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

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

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

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.         .      

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 Donates Food Items to 15 Needy Families in Buea

Many women have been made widows and children orphans between 2016 and 2022 due to the ongoing socio-political crises in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon. Such families live in intolerable misery and unbearable poverty given that the said relatives were the main breadwinners/providers and strength of the family. Many of these only strive to survive. Cognizance of this, Ecological Balance Cameroon donated food items to 15 needy families in Buea South West Region of Cameroon.  

These items including rice, maize, palm oil, Salt, seasoning cube and soap were donated on May 27, 2022, within the context of the Organization’s food donation programme.

The beneficiary widows and orphans said the donation came at the opportune moment.  “I’ve been a widow for about 6 years now. Everything was fine until we were forced to leave our village to join my sister and her already large family in Bomaka-Buea. Feeding has really been a challenge,” Madam Ajua Rose said.

Madam Ndum Pauline, in total excitement, told the Ecological Balance food donation team; “I am very grateful for the food items. May the God that keeps widows bless you and increase you”.  

The food donation was a huge relief to the needy orphans and widows given the recent hike in the prices of basic commodities in Cameroon. “It is God that made you remember us at this time. Can you imagine that the prices of basic food items have almost doubled? They say there is war in some countries and I wonder why a war in another country should affect us this much. What we have received will go a long way to help us,” Madam Bridgette Dembele, noted.

According to the Executive Director of Ecological Balance, the food donation event for the second quarter of 2022 met its objectives. “The joy derived from the smiles on those faces of these widows and orphans cannot be put in words. We hope to reach out to many more families subsequently,’’ she added. 

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2021, there were more than 811 million hungry people in the world, most of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the midst of this, global statistics indicate that 33% of food produced globally is wasted.

By Agborkang Godfred Ebot

Regenerative Agriculture and Forest Gardening; Way-out of Climate Change and Food Insecurity

Traditional modern agricultural practices are no longer healthy for the planet. This is why more and more farmers are being encouraged to turn to regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture relies on practices that emulate nature in a way that farms are not just sustainable but are actually beneficial for the land and the creatures that inhabit it. This system of farming secures supply, strengthens livelihoods, and sequesters carbon. It is a  nature-based solution to climate change.

In recognition of this, Ecological Balance Cameroon recently adopted the forest garden model. “Some people call it agroforestry, while others say it is permaculture. Local farmers in the communities do not understand the jargon. They understand gardens and forests. So, we explain to them that forest gardening is forest moving into the garden. They have clearly expressed understanding of this concept,’’ the Executive Director of Ecological Balance Cameroon, Limbi Blessing explains.

The Cameroon-based environmental non-profit organization is setting up a 2ha demonstration forest garden in Buasa village, Buea SW Cameroon. Madam Limbi notes that in setting up the forest gardening prototype “we will not till the soils nor use of chemicals, but we will keep the soil mulched always as we plant bothcrops and trees. We will plant fertilizer trees in alley cropping at 5m distance in conjunction with fruit and forest trees”.  She added that “we are looking at least 5 different plant species per unit time to ensure diversity. This is to encourage the thriving of soil fauna. We will use black soldier fly to hasten the breakdown of farm waste and have animals graze on the it once every while’’

The establishment of the forest gardening demonstration site, will bring to total four demonstration farms set up by Ecological Balance. Since 2019, the Organisation has been involved in training farmers around the Buea Municipality on climate-smart agriculture since 2019.

 According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, if we continue with agriculture as it is today, by 2050, ninety percent (90%) of topsoil may be gone. Again, research shows that land degradation has had, and will have, severe impacts on crop production and supply chains in Cameroon, Africa and other parts of the world in which most of the population relies on agriculture to survive. Regenerative agriculture has been recommended as a way forward.

Regenerative agriculture centers around topsoil regeneration, expanding biodiversity, further developing the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, expanding flexibility to environmental change, and fortifying the wellbeing and vitality of farm soil. Regenerative agriculture does not just “causes no damage” to the land but actually further develops it, utilizing advancements that recover and rejuvenate the soil and the environment. It leads to healthy soil, capable of producing high quality food at the same time improving (instead of degrading) land.  It is dynamic and holistic, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping, to increase food production, farmers’ income and especially, topsoil.

By Agborkang Godfred Ebot

Ecological Balance Sets Up IrvingiaCOOP for Economic Empowerment of Forest Communities

Income generation is a bigger motivation for forest protection to the Cameroonian youth than the desire to conserve the habitats of cross river gorillas, forest elephants, and other fauna species. In recognition of this, Ecological Balance Cameroon recently established the Irvingia Cooperative Society (IrvingiaCOOP), which aims at helping forest adjacent communities to develop value chains and small businesses with non-timber forest products as a way of making local people have business interest in forest protection.

The IrvingiaCOOP is currently enhancing the economic empowerment of over 200 women and youths from forest adjacent communities in Cameroon. The cooperative has created partnerships with companies and individuals in Africa, Asia and Europe to provide them with value-added non-timber forest and agroforestry products (spices, oils, fruits etc). The profits generated from IrvingiaCOOP are ploughed back into active forest conservation through the Irvingia project.

Barely a few months after creation, IrvingiaCOOP has already started meeting the income needs of forest adjacent communities in Cameroon and contributing to protecting Cameroon’s portion of the Congo basin tropical forest ecosystems. Forest people have the mandate to pass on the forest to their children in a healthy state.

IrvingiaCOOP is the social business arm of Ecological Balance Cameroon’s project Irvingia.  It seeks to solve a fourfold problem: “forest adjacent communities in Cameroon lack intrinsic motivation to protect their forests; Consumers the world over have no place to buy products that actively improve the world; Companies do not have a supply chain that meets current and future sustainability requirements; Nature and climate protection cannot find long-term funding, but rely on uncertain donations”.

According to the World Co-operative Monitor (2014), the world’s top 300 co-operatives have an estimated global turnover of 2.2 trillion USD. IrvingiaCOOP strives to be one of the best in terms of annual turnover in the coming years.

When the Rochdale Pioneers founded the modern cooperative movement in 1844 in Lancashire-England, their objective was to provide an affordable alternative to poor-quality and adulterated food & provisions and to use any surplus to benefit the community. The fact that the co-operative movement has flourished and extended across the globe, encompassing all sectors of the economy, with over 1 billion members and 250 million employees is only a testament of the resilience of the model.

By Limbi Blessing

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