Chain of mountains
On the ground experiences by Peter Ngea, Regional Communication Manager for WWF CARPO
The early morning drive to the slopes of Kupe was uneventful and fast on both gravel and tarred road - although the four-wheel drive vehicle made life easier.
We arrived at the main town of the area, Tombel at about 10 AM and it was evident from what I saw that over 90% of the houses were built with material from timber products and most were in need of repairs.
Forest yesterday, plantations today
From the view I had of the mountain in the background of the small town, there were signs to indicate that the forest edge was under pressure. Rubber, cocoa, banana, and palm plantations are ingloriously perched on the place where, I suppose, there was once a huge forest.
In search of bushmeat
"There are many things from the forest and especially animals that we can only find if we climb further up the mountain. Our need for bush meat, building materials and food in general pushed us over the years to exploit without caring because we knew no one could conquer the mountain or let alone wipe off one third of its contents", says Papa Metuge Hilary an octogenarian who was once a poacher but now practices organic farming.
Common initiative groups
I get similar stories about the degradation of the Kupe forest as I visit community-based initiatives - over a dozen of them are actively working in the area. Pig, cane rat, bee and snail farming are some of the key activities carried out and the catch phrase - poverty alleviation.
Climbing further (12 KM) up mountain by the West is the village of Nyasoso - believed by the native Bakossis to be the seat of tradition. WWF has a field office in this village with better access to the forest and the people. Here too, a series of common initiative groups are striving like in Tombel.
Fighting poverty and striving to protect the remaining forest cover
The story is the same for everyone: we are fighting poverty and also making way for a viable future for our forest. The Nyassoso people seem to be more vocal about their environment because of their daily interaction with WWF field staff. It is in this village that offers visitors with accommodation in its two modest inns that I learn more about the great Kupe-Bakossi Muanenguba Mountains.
The Kupe-Bakossi-Muanenguba area is home to the Bakossi tribe comprising some 60,000 people. Immigrants from other parts of the Cameroon and Nigeria have settled on the eastern slopes of Kupe and Muanenguba, and the extreme south of the Bakossi Mounts. In the Eboga caldera of Mt. Muanenguba, nomads (Bororo) cattle herders from Niger have made a few small permanent settlements.