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Ecological Balance’s Project Births Two Sustainable Packaging Businesses in Cameroon

According to Cameroon’s Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, about 600,000 tons of plastic waste are generated in Cameroon every year. Most of these end up in the environment and if present trends continue, by 2050, plastic in oceans will weigh more than fish. Again, Cameroon spends over US$ 190 million on the importation of plastics annually (UN COMTRADE, 2018). Cognizant of this, Ecological Balance Cameroon launched a project for the production of sustainable packaging material in Cameroon in 2022.

With funding from the New England Biolabs Foundation (NEBF), the organization trained 12 youths in Buea, South West Region of Cameroon on how to use paper to produce packaging material, from August 30 to September 10, 2022. The intensive hands-on training saw the designing and production of over 14 different types of products including packaging for cosmetics, food, different shape & sizes of gift bags, gift boxes etc. The trainees were then encouraged to pull resources together and set up small businesses.

Few months after this training, four of the trainees launched two sustainable packaging businesses in Buea. These businesses include Advocate Packaging Ltd and Silver Lining Bags Inc.   Arrey Esther and two other trainees co-founded Advocate Packaging Ltd. “We were inspired by the need to improve the ecosystem and increase our earnings to start this enterprise.  ‘We do the work ourselves with the help of friends and family because we do not have the resources to employ labour force yet,” said Madam Arrey Esther, Co-Founder and CEO of Advocate Packaging Ltd.

 The Managing Director of Silver Lining Bags Inc. Mrs. Ngale, disclosed that the packaging sector in Cameroon has great potential.  “The packaging industry in Cameroon has great potential but great work also has to be done. We are ready and willing to employ young people but are careful to get the right people. We need to do a lot in the area of marketing also,” she noted.  Both business executives indicated that competition with cheaper plastic packaging material is still a challenge. According to them, the majority of the people are either not aware that plastics are bad for the environment or do not care.

By Limbi Blessing

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Ecological Balance Redefines Focus, Recruits News Staff to Enhance Conservation Goals

Ecological Balance Cameroon now has a new strategic mission, slogan and new staff that will contribute to enhancing the organization’s conservation goals in Cameroon. For the 2023 to 2027 strategic period, the organization would focus on “Providing Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change” instead of “Rebuilding Cameroon’s Forest Wealth Tree By Tree” like before. Its slogan has also changed from “Balancing conservation with livelihoods” to Redefining Nature Conservation.

These are some of the fallouts of the first Ecological Balance’s 2023 General Staff Meeting that took place on February 9, 2023 at the Organization’s Head Office in Great Soppo-Buea, South West Region of Cameroon. Another key change arrived at during this meeting was in one of the programmes of the organization; from “Forest Rewildling Programme” to “Nature Revamping Programme”. Meanwhile, a more aesthetically appealing logo was vetted for the Organization. New recruited staff like Climate-Smart Agriculture Project Assistant, Teboh George, and Forest Revamping Project Assistant, Kum Yanik, were equally introduced to the Organization.

By Limbi Blessing

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Sustainable Agricultural Land Use for Food Security and Climate Resilience

Agriculture represents more than half of Cameroon’s non-oil export revenues and employs almost 60% of the working population (World Bank, 2013). 90% percent of rural households in one way or the other, employed in agriculture and one-third of them sustain their livelihood from it. Agriculture through deforestation, use of chemicals and its other activities is one of the key drivers for greenhouse gas emission contributing to climate change. Conversely, vulnerability to climate change has had a devastating effect on livelihoods of farmers, increasing to food insecurity and malnutrition in Cameroon. Food security challenges still exist because; there is lack of industrialization in agriculture sector, lack of finance and resource support of smallholder farmers. Again, agriculture is left in the hands of poorly equipped rural farmers who suffer from lack of farm to market roads (7.2%), lack of storage facilities (4.8%), pest and disease (4.4%) and poor weather condition (3.2%) (WFP, 2018).

The civil society like others has to scale up agriculture production and increase food production by 60% to meet the increasing food demand. Dilemma; how do we scale up without significantly altering or harming nature (forests, soils etc).

Ecological Balance Cameroon through her Climate –Smart Agriculture Programme is committed to eradicating extreme hunger and poverty among smallholder farmers and vulnerable families in Cameroon by rejuvenating degraded lands with indigenous Forest Gardens. Pioneered by Trees for the Future Program, forest gardens encompass plant, animal & tree crop production while ensuring land optimization, increased food production & crop diversity, carbon sequestration. It also promotes biodiversity and generates consistent income for rural farmers.  The ear marked mega project is anticipated to include over 500ha of forest gardens across all agro-ecological zones of Cameroon, spanning 5years and including a seed bank and solar powered food processing unit. The project would achieve Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 12, 13 & 17.

