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