By Leocadia Bongben
Experts of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, INBAR have underscored the importance of bamboo in the fight against climate change especially with the carbon credit scheme and the restoration of the ecosystem.
It was in this light that the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife Ngolle Philippe Ngwese chaired the regional conference on the potential of bamboo and rattan, non-timber forest products known for their unique role in environmental sustainability and fight against poverty held in Yaounde from August 11-12.
INBAR Director Hans Friedriech told the conference that cutting bamboos can lead to deforestation; reduction of forest cover and on the same token can help in the sustainable use of resources and avoid cutting forest.
“Bamboos are grasses that grow very fast, so when cut, the following year new roots grow up and this goes on year after year making it a very sustainable plant which can be used for many different purposes.Because the bamboo grows so fast it plays an important role in green house carbon emissions, it absorbs more CO2 than trees and within a period of time is a veritable carbon sink”, Friedriech explained.
He added that if the world is getting into a new carbon credit scheme where trading can be done by avoiding emissions then companies can start using bamboo to compensate for their CO2 emissions, a real economic asset.
Denis Sonwa, Regional Centre for International Forestry Research expert maintained that the bamboo is under pressure in central Africa, through deforestation, which means carbon emissions contribute to climate change and on the other hand can be a solution for reafforestation on degraded soil.
“The bamboo grows on degraded soils and can contribute to soil restoration. Using bamboo to make money at the same time is adapting to climate change, being useful for Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation,REDD, the bamboo can contribute to the synergy between adaptation and mitigation of climate change.
INBAR is there to help Cameroon discover its potentials, the value chain of bamboo is impotant and has a potentail to be exploited taking the exampleof China with about 8 million people in the bamboo sector for a revenue of 30billion dollars per year.
In 2013 Cameroon signed a Memorandum of undertanding, MOU with INBAR to knit cooperation ties, improve valorisation of bamboo and rattan in Cameroon, Central and West Africa.
Within this context, training has been going on to develop the industry more with about 100 projects initiated. The result of the training Friedriech says is impresive with the production of handicraft, artifacts and jewelry. However he underlined the need to do more to improve the quality, bring in new designs and add value to make things bigger and better and find regional and international markets.
Cameroon bamboo and rattan can not yet be quantified but an inventory is being carried out in the Centre, South and Littoral and Southwest regions. Though Cameroon has only one main bamboo specie, several others were introduced years ago and in the world there are about 1600 species which can go for different uses.
To ensure sustainable use of the bamboo, there is need to expand and plant new bamboo though the root systems of the bamboo is so strong that when cut they may not disappear.The challenge however, is for actors to understand and capture the potentials.
Attended by experts from Nigeria and Liberia among others the conference ended with experts agreeing to draft a national plan on the promotion of bamboo and rattan in relation to their economic benefits, elaborate a national public policy, professionalize and support development of the sector and create awareness on the value of natural resources in order to better win the war against poverty.
By Leocadia Bongben
More than 3,000 hectares of rainforest bordering the Dja Faunal Reserve in the Chinese Hevea Sud Rubber has been destroyed.
According to Greenpeace, an international environmental NGO, agro-business promoters are moving deeper into Cameroon’s forest as they calculate the gains they can make from either rubber or palm oil.
Looking at future benefits in palms and rubber agro-industries, land is an essential commodity and the Cameroon destination is good to open up plantations.
This entails large portions of land and has inherent consequences, ranging from encroachment into reserved forest areas, displacement of wildlife and forest communities and climate change. Greenpeace has raised an alarm that agro-business companies are destroying vital rainforest habitat for chimpanzees and other great apes by their expansion projects in Cameroon.
Besides that, the NGO said there are indications that a Cameroon company, Azur, is targeting large portion of dense forest in the Littoral Region, (about 60,000 hectares) adjacent the Ebo Forest and a proposed National Park harbouring many primates, to convert to oil palm.