By Teboh George

References, 2013

World Food Program, 2018

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Trees Planted to Restore Etome Water Catchment Register 95% Survival Rate

Up to 95% of the 4700 trees of the14 tree species, which Ecological Balance Cameroon and 35 volunteers planted to restore the Etome Water Catchment in Edenau, South West Region of Cameroon in November 2022 have survived. This survival rate was established following an evaluation visit to the Etome Village in March 2023 by some village representatives and the Ecological Balance team.

 The tree species planted for the restoration of this water catchment included Erithrina sp, Voacanga angolensis, Mahogany, Jacaranda sp, Acacia angutissima, leuceaner leucocephala, Bauhinia sp, Assemela, Erythropleum manni, Monodora myristical, Money tree, Militia laurentii, Bush mango and Plum. Some of these trees species are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. These trees were planted using the miyawaki reforestation method, with funding from The SUGi Project.

The Etome Water Catchment one of the surviving water sources in the West Coast area, which supplies the community and neighboring towns like Batoke, Ngeme and Bobende with potable drinking water, has been degraded by uncontrolled agricultural activities. Embittered by this, the Forest Management Committee President of the Etome village, Mola Ekwalla Samuel, reached out to Ecological Balance Cameroon, who immediately carried out feasibility studies and are currently engaged in restoring the water source.

 The Etome watershed is, therefore Ecological Balance Cameroon’s 8th miyawaki forest and the 4th funded by SUGi. Apart from recharging ground water, the forest will help in reducing CO2 from the atmosphere, provide habitats for biodiversity, conserve soil property and mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

By Njiafu Benardin

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Ecological Balance Nurses Over 48,000 Seeds of Indigenous Trees for Degraded Landscapes Restoration in Cameroon

Ecological Balance Cameroon has nursed over 48, 000 seeds of 15 indigenous tree species, between January and March, 2023 that will be used for revamping degraded forests in Cameroon. These seeds have been nursed at the Organization’s 25000 capacity tree nursery in Bomaka-Buea, SW Cameroon. The seeds nursed include endangered, water-conserving, timber, fruit and ornamental tree species like mahogany (Entandroprama anglolensis), sandbox (Hura crepita), common apple (Syzygium malacense), Ovengkeol (Guibourtia ehie),  Njangsa (Riccinodendron heudelotti), Bauhinea spp, Tali (Erythropleum manni), Irvingia spp, Acacia angutissima and Leuceana leucocephala.

“It is important to have high quality seedlings. So, we lay emphasis on everything along the growing chain; seed source and viability, nutrient requirements, potting timing, care for seedlings and even weather conditions,” the Operations Manager of Ecologicaal Balance, Mr. Njiafu Benardin, noted.

He added that “potting into polybags is done only in the early mornings; seeds with hard coat are placed in the non-mist propagator prior to nursing etc. There is alignment, tagging, weed management and a lot of time specific activities that we have learnt during a period of over 3years”. The Operations Manager disclosed that the trees would be planted out in batches to ensure that the set target is met.

Ecological Balance plans to nurse up to 100,000 seeds of 50 different Congo Basin rainforest tree species, to meet its target of growing over 50000 trees in 2023. This is in consonance with the fact that the Organization’s goals of improving access to clean water, improving tree diversity in community forest ecosystems, boosting production in agroforestry food system, ensuring sustainable livelihoods and mitigating climate are more or less centered around trees.

By Kum Yanik F.

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International Forest Day:  Ecological Balance Donates Tree Planting Material to GHS Buea Environmental Club

Ecological Balance Cameroon recently donated tree-planting material to the Environmental Club of Government High School (GHS) Buea. This was done within the framework of the 2023 International Forest Day 2023 commemorated under the theme: Forests and Health.

The donation of the tree planting material aims to support the Environmental Club GHS Buea in their tree planting activities. This gesture aligns with the goal of Ecological Balance Cameroon’s  SUGi Academy (SUGi being the Japanese equivalent for tree), which is dedicated to the training of tomorrow’s forest builders. The endeavor named after one of her funders, was initiated after children severally up rooted trees that were planted at their pioneer miyawaki forest.

‘’Children uprooting planted trees is a clear indication of the lack of awareness on the importance of trees to the environment’’ the ED stated. It is cognizant of this that Ecological Balance Cameroon took up the challenge to provide the much needed knowledge and skills about trees and tree planting to children. 

“Conservation education provides real life opportunities for early or childhood learning. It is not extra or more work, rather it is giving children the context on which to base their learning,” said the Executive Director of Ecological Balance, Madam Limbi Blessing Tata, shortly after the donation exercise.

