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

90% of 1000 Trees Planted at Etinde Community Forest Survives!

Up to 90% of over 1000 trees seedlings, which Ecologocal Balance planted into a deforested patch of the Etinde community forest in West Coast-Idenau of the South West Region of Cameroon in November 2021, have survived. This information was made public by the  Head of Forest Rewilding at Ecological Balance, Njiafu Benardin, following an evaluation trip to the Community Forest in February 2022.

Etome is one of the several villages that hosts the Etinde Community Forest in the Mount Cameroon Area, South West Region of Cameroon within the Bakingili forest landscape. This community forest continually lost its forest to deforestation for agricultural purposes, fuel wood and timber harvesting, and from lava flowing from Mt Etinde.

Cognizant of this and in line with its desire to provide habitat for wildlife and mitigate climate change, Ecological Balance Cameroon in 2021 committed to helping the village to rebuild their forest, tree by tree. Over 10 native species including Entandrophragma angolensis (big leave mahogany) Riccinodendron heudolotii (njangsa), Irvingia gabonesis (bush mango) and Monodora myristica (pebbe) and some fruit and nut producing trees were planted. The choice of these predominantly local spices-producing trees, was to make the women and community value their forest more and jealously preserve it

 Meanwhile, more tree planting events are planned for the months ahead. Routine monitoring and evaluation activities like deweeding, collection of data on growth characteristics, wildlife etc will continue for up to 24 months when the forest is expected to be self-sustaining. It is hoped that through this project, up to one hectare of degraded forest land will be restored in order to restore biodiversity habitats, recharge ground water recharge & improve water tables, increase quantities & varieties as well as sequester carbon amongst others. The rewilding project is being carried out  thanks to financial support from Stiftung Arthenschutz.  

Over 50 Cameroonian Youths Determined to Make a Difference After Inspirational Trip

“One of the things that I have learnt from this inspirational trip is how to balance my skills and certificates. I already acquired so many certificates and right know, I am embarking on developing my skills. I want to have something that I can actually do to serve my community and increase my living standard and those around me. This trip has served as an inspiration for that and I am really grateful,” said Dr Enama Albert, a Bomaka-based Cameroonian youth at the end of a 1-day Youth Inspirational Trip involving some 50 young people within the Buea Municipality, organized recently by Ecological Balance.

The Cameroon-based non-profit organization took the youngsters to some start up enterprises in Buea. These included a rattan craft and furniture center, and a packaging enterprise, where the founders and managers of shared their success journeys to let the youths know that there is so much they can do to navigate their way through the rising unemployment, poverty, lack of access to basic social security services and outright insecurity in Cameroon.

The young boys and girls sat through inspirational talks on topics like Entrepreneurial Mindset, The Missing Link Between Certificates and Skills, Holistic Communication, Academic Excellence & Research, The Co-operative Business Model and Backing for the Outstanding Youth amongst others as they journey from Buea to Down Beach-Limbe and back.  After seating through this journey, Betafo Evodia Kombe of Molyko-Buea now believes it is possible to make it in Cameroon. “This trip has inspired me to understand that I can make it here in Cameroon. I have come to understand that I can create an enterprise using the natural resources we have here in Cameroon like the rattan craft and furniture enterprise. All I need is to be focused, build and use my communication skills, dedicate my time in building new skills and looking for opportunities to invest the skills in,” she stated.  

Dr. Shey Robert Adamu, one of the Resource Persons noted that a visible change in the youths shortly after the Trip.  “Knowledge is power; with what we have dished out today, I think that there is a change in perspective, and mindset and they can be able to make a difference in their lives by themselves and not just relying on the Government,” he said. 

Aimed at inspiring youths to be the change they want, the Executive Director of Ecological Balance urged the young Cameroonians to leverage on the knowledge gathered from the different speakers, and take actions to make the change they want and be the change they want to see.

Ecological Balance Donates Food Items to 25 Displaced Families in Buea

Ecological Balance Cameroon has donated food items including rice, vegetable oil and chicken to 25 internally displaced families in the Buea Town, Muea, Bomaka, and Mile 16 communities in Buea. The donation was made 1st February 2022 within the framework of the Organization’s Eco Food Bank project.

The beneficiaries, 90% being mothers, expressed gratitude to Ecological Balance as they happily took their packs home. “I am very grateful for these food items donated to us today. Food stuff had completely gotten finished in my house, with no money to any.  So, these food items will be of great help to my family and I,” said one of the beneficiary Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Mrs. Ntah Stephanie. Another IDP, Mr. Ntowe Jean Paul, who is host to twelve children; both his biological children and other family relatives, heaved a sigh of relieve after receiving the donation. “I am grateful for this great initiative to save us from hunger,” he said.

These reactions brought so much joy and a sense of fulfillment to the Ecological Balance’s Executive Director, Limbi Blessing Tata.  “The smiles, stories and comments from beneficiaries each time we donate food always leave me overwhelmed with joy and I always get really emotional, I can’t help it!” she attested.  

While donating to the IDPs, Madam Limbi counselled her team to exercise respect and show love to the beneficiary. This attitude of the team has been widely appreciated by beneficiaries. Ecological Balance hopes to reach out to 100 displaced families with food and skills by the end of 2022.

Agborkang Godfred Ebot

Ecological balance’s Living Food Bank Produces More Food Crops for Needy Families

The Living Food Bank of Ecological Balance in Bokwango-Buea, South West Region of Cameroon had a bountiful yield of  a variety of crops during the last harvest in January 2022. Over 72kg of beans, 180kg of maize, and a good quantities of pumpkins, vegetables and cassava were harvest from the Living bank to meet the needs of internally displaced and or needy families in different communities in Buea, South West Region of Cameroon.

The Food Bank of Ecological Balance was established in 2019 to meet the needs of internally displaced families as a result of the arm conflict rocking the North West and South West regions of Cameroon, and other needy families. “We made an appeal to support internally displaced families but the donations that came in were not enough. Hence, we sowed that as seed to harvest more within a few months. We have a team with great skills in agriculture and wanted to make use of this and the rich volcanic soils in Buea to produce more food for the increasing displaced population in Buea,” Madam Limbi Blessing Tata, the Executive Director of Ecological Balance expounded.

With this increase in yields from the Living Bank, the Organization has raised its usual donations of food items from 20 to 25 families. The Living Food Bank is part of the Climate Smart Agricultural Programme of Ecological Balance, which seeks to end hunger, improve nutrition, ensure food security & sovereignty without harming the environment (forests, soils, and water).

BY AGORKANG GODFRED EBOT