Forests serve as homes to biodiversity species, improve air, and suck carbon from the atmosphere amongst others. However, growing urban forests can be quite challenging especially when people are blind to the magic forest (trees) play in the environment.
Statistics show that Cameroon losses an estimated 30ha of natural forests every hour. This is mainly due to timber & fuel wood harvesting and the search for arable land (for urbanization, agriculture etc). In a bid to counter this high rates of deforestation and in mitigating an over 2decade long water crisis, Ecological Balance in 2019, took a commitment to reforest 5main water catchments in Buea, South West Cameroon.
In March 2020, the Bulu water catchment forest (forest number 2 out of 5) was planted, with a survival rate of over 88%. In March 2021, the community celebrated the first anniversary of the catchment only to discover 3 months after that most thriving trees of the forest were chopped down by some unknown individual. This was a great shock to the community, Chief Mafany of Kombo village (one of the villages getting water from the catchment) promised severe punishment for anyone who will be identified as the perpetrator. The traditional ruler immediately put up a ‘no trespassing’ sign post and opened investigations to track down those who destroyed the trees and bring them to justice.
The ruthless destruction of trees at the water catchment, points to a missing clue of the link between trees and water conservation. A senior citizen, who lives adjacent to the catchment attributed the act of cutting trees around the water site to a fall and lack of respect of cultural taboos and traditional laws that hitherto regulated deforestation in that area. After nursing and transplanting tree seedlings to increase recharge and solve the problem of water crisis in this community, it was disheartening to lose “the giants of the forest” to some ignorant humans.
Difficult Path Treaded to Protect Water Catchment
The challenges were enormous from the very beginning; at planting, we could not find high quality tree seedlings and mulch on time. In strict compliance with the miyawaki protocol, we had to get native trees and organic mulch. These were only gotten after some weeks of scouting. One month after planting, the dried grass that was used as mulch had germinated to become weed, hence deweeding commenced. Again, a portion of the catchment area had been persistently replanted at least 6 times yet the survival rate in that portion was less than 60% notwithstanding.
Putting together the lessons learnt from four forests grown by Ecological Balance so far, ignorance remains the single biggest challenge in urban reforestation. Simply put, growing forests without the awareness of all, both adjacent community and other users is almost a waste of time and resources. Ignorance is expensive and might cost us our world.