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Ecological Balance Cameroon, Making Strides in Rewilding Etinde Community Forest

Ecological Balance Cameroon has since 2019 been engaged in rewilding community forests in Cameroon, with a firm belief in the prospects of community forestry in saving Cameroon’s portion of the Congo Basin Rainforest. With a specific focus on rewilding the Etinde Community forest in South West Cameroon from 2021-2024, the Organization has so far planted over 5000trees in patches of the forest hitherto depleted for farming activities.

After witnessing over 2/3 of rivers and streams in their community dried up, the local people came to the realization that trading watershed (forests) for farms would have a disastrous effect in the long run and invited Ecological Balance Cameroon to help them ‘’patch up’’ their watershed.

Mola Ndive, member of the Etome Reforestation Task Force explained that “reforestation is a parental duty, because how can the next generation survive without water”.

 Mr Ekwalla Samuel, a member of the Etinde Community Forest Management Council, noted that the continuous loss of forests to agricultural activities, fuel wood, and timber harvesting can only be curbed through community forestry. “With community forestry, each village is responsible for their portion of the forest, and we make sure they remain as natural as possible,’’ he added.

The Etinde Community Forest is part of a chain of protected areas within the Mt. Cameroon forest landscape. It is host to forest elephants, chimpanzees, drills, mandrills, Cameroon Preussi monkeys, Cameroon red-eared monkeys, Mt. Cameroon francoline and other amazing wildlife. This biodiversity hotspot has 175 globally threatened trees, 25 of which are critically endangered and 28 endangered. It rates second in Africa and 16th globally for threatened trees and within Cameroon, 15 of the country’s endemic trees are recorded from here. Community engagement galvanizes rewilding, ensuring long-term conservation of wildlife/habitats. It can also create employment and build a near-real-time system to monitor deforestation, especially illegal logging.

Community forestry is forest management in which forest adjacent communities manage and use forests, often with some form of legal authority to do so. It is primarily driven by local community benefits and ecological sustainability goals. In Cameroon, the concept was first brought in as part of the country’s new forest policy of 1992, whose two main objectives were to protect the environment & preserve natural resources and to involve the local peoples in the conservation and management of forest resources.

 This was based on the assumption that communities fully master their forests and can better manage them with the proceeds ploughed back for the development of the community with an aim to improve their living standards. In order to put these ambitious plans into effect, Law No. 94/01 of 20 January 1994 to lay down forestry, wildlife and fisheries regulations (the Forest Code) was approved by the National Assembly and enacted by the President. Limbi Blessing, the Executive Director of Ecological Balance, sees forests in Cameroon are natural Automated Teller Machines (ATM), which provide cash all year round through forest spices, nuts, fruits, tannins, herbs, etc. This means that community forestry can serve as a vital tool for decentralization, an efficient strategy for achieving sustainable resource management and poverty alleviation.

By Njiafu Benardin

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15 Young Cameroonians Acquire Skills on Plastic-Free Packaging Production

Ecological Balance Cameroon has built the capacity of some 15 young Cameroonians in Buea, South West Region of Cameroon on the use of paper to produce various packaging materials. This was during a 2-week-long  training workshop in Buea, from August 30 to September 10, 2022.

Plastic Waste Man

The workshop was organized as part of Ecological Balance’s commitment to develop sustainable value chains for non-wood tree products in Cameroon. The youngsters were trained and strategically positioned to provide packaging material for the many small businesses emanating every day. They were drilled on the production of different types of bags, boxes, and others.

Arrey Esther, one of the trainees, thanked Eco Balance for the “timely training workshop”. She expressed her desire to begin a packaging business with the skills acquired.

 According to the Cameroon Ministry of Environment Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development, about 600,000 tons of plastic waste are generated in Cameroon every year. Most of these end up in the environment, and if present trends continue, by 2050, the amount of plastic in oceans will outweigh the number of fish. Also, Cameroon spends over US$ 190 million on the importation of plastics annually (UN COMTRADE , 2018). By every means, we have to pave the way for a plastic-free future. one of the major challenges faced by small businesses in Cameroon is the lack of appropriate and affordable packaging material.

By Limbi Blessing Tata

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Ecological Balance Braces up to Introduce Black Soldier Fly Farming in Cameroon

Ecological Balance Cameroon is gearing up to start training local farmers in Cameroon on how to use Black Soldier Fly (BSF) to break down organic waste to generate farm inputs and proteins for animal feed, drawing inspiration from neighbouring Nigeria. BSF (Hermetia illucens) is a valuable insect species whose larvae have enormous potential for converting organic waste into compost, while the larval biomass generated could also be harvested for its protein and fatty acid content.

Ecological Balance Cameroon is working with Tobe Adegbite, the Founder/Director of a Nigeria-based organization, Entojutu Nigeria, to develop a model that would enable farmers to adopt the circular economy through BSF farming. According to Tobe Adegbite, the BSF farming is the way to go for both organic waste management and protein generation. ‘’Farmers that we have trained have had their expenditure on animal feed decreased by 20-40%. Others are able to break down over 400kg of farm waste in one month’’, Mr. Tobe asserted.

