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

Promoting sustainable Agriculture through Forest Gardening

The Cameroon Forest Garden  project is supported by  TREES FOR THE FUTURE (TFTF) and implemented by  Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in Cameroon. It aims to improve food nutrition and income security of  poor farmers through the restoration of degraded agricultural lands and optimization of smallholder farmers’ land. This  approach has  improved soil quality, increased food production, enhanced food security, and generated adequate fuel wood, fodder, fruits and medicinal plants. The project sites for 2019 were Mt Bamboutous Landscape (Bamboutos, Lebialem, Menoua and Mezam Divisions), Western High Plateau Landscape (Haunt-Nkam, Haut Plateau, Nde and Noun Divisions) and Nlonako – Muanenguba Landscape (Nkongsamba and Nlonako Divisions).

 A total of 660 farmers were mobilsed and trained on the various aspects of forest gardening with the successful planting of 1,860,146 trees accros the three landscapes. A total of 771   forest gardeners were registered.  The formation of cooperatives was an essential component of the forest garden approach with 57 local groups registered and 7 cooperatives are under the process of creation.  To cater for farm products, farmers field were more diversified through the introduction of multiple crops such as vegetable, maize, beans, plantain, pear, plum, Moringa, Neem, Prunus, cassava, coffee, cocoa. More diversified farms ensured food , nutrition and income security

Mr.  Keuneu Joseph  Alias Masa Yo is a model  forest gardener in Bana. He was delighted to share his journey with the agroforestry model of agriculture. “Some years back, I used to buy inorganic fertilizers and  pesticides to use in my farm with low yields that were not encouraging. I learned  about planting fertilizer trees to improve my poor soils. I will never forget Sorel from ERuDeF who taught me practically what to do. I followed her lessons keenly and today the situation is very encouraging. My harvest is bumper. I sold the surplus agro-produce at the local market. Besides the fertilizer and medicinal trees in my farm, I have been cultivating cocoa, coffee, pepper, vegetables, bananas, yams, cocoyams.   I often use the branches of fertilizer trees as stakes and fuel wood and use the leaves and twiggs as organic mulch and fertilizer. Since my farm is on a slope, I planted acacia on the hedges to reduce soil erosion during the rainy season. Last year, I earned about  200,000 FCFA from selling only chili pepper in the local market. I have also prepared my bee hives to install in the farm. The honey bee will feed from acacia and Leucianae flowers and other flowering plants in my garden. I am very grateful to the staff of ERuDeF for giving me such invaluable skills”.

The way forward for this project is to mobilise, register and train additional farmers in the landscapes with a vision to further capacitate the farmers and upscale the model of forest gardening being promoted by ERuDeF.

Small-holder Farmer with Entrepreneurial Mindset Embraces Forest Garden Practices in Bakassa, Haut-Nkam Division

Nitcheu Jean Baptiste, a small holder farmer in Bakassa, passionate about agriculture, has achieved prosperity from his farm since he adopted Forest Garden practices.

Forest gardening is a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agro forestry system on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans.

TREES FOR THE FUTURE, in partnership with ERuDeF (Department of Agroforestry), have introduced the Forest Garden Model across all landscapes they work in, within Cameroon. The purpose is to plant trees that will help in restoration and environmental conservation, increase food crop profits and income levels of smallholder farmers. Bakassa is a community in one of this landscapes in which framers are practicing the Forest Garden system of farming.

Nitcheu Jean, one of these farmers implementing this practice, grows crops such as maize, beans, cocoyams, vegetables, tomatoes, spices, fruit trees (pear, passion fruit), acacia, leucaena  and neem, on his farm. All of which, he aligns in a pattern that suits the forest garden model. His farm is a perfect example of what this model resembles.

Being passionate about Agriculture with an entrepreneurial mindset, Jean Baptiste uses plastic cups to nurse tomato cuttings.

I use white plastic cups to multiply tomato cuttings. Usually, I cut the cuttings, dip them in water, put them in plastic cups and cover with white plastic. After two weeks, I transplant the tomato cuttings. I also perform the same practice for pepper but the difference is that I nurse the seeds directly into the plastic cup“, said Nitcheu Jean-Baptiste.

We’ve discovered that this method is economical as people demand tomatoes /pepper throughout the year”, He added.

The major challenges he encounters are those of pests (insects) that destroy crops and as well as the lack of consistency in water supply.

This practice serves as a source of income as he generates healthy profits from it. Mr. Jean Baptiste gains additional income from pears, bananas, passion fruit, spices, beans, maize, coco yams he has on his farm. Medicinal trees such as Acacia aid in improving soil fertility and retaining water content on his farm, thus increasing productivity.

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