Media Centre

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

E-Newsletter Media Centre

Bush Mango, Gold on Tree

Though seen by many as an edible mango-like fruit, bush mango (Irvingia wombolu) has been described by forest adjacent communities in Cameroon as “gold that grows on tree”. This is attribute has been orchestrated by the breath-taking financial returns which they get from the sales of this non-timber forest product in Cameroon and neighbouring Nigeria. 

“A 25kg basin of dried bush mango seeds ranges between XAF 30,000 and XAF 90,000 at the Mamfe main market, depending on the time of the year. Money gotten from the sales of these seeds help us to pay school fees, provide for our homes etc. Bush mango is thus, a major cash crop in this area. Without it, families will starve and most of our children will not be able to go to school,” Noel Ojong, a Mamfe denizen attested, adding that “I am who I am today because of bush mango, we cannot do without it”.  Prince odisso of Mamfe corroborated Mr. Ojong, noting that bush mango is a great livelihood source to many families, beside cocoa.

It is against this backdrop that the rewilding team of Ecological Balance last April 2021 nursed over 1500 bitter bush mango seeds at their central nursery in Bomaka – Buea, SW Cameroon, which will be planted in some community forests and forest gardens in the South West Region of Cameroon. Beside this, forest adjacent communities will equally be trained on how to add value to the spice in order to reap more benefits.

Bitter bush mango (Irvingia wombolu) is a big tree that grows up to 40m in height with good trunk diameter. Its wood is good for timber. The tree species is known and cherished in Central and West Africa for its fruits and seeds. The edible mango-like fruits are very delicious and eaten fresh. The seeds of its fruits have been widely commended for its role in inducing weight loss and eliminating obesity. Some preliminary research also suggests that bush mango reduces blood sugar and lipid level in type 2 diabetes as the extract is rich in fibre. Bush mango has also been known from time immemorial as a popular spice used in many delicacies like the ‘tanchoh soup’ in Mamfe-Cameroon, and ‘ogbono soup’ by the Igbos in Nigeria and many other countries of the sub-region.

By Njiafu Benardin



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.