These are not the only agro-industrial companies that are opening up large areas for oil palm. In the Southwest, Herakles requested for about 75,000 hectares of land for their palm plantation, though Government finally allocated 20,000 hectares.
Dr. Joshua Linder, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at James Madison University, says; “Agro-industrial developments will soon emerge as a top threat to biodiversity in the African Tropical Forest Zone”.
To the Anthropologist; “If proactive strategies to mitigate the effects of large-scale habitat conversion are not soon implemented, we can expect a rapid decline in African primate diversity. In the forest sector, there are lots of projects in mining, logging and agro-business and, civil society proposes that Government should be watchful.
Greenpeace says industrial agricultural concessions owned by foreigners are allocated without proper land use planning.
In this vein, Messe Venant, Congo Basin Regional Representative of Forest Peoples and head of AKANI, a BAKA NGO based in Bertoua, indicates that Government, in giving out concessions, has to relocate the communities.
What obtains is a situation where there is land demarcation and business is going on and nothing is done for the people in the forest. To develop communities, they need to have land, the expert argued. The consequence is that, besides social conflicts arising from clearing the forest due to lack of dialogue with the communities, there are negative ecological impacts, endangered wildlife species may overlap into forest areas with high biodiversity.
Against this backdrop, “Governments need to urgently develop a participatory land use planning process prior to the allocation of industrial concessions”, Irene Wabiwa, Greenpeace Forest Campaign Manager for Africa indicates.
Besides, experts say as the second largest rainforest in the world, the Congo Basin, which includes Cameroon forest, is rich in diverse ecosystems and conserving the ecosystem is vital for the fight against climate change.
According to Richard Eba’a Atyi, Coordinator for International Forestry Research Centre, CIFOR, for Central African Region, even though clearing for agriculture is not the biggest contributor compared to fossil fuel on forest degradation, it has the potential to increase emissions of carbon dioxide responsible for greenhouse gases leading to climate change.
In order to mitigate the effects there is need to plant trees and avoid deforestation, he said.
By Leocadia Bongben
Old electronics: televisions, computers and refrigerators, pose a major challenge in the protection of the Ozone layer at a distance where they can shield the earth from dangerous rays. The Ozone layer is made up of a form of Oxygen known as O3.
Ozone depletion (break down of the ozone layer) is caused mainly by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) found in cartridges of fridges, air conditioners and other Chlorine compounds produced in manufacturing industries. Ferdinand Awah is an electronic repairer at the Damas neighbourhood in Yaoundé. He has a stock of old electronics, mostly TV sets in his workshop for repairs.
The TV sets whose bowels are laid open for the most part are aside in parts and some spend their life time here and end up in the waste collection bin. But, Awah is not aware that the equipment he manipulates every day contains substances that are harmful to the atmosphere and human beings. He is also ignorant of the existence of an electronic waste recycling plant where he can dispose of some parts which end up with the cabbage collector, Hysacam.
In Cameroon, a centre for the management of electronic waste Solidarite Technologique came into existence last year as a solution to dispose of computers that were no-longer useful. The Director of Solidarite Technologique, Valery Pichou states that about 8,000 tons of computers get into Cameroon every year besides fridges and refrigerators. It is in this vein that old electric and electronic equipment; pose a big challenge for the ozone layer. There is need to do away with such equipment and not stay long in contact as they emit invisible gases that affect the Ozone layer and irritates the tongue and nose.
Mr Palouma, Sub-director of Waste, Chemical, Toxic, Chemical and dangerous Products Management Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, MINEPDED says the Ozone layer helps to protect the land, against negative effects of certain rays, such as ultra-violent or infra-red rays. But, when the gas is at the lower atmosphere its toxicity becomes poisonous to health, reason why the concentration of the gas has to remain at about 15 to 30 km from the earth for it to play its role of filterring the sun’s rays.
