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.  

Eco Balance, Potting 5000 Mahogany Trees for Reforestation in South West Cameroon

Ecological Balance has embarked on the potting of 5000 mahogany trees, as part of the close to 30 tree species ear-marked for her 2500 capacity tree nursery in Buea. This nursery is expected to provide good quality planting material for the Organization’s 2021 rewilding endeavours.

Commonly known as big leave Mahogany, Entandropragma angolensis is one of the giants of tropical rainforest with broad leaves especially suitable for water catchment protection. Classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List, this iconic species is highly cherished locally as the back is used in the treatment of stomach ache and fever. It is one of the top 10 timber species foraged from the Congo Basin Forests and widely used in the furniture, plywood and fishing boat manufacturing industries amongst others.

Managed by a team of trained botanists from Ecological Balance, in the days ahead the mahogany seedlings from this nursery will be transplanted into water catchments within the Buea Municipality. This as a way of curbing the long-standing water crisis that the town has been plunged in over the years. The trees will be planted by the miyawaki method that is known to recharge, purify and conserve ground water 30times faster. Some of the trees will be planted at the Bakingili Community Forest to mitigate deforestation and revamp the wildlife haven.

Established in June 2020 following difficulties faced by the Eco Balance team in getting planting material during the first 2miyawaki forests, plans are underway to expand the nursery to 100,000 saplings of at least 50species found in the Congo Basin Forest, according to the Executive Director, Limbi Blessing.

Meanwhile, trees planted at Bulu Water Catchment, using to Miyawaki method, to clean, recharge and conserve the underground water by the Ecological Balance team in collaboration with the community is already serving as anchor  to many biodiversity species, one year after. With support from SUGI, Ecological Balance planted some 3000  trees at the lone water source in  Bulu, a small village in Buea subdivision, South West Region, following the Miyawaki method known to recharge ground water thirty times faster; tree growth thirty times faster, as well as purify water amongst others. Recent statistics from Ecological Balance’s Field Manager, Njiafu Benardin, shows that 90% of the trees have survived and are serving as habitat for biodiversity species like crab, butter fly, birds, bees, frogs, caterpillars, millipede, insects, beetles and others.

Community members are anticipating how the 20 different trees species including Prunus africana, Mahogani, Dacryodes macrophyla, drum stick, avocado, jack fruit, mango, erythrina, Jatropha curcas, leuceana, acacia, Voacanga angolense, richinis comunis, plums, guava, umbrella tree, apple, bauhinia and Pachira aquatic has and will help them and the environment. .  “Since the planting of these trees, we have noticed that, the water catchment is always clean,”Mafani John, Chief of Bulu village said.

Though geared towards increasing the recharge of water at the Bulu Water Catchment serving as the lone source of drinking water to the Bulu community and other neighbouring villages, the planting of these trees was equally motivated by the need to contribute to global afforestation efforts and the mitigation of climate change.

Miyawaki Revolution: Strides, Lessons from Cameroon

I met Shubhendu Sharma in Kerala, India in December 2018, and within 45mins of watching his TedTalk recording and discussing the miyawaki method, I had regenerated the entire Congo Basin Forest in my mind. When I came back to Cameroon, the passion in me was so ardent that I had to do everything humanly possible to make what was in my mind a reality.

Case of First Miyawaki Forest, Boduma

The desire to kick start a Miyawaki Revolution in Cameroon started bearing fruits in November 2019 when we planted our first miyawaki forest at the Bonduma water catchment. The 600 native tree forest supported by The SUGi Project was the first of many. There was a battery of opinions running wild during the tree planting exercise; ‘the trees are too close, how do they breathe’? ‘Why is organic manure added into soils that are already very rich’ (volcanic soils)? At one point, the team had to put their foot down and have the instructions followed to the latter. The catchment had become a dumping ground for all sorts of refuse and including disposable pads and baby dippers. One could not help but wonder how humans would so heavily pollute a water body that they depend on totally as a source of drinking water. Indeed, humans are strange beings!

Beyond human resources management, there were other challenges; getting good quality native saplings and mulching material was challenging. This is to say, we are in a forest zone but not many people grew native trees. We were used to taking from the forest but not giving back. Then, we had to include wildings to the seedlings we could find.  Then came the challenge of having to replant trees that had been uprooted by the children of the neigbourhood. This pointed to the fact that we needed to do more sensitization/education; a recommendation that was quickly adopted for the next planting site and that gave birth to The SUGi Akademy. This is a project that would provide conservation education to children between the ages of 8-15 in a bid to build the next generation of rewilders.

One year after the Bonduma forest was planted, even when no scientific data was collected on the depth of the water table etc prior to tree planting, we got some testimonies; ‘I noticed that the water is much cooler’ one woman said. Standing near the storage tank a young man told our team ‘this place is always dry but this time around it is not’. We saw several batches of bright yellow caterpillars and then butterflies and a variety of other both leaf and ground insects. The biggest insinuation of the locals however has been that the gods might soon be returning to the dwell in the neigbourhood. According to them, when the forests were destroyed the gods had to relocate.

