Yaounde is host to the first African Model Forest Conference, CAFM, which seeks to address issues of African emergence for the next 30 years.
This was the essence of the press conference of the Director of the African Model Forest Network, Mariteuw Chimere Diaw over the week-end.
The conference holds under the theme, ‘Emerging Africa: governance and changes; innovation and green business’ and within the context of a dwindling oil economy and the understanding that African emergence depends on renewable economy.
Explaining what model forests are, Chimere Diaw said, “model forests in reality are not forests, but an assembly of territory; fishing, animal husbandry, Bakas, Bageli’s, mining cities and does not create new right on the territory. But, on a territory, every actor comes with his baggage and solutions are sought to the problems that crop up”.
Model forests adapt an approach of conflict resolution that goes beyond projects, is based on negotiation and the network work with people who have rights and interests. It is a life project, a partnership of all the stakeholders, a space, a process, many generations, an approach and a method to solve problems.
The model is based on emergence, how Africa can develop without depending on projects that have an end but on business model that earns wealth for the community, Diaw says.
A model forest cannot exist if it has not developed its strategic plan. And from this, Africans have developed two models: governance and development.
There are eight model forests in Africa, and Cameroon was one of the first to be created in 2005, in the Dja and Mbomo 2 million hectares and campo Ma’an, 800,000 hectares in the south. There are four under construction from three in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the Central African Republic with 3-4million hectares.
The Yaoundé conference offers an avenue to evaluate the added advantage of transforming rural and urban landscapes and the key principles of building a rural equitable green economy adapted to a new Africa.
The focus is on the need to add value to forest products such as medicinal plants, timber residues among others, develop and transform knowledge into business to expand and also gain market.
Legal production and exportation of wood from community forests and biodiversity, value chain and markets as an interface between community enterprises social green business and model forests, is also on the menu.
By Leocadia Bongben
Documentary film maker, Phil Agland through his recent work, “Baka, A Cry from the Rain Forest”, urges the Cameroon government to set the pace in balanced development by including the forest people, Bakas in conservation.
After his first film on the Bakas 25 years ago, Agland has returned to Cameroon to tell the story of a people who have lost much of their culture through, the heroine, Ambi of the Ali family.
The Bakas are a people who depend on the forest for their livelihood, fishing, hunting and knowledge of the biodiversity and medicines.
But after spending two years with this group of people in the froest, Agland maintains that at the moment they are cut away from the true forest, with logging, mining interests for cobalt and growing cities. The forest is diminishing overtime and areas outside the natural parks are losing all the animals and the Baka have no way to go for traditionally hunting.
The documentary film maker says presently, the forest, biodiversity the whole ecosystem and the Baka culture is not valued. “If this is redefined to understand that the forest is a huge resource for future generations of Cameroon and that the Baka have impressive body knowledge, then there is no need for them to leave the forest”, he points.
Due to the loss of their self-esteem the Baka population is psychologically depressed and drinking alcohol as seen from the film. “With fatal alcohol syndrome with pregnant women drinking methanol, this is like drinking poison and this is destroying them.
He says, “Conservation is old fashioned and most conservation organisations are old fashioned, looking at conservation in a colonial way; create the national park and close it”.
He expressed the hope to see Cameroon to set a new example to say forests are for people and the only way forest conservation can work is to include this generation of people. When the Baka understand why it is important, they share in the riches and the pride”, says Agland.
The creation of the natural parks and reserves is a good thing, though, but he suggests that the Baka should be included in the management of the parks.
His argument goes that the Baka have a great understanding of the natural wealth of the forest. “If the government allows them to be part of the conservation process as park managers, park wardens, carry on traditional hunting they get a real sense of self-esteem and restore their original culture and self-esteem”.
Within this context, Agland stresses that the Baka should be part of conservation, the challenges and that they have a contribution to make to the big development questions. The will of the Baka is to have their traditional life in the forest, he emphasizes.
Cameroon has a chance of changing the situation of the Bakas and not allow them disappear like the bushman of the Kalahari, there is still much forest left, and the government can set an example to provide balanced development, Agland cautions.
