Jengi Fever: Forest management in Cameroon

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Cameroon

African elephant at Lobeke National Park.
© WWF CARPO / Peter Ngea

Summary

The Baka people who live in the southeastern rainforests of Cameroon depend on the forest for their survival, as do other forest inhabitants such as elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees. But they are increasingly under threat from massive deforestation. WWF and the Baka people share the view that the forest, with its rich levels of biodiversity, must be preserved.

Through WWF’s Jengi project, three protected areas have been established – Boumba Bek, Lobeke and Nki – covering some 700,000 hectares of forest. In addition, agreements with several logging companies to work towards sustainable forest management and certification have been signed, and the project is also involved in major cross-border conservation initiatives with Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Background

For the Baka people, who inhabit the southeastern rain forests of Cameroon, Jengi - the spirit of the forest - is mother, father and guardian. The Baka pygmies depend on the forest for their cultural and biological survival, but this is increasingly under threat from massive deforestation. WWF and the Baka people share the view that the forest with its rich levels of biodiversity must be preserved.

More than 300 bird species are found in the forests, with a huge population of African grey parrots and several other species that can be found in only a few other places in the world. The many rivers and swamps in the area provide a home to more than 121 fish species, three of which are new to science. Scientific studies indicate that there are about 250 butterfly species and more than 50 large mammal species including elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees.

However, the richness of animals and plants in Cameroon's south-east forests has attracted others whose only interest has been exploitation.

As logging has increased - now consuming more than half a per cent of the entire rainforest surface every year - so too has the population, often living in villages strung like beads along the roads built by the logging companies. Poaching has also increased, with ever more sophisticated hunting equipment, partly encouraged by insecurity in neighbouring countries and the supply of weapons it produced. Other threats include a flourishing trade in bushmeat, illegal mining and the trapping of parrots.

Objectives

1. Promotion of sustainable logging which will provide the potential for economic development.

2. Negotiation of mechanisms that will ensure sustainable logging.

3. Solidify WWF’s commitment to sustainable forestry through certified forest management.

Solution

This WWF project establishes 3 protected areas (PAs) in Lobeke, Boumba Bek and Nki, covering some 700,000 hectares of forest. One of these, Lobeke, has been named a ‘Gift to the Earth’ by the Cameroon government and there are community hunting areas and defined-user zones around the PAs.

A monitoring programme surveys key bio-indicators and trends, and local staff have been recruited and trained to manage the PAs. Logging company employees have also had instruction in the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment and map reading. Conventions with major stakeholders have been set up against poaching.

20 game guards are maintained at present, with plans to recruit 20 more, for sensitization work and anti-poaching activities. Community hunting zones have been set up to address subsistence hunting needs, and some villages have engaged in managed commercial sports hunting.

Collaborative agreements with some logging companies to work towards sustainable forest management and certification have been signed, and the project is also involved in major cross-border conservation initiatives with Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic.

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