Tree Nursery Business, Unknown Nature-Friendly Source of Employment for Youths

Access to quality native forest tree seedlings for reforestation and landscape restoration in Cameroon is sometimes an uphill task. Most conservation and environmental non-profit organizations have had to travel long distances to purchase these seedlings and at very high prices.  

“In the field of reforestation, getting the quantity and quality of native forest tree seedlings needed for planting isn’t always easy. It is the scarcity of seedlings of native forest species in Buea, South West Region of Cameroon and the demand of trees needed for reforestation that made me start up a 25,000-capacity native tree nursery in 2020,’’ Ms Limbi Blessing, the Executive Director of Ecological Balance Cameroon, stated.

In a country with over 30% youth unemployment, youths should be able to fill up this gap. The establishment of such a business will not only encourage people to plant trees but also sustainably generate income for the owner(s). It would also make for readily availability of native tree seedlings to the government, international organization, NGOs, farmers, and some individuals taking measures to restore degraded lands. As such, the enormous consequences of deforestation will be reduced.

Setting up a native tree nursery business, according to the Tree Nursey Manager of Ecological Balance Cameroon, requires just land, labour and techniques on seed collection & extraction, generation of germination beds, timing/aftercare during/after transfer to polybags, and keeping them safe from pests and diseases.

The Nursery Manager underscores the economic benefits of engaging in a tree nursery business noting that “a single native tree seedling sells from 1000XAF depending on the species. One could also incorporate ornamentals and fruit tree seedlings that also sell well.  Non-forest timber tree seedlings are even more expensive (from 1500XAF) and have a higher demand.”  He believes “it is possible to make up to 3,000,000XAF or more per year from this business with the right connections/contacts.’’

In Africa and the world at large, sustainable forest management remains a pressing issue. About 15 billion trees are cut down every year with just 9 billion replanted making a net loss of about 6 billion trees a year (UNFF). In Cameroon, a review done in 2015 led by the Ministry of the Environment Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development disclosed that 3,316,770 ha are impacted by degradation in the Far North region. Among the primary variables of degradation is the uncontrolled double-dealing of timber assets for resource needs, which has led to enormous consequences: water scarcity, flood, soil erosion, loss in biodiversity, and decrease in income, etc.

 By NJIAFU BENARDIN 

Bee Farming, a Sustainable Source of Employment for Forest Communities

Honey is a non-timber forest product that can serve as a veritable source of employment to forest communities, lessen poverty and enhance biodiversity conservation. According to forest conservationists, bee farming has the potential of changing the biodiversity conservation narratives. Forest adjacent communities see honey as a non-timber forest product that can help reduce poverty, strengthen biodiversity and conserve natural resources. The Cameroon Minister of Livestock Fisheries and Animal Industries, Dr. Taiga, noted recently that bee farming conserves ecological assets by increasing agricultural productivity through pollination.

Statistics indicate that there are over 20,000 bee farmers in Cameroon today, who earn about 30% of their yearly pay from selling honey and honey-related items. Mr. Lyonga Abel Toto is a bee farmer/trainer resident at Bova II, in Buea South West Region of Cameroon. He has been engaged in bee farming for the past 20 years. “I am married with 5 children, who are all in school. One of my children is reading Agriculture at Veterinary Medicine at the University of Buea.  Most of the income I use to sponsor these children in school and take care of my family comes from bee farming. It is a great source of livelihood,” Mr. Lyonga attested.

According to the experienced bee farmer/trainer, one Kenyan top bar beehive costs 25,000XAF and can generate about 20 liters of honey per year. “We use good hard wood like mahogany and with such., the hive can last for over 50 years. We sell a litre of honey at 4500XAF and we also get wax, pollen, propolis from the hives which have good markets,” he added.

Within the framework of the Irvingia Project, Ecological Balance, in May 18 2022, trained and donated basic equipment including Kenyan top bar beehive, honey harvesting suite, rain boots, hand gloves, etc. worth 100,000XAF to a start-up in Buea. This gesture came after an input vs output analysis carried out by Ecological Balance’s Volunteer, Aahan Kandoth, an economics student. “Total initial inputs amount to about 264,000XAF ($431) in training, basic equipment, 1 hive, labor, and packaging. This would result in about 200,000XAF ($327) in cash per year and over 7,000,000XAF ($11425) in social benefits (pollination, spread of money around the economy, health benefits from consuming natural honey),” the volunteer posited.

