Supporting livelihoods and restoring the forests
On the ground experiences by Peter Ngea, Regional Communication Manager for WWF CARPO
Massive sensitisation campaigns and environmental education yielded fruits as the population went on to demarcate a boundary around the Kupe Mountain prohibiting further encroachments.WWF activities in the area aim at improving the livelihoods of communities depending on forest products and services by safeguarding natural forests and restoring forests functions", declares Programme Manager, Dr Atanga.
Active involvement of local communities
Locals are now actively preserving wildlife and working out of poverty - all to restore the greatness and myth of the great Kupe Muanenguba mountain forests. Through the support of WWF, indigenous people have formed themselves in to common initiative groups and are carrying out environmentally friendly activities that at the same time lead them gradually out of poverty. Groups are carrying out pig, cane rat, snail and bee farming around the Kupe Muanenguba area.
"These activities divert the people's attention or over dependence on the forest and above all enable them to sustain their livelihoods. The best way out in the Coastal programme is being able to propose on the ground solutions or alternatives that will raise living standards" declares Dr Atanga.
One of the groups I visited was the Tombel Bee Farmers Association (TOBA). TOBA has 424 trained members effectively practicing bee keeping, spread within the Kupe-Bakossi-Muanenguba forests area.
Changes in the people's attitudes and actions
Thomas Atabe, TOBA president told me the association has brought a lot of changes in the people's behaviour. "People formerly used unorthodox methods of harvesting honey which had the effect of destroying large portions of forests. Because of ignorance, most villagers had to cut or burn down entire trees just to collect a few litres of honey", he said. With technical and sometimes material support from WWF, the people have become more organised and as the president notes, "we now produce more honey and make more profits".
Altogether, these farmers have installed a total of 620 beehives producing over 500 litres of fresh honey in 2004 giving a total income of 1.100,000 FCFA (€1,525).
"If the local population gets involve in alternative activities that will give them something to live on; then I don't see how the forests will vanish. But we need support in order to do any of these activities", says the Chief of Nyassoso who is a leading pig farmer in the area.In need of more funds
WWF Manager agrees that a lot would be achieved if there were enough funds. Much has already been achieved: The government of Cameroon has agreed to give an Integral Reserve Status for Kupe Forest. That means legal protection for the enormous biodiversity of the area. WWF is helping out with the consultation process that gives the population the right to decide on the future of their surrounding.