As part of measures to contain the gases, government has installed an Ozone office at the Douala seaport to control equipment imported to ensure conformity. Technical visas are delivered to importers that respect the required norm and sanctions meted out to those who do not conform to standards, he says. Besides, spontaneous visit are undertaken to big supermarkets to check for non- Ozone conform equipment. The law says everyone who hold harmful substances and attracts a sanction of 10-50million. Sensitisation is carried out though mostly on the World Ozone Day, commemorated this year under the theme, “Ozone layer protection, the mission continues on September 16. Being the life-wire of the earth, parties in 1994 signed the Montreal Protocol on Ozone depleting substances and its amendments to protect the ozone Layer. The treaty established legally binding controls on national production and consumption of Ozone depleting substances. Cameroon is also implementing the multilateral environmental conventions such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Pollutants.
The UN Secretary General in his message on the World Ozone Day maintained that, “the protocol has contributed to the fight against climate change as many Ozone depleting substances are powerful greenhouse gases”. Greenhouse gases are a group of compounds that trap heat (longwave radiation) in the atmosphere, keeping the Earth’s surface warmer than it would be if they were not present. Increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere enhances the greenhouse effect which is creating global warming and consequently climate change.
According to Ban Ki Moon, “climate change is affecting communities, economies, and ecosystems across the globe. It is essential that we act to mitigate the threat with the same unity of purpose as we have in facing the dangers of Ozone depletion”. There is always a mixed up with ozone layer processes and global warming processes which Gideon Neba Suh Centre for International Forestry expert, attempts to clarify. There is a direct relationship between the forest and global warming, which is the rise in global temperature caused by high concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere.
“Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most important GHG in the atmosphere and forests (plants) remove CO2 from the atmosphere through the process of Carbon sequestration, a process whereby gaseous CO2 is converted and stored as solid Carbon in plants”, he states. So when deforestation or forest degradation occurs, the Carbon stored in the forest is converted backed into the gaseous CO2 and is released into the atmosphere. This raises the natural concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere leading to a rise in surface temperature which leads to what we call global warming, he argues.
The consequences could be a rise in the sea levels, droughts, floods and plants and animal could become extinct, he says.
This article was published in The Post, No. 01568,page 10,Friday October 3,2014
Greenpeace Forest Strategists, Paulo Adario has signaled that land use is a crucial element in the management of the Congo Basin forest.
The 2012 winner of the United Nations “Hero of the Forest’ award for the protection of the tropical forest and communities depending on the Brazilian Amazon pointed out this challenge in Yaoundé when he shared his experience with stakeholders of the forest sector.
Digging from his experience, he said traditional people have the right to live on their land and make their choices for the future. Besides, another challenge for countries of the Congo Basin is to ensure forest protection together with job generation, food stability and food security, he added.
Comparing the Amazon to the tropical forest of the Congo Basin, Adario said there are physically similarities with the tropical forest responsible for most of the planet and millions of people, equally threatened by logging in Congo, Cameroon and Gabon.
“In Cameroon, palm oil expansion can be a big threat, while the soil and cattle ranching in the Amazon are the biggest threats, but it is the same economic model that causes forest destruction”, he underlined.
The strategists, who for the past years has been in the middle of the Amazon forest town of Manaus in Brazil says the Brazilian Amazon has been destroyed in a fast way causing deforestation, carbon emissions and loss of biodiversity, particularly putting poor people who depend on forest for livelihood in danger.
“Forest people who are not the cause are the first victim of forest destruction from large cattle ranching, palm oil plantations and big companies”, Adario said.
He has been mapping out on how to ensure development, job generation, conserve the environment and rights of the communities, their traditions, beliefs and needs.
Under Adario’s leadership millions of protected hectares were created in Brazil, not only for the environment but also for local communities which earned him the United Nations award and recognition from the government.
In 2002, he piloted an initiative that led to the conservation of 1.6million hectare of forest and introduced new concepts of ‘Green Wall’, to describe protected areas from deforestation by industries and “Zero Deforestation” to describe socio-political and environmental initiatives to stop deforestation and ameliorate the living standard of the forest population.
The advocate of an integrated forest approach initiated the campaign against illegal forest exploitation which in 2003 led to the prohibition of international commercialization of Mahogany.
