Saving the savannah of northern Cameroon

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Cameroon

Tree for life, children presenting plants from a WWF nursery. North Cameroon.
© WWF CARPO

Summary

Covering 2.9 million hectares of savannah region of northern Cameroon includes three major national parks – Benoué, Boumba Ndjida and Faro – in its network of protected areas. Home to elephants, derby elands, antelopes, black rhinos, African wild dogs, buffalos and giraffes as well as 300 species of birds, this is one of the last stretches of savannah in central Africa.

Threatened by intensive agriculture, cattle grazing, poaching and unsustainable fishing and hunting, WWF is working in the region, especially within the national parks, on a number of conservation, reforestation and environmental education projects.

Background

The Northern Sudanian Savanna (over 2.9 million ha) is situated in the North of Cameroon. The area includes 3 major national parks (Benoué, Faro and Boumba Ndjida) and 28 professional hunting zones in its network of protected areas.

The region is home to a significant number of plant and animal species, some of which are endangered. It is the last remaining stronghold savanna block in the central African region with huge concentrations of large mammals such as elephants, derby elands, antelopes, black rhinos, African wild dogs, buffalos and giraffes. Its biodiversity include 22 types of vegetation with 965 plant species; over 40 diurnal mammal species, 300 types of birds and some 77 fish species.

80% of the 2 million inhabitants depend entirely on natural resources for their subsistence. With most of the people living as nomads, immigration is permanent with movement coming from the thickly populated extreme North, to the South where the soil is more conducive and attractive for agro-pastoral activities. Added to the fact that it is poorly known and consequently poorly managed, the biodiversity of the area faces unprecedented pressure from the people who struggle for survival through a variety of unsustainable activities.

Threats include agriculture, firewood gathering, random cattle grazing, poaching, cotton farming, pollution, unsustainable fishing and hunting.

WWF began its intervention by contributing to the implementation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) National Biodiversity Programme (1995-2003). In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MINEF) and based on various bio-ecological and socio-economic studies, WWF significantly contributed to the development of the management plan of Benoué National Park. This was approved in 2002 by the government of Cameroon.

Since 2003 the project has moved on to implement the management plan in collaboration with various stakeholders.

Objectives

Ensure the effective management of the Northern Sudanian Savanna zone through the implementation of the Benoué National Park management plan based on:
- Protection programme (law enforcement and anti-poaching mechanisms).
- Participative management and poverty alleviation.
- Research and monitoring.
- Ecotourism.
- Reforestation and environmental education.

Achievement

- Capacity of the Ministry of Forests and Fauna (MINFOF) reinforced in terms of equipment, training and functioning.
- Botanic and socio-economic studies effectively carried out.
- Management plan of Benoué National Park developed and approved by the government of Cameroon in 2002.
- Strong ecological monitoring system developed and implemented in Benoué National Park.
- Launching of reforestation and environmental education programme with 56,602 trees planted in 3 main cities and their surrounding zones.
- Developed and fully implemented anti-poaching programme to both community and government game guards.
- Ongoing support and collaboration with community-based common initiative groups (ecotourism initiatives).
- Improved land use agreement concluded with local communities.
- Effective co-management of ecologically sensitive zones; conventions signed between MINFOF and local communities.
- Communication strategy effective.
- Functioning of local institutions of natural resource management (NRM) with a steering committee.
- On-going partnership approaches.
- Effective access benefit sharing mechanisms.

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