Saving Rainforests, Conserving Species, Impacting Lives

Deng Deng Conservation Corridor project

Deng Deng National Park-Belabo Council Forest Conservation Corridor Project, East Cameroon

ERuDeF will be supporting both the local communities of the corridor area and the Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife for Lom,  to create two Community Forest Reserves of respectively 5,000 ha and 4,588 ha, to preserve a vital corridor between Deng Deng National Park (DDNP) and Belabo Council Forest in Eastern Cameroon. This forested link is currently threatened by habitat loss from timber extraction and clearance for subsistence farming. The project is needed in order to preserve the forest habitat for a wealth of resident endangered species including but not limited to the Western Lowland Gorilla, Central Chimpanzee, African Forest Elephant and two species of Pangolins ( Giant and White bellied Pangolin). Whilst the forest is still relatively intact, a window of opportunity exists to preserve it against a trajectory of rapid forest conversion in the region.

Project Goal

The goal of the project is to preserve good quality forest habitats between two already existing protected areas (: Deng Deng National Park and Belabo Council Forest) for the maintenance and/or enhancement of suitable conditions for the movement of endangered species and prevent occurrences of inbreeding.  Specifically, this project will strengthen the management of the Deng Deng National Park by effectively managing the two community forests created via simple management plans developed in full consultation with the local communities and the local ministries as well as other stakeholders.

Project outcome

Two new community forest reserves will be gazetted as an outcome of the project along with the approval of two simple management plans. The impact of this will be to support continued survival of critically endangered and endangered fauna, prevent fragmentation of the forest blocks from southern Deng Deng National Park and improve conservation awareness and practices amongst local communities. Local communities will manage the benefits derived from the forest through sustainable harvest practices bounded by the management and business plans.

Time frame

The project is expected to be completed within a three year timeframe and funded by WORLD LAND TRUST

Project location

The project site is located in the East Region of Cameroon which occupies the Eastern portion of the country. The two Community Forest Reserves (CFRs) measure 5,000 ha (CFR 1) and 4,588ha (CFR 2). The Community forest 1 is located between longitudes 13°19’44.60’’ – 13°27’07.73’’East and latitudes 5°0’06.09’’ – 5°05’55.17’’ North and community forest 2 is located between longitudes 13°28’46.32’’ – 13°33’07.45’’East and latitudes 5°07’06.14’’  –5°12’57.47’’North.

The CFR 1are comprised of:

•        97,98 %  Mosaic Dense evergreen /secondary forest

•        0,4%Mosaic Shrubland/grassland

•        0,12% Grassland

•        1,48% Farmland

•        0,02% Barren land

The CFR 2 are comprised of:

•        96,93 % Mosaic Dense evergreen /secondary forest

•        0,07 % Built-up

•        0,34 % Mosaic Forest/shrubland

•        0,04 %Mosaic shrubland/grassland

•        2,57% farmland

Both proposed community forest are still relatively over 90% intact

The East region of Cameroon is the most sparsely populated region in the country with a density of only about 7 persons per square km (Diangha, 2015). The region is administratively partitioned into four divisions which include; Boumba-and Ngoko, Haut-Nyong, Kadey and Lom –and Djerem Divisions that supports a large stretch of Cameroon’s lowland rainforest, and humid wooded and grassland savanna ecosystems within its frontiers. The project is located within Lom –and Djerem division and is closest to the Belabo Council Area and their respective villages. The indigenous population in these villages within/adjacent to the project site and DDNP belongs to four ethnic groups being Kepere, Bobolis, Pols and Deng Deng (Belabo Council Development Plan, 2012). The Bobolis are the most dominant ethnic group. Culture and tradition of the ethnic groups in the region are closely linked with the forest for traditional medicines and exploitation of natural resources. The use of natural resources is regulated by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. Immigration to the region has also brought people from Bamoun, Betis, Bassa,Gbaya  ,Hausa, ethnic groups as well as including the refugees from Central Africa Republic. Like the indigenous population, these incoming migratory groups are also dependent on the natural resources within the project area for their livelihood.