Our coverage guy had to make magic to get good pictures and videos because of the topography. I remember some strong boys had to carry him up in order for him to get some good shots.  It was worth it I must say. The Bonduma water catchment forest was handed over to the community after 12months of constant picture taking, watering, de-weeding, nurturing, data collection, monitoring and shouting. One species from this forest that caught the eye of our forest friends is Communis edulis probably because of its round thorn-looking fruits. Locally, however, mostly the oil-rich seeds are considered important as it is milled locally and used in treating ailments, taming twins, chief naming ceremony and as body cream.

Case of Second Miyawaki Forest, Bulu Village

By March 2020, the team was planting another forest few kilometers away from Bonduma this time at the Bulu water catchment. Bulu was a real community deal as Chief Mafany came out severally in full traditional regalia- the traditional Shanja, shirt & cap and holding the symbolic staff of unity. The statement was loud and clear; the ancestors are well aware and united for this project. Pa Stephen (over 70) became the chief security officer of the Bulu forest, always walking around with a whip in hand ready to beat and scare detractors.

Many lessons learnt from Bonduma were addressed at Bulu; by February 2020, the team had gathered the much needed mulch (grass and farm waste), sensitization/education sessions had begun and a drone & better camera had been acquired. Again, getting good quality native saplings was still a challenge and although no highly scientific protocols were conducted still, we took note of the absence of some key species that indicated the health of a freshwater ecosystem like crabs, water daphnia (‘kaka bobby’). Yet new challenges sprang up; a good quantity of the mulch material was carried away by running water (due to the topography) and the remainder had rejuvenated and became weed. At some point the trees were dying because of too much water. The SUGi Global Rewilding Community came to our aid as we got techniques on how to help trees survive in water.

One year after planting, we have seen many burrowing animals, insects, birds and especially crabs and water daphnias etc. The forest is already self-reliant I would say as underground weeds can no longer survive under the already flowering trees. In fact, we are warming up for wild honey harvesting from the forest. The over 6m tall roadside forest already serves as a hideout for farmers from the scorching sun to many en route to various destinations.  The forest is so cool that even the very selfish Pachira aquaticas  aka money trees have finally given up the food they stored at the base of their stems. From a capacity building stand point, the team has gotten great lessons on the choice of native species and their combinations at planting.

Prospects

As we gear up for our third forest, the Bwitingi water catchment forest, the stakes are really high. It is not just about climate change, recharging ground water & improving the water table, providing habitat for returning biodiversity & the gods, and restocking natural sources of non-timber forest products any longer, it is about helping a community live up to its name. According to the custodians of the culture of the Bwitingi people, Bwitingi means half water, half land. Apparently, when the Germans came into Buea they had difficulties navigating Bwitingi as half of the land was covered in water and hence its name. Today, the community has lost this sagesse as they only boast of one flowing stream. The revolution is on, Cameroon is not left out and we go miyawaki all the way.

By Limbi Blessing Tata, Executive Director of Ecological Balance

Team Work Pays: Bulu Forest at 1

Objectives: To recharge ground water and improve water table; regenerate biodiversity; restock non-timber forest products and allow for honey gathering.

Method: Miyawaki

March 2020:

Stats: 3000 saplings, 20 tree species, 25 volunteers, 5000 homes

 

 March 2021:

Stats: trees over 3m tall, 90% tree survival rate, cleaner cooler water, many crabs, butter flies, birds, snakes, pollinators etc., cleaner & cooler water all year round

Eco Balance to Partner with NGO, FMCs for Forests Creation in Fako

Ecological Balance is set to partner with some four community water and forest management committees and a non-profit organization for the creation of forests of at least 5600trees in close to 2ha in Fako Division, South West Cameroon, using the Miyawaki method.

The Miyawaki technique is an innovative reforestation method, which restores indigenous ecosystems and natural vegetation by practically forcing, reproducing and accelerating natural successional times. The method has been proven to work worldwide, irrespective of soil and climatic conditions and more than 3,000 forests have been successfully created around the world.

In August 2019, as a build-up to the global climate strikes, Eco Balance undertook the commitment to plant at least 5000trees every year. These trees, which are to be planted as closed forest blocks, seeks to contribute towards climate change mitigation as well as train help community forests fulfill their reforestation objective.

So far, the organization has had a series of meetings in September with WEWULEY Consultancy with headquarters in Bova 1 village, Lyangamelle Bonalyonga & Upper Bwando village water management committees and the Bakingili & Woteva Community Forests, with roles in the implementation of the project, spelled out.

WEWULEY Consultancy, for example, is to serve in community mobilization and monitoring while Lyangamelle Bonalyonga and Upper Bwando village water management committees provide nursery and planting sites. They are also expected to provide after-care for planted forests in their localities. Meanwhile, Bakingili and Woteva Community forests, led by their management officers, will provide nursery and planting sites as well as aftercare for planted forests. Eco balance, on the other hand, will serve as the resource mobilizer and provider of technical services.

According to the Founder/Director of WEWULEY Consultancy, this project is a stitch on time that would definitely save lives. “I can tell you that without trees we are nothing. Today, we suffer from a severe water shortage in my village, Bova 1. We buy water because our sources have all dried up’. ‘We cannot even sustain the cost of running a community tree nursery in Bova,” he lamented.

By Limbi Blessing