Nature conservation, a myth?

Beaches all over the world have this 2019 recorded more people than ever before seeking to cool off from increased heat waves all across Europe, glaciers ‘disappeared’ from Alaska and, for the first time, the Amazon rainforest considered “lungs of the Earth,” registered 74,000 fires with species going extinct 1,000 times faster.

Flaming Amazon, not given much-needed attention

These have made one question whether current efforts are enough to save the earth;  Who has the mandate to conserve nature?  and if the numerous Protocols & Agreements mean anything to the local and indigenous population, who have no form of formal education but yet can be instrumental in saving the forest?

Unfortunately, ‘despite extensive institutional arrangements and vast legal instruments on conservation, there has been a decline in biodiversity on the one hand, and an increase in the impoverishment of biodiversity-dependent people on the other hand.

Is there any political will to conserve nature? A friend once said that media is in love with politics; when the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire earlier this year, many media outlets reported live from the scene till the fire was put out. They said ‘it is a historical structure’. Is the Amazon forest not as historic?  ‘If everyone sweeps in front of their door, the world would be clean’.

By Limbi Blessing

Ecological Balance Embarks on Stamping out Poverty for Natural Resources Conservation

Exhibition of some items produced during training workshop

A Buea-based Cameroonian non-profit organization, Ecological Balance has empowered some 36 youths and rural women within the Buea Municipality to combat poverty and reduce dependence on natural resources. The youths and women, predominantly from the Apostolic Church of Cameroon Bomaka, for four days received training on graphics design and T-shirts production and the transformation of agricultural products like cassava into cassava flour or powder & biogas; Cocoa into chocolate, mambo and Ovaltine; plantain & potatoes into flower, flowers into spaghetti and others. They were also schooled on the production of mayonnaise, soap, omo, cocoa oil, hair oil and shoe polish production.

Organised within the framework of the Irvingia project, the training, according to the Executive Director of Ecological Balance, Limbi Blessing Tata, is in consonance with the goal of the organization to reconcile conservation with livelihoods. “We believe that conservation must have a social face. We are conserving as humans that is why we did a power mapping of the causes of the unsustainable use of natural resources and found out that one of them is livelihoods. The people do not have sustainable sources of livelihoods and we are saying that as long as the youths are unemployed, as long as poverty remains a major threat in the community, conservation is still a façade,” she elucidated.

Ms Limbi explained that she intends to reduce the number of youths and women going into the forest or destroying nature in the name of making a living by raising the next generation of green entrepreneurs. “Our aim is to produce 15 green entrepreneurs per year such that in the next 5 years, we should have groomed 75 green entrepreneurs in Cameroon,” she said.

The four-day workshop imparted youths and women in Bomaka. “I have learnt a lot; I have learnt how to produce mayonnaise, spaghetti, medicated soap and many others. This will help me save the money I use to use in buying these things and use on other stuff. This is because I will produce them myself instead of going to buy. I will also teach my sisters and neighbours, who are basically doing nothing, the things I have learnt here,” one of the women at the training, Abu Mary Jane, testified.

Another participant, Timah Jude, took interest in T-shirt production and promised to take up a profession in that domain.

Participants pose with Executive Director (in green), after workshop

On his part, the Irvingia  Project Coordinator, Enama Albert, said the organization intends to go beyond just the training to mentoring those interested in each of the training areas.  “We intend to help those of them who are interested in taking a profession from any of the areas of training like the T-shirt products & graphics design and transformation training to another level. We intend to link the trainees to the trainers to mentor them in their respective areas of interest between six months and one year,” he stated. He added that the organization will not leave the trainees at the level of training and production but will make sure that they get a market for them so that they don’t only produce, but can produce and market.

BY NDIMUH B. SHANCHO

Deforestation, Destroying Cameroon’s Magical ATM machines

Cameroon’s natural ATM Machine going….. (photo credit: Voice of Nature News)

Forests in Cameroon are like a magical Automated Teller Machine (ATM) providing cash all year round through forest spices, nuts, fruits, tannins, herbs etc. to Cameroonians, most 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.

Unfortunately, this gold mine is being lost to deforestation. Averagely, about 30ha of forest are lost in Cameroon per hour. While many see this as inducing climate change, to forest dependent people, it is the loss of a permanent repository of wealth and long standing savings deposit from many generations.

Women, who are the main harvesters of these non-timber forest resources, currently make very little profit. This is because the quantities have greatly reduced (due to deforestation) and also 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%. For example, Country onions (seeds of Afrostryrax lepidophyllus) are often sold partially dry at about 10XAF each (0.017 USD). if  they are dried to 5% or less moisture level, crushed to powder and packaged, a pack (of 2 crushed seeds) would be sold at 100XAF (0.17USD). It would cost 35-65XAF (depending on type of packaging) to add this value. Also, with the powder sealed in the pack, it can be stored for a longer period.