He succeeded in signing bilateral accords with international industrial companies to stop the destruction of forest for soya bean plantations and ranching.
Commenting on the issue of land used Paulo raised, Napoleon Jaff Bamenjo, Coordinator of the Network for the fight against Hunger, RELUFA, said deforestation and development in the Congo Basin and Amazon are similar even if they are not exactly of the same nature.
“It is in the interest of all to manage the forest in a sustainable manner and halt the accelerated deforestation. Paulo has a rich experience working with indigenous people to demarcate and enable them own land, something which is always overlooked when taking decisions in according portions of the forest for commercial interests in Cameroon”.
The Centre for International Forestry Research, CIFOR, through a project dubbed FAROFAMA has provided Cameroon with basic data on which to negotiate REDD+ process.
REDD+, which is the ‘Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries sustainable forest management and improving forest carbon stocks’, is an initiative of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.
Richard Eba’a Atyi, CIFOR Central African Regional Coordinator, presented results of the FAROFAMA project started in 2009 to stakeholders and explained it to Science Journalists during their monthly meeting dubbed ‘Café Science’ in Yaoundé on February 13.
The main result of the project is stakeholders who wish to take decisions on initiating REDD projects in the forest sector now have access to basic data on the impact of forest exploitation on the biomass.
Eba’a Atyi and Denis Sonwa, CIFOR expert explained that forest exploiters have not been part of discussions about REDD and CIFOR thought it was because they lacked the information.
They argue that the degradation of the biomass is the direct consequence of forest exploitation which leads to degradation. The information generated through research and pilot projects established a link between forest exploitation and REDD+, by trying to demonstrate the biomass upset each time a tree is fell.
“We tried to establish the activities to be carried out if a REDD project is to start in a forest unit and one avenue to be explored is the minimum diameter of exploitation”, Sonwa said.
That is, as the diameter of exploitation increases from an estimate of 60cm to about 120cm the gain is in terms of the amount of carbon stored, he added.
Issues of policy and governance were also explored in relation to REDD, the actors involved, the competitive forest space for agriculture, palm plantation, forest exploitation in relation to REDD and the financial implication of each scenario.
Appreciating the results of the FAROFAMA, Dr. Joseph Amougou, Climate Change Focal Point at the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature said the information would be useful in the country’s National REDD strategy.
To him, Cameroon in developing it’s REDD project, needs to have concrete information to facilitate decision making and for government to give orientation in the activities to be done in the area of REDD.
He said forest management units with certification, do not have to integrate REDD because at the end the quantity of carbon that is harvested is too low.
But, on the other hand for a unit without certification, REDD constitutes an opportunity to ameliorate timber exploitation to make benefit from the REDD with the quantity of carbon harvested and sold in the market.
To Amougou, the challenge is to match the objective of the country to intensify agriculture with the carbon stock serving as the icing on the cake.
FAROFAMA is a project carried out in Central Africa and in the Amazon to facilitate exchange between practitioner in Brazilian Amazon and Africa for them to benefit from each others’ experiences.
Interviewed By Leocadia Bongben
The International Centre for Forestry Research, in line with activities to mark its 20 years of forestry research, organized a conference on the theme, “sustainable forest management in Central Africa: yesterday, today and tomorrow”. Providing an evaluation of the conference, CIFOR Regional Director, Richard Eba’a Atyi argued that the REDD (Reductions of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) process is still poorly defined. He says governments should engage in development plans such that REDD Funds should come as additive and not wait for everything from the international community who should still define the process. In this interview, Eba’a Atyi identified the achievements, challenges and prospects of CIFOR.
What Evaluation at the end of the Centre For International Forestry Research, CIFOR conference?