Bee farming like any other vocation requires the right training, equipment, and land. It starts with identifying an apiary, installation of beehives and then swarming or bathing of the hive with honey to attract bees. It is best to do this in the dry season. Monitoring, harvesting, and selling of bee products are also very vital parts of the farming process.

By Njiafu Benardin

Ecological Balance Brazes up to Rewild Community Forests, Watersheds with 30,000 Trees

Ecological Balance is fine-tuning strategies and putting hands on deck to raise 35000 seedlings and ensure that at least 30,000 are planted before the end of 2022.

The Organization  is currently engaged in collecting seeds, filling in polybags with top soil mixed with fowl dung (organic manure), and potting of seedlings at it tree nursery in Bomaka-Buea, SW Cameroon, with a special focus on trees classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List. The potted seedlings are watered and dewed to ensure that they are healthy. .

Over 12000 seeds of Mahogany have so far been collected from Bokwango and 500 of njangsa from Bova and nursed. Over 2000 seeds of Leuceana  & 1000 of bauhinia have also been collected  from the University of Buea and over 1000 of seeds of acacia from Bulu and nursed. These seedlings will be added unto the 3323 seedlings of Jakaranda, Jathropha, prunus, mahogany, acacia, jack fruit tree, vocanga, njangsa, erythrina, sour sop, orange, lemon, pebbe, lueceana, bush mango, pignantus, money tree and plum tree seedlings that were raised in 2021.

“We have a big target this year of raising the nursery from 3323 trees in 2021, to 35000 in 2022, while hoping to  plant at least 30000 of them in community forests in Cameroon including the Etinde and Bakingili community forests, and water catchments. This only means we have to plan well and begin early,” said Madam Limbi Blessing, the Executive Director of Ecological Balance. 

According to her, these trees will  revamp community forest ecosystems, ensure community forest level sustainability in the management of forest resources, increase goods and services from forest and recharge ground water and improve water tables.  

NJIAFU BENARDIN

Ecobalance Fine-tunes Strategies to Bank Indigenous Vegetable Seeds for Future

Ecological Balance has, in consonance with its Climate-smart Agriculture Programme, begun fine-tuning strategies for the banking of indigenous seeds, while also enhancing exchange amongst farmers. Aimed at collecting a wide range of landraces, propagating them in the most organic manner and saving them for the future, the Climate-Smart Agriculture Programme Coordinator of Ecological Balance, Agborkang Godfred, said a mechanism will equally be put in place to ensure that indigenous vegetable seeds are distributed to interested farmers.

Indigenous vegetables are those that have been living naturally in a particular country or climate and adapting to the condition of the area they are grown. Their seeds are usually selected and managed by local people in the growing environment, and have been widely acclaimed by local farmers for being resilient.

“The seeds register more germination rates, and we don’t have to spray the seedlings with fungicides etc.  It is also very common to see indigenous seeds sprouting in farms where they were cultivated the previous year, just after the first rainfall. This especially true with small eye country pepper, bayangi bitter leaf, okongobong, pumpkin leaves, country njama njama, anchia and ‘black’ okra. I am not a scientist but I think our indigenous seeds have adapted to the seasons and developed resistance to organisms in the soil and air over time beautifully,” said Mama Juliet Nkeng of Bomaka village, Buea. The vegetable farmer added that with the indigenous seeds, she is sure of a harvest, irrespective of the climatic condition, unlike modified seeds.

On his part, Mr. Chi Denise of Bokwangho village narrated his ordeals with non-indigenous vegetable seeds.  “I registered 100% failure with non-indigenous vegetables. The most annoying thing is that they are very expensive and difficult to maintain that is spraying with fungicides and insecticides from time to time. Some seeds did not even germinate at all, while the few that germinated, were completely destroyed by insects even after I sprayed them,” he said. An experience, which other farmers confirmed.

