Sensitization on the ‘real’ value of forest
Forests are home to millions of species and many communities depend on them. Forests provide goods and services; timber, non-timber forest products, climate change mitigation, purify air, provide a stable microclimate etc. Thus, it is an error for any forest to be valued mainly by the timber it produces.
Forests in Cameroon are extremely rich in spices, nuts, fruits, tannins, herbs etc (non-timber forest products), which serve as a main source of income for especially rural women. In fact, the market value of 45 (out of over 710) of such non-timber forest products is estimated at US$1.028 billion annually.
As such, we sensitize forest adjacent communities on the ‘real’ value of forests through meet the people talks, community radio programs, television and by the use of posters. We reach out to at least 5000rural people every year.
Developing value chains for non-timber forest and agricultural products
Women, who are the main harvesters of non-timber forest resources, currently make very little profit from them. This because they are sold ‘raw’ or without any form of value added to them. Adding value/processing has the potential to increase profit margins by 150-400%. Through our project Irvingia, we train women to process non-timber forest and agricultural products to ready-for-consumption and essential house hold goods; extract essential oils from seeds, fragrances from flowers, processing spices (seeds) to ready to use powders, processing forest fibres to implements, extracting dyes from seeds, leaves & barks, processing medicinal plants to tinctures etc.
So far (as of June 2020) we have trained 61 women from forest dependent communities on how to process forest and agricultural products into semi-finished and finished goods. We also trained them on the proper packaging and marketing of such products. In order to ensure continuous flow of raw materials, we have also trained them on the domestication of forest products by the process of forest gardening.
We are also establishing community production units as well as a cooperative to respectively process and market natural products. These are run by rural women.
Providing entrepreneurship training for unemployed youths
Unemployed youths readily go into the forest to ‘hustle’. Hustle here means many things ranging from illegal timber harvesting to bush meat hunting and the use of fire for the harvesting of wild honey, which most often leads to the burning down of entire forest ecosystems. From this view point therefore, Eco Balance provides training on how to start up small environmentally friendly businesses that require their full attention but little seed capital. The goal is to get their hands full such that they do not have time for forest hustling and to produce the next batch of green entrepreneurs in Cameroon.
We trained 11 youths who today run soap businesses (liquid and bathing soap), energy drink, recycling of cloth waste into accessories etc.
Regenerating wild & native forests
Cameroon includes circa 10% of the Congo Basin forest, the second largest tropical rain forest in the world. Although the country is still forested, there is a continuous loss of natural forests (about 30ha/hour). This high rate of deforestation has led to loss in biodiversity, income from forest products, and water scarcity among others. We are committed to regenerating Cameroon’s unique forest.
As such we run a 25,000 capacity tree nursery that supplies trees to reforestation projects. So far (June 2020), we are growing two Miyawaki forests of 600 and 3000 trees respectively at water catchments within the Buea Municipality in order to mitigate her over two decades long water crisis.
Promoting sustainable living
Inspired by ‘waste minimisation’, Eco Balance is enabling communities to put a place series of practices intended to reduce the amount of waste produced. Waste minimization supports efforts to promote a more sustainable society. Within this perspective, we are developing a series of sustainable and affordable products including cloth pads.
Conservation of Threatened Species & Ecosystem
Many ecosystems on earth are under serious threat. One of them, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has stated that mangroves are one of them. This is so true for Cameroon where every day, about 7ha of mangrove forests are cut to meet timber and fuel wood demands.
On the other hand, some prominent species are globally threatened with extinction. For such species, if action is not taken now, they might be completely wiped off the earth soon. An example of such is the critically endangered Microberlinia bisulcata which is endemic to the low land forest of Cameroon.
We are conserving these by creating value around them.