The conference aimed at evaluating the past 20 years, and during the conference there was actually an evaluation. We particularly reaffirmed the importance of forest in Central Africa, which continues to play a critical role of conservation of biodiversity in the world. However, until now, even if the rate of deforestation had so far been low, there is a serious menace to the forest which has to be examined. The threats are not necessarily negative but have to be tackled, and among these, is population growth. The forest can no longer be managed in the same way when there are 20m inhabitants as when there were on 10 million inhabitants. So there is a demographic pressure exerted on the forest. There is also agriculture, particularly, industrial agriculture policy, which is legitimate, but, which has to be managed. Also, there is a threat from mining extractions. So, if there is effort to manage these threats, the rate of deforestation though still low, risks increasing. On the other hand, we see that poverty remains high as the vulnerable population continues to lean on the same forest for their needs. There is the growing demand for the forest and other sectors, thus the need to manage all together.
What are the concrete proposals following the evaluation?
We have proposed that all the actors work together not in a sectoral manner, but, follow the landscape management approach. There are different types of resources in a landscape and there is need for a concerted approach of managing landscapes.
How can this be done in a country where the Ministries are managed independently?
We do not design those who govern, but, on the field they have to collaborate and work in a concerted manner for agriculture and forest problems. Even if we take the regional development plans, these have to take into account all these aspects. We do not want that the different ministries, Agriculture, Environment, Forestry draw different development plans, but, come out with an integrated development plan where the needs and advantages of the actors are recognized.
There is also the issue of Financing, what is envisaged and what would be done?
There was a big discussion on the financing of the REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) process. It was realized that there are a lot of expectations on the REDD process which unfortunately at the international level are still poorly defined. The international community should define more how REDD should be done, in the form of individual projects or by country and that those who take commitments should fulfill them such that REDD attains its objectives. But, one of the outcomes of the discussions is that what is proposed by the REDD strategy like the intensification of agriculture normally should be done through the development plans. Instead of waiting for finances from the international community, governments have to develop agriculture for their countries and citizens. To my understanding, instead there should be REDD Funds, potentially as additives, so, countries like Cameroon with a vision 2035 and Gabon with an emergence plan have to mobilize funds and not wait for the bulk of development to be financed by REDD Funds. It maybe crude to say, but this was one of the outcomes of the debate.
CIFOR, 20 years after, in terms of research what are the achievements?
It should be noted that CIFOR is a research organization which strives to influence policies. Our objective is to have information for decision makers to design better policies. For example, we worked on the norms of sustainable forest management, and the norms lead to forest certification which now implement in Central Africa on 5million hectares. CIFOR contributed to the establishment of sustainable management norms of 26 hectares of forest. CIFOR also worked more on non-timber forest products, through identification, characterization and analyzed their economic value and sectors of non-forest timber products and made proposals that have been included in general directives of non-timber forest products. Cameroon and Gabon have created in their administration departments that focus only on non-timber forest products. These are the kinds of policy results that CIFOR envisage.
On climate change we have worked though still at the beginning, on adaptation to climate change and the results have been taken into account in the national development plan of the Central African Republic. We are a small organization and for us to get influence we do not have to be limited geographically to a small surface area, but influence the decision maker to have big impact.
What are the perspectives?
An interesting perspective for CIFOR- that has identified in the world, six big sentinel landscapes- large space big enough to conduct Geo-physical research on the socio-economic and bio-physic plan and Central Africa is one of them. These would be in the Southwest of Cameroon, North Congo and some parts of Gabon; we are still working on it. A socio-economic monitoring disposition would be installed to monitor the natural environmental for about 20years. We would work periodically to analyze and put the results to governments concerned. The advantage of this approach is that it helps us to compare with other tropical regions.
Working in Central Africa for 20 years, what are the challenges?
The challenges are enormous. We are in the Central African Forest Commission, COMIFAC zone which is made up of ten countries and in these countries there is lack of desired the infrastructure. The biggest portion of forest is found in DR Congo with 60 per cent of the forest in the Congo Basin and traveling is quite problematic. The second challenge is the political environment that can at times be very unstable in some countries. A third challenge which may also become subject of our research is the issue of governance generally in central Africa. But, we have to work with government to come out with propositions of solutions. There is also the natural complexity of the ecosystem in the Congo Basin which accounts for the rich biodiversity but, it can also difficult to work within this context.