To ascertain the validity of these claims, the Eco Food Bank team set out to experiment the germination and survival rates of indigenous vs modified vegetables in March 2021, just after first rains. Indigenous seeds like bayangi bitter leaf, okongobong, pumpkin leaves, country njama njama and black okra were planted on one part of the farm, while nonindigenous seeds like green pepper, onion, carrots, cabbage, celery, parsley and white okra were planted on the other part. There was no seed pretreatment and all were subjected to the same natural (farm) conditions. Three months later, the following results registered;

Table 1: Germination and survival rates of indigenous vs modified vegetable seeds 

Common name (local name) Scientific name Type of seeds % germination Survival rate  after 3months Remarks
Bitter leaf (bayangi bitterleaf) Vernonia spp   100 100 Harvested once every month
Fluted pumpkin (Okongobong) Telfairia accidentalis   100 100 Yet to be harvested
Pumpkin leaves Cucurbita spp   90 90 Harvested every 2weeks
Huckle berry (Country njama njama) Solanum spp   85 85 Yet to be harvested
Okra (black okro) Abelmoschus esculentus var. Ever Lucky   90 80 Yet to be harvested
Anchia Solanum aethiopicum   100 100 Harvested every month
Green pepper Capsicum annum   0    
Onion Allum cepa   20 20 Still to be harvested
Carrots Daucus carota subsp. sativus   60 50 Yet to be harvested
Cabbage Brassica oleracea var. capitata   50 0 Completely destroyed by insects
White okra Abelmoschus esculentus var. Greenie   20 0 Completely destroyed by insects
Parsley and Celery Petroselinumcrispum

Apium graveolens

  0    

 

Indigenous vegetable are an important source of micronutrients and income for rural people especially in Buea. They are increasingly prescribed by medics to patients with diverse ailments , especially those organically grown. Indigenous vegetables have also been noted for increasing appetite, providing fiber for digestion and preventing constipation. The valuable importance of these vegetables has increased consumption and demands for them both nationally and internationally. For example over 50% of all the Eru (Gnetum africana) consumed in Nigeria and beyond comes from Cameroon. This, beside the supply of other crops has made Cameroon to be considered the breadbasket of the Central and West African Sub-Regions.

Despite the importance of indigenous vegetables, and the ever increasing demand for them, their cultivation is unfortunately becoming more and more challenging due to the scarcity of indigenous vegetable seeds.  Though there has been a mass influx of genetically modified vegetable seeds into Cameroon, these exotic seeds have failed to stand the test of time. The genetically modified vegetable seeds have been noted for registering complete crop failure, in some instances, compared to their indigenous counterparts. There is thus, an urgent need to bank indigenous vegetable seeds and make them available to local farmers all-year-round.

By Limbi Blessing

Maize Cultivation, Key Way to Enhance Food Security in Cameroon

The cultivation of maize (Zea mays) has been widely acclaimed as one of the key solutions to fighting food insecurity in Cameroon and beyond. This is especially true given current population growth rate, which according to FAO’s projection, will be 9.1 billion by 2050.

The role and or potential of maize in enhancing food security is evident by it wide and varied cultivation across the globe, and it’s consumption pattern and ever increasing demand. For example the cash crop is consumed directly and or transformed to serve as the main component of animal feed. It also provides the basic raw materials for many industries including the brewing industry.

The nutritive nature of maize has also made it a force to reckon with in the fight against food insecurity. For instance 100g of maize contains; 360kj of energy, 18.7g of carbohydrates, 1.35g  of fat, 3.27g of protein, 75.96g of water, 0.46mg of zinc, 89mg of phosphorous, 270mg of potassium, 6.8mg of vitamin C, 0.52mg of iron and 37mg of magnesium.

The high nutritive value of maize has induced a high consumption in Africa to an extent that many have resorted to calling it “The Black Man Ice cream”. In Cameroon, the ‘king crop’ is roasted, boiled, fried and eaten. It is also used for the preparation of a variety of traditional dishes like corky corn, corn chaff, pap corn-fufu etc., and drinks like corn beer, scha, etc.

Beside these, maize cultivation has become a veritable source of income to many farmers in Cameroon and beyond. “I do large scale maize farming at least 1ha/season. This is my major source of income and from it, I feed my family, sponsor my children in school”, said Mr. Ancha Desmond a farmer in Bokwango-Buea.

It with this shared understanding of the role of maize in enhancing food security that Cameroon’s environmental non-profit organization, Ecological Balance, set up a 1ha maize farm in March 2021, to help feed internally displaced families in Buea.

