it is necessary to introduce and establish land use and effective governance systems for the Mount Bamboutos ecosystem.

Local development plans and council development plans are elaborated in these villages, but do not take into consideration all of the natural resources. These plans are oriented to social infrastructures (education, health, hygiene and sanitation). The objective of this zoning plan is to provide a tool to help take biodiversity and the ecosystem into account in land use planning by defining the different zones of intervention.
Specifically it was about:
 Identify and map the different land use types in a participatory manner
 Define the different allocations (Zones) of the land use types that are agroforestry zones, agricultural zones, and conservation / protection zones.
The land use types identified in the area are: sacred areas, rural agricultural, animal rearing (pastoral) and grazing land, water bodies, vegetation/forest, quarry, rural build up and transportation

Figure: Zoning map of Bamumbu, Bangang and Bafou

The land use types were grouped into 6 land use zones based on the consultation of local stakeholders and the ERuDeF’s restoration strategies. These are Protection / conservation zone, agroforestry zone, agricultural zone, pastoral zone, agro-industrial zone and infrastructural Zone
In Cameroon, the zoning that has been carried out relates only to the forest sector since 1993. Very few actions were carried out in the context of zoning in rural areas in a context of loss of biodiversity and degradation of natural resources. It was in 2011 that the law (n ° 2011/008 of 06 May 2011) on Land Management and Sustainable Development was enacted.
This Law, aims to integrate the management of national space within development policies, in order to give more visibility and method to land allocation; to balance the distribution of activities, infrastructures, equipment, services, and populations across

Training of farmers on nursery establishment on Mount Bamboutos landscape

The Forest Gardens Project II kicked off on March 2020, with the training and practical establishment of nurseries in each locality in Mount Bamboutos landscape. Nursery establishment is the preliminary stage of trees planting. Being a special site for the production and breeding of seedlings before planting, with its aim to obtain quality plants, i.e. lignified, capable of withstanding bad weather, from the moment of planting till the period of out planting. These nurseries were established in pots and bare-rooted.

Thus the populations together with all the Forest Gardens of Project II previously registered and grouped together were trained on the choice of the site of the nursery, the material necessary to set up the nursery, the pre-treatment of the seeds and the maintenance of a nursery. All this knowledge was put into practice with the creation of nurseries in Bamebim, Bamaka, Bamessuing, Batomenie, Bagading and Baladjeutsa villages between the 12th -20th March 2020, the populations. They have systematically planted trees that will serve for the future protection of their forest garden, namely Acacia (Acacia sp), Leuceuna (Leuceana leucocephala), Tephrosia (Tephrosia vogelii) and Pygum (Prunus africana). The commitment observed among the population gives hope that the forest garden project will be a complete success

Market Gardening: Target for Crime and Insecurity in Mt. Bamboutos Areas

Market gardening, that employs more than 80% of the rural population of  the Mt. Bamboutos area and contributes greatly to the country’s per capital income, has been causing social insecurity in the rural communities. These mal practices include nocturnal harvestingof crops on farms, stealing of farm inputs, burgling of storage houses for cash crops, and land conflicts. These practices stem from degraded agricultural soils, lack of wetland positions to cultivate during  dry seasons, livestock grazing, price hikes in farm inputs( such as fertilizers and manure) and poverty. These have led to a decline in production volumes (food insecurity), destruction of livestock, crops, houses, and loss of human lives in villages such as Nkongle, Pinyin, Mbelenka, Atsualah, Maghah,  Mbei, Njong, all at Mt. Bamboutos area.

Market gardening is a farming practice which entails the cultivation of highly perishable crops that are consumed and or transformed within a relatively short period of time. The farming system , which has been practiced since the 1980s and is now practiced in the Mt. Bambutous area, is responding to the decline in prices of coffee and the resulting economic crisis in Cameroon. It is practiced all year round mostly around the high lava plateau during the rainy season, as well as in wetlands, during the dry season. During the rainy season, market gardening is economical and less strenuous as it requires minimal inputs and labor. A major that attributes to less stress to market gardening during the wet season is the  availability of water for crops ; thus requiring farmers to not need watering cans, sprinklers, and water pumps or hired laborers. Due to this, most farmers participate in farming practices during this wet season. The dry season however, is characterized by intensive application of inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, and the use of genetically modified seedlings, to increase production alongside widespread use of irrigation waters. Consequently, only rich farmers are able to participate in farming during the dry season while those who cannot afford to are excluded from production and become vulnerable to crime. The communities involved in this farming practice include: Pinyin, Njong, Baligham,  Mmuock Leteh,  Fosimondi, Bamumbu, Santa Mbei and Lebialem at the Mt. Bamboutos area. Some market garden crops which are grown include; carrots (Dancus carrota), irish potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), cabbage (Brassica Oleraceae), Leeks (Allium porrum) and celery (Apian graviolens).

The farming system is highly beneficial to the livelihoods of the communities involved. Research shows that market gardens employ 80% of the rural populations on a yearly basis. It is mostly practiced by youths between 18-35 years of age. The committed communities in the farming practice have won major prizes in potatoes (first), carrots (first), and cabbage (second) amongst others during the 2011 edition of the National Agro-Pastoral shows in Cameroon. Production is executed in large quantities and sold all over the country, with some exported to many other countries in Africa. Examples of the latter are Irish potatoes which are exported to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.

Market gardening, being the most surviving farming practice in the area, has recently been regarded as a target for crime and insecurity of the 30000 people living in the area. This correlation is due to the high population density and the ongoing pressure on land. For instance, there are about 325 persons per km² in Mmuock Leteh, 295 persons per km² in Fosimondi, 385 persons per km² in Pinyin, and 305 persons per km² in Santa which have aggravated tension over land and opened confrontation between villages. It is important to note that insecurity in these areas is mostly caused by unemployed youths who act out their frustration, stemming from the economic situation of the country (unemployment rate of 9.3 per cent, underemployment rate 68.8 per cent) by participating in theft and the fight for farm lands. Thus, the high insecurity rate at Mt. Bamboutos is attributed to poverty.

Introducing Agro-forestry techniques will promote food security and employment, thereby economically sustaining at least 75% of market gardeners at the Mt. Bamboutos area.

15 year Project to Restore 35,000ha Degraded Mt Bamboutos Launched

One of the world’s pioneer environmental organisation, the International Tree Foundation and Cameroon’s leading conservation non-profit organisation the Environment and Rural Development Foundation in partnership with the Cameroon Government have launched a 15 year project geared towards restoring over 35,000 hectares of the degraded landscape of the Mt. Bamboutos ecosystem dubbed the Mount Bamboutos Initiative. … Read more

CaMUN Identifies Research Areas for Mount Bamboutos Initiative

The Cameroon Mountain University Network (CaMUN) has identified research thematic areas within the Mount Bamboutos Initiative (MBI). The research areas were identified, August 2018, during CaMUN’s maiden meeting in the University of Buea, which brought together researchers from the University of Bamenda, Institute of Research and Agricultural Development, University of Dschang, ERuDeF Institute of Biodiversity … Read more

ITF, ERuDeF Partner to restore 35000Ha Degraded Mt. Bamboutos in 15 Years

One of the world’s pioneer environmental organisation, International Tree Foundation (ITF) has joined forces with the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) to restore over 35,000 ha of the degraded landscape of the Mt. Bamboutos ecosystem through the planting of 15 million trees within the next 15 years. This move aligns with Cameroon Government’s 2017 … Read more