CIFOR seems to tilt focus more on flora, why?
CIFOR focuses even more on people who depend on the forest. We are looking for the well-being of the population. Since the forest is their centre of life, we given them focus and even more on vulnerable population like women and children and the marginalized like the autochthones.
What is done to ensure participatory management of forest with this population?
There are so many things but, let me make something clarify that, normally CIFOR is not a development organization. Our services conduct research to put the results to governments. We have some pilot centres, like with the ‘oKok’ (Gnetum Africanum) where we helped the ministry of agriculture on a domestication project and other small sites to study what the population does in terms of climate change and propose for them to vulgarize our results. As researchers, we communicate more with policy makers to inform them, because they have no time to do research and when they get the results these should reflect their need for election and also provide them with a scientific base.
Concerning projects on non- timber forest products, do you not find this contrary to your mission?
The populations have been used, but the rhythm of growth of non-timber forest products may no longer be sufficient for the population. So they have to supplement through domestication, which is not prohibited, they have to also establish rules to regulate access to ensure sustainability.
Gone are the days when stakeholders focused on climate change as disaster in which humanity was doomed.
Climate change is witnessed through the changes in global atmospheric conditions leading to variations.
More and more the debate on climate change has evolved from only fighting climate- in mitigation and adaptation to include making money from climate change.
The Yaoundé May 17 workshop opened dialogue between the government, the civil society and representatives of development partners on the impact of climate change and the opportunities to be exploited at the international level.
The workshop authorized by the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature was organized by the central African Regional office of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance and Bio-resource Development and Conservation programme, BDCP.
Government has been making effort to lay the ground work for the country to benefit from climate change.
In November 2012, Cameroon elaborated and validated its R-PP Readiness Preparation Proposal-a document which indicates the country strategy of the REDD project- Reduction of Emissions form Deforestation and Degradation worth 28million US dollars.
This is like a shopping document that enables the country to source for finances, Dr. Joseph Amougou, Cameroon climate change focal point says.
Feasibility studies have been conducted on how Cameroon could sell carbon at Ngoyla Mintom. For Amougou, this is a project which consists in valorizing forests different from exploitation.
“The project aims at evaluating the carbon that could have been sent to the atmosphere from forest exploitation, then give the emissions an economic value”.
It would also valourize the forest through eco-tourism and bio-diversity. The feasibility study, (which needs to be verified) could indicates that the project could provide FCFA 12billion to the economy every year to be shared between the government and communities.
Another economic study by a British indicates that REDD could represent about 200-250millon dollars per year in economic potential.
This is an indicator- an opportunity of what climate change represents for the economy, but he maintained that the projects have to be verified if they real or fake.
Every project has pros and cons; if we compare this project to forest exploitation we are going to take the one which is profitable. If such projects are profitable to the economy, then government would accompany them, averred.
Augustine Njamnshi, Executive Secretary of BDCP, Central African Representative of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance says civil society are of the opinion that if there are any advantages from the climate change adaptation finances, it should be in such a way that Cameroonians can compete fairly with other countries.
Some past projects which have jobs created jobs have been to the detriment of the environment and the population, contrary to environmental protection, health and community well-being.
For climate change money to benefit the population, civil society organizations stress that the wealth should be channeled to the interest of the people and not some few individuals.
Honourable Cyprian Awudu Mbaya, Executive President, of the Pan-African Parliamentarian Network on Climate Change, has been contributing in the fight against climate change through sensitization in the constituencies as representatives of the people the focus now on engaging discussions on yielding economic profit.
To him, 92 per cent of Africa’s ecosystems are found in the Congo Basin and there is need to make the best out of it to turn Cameroon into a green economy, reduce pollution and promote food security.
“We have been influencing government action by enacting environmental laws and mounting pressure on the government to provide an enabling environment for all the actors to conduct research to help fight climate change”, he concluded.