By Agborkang Godfred

Irvingia Project: Adding Value to NTFPs in Cameroon

Mrs. Clara Likowo from the Bokoko Community of Buea, South West Region of Cameroon is now engaged in the production of medicated soap from Non-Forest Timber Products (NTFPs), thanks to her participation in the Irvingia Project, which trained over 56 women around Buea on how to transform NTFPs. 

During a Monitoring and Evaluation visits to the production sites of some beneficiaries in Buea, the Eco Balance team discovered that Mrs. Clara Likowo has transcended the production of just bathing soap as trained to the production of medicated soap.  “It is nowmedicated and not just bathing soap because of the effects it has on the skin; it rapidly clears skin rashes, scars and even skin dryness. With indigenous knowledge, I am adding many other ingredients with medicinal properties’’ she revealed.

The stride by Madam Likowo has motivated the Organization, which is now putting hands on deck to improve the quality and packaging of the soap. The feedback of this woman, has also birth the desire to train more women on soap production in villages of the West Coast Cluster of the Mt Cameroon National Park, beginning June 2021.

Ecological Balance Sets up Food Bank

Due to the ever increasing need for food, Cameroon-based environmental non-profit organization, Ecological Balance, has set up a food bank that will grow and donate food items to families that have been internally displaced by the Anglophone crisis, natural disasters like floods and other, persons living with disabilities, the aged and other needy persons in Buea, South West Cameroon.

The food bank, which also aims at connecting smallholder farmers to share knowledge and exchange indigenous seeds, was set up in March 202. “We started reaching out to farmers and collecting different indigenous seeds by January this year. We already have 3 local varieties of maize, 4 varieties of beans and many varieties of assorted vegetables,” the Executive Director of Eco Balance disclosed, adding that the Organization intends to plant all varieties and land races of the major food and tree crops in Cameroon. “We also want to encourage the planting of marcotted and grafted forest species, so we will be planting many of them,” she said. The goal, according to her, is to have indigenous seed banks for various crops, especially looking at how it is helping to preserve culture, boost nutrition and protect the environment in other places around the world.

Seed banks are backup copies of crops that might otherwise be lost due to natural or human factors. Experts say seeds from traditional agricultural varieties could solve the problem of food shortage and malnutrition, as well as boost food system resilience to climate change and cultural challenges. The over one hectare farm serving as food bank is ear marked to donate food to about 50 families this year.

Agborkang Godfred

International Women’s Day: Rural Woman, Impacting Lives through Forest Gardening

As Cameroon joined countries the world over to celebrate the tremendous efforts made by women around the world in shaping a more equal future last March 2021, Ecological Balance zooms on Mama Nkeng Juliet, a 66-year-old mother of three, who is impacting lives in Cameroon through forest gardening. With skills developed from personal endeavours and seminars, Mama Nkeng has been able to sponsor all her three children, including two girls, through to the University in a country where girl child education still stands at about 30%, according to UNESCO Institute of Statistics.

Besides other farming activities, she sells marcotted trees and trains others on the skill at almost no cost. In June 2020, she trained 4 youths on forest gardening whose skills are now being used for Eco Balance’s forest garden that will also serve as a food bank to donate food families in need. She also trains students and women usually referred to her by the departments of agriculture and community development on marcoting, given the importance of this tree propagation method. “Marcotting adds value to trees; it enables them to produce fruits in half the normally required time, and as  such, are sold  at much higher prices,” Mama Nkeng Expounded. Apart from generating income, the rural woman said forest gardening makes her home food-sufficient.

Though with no records on the number of trees she has marcotted and the income generated this far because of little skills in book keeping, the forest gardener, who is apparently separated from her husband under unclear circumstances, recommends forest gardening to all.  “You don’t need to go to the forest for spices as you can have them in your garden. This works very well and helps you to sell different crops, fruits, nuts at different times of the year. The garden also serves as my pharmacy,” she testified, maintaining that agriculture is not un-dignifying as many youths today think. “Growing vegetables in the dry season in your forest garden is very profitable and can help you generate and save money for bigger exploits,” Mama Nkeng maintained.

Though she is faced with a plethora of challenges including no land of her own, in adequate capital and constant harassment from men, her dream of owning an orchard remains valid. The gardener things “every compound needs at least a shade tree”.

Speaking on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, she said many women have been relegated to the background of life, and the day often brings them out of their shells. Mama Nkeng however, cautioned that there should be no competition between genders.