A Cameroonian non-profit organization, Ecological Balance Cameroon, through a project dubbed Irvingia, (named after the bush mango; seeds of Irvingia spp, which is one of the most marketable forest products in Cameroon) is working on a local people centered, livelihood fueled forest conservation scheme that will train women to add value to/process forest products and hence generate substantial income. This would motivate these women and their families to protect the forest. The pilot phase of the project will commence in March 2019 in some communities around the Mbembe Forest Reserve in Ako, Donga Mantung, North West Region of Cameroon.

The Mbembe Forest Reserve was created in 1934 by virtue of its species richness and biological diversity including the Nigerian-Cameroon Chimpanzees, many species of monkeys (Cercopithecus spp), the Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), Bell’s Hinged Back Tortoise (Kinixys belliana), Rock Python (Python sebae), Royal Python (Python regius), Graceful Chameleon (Chamaeleo gracilis), Nile Monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus), Forest monitor lizard (Varanus ornatus ), Bush baby (Potto sp) etc.

Through this project, women will be trained to process honey wax to face creams, herbs to medicine, forest fruits to jams and jelly, nuts to nut bars etc. Forests can best be conserved by people who live adjacent to it and if it contribute to their livelihood. The Irvingia project therefore sets out to make local people understand the wealth potential of forests through documentaries, exhibitions, theatre, forest expeditions, bird watching etc. Games will also be introduced, through which youths will learn about the forest in a fun way, practice what they learn (tree planting, cleaning water bodies, develop green business plans etc) and during inter-village competitions, pitch their products & ideas and win prizes.

Just like each of the over 3 million ATMs in the world runs on high level security and used cash is always replenished, so too does our ‘magical ATMs’(the forest) need high security in the form of village level forest patrols & crackdowns and replenishment in reforestation activities which can be fueled through improved livelihoods. ATMs provide paid services, let’s pay our dues.

By Limbi Blessing Tata,

Botanist/Executive Director, Ecobalance Cameroon

 

First published in Voice of Nature News: www.voiceofnaturenews.info 

Towards zero Menstrual Wastes: Ecological Balance Recommends Eco-Friendly Alternatives

                                                   ecofriendly cloth pad

The Executive Director of Eco Balance (a Cameroonian non-profit organization), Ms Blessing Limbi, has urged women and young girls in Cameroon to adopt healthier and eco-friendly menstrual pads like cloth pads and cups.

Speaking to Voice of Nature News recently, Ms Limbi disclosed that the menstrual pads used by most women and young girls today increase menstrual wastes, which have negative effects on the environment.  “A woman in her menstruation lifetime generates up to 150kg of disposable sanitary waste and most often, they are disposed in plastic bags.  One disposable pad takes up to 800years to decompose in landfill. Again, burning them releases dioxins and furans, some of the most deadly toxins known to science into the atmosphere,” she explicated.

Besides the negative effects the pads used today have on the environment, the Eco Feminist said they are costly with associated unhealthy implications.  “From an economic view point, a woman in Cameroon for example spends at least 500XAF (0.88 USD) on disposable pads every month. Health wise, disposable pads are often bleached with chlorine, which produces cancerous dioxins and many women experience allergic reactions when using them due to synthetic substances,” Ms Limbi explained.

As to the feasibility of the cloth pads and cup alternatives, she hinted that they are comfortable and sustainable.

As a build up to the 2019 World Menstrual Hygiene Day, her organization will train local tailors on how to produce cloth pads that are comfortable, affordable, beautiful and good for the body & the earth. Workshops to illustrate how they are used have also been planned.

‘It is a win-win for all’ she said. ‘Income for local tailors, savings for women/girls and spare the land the stress’. According to her, statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and the World Population Prospects, at least 6Million women and girls in Cameroon are of menstruation age. Everything being equal, if we all adopt eco-friendly menstrual practices, we will spare this land at least 30,000 tonnes of menstrual waste annually.

She implored women and young girls to take responsibility of their menstrual wastes, even as they look forward to celebrating this year’s edition of World Menstrual Hygiene Day, come May 29, 2019.

The Executive Director revealed that this is part of her organization’s work towards inducing zero waste in local communities. The zero waste concept of living according to her, goes beyond just segregate – reuse – reduce – recycle. “It incorporates principles of effective human and material resource utilization to avoid the conversion of discards into waste in a manner that revitalizes the local economy. It is all about ethics, efficiency and responsibility”.

 

First published by Voice of Nature News: www.voiceofnaturenews.info