The land use pattern in the area comprises of permanent and non-permanent state forest. Permanent forests are forests own by the state and in this project area, they include Forest Management Unit (FMU) 10-065, Deng Deng National Park and the Belabo Council Forest. On the other hand, the non-permanent forests are owned and managed by the local communities. In this project area the non- permanent forests include community forests, community lands and the community hunting zones.

The management of these forest areas are classified as follows:

FMU-10-065: This is a production forest manage by economic operator in collaboration with the state and local communities mainly for the exploitation of timber for commercial purposes. They also contribute to the development of communities adjacent to the concession based on the management plan, signed and agreed by the state.

Deng Deng National Park: This is a conservation land set aside by the state for the conservation of biodiversity. This process is usually supported by national and international organizations. The area is managed by the state in collaboration with the local communities based on the management and business plans developed for the long term management of the area. A Conservator and a team of Eco guards appointed by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife are in charge of management and regulation of natural resource use. At the level of the communities, Village Forest Management Committees (VFMCs) are put in place for collaborative management.

Belabo Council Forest: This is a communal land set aside and managed by the council with respect to a defined management plan or management agreements with clearly defined objectives

Community forest: this is a non-permanent state forest created by the communities in collaboration with the state, local and or international organization. This forest is strictly managed by the communities them-self in compliance with the simple management plan. The management of this area is strictly based on the objectives assigned to the community forest.

Community land: this is a state land manage by the community headed by a chief in collaboration with the state. The community land can be used for agriculture, fishing, construction etc. Land is acquired through heritage, donation, purchase and lease. There is no specific management technique for community land. Agricultural practices in the area comprises of slashed and burnt, fallow and shifting cultivation. Agriculture is done without the use of fertilizer. Fishing in this area is done periodically and is mostly during the dry seasons when the water levels are low.

Land use: 100% of the land within the proposed CFRs is within Cameroon’s non-permanent state forest. People are able to use the land for farming and local housing without any major restrictions.

Biodiversity of Project area

This project area ( Deng Deng-Belabo Corridor) is a refuge for important fauna community in the East Region. The area is home to at least 40 species of large mammal(Diangha,2015)  Among the species, the most northern population of western lowland gorillas inhabit this area and occurs at higher density than in most sites in the East Region of Cameroon (Ambahe et al. 2011). A population survey conducted around the project area revealed that   more than 300 western lowland gorillas and 600 chimpanzees live within the National Park (Ambahe et al. 2011, Stautner and Delaney 2011). The area also harbours many water dwelling mammals, hippopotamus and swamp otter which are rare species in Cameroon (Fotso et al. 2002).  In addition to mammals, sixty species of fish belonging to 16 families and mostly Mormyridae and the Cyprinidae are common in the Lom and Pangar Rivers (COTCO 2012). The park host three important bird species namely the African gray parrots, Bates’swaever and Grey- necked rock fowls. The forest flora is however, dominated by commercially valuable Triplochiton scleroxylon, which are heavily targeted for exploitation throughout their range in the east region. Some other important economic plant resources present in the park include; Entandophragma cylindricum, Terminalia superba, Entandophragma utile, Erythrophleum suaveolens, Eribroma oblonga, Guarea cedrata, Pterocarpus soyauxii, Xylopia aethiopica, and Enantia chlorantha.

The biophysical environment of the area is described by its characteristics climate, relief, vegetation types, hydrology with an annual rainfall of 1500 to 1600 mm (COTCO 2011, GVC 2007). The area features a typical equatorial and humid climate (Fotso et al. 2002) defined by the rainfall regime with a mean annual temperature of 23° C. Seasonal pattern in the park area is characterized by distinct but unequal dry and wet season periods.

(COTCO 2011, Fotso et al. 2002). All these features have led to the enriched ecology of the area with diverse animal and plant species. Availability of water in the area is highly influenced by climatic variability and precipitation. Rivers and streams in the park are fed by rainfall and seasonal runoff during the wet season but experience drop in level, decrease in area or go dry during the dry season. Muyual, Mbanpkwa, Mbactoua, Mbibetana are main water sources flowing throughout the year, supplying water to downstream population living around the park. These streams discharge into River Lom, which eventually empty in the Sanaga River

The presence of forest savanna transition zones especially makes the target area flora unique with both savanna and forest species co-existing as the forest transitions into savanna and vice versa. The uniqueness of the flora of the area is further expressed by a small expanse of rock outcrops   that support plant species unique to this habitat type.

