[one_third][/one_third]There has been increasing recognition that gains in conservation efforts have not been matched with access to sources of livelihoods by communities adjacent to protected areas. This disparity waters down efforts at guaranteeing quality conservation.
By Che Azenyui Bruno
In the rural regions of Cameroon, livelihood sources are closely linked to bio-diversity hot-spot. Farmers, hunters, trappers, timber exploiters, herbalists depend heavily upon the resources that the forests offer. Although there may be need to conserve endangered wildlife species, there is often drastic contrast in the economic wellbeing of communities living in those bio-diversity hotspots, especially those adjacent to protected areas. The economic component of the communities is a major factor that limits conservation efforts. Therefore, improving the economic status of communities adjacent to protected areas should be the priority of conservation programmes.
ERuDeF through Man & Nature’s Net Positive Impact (NPI) project has engaged in providing alternative livelihood to small scale farmers, hunters, and trappers who before the gazettement of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in 2014, depended on the forest for their subsistence.
“I used to be a hunter and a trapper to earn a living for my family. But thanks to ERuDeF initiated projects around the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS), I denounced hunting for pig rearing and today my family is better off…….even when I went for hunting I was not sure of a daily harvest.” says Chief Fonkwetta Denis A.
Chief Fonkwetta recalls that at times his children would miss part of the academic year due to lack of money following a bad hunting season. But now all that belongs to history.
The Chief says after benefiting from ERuDeF training and receiving pigs, one of the pig’s delivered five piglets.
“I sold four of the pigs and paid school fees of my children with ease. We left one pig to grow, and now the mother pig is once again pregnant,” says Chief Fonkwetta.
In addition, Fonkwetta benefited from ERuDeF training on bee farming where he currently has a small apiary.
“During a monitoring process and a test harvest organized by ERuDeF’s Livelihood Programme, my apiary gave me seven liters of honey and a small quantity of bee wax, an indication of a good harvest during harvesting season,” says Chief Fonkwetta.
[one_half][/one_half]The Chief’s and his wife were also trained on soap production. They now produce soap and sell in the village markets.
“All these have boosted my standard of living and to be sincere, I see no gain going to the forest for hunting,” Chief Fonkwetta states.
Chief Fonkwetta is the President of the Fossungu Village Forest Management Committee (VFMC), and the executive adviser of the Fossungu unit of the Alou Tofala Cooperative Society.
“All these coupled with the training I received from ERuDeF as a member of the VFMC, have encouraged me to abandon hunting. At first I did not understand the meaning of conservation and its importance to future generations but now I can say I am a conservation ambassador of my village,” Chief Fonkwetta says proudly.
Meanwhile, more women in communities around Tofala have engaged in local soap production and sales thanks to the skills they acquired from different ERuDeF training programs.
Twenty-nine thousand fruit trees and other NTFP’s species have also been planted in the buffer zones of the sanctuary and around water catchment points to revive dried water sources.
Reports from the Southwest Regional Delegation of Basic Education, performance in General Certificate Examinations have greatly improved from 96.44% in 2014 to 99.3% in 2015 thanks to the textbooks that were donated to 20 primary schools.
Reports from head teachers indicate an increase in the quality of lessons delivered, classroom participation as well as increase in the quality of classroom examinations. Principals of the 12 secondary schools who received textbooks in their libraries have expressed immense progress in student assignments and end of term results
According to Enokenwa Tabi Allen, Manager of the Governance Component, there has been a remarkable decline in human pressure within the sanctuary. He praised the efforts of the team in educating the community through its different educational programs and networks such as: the wildlife advocacy week, the Lebialem Environmental Education Association, projection of environmental films and rain forest expeditions with the youths and adults of the adjacent communities.
The ERuDeF and Man & Nature alliance accentuates the fact that their goal is concerned with reducing human pressure on the habitats of protected wildlife species through provision of alternative livelihood sources.