The Executive Director of Ecological Balance Cameroon. Ms. Limbi Blessing Tata, explained that the farm-specific model will involve the training of first the host institution Ecological Balance Cameroon (to serve as a seed bank) and then cohorts of farmers all over the Buea Municipality. “This would be followed by a three months mentorship period supervised by Ecological Balance, and 9 months period of upscaling during which each farmers cohort is expected to treat at least 400kg of solid waste per month,” she added. Meantime, Entojutu and Ecological Balance plan to source for better markets where 90% of the proceeds would go to the farmer and 10% to both organizations for sustainability. 

The coming of this project is expected to contribute to solving the problem of waste management in the Buea Municipality, and Cameroon as a whole. The Buea municipality is located on the Eastern slopes of Mount Cameroon with a population of about 300, 000 people.  Over 60% of the waste generated in this area is organic but the population has rather transformed roadsides into dumping sites; breading disease vectors, blocking the drainage, and polluting nearby water sources.

The quick development in the worldwide human populace and urbanization have prompted expanding requests for food creation and natural waste administration. As the requirements for nutritious food keep rising, it is basic to guarantee current and future food security, reduce waste generation, and promote sustainable farming that includes residue reuse and waste valorization. The use of the Black soldier fly an arising green innovation, addresses a tremendous potential in waste management. The fly can surprisingly decrease a wide variety of wastes and concurrently offer valuable animal or human feed and oil with high nutrient composition

  Limbi Blessing and Agborkang Godfred

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Ecological Balance Cameroon Trains Youths in Buea on Plantain Sucker Multiplication

 In the phase of increasing population, food prices, food insecurity, and youth unemployment, Ecological Balance Cameroon provided hands-on training on the botany and business of plantain sucker multiplication to some 6 youths in Bomaka-Buea. This experiential learning session, which brought together the young adults from different communities in Buea, September 8, 2022, sought to train those who will in turn transfer the skills to other youths in their communities.

The Executive Director of Ecological Balance Cameroon, Madam Limbi Blessing Tata implored the trainees to take advantage of various business opportunities that exist in the sector.

In Cameroon, especially in the southern regions, plantain farming is one of the major activities carried out on small and large scales for home consumption and commercial purposes respectively. The price of the cash crop has become exorbitant due to increasing population and scarcity of food.  ‘’At the Muea market in Buea, a bunch of plantain that was sold at FCFA 3,500 months ago, is now sold FCFA 6,000 or FCFA 6,500,” Mrs. Akeng Ruth, a Muea denizen said. The leaves of the cash crop, used locally in the preparation of delicacies like Achu, Koki, Kwacoco have also become expensive, with a bundle of 3 leaves costing FCFA 500, she added.  

Mr. N. Tipar, a student of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Buea, South West Cameroon, says he depends mainly on plantain suckers for his livelihood. ‘’I multiply and sell plantain suckers to farmers. I make about FCFA 2,400,000 ($4000) from plantain suckers every year. I also have a plantain farm where I planted over 1,500 suckers”, Tipar disclosed.

 Plantain, Musa paradisiaca (syn. Musa sapientum) is an herbaceous perennial belonging to the family Musaceae. It is a gigantic herb that springs from an underground stem, or rhizome, and grows to 3–10 tall with a sturdy pseudostem and large broad leaves arranged spirally at the top. The leaves are large blades with a pronounced central midrib and obvious veins. They can reach up to 2.7 m in length and up to 0.6 m in width. Each pseudostem produces a group of flowers from which the fruits (which are green to brown-yellow) develop in a hanging cluster(bunches). In commercial plantations, the parent plant dies after harvest and is replaced with a daughter plant.

Plantain is a zero waste plant, and income can be generated from all its parts. The suckers (roots) can be vegetatively propagated and sold, the pseudostem is used in the production of biodegradable pads, the fruits provide a staple food, the leaves are used in the preparation of other meals, and the flowers have been implicated in the traditional treatment of typhoid.

Plantains grow best in hot (>27°C ) and humid (>50% humidity) climates in soil that is well drained & aerated, rich in organic matter soil, with pH between 5.5 to 7.0, requiring rainfall of at least 1000 mm (39.4 in) per year and high light intensity. Plantains are grown mainly from suckers which are vegetatively propagated, and this has been explored as a business opportunity over the years.

After planting, frequent weeding is required until plants are tall enough to shade out competing plants. In about 12-15month after planting, the fruits which are in bunches can be harvested and can be eaten raw or ripened. The fruits can also be transformed to plantain chips, and or plantain flour, increasing the monetary value and shelf life.

By Agborkang Godfred E.         .