This makes the area an important refuge for many animals and plants. The project will focus on threatened species such as,

•        Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) Endangered –

The western lowland gorillas in the DDNP, numbering 400-600 constitute the most northern range of these gorillas in Cameroon and if not linked to populations further south, this subpopulation may disappear in the longer term from inbreeding.

•        Central Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes troglodytes): Endangered

•        African Forest Elephants (Loxondontaafricanacyclotis): Vulnerable

•        Giant Pangolin (Smutsiagigantea): Endangered                          

•        White bellied Pangolin (Phataginustricuspis): Endangered

•        Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx): Vulnerable.

•        Leopard (Pantherapardus): Vulnerable

•        Sitatunga (Tragelaphusspekii): Near Threatened

•        Bongo (Tragelaphuseurycerus): Near Threatened

•        Forest Buffalo (Synceruscaffer): Near Threatened

Main environmental threats in project area

  1. Lack of good governance: The presence of porous government of Cameroon forestry and wildlife policies in the region have granted permission of hotly contested open bush meat markets in the region. This has led to the high demand of bush meat in the area.
  2. Population influx: The presence of Economic Operators and external development bodies such as Cameroon Oil Transportation Company (COTCO), Electricity Development Cooperation (EDC), refugees from Central African Republic as well as forestry exploitation companies have together led to a seasonal influx of people into the project area.
  3. Forest conversion to farm: This has cause encroachment in the forest and the conversion of forest into farmlands. More so communities lack knowledge of improve agricultural techniques so they tend to move to new lands for cultivation abandoning the old farms (shifting Cultivation).
  4. The construction of roads by clearing and opening of large forest tracks and construction of settlement camps for workers has also led to severe biodiversity losses.

Un-rational fishing: Fishing is being done seasonally using unsustainable method with small net sizes that collect even the young fish. The different methods used are; hooks, bottom set gillnets and basket traps.

  • Increased exploitation of timber resources both for commercial and local consumption is also exerting pressure on the area.
  • Suppressed and marginalized local economy. This is of very serious concern and the principal driver behind rampant and rapid forest conversion to farms and poaching given that locals earn less than 1USD per day. Addressing the drivers of the suppressed economy and poverty will substantially address the major threats to conservation in this conservation complex.

All of the above threats exist to some degree in the actual project sites and threaten to increase fragmentation of the forest blocks linking DDNP to Belabo Council Forest.  Without providing an urgent solution to protecting the DDNP – Belabo corridor, endangered species within the NP including over 400 western lowland gorillas and greater numbers of other IUCN Red list species (chimpanzees, elephants, etc) may encounter difficulties in migrating southwards to other protected forests contributing to the occurrence of inbreeding and potentially leading to increased human – wildlife conflicts.

Furthermore, the cycle of poverty in the villages associated to the proposed CFRs has led to increased exploitation of forest resources. Local people harvest wildlife species such as Pangolin, duikers,Red River Hog and to a smaller extend apes, as a source of protein in their diet and also for commercial purposes to increase house hold income. Timber species are harvested for commercial purpose, construction and furniture. Non timber forest products such as Vocanga Africana are also harvested in an unsustainable fashion.

Long term goal of project

The project seeks to maintain continuous forest cover from DDNP through to Belabo Council Forest and thereby facilitating continued dispersal of key wildlife populations to prevent inbreeding. In the long term, the project aims to catalyze further action within the wider Deng-Deng – Dja corridor and offers alternative income sources to local communities in order to create incentives for conservation and prevent further forest degradation in key corridor areas. The proposed project will contribute to this by empowering local communities to manage their forest resources in a sustainable manner bringing income to communities from sustainable harvest and sale of forest products and improving their capacity to capitalize on other opportunities as they arise. The development of simple management plans and specific training within the communities will help achieve this goal. ERuDeF will simultaneously seek further finance from other organizations and government to realize this vision.

Two community forests will be created under this project, the first measuring 5,000 Ha and the second measuring 4,588 Ha.