WHO WE ARE
Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) is an award-winning non-profit Cameroonian conservation organization established in 1999. ERuDeF has been working for over two decades across Cameroon and has significantly contributed towards restoring fragile Eco-system, regeneration of forest through plantation and agroforestry, conservation of biodiversity through wildlife habitat protection and protected area management, promoting environmental education, as well as empowering rural communities through innovative economic and livelihood development programmes.
ERuDeF’s success story in Cameroon
The birth and growth of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) is traced from the vision and focus of its founder, Louis Nkembi. Trained as young Agro-economist, after obtaining a degree in Biology from the University of Yaoundé, Louis got inspired by the vision of legendry economist, Prof. Aloysius Ajab to launch the Agriculture Sector and Environment Research Group (ASERG) in 1996. ASERG was later transformed to ERuDeF in 1999. In 1998, Louis barely five years old in Cameroon Public Service, quit his government job to start a non-profit career that enabled him build from scratch, an African non-profit organisation that culminated in the launching of ERuDeF UK in 2017. Louis understood very clearly that for such an initiative to be a success, he will need a closer attention and a comprehensive training. This urge encouraged him to undergo several other graduate level trainings in Wildlife and Protected Area Management and Forestry Administration in the USA.
When Louis launched his first ever conservation initiative, “The Lebialem Highlands Conservation Initiative”, in 2001, little did he know that this will turn out to be the exclusive brand for ERuDeF that will bring glory. With experience built up in the Wildlife Conservation Society, Louis understood that any long-term success for small non-profits will exclusively depend on the type and quality of partnership that ERuDeF leaders will engage in. Backed with this knowledge, ERuDeF leadership engaged in key partnerships in its early growth stage that included partnership with professional organisations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, Birdlife International, Fauna and Flora International, African Conservation Foundation, Tusk Trust and World Wide Fund for Nature. These early international partnerships were and have been crucial in the development and growth of ERuDeF from its infant stage.
The early engagement of the Cameroon government in ERuDeF has been a very strategic decision. The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has demonstrated its commitment to support the growth of ERuDeF. This was confirmed in its determination to ensure the creation of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Lebialem Highlands and currently several others under creation. Similarly, seventeen years down the lane, ERuDeF’s growth has rippled not only in Cameroon but equally in many African countries. In 2016, Louis Nkembi, President/CEO of ERuDeF was elected leaders of the newly found Alliance for Great Apes Conservation in Central Africa. ERuDeF is also taking the lead in many national conservation initiatives in Cameroon. Today, ERuDeF runs the pioneer Institute for the study of Applied Biodiversity Sciences in Cameroon and tropics. ERuDeF has also become the leading national conservation organisation in Cameroon and emerging as one of the leading indigenous conservation based ogranisation across Africa. From the experience built up in ERuDeF, the growth and success of any organisation depends on the vision of its leadership, strategic partnerships, steady leadership, long term commitment of its leadership, accountability, visibility and transparent actions and meeting international goals. All these and many more are some of the lessons learnt that can contribute towards the development of a meaningful non-profit organisation.
Translating theories into action
The world is witnessing an unprecedented decline in species numbers, habitat degradation and destruction caused by the extraordinary human pressure being manifested by civil wars, famine and poverty. The increasing composite nature of the human pressure is accelerating the destruction of the last globally threatened species and their last ranges and habitats. This is characterised by the increasing isolation of protected areas and biodiversity hotspots across all the continents of the world.
In Cameroon, the national non-profit organisation, ERuDeF has been leading since 1999, the battle to save the last threatened biodiversity species and their habitats throughout Cameroon. This initiative by ERuDeF is manifested through the saving of the last wild places for the critically endangered Cross River Gorillas in South-West region, Cameroon, the Western Lowland Gorillas in East, Cameroon, the world’s biggest frog in Littoral (mount Nlonako) and South-West (Mount Muanenguba), the endangered birds of Mount Bamboutos in Western Cameroon as well as the ecologically fragile ecosystems of Mount Bamboutos and the Adamwa plateau (ecosystems that supply over 90 percent of Cameroon’s water and energy), restoration of the endangered Microberlina bisulcata in the Mount Cameroon National Park.
While the role of international non-governmental organisations cannot be over emphasised in providing the overall lead in saving the last threatened species and wild places, their numerical strength as not been able to cause or stop this rapid continuous decline often leading to the local extinction like the case of the Rhinos declared to be extinct in 2011. In this backdrop, the role of the national conservation organisations as well as the impact cannot be neglected. As the leading national conservation organisation in Cameroon, ERuDeF has been lobbying with the government to realise the need to gazette more Protected Areas and provide more protection or restriction that will lead to the conservation of the last ranging species of Fauna and Flora.
ERuDeF is also at the fore front of a new initiative called, “The Cameroon Corridor Initiative”. This initiative seeks to link the increasingly isolated protected areas and biological areas and biological populations. Such initiatives include; the Tofala Mone Corridor, the Deng-Deng National Park, Dje Reserve Corridor. While protected areas and conservation corridors seek to provide benefit to the species and their habitats, the human population living adjacent to these areas, derive substantial benefits from the development of livelihoods and other community development initiatives being introduced in local communities by ERuDeF. These benefits are evident in the change of livelihoods and improved incomes of these communities. Statistics collected from Lebialem Highlands show that, over 400 bee hives installed by ERuDeF has improved livelihoods of the farmers by 65 percent, the palm oil sector, the farmers have had 13714.62 USD as their incomes in the last 2 years. Also out of over 40 women trained in local soap making, close to 30 now depend on it for the upkeep of their families., making an annual income of 1500 USD.