Concretely, he says education is very important, there should be more appropriate curricula to the forest zone, Baka, Mbembe children. Develop an education system that includes the Baka and other children, and the parents brought into education process. Government should recognise that the Baka are special and should be proud of them.
To Agland, the rain forest is so valuable standing that cut. “There is a new science about putting a dollar value on natural ecosystems and very soon it would be possible to say a forest to the South of Yokadouma is worth 10,000 billion dollars a year, every year for environmental services. As a sink for carbon regulator of rainfall and climate change, for reservoir of biodiversity it is important in future when the time changes. The cut forest is gone, so there is need to value the services of ecosystems and what it can generate in future.
Produced with the assistance of the Centre for Environment and Development, CED, its Executive Secretary, Samuel Nguiffo, said Agland is a well-known film maker who produced an award winning film 25 years ago which was a great success.
CED associated with Agland because he gave the opportunity for people to see the riches and promote of the Baka culture and to rethink perception of the forest. He exposed their way of life for others to understand the threats and needs towards development taking into account the Baka context to make sure development does not hurt them, Nguiffo said.
There is need to realise that they need some space and this could be by recognising their right to land and resources which we advocate for.
Jean Fabrice Ngbwa, GIC House Music Baka on the occasion exposed injustice on the Baka by Tourism agencies who exploit them to show tourists that they have never had contact with modernity. The population of about 300 people is given a 25kg bag of rice to show a different image to the world.
The film, “Baka a cry from the Rainforest” was projected to government on Wednesday March 6 at the Conference Centre.
The World Leprosy Day celebrated every 30 January or the closest Sunday is being celebrated in Cameroon amidst lack of funds to carry out research on the high prevalence in some regions of the country. There is no form of research on Leprosy at the moment. While there is a gradual increase in leprosy cases in Cameroon, Dr. Earnest Njih Tabah, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the National Committee for Leprosy, Buruli Ulcers, Yaws and Leishmaniasis Control advises that the population should report any abnormal patch on the skin that is not itching and not sensitive to the nearest health unit. In an Interview with The Post’s Leocadia Bongben ahead of the Leprosy Day celebrated in Cameroon on Sunday, he stressed that treatment if free through-out the country.
The Post: Can you present the disease Leprosy?
Dr Tabah: Leprosy is an age old, infectious disease caused by bacteria, mycobacterium leprae. The disease has existed for more than four thousand years and described in old civilizations such as the India, Chinese and Egyptian. It and also mentioned several times in the bible. The manifestations of the disease are mainly on the skin and nerves also. This starts with a skin patch that has a different coloration from the normal coloration of the body. In dark skin people it is lighter than the normal skin colour and darker than the normal skin colour in white skin persons. The peculiarity of this skin patch is that it loses sensitivity. It does not itch and no flex comes out when scratched. When nothing is done at the initial stage of the patch it evolves to attacking the nerves especially the peripheral nerves of the body. The attacked zones like the upper limbs, palms, sole of the feet, lose sensitivity function. The person is exposed to developing traumatic wounds. The parts of the body have to be protected because when they lose sensitivity they can carry hot objects without feeling and get brunt. The wounds become secondarily infected and this leads to amputation. It would only get to this stage if not detected early enough, when the skin patches are treated. Our wish is for people to consult early enough when they discover an abnormal skin patch.
Is it a small, or big, just any patch?
It can be big or small, the size does not matter. The most important thing is that it is a skin patch that has lost sensitivity; it is not itching and not painful. People should be curious enough to examine their bodies and mothers when bathing their babies should examine them regularly and other people around them. If such a patch is seen they should go to the nearest hospital or health unit for treatment.
Do all hospitals treat leprosy?
Yes, health workers receive basic training and the programme is also working to increase the skills and capacity of operational health workers and nurses in the management of leprosy. Care now is integrated into the minimum package of activities of the Cameroon health system. Leprosy now has to be handled in every health facility and not like what was observed in the past where they were secluded from other patients. The policy now is treatment at home with multi-drug therapy, which is effective and efficient in treating leprosy so they are safe and others around them are safe. They can live with their families and take their treatment normally and there is no risk of transmitting the disease. However, the risk is there only when a person has leprosy ha not commenced treatment. Once leprosy is diagnosed, the treatment is given for free.
When you say the multi-drug therapy is effective, does it means when the patients take the treatment they get cured?
They get cured. Since the treatment was introduced in 1985, there have not been cases of relapse in Cameroon and if there are any, these are minimal to the point that we cannot say the treatment is not effective.
What is this multi-drug therapy?
It is a combination of three molecules, rifampicin, clofazimine and dapsone. This is the regiment given for multi-bacillary adults-
What does that mean?
Leprosy is classified into two main groups: the minor form of leprosy and the multi-bacillary which is the most severe form of leprosy. The same drug is given for the two groups but the duration differs with respect to the class of leprosy. The treatment for severe leprosy is 12 months while for minor leprosy is six months and the doses may vary. There are doses for children and adults, and given free through-out the country.
What is the state of leprosy in Cameroon?
The state of leprosy can be explained from two periods. The first era is before leprosy was declared as eliminated as a public health problem in Cameroon, prior to 2000. At that time, the number of cases was very high. In 1985 we could count 3000 new cases per year. The efforts and strategies put in place were able to curb the number of cases to below 1000 cases per year by 2000. At that time, with respect to the World Health organization, WHO definition, Cameroon was considered as having eliminated leprosy as a public health problem. That is, if the prevalence was less than 1000 and one case per 10,000 inhabitants. But, the era between 2000 till date is such that the leprosy prevalence has remained below 1000 cases. We have been registering on the average 450 to 600 cases per year. But, I must say that in the last three years, from 2009, the number of cases has seen a regular and gradual increase from 453 in 2009 through 532 in 2010 to 552 in 2011. The data for 2012 is still partial but when we finally get the whole data for Cameroon, it would be about the same level or slightly higher than what we had last year. Seen from this angle, leprosy cases are gradually increasing.
Which are the areas with a high prevalence?
Leprosy is endemic in four regions of the country: the North, Southwest, East and Adamawa. In the north for instance the prevalence is almost 1.2 per 10,000 inhabitants, above the elimination threshold. In the Southwest and Adamawa it is about 0.8 per 10,000 inhabitants, above the national level of 0.18 per 10,000 inhabitants.
What is the reason for the regular increase of leprosy cases?
Maybe the fact that between 2009 and now, there has been some kind of drop in surveillance activities in the field and the fact that the personnel have not been properly trained. They are also not well motivated like in the other programmes, enough effort is not put in the control activity and as such the number of cases has gradually increased in the community or is never detected. It is also a mark to show that the efforts put in the past years are also yielding fruits because the level of activity has increased. Maybe cases that were hidden and not detected in the community are now detected.
Is there any kind of research in prevention and treatment?
Research as such in the field of leprosy is absent but last year there was a research in the attitudes practices and knowledge of leprosy with respect to the general population. We had one or two studies but the results are not yet published. We need to do a lot of research to understand why leprosy is more prevalent in some zones that in others. Is it the nature of the environment, the attitude of the people or customs that favour leprosy prevalence? The problem is lack of means to carry out the research because this is a costly venture.
Is there any innovation in the celebration of Leprosy Day?
We are celebrating the 60th World Leprosy Day and we have as theme “Leprosy is still with us, let’s mobilize to conquer it”. This theme is in-line with the explanations given above and we need to call upon the population and the medical personnel to double efforts and take their responsibility as health care providers. They should also know that leprosy has its particularities and if more efforts are not put in, cases may continue to miss out and only discovered later with complication. On the part of the population, they should take any abnormal patch on their body to the health facility for confirmation, diagnosis and treatment. The activities to mark the day would center on sensitization in the communities, health talks and screening to detect cases, conduct sensitivity test and put them on treatment in case of leprosy.
Is there any provision for former leprosy victims?
We have a programme for former leprosy victims; we follow them to see if their complications are not worsening. We have a programme of prevention and management of disabilities. Those who already have permanent disabilities and the state is not worsening are helped to live with their situation. For those having new complication like ulcers there is need for operation and may lead to amputation. The programme has the possibility of treating and providing prosthesis-artificial limbs and arms.