By Leocadia Bongben
Experts are worried that villages around dams: Songloulou, Lom Pangar, Mekin, Lagdo and Nachtigal risk disappearing if nothing is done to eliminate the black fly spreading river blindness also known as Oncerchociaisis and other vectors.
Oncerchociasis is an eye and skin disease caused by a worm (filarial) known by the scientific name ‘Onchocerca volvulus’, transmitted through bite. The body of an affected person is completely destroyed and is related with epilepsy and sexual impairment.
Ten years ago a village, in the along the Sanaga river had 150 pupils in a school, today the school has been deserted as the younger generations flees from lacerating bite of the black fly. Agricultural is abandoned leading to reduction of economic activities, as the result is ghost villages as villagers leave to town.
Dr. Pierre Baleguel Nkot, President of the Yaoundé Initiative Foundation, YIF, an NGO that intervenes in the domains of health, agriculture, environment and sustainable development, says dams are a good breeding environment for the black fly.
“The black fly breeds in fast flowing water, natural or artificial like a dam that produces white water, is oxygenated and favourable for larvae. Producing artificial water, we are creating a breeding ground for insects”, he stated.
“With about 8000 bites per minute from the black fly it is difficult for the survival of the population, besides, the new dams already have 2000 bites per minute”, Nkot laments.
As a measure of prevention, YIF is protecting people around the two dams, Edea and Songloulou, by killing the larvae inside the river, but this is done in a limited area. Consequently the black fly comes from others areas flying about 200km per day, the expert indicated.
Working to control the on the Sanaga River, Prof. Graham Matthews, Entomologist, Imperial University London says he has been treating the river between Monatele and Edea, using Temefos spread from an engine powered boat.
“The insecticide Temefos, was first used in West Africa by the WHO to treat rivers in nine countries, using an aircraft, but insecticides are not a long term solution as the vector could develop resistance”, Graham says.
In the long term to completely eradicate the black fly and other vectors, there is need to know the current situation in the whole country, the state of the black fly and other vectors, the people living in the area, the species in the environment and where they are breeding.
Against this background, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, YIF launched a socio-environmental impact assessment of the black fly and other vectors in all the regions of Cameroon on June 21 at the Jean XXIII Centre in Nvolye.
The six-month long assessment with experts from Nigeria, London would help the government draw an eradication plan from the results, says Patrice Nsegbe, Head of Cartography at the MINEPAT and Focal Point to the impact assessment studies.
“Government has been supporting for about ten years supports YIF in the fight against the black fly. We need to make this a programme not project as it has been in the pilot zones to cover the whole country”.
He underscores the need to anticipate and put corrective measures before the projects are completed for the wellbeing of the population.
With the results of the impact assessment Cameroon could replicate what the Americans did in Tennessee in the 1930s to level water flow, though costly, Graham suggests.
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.
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.
By Leocadia Bongben
Some 30 Cameroonian Artists have joined the sensitisation for the protection of elephants through a festival dubbed Elephantastik.
The maiden edition Elephantastik billed from November 29-30 at the Camtel Club in Yaounde is an initiative of an association, “Les Amie de la Culture”, (Friends of Culture) coordinated by Issoukou Eitel (Reezbo).
Presenting the festival to the press at the WWF office, Reezbo said the festival is organised within the framework of sensitising the public, government officials and policy makers on the importance of protecting elephants, endangered with extinction.
“Wounded and disoriented, elephants are exposed to suffering and even death. The future of baby elephants that lose their parents to poachers is uncertain as some die of thirst and hunger” he said.
WWF Country Director, Hanson Njiforti accompanied the artists at the presentation of the festival.
Among the many questions from journalists, was how such a festival could stop poaching and sale of ivory when those who perpetrate the ivory trade are found in Asia, China and other European countries.
Bas Huijbregts, WWF Head of Policy Engagement Illegal Wildlife Trade Campaign for Central Africa said WWF has been campaigning at different levels dubbing the campaign by artists a new approach to the fight against illegal trafficking in wildlife with all stakeholders being part of the sensitisation process.
He said elephants are killed in Cameroon for the international illegal ivory market and the people that buy the ivory are not Cameroonians, they come from China, South East Asia and Europe and United States.
“Ivory belongs to elephants and not as a ring, a bracelet, you don’t give it as a present when you are in a high meeting with a government official and ivory is not sexy, ivory comes from poached elephants in Africa and they should stop buying them”, he stressed.
Artists are mobilising to stop the killing in Cameroon and also in Asia; there are good will ambassadors like the famous Chinese basketball player who is now talking to Chinese about poaching in Africa.
Thailand also has elephants and sell ivory from dead or domesticated elephants is legal, but with so many tourists, Thai ivory is not sufficient.
In this light, Huijbregts laments that the Thai government is lacking in law enforcement to control the ivory, the reason many criminals look for ivory from poached elephants from Africa which they mix with Thai ivory.
He said WWF has asked the Prime Minister to ban legal ivory trade in Thailand adding that in Cameroon there are a number of issues such as a lack of coordinated law enforcement to be addressed.
More often, law enforcement is considered as an issue to be dealt with by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, whereas, wildlife is now infiltrated by illegal criminal networks and should be considered as an illicit trade like in drugs, humans and arms, the policy campaign expert said.
Going by him, other law enforcements officers such as the police, customs and the justice department need to work hand in hand with MINFOF to address the trade.
“Millions of dollars are earned by this trade every year, Elephant tusks are moved from deep down the forest to Douala, Yaounde, these are not small things and there is control on the roads, how can they not see elephant tusks moving?, he questioned.
By Leocadia Bongben
President Biya has signed three decrees granting a temporary concession to the American Agro-Industrial Company, Herakles Farms SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon Limited despite protests by some villages.
Edward Enonguene Apkenjo, the regent chief of Nguti said two months ago the community does not have land to give SG SOC. “where are we going to get land for SG SOC, our population is more than the land.”
This is one of the many protests registered ahead of the signing of the presidential decrees.
Nguti is part of the land in the temporary land lease of 19,843 hectares which Biya on November 25, handed over to SGSOC that has been operating in illegality for four years.
The leased lands for a period of three years are in Nguti, Toko and Mundemba in the Southwest region of Cameroon.
In 2009, the government signed a contract with the company, for the development of a palm oil plantation and refinery for 73,086 hectares of land for 99 years at FCFA 500 per hectare per year.
However, this has changed as the company is expected to pay FCFA 3300 per hectare per year instead of FCFA 500, for three years and extension would depend on their ability to respect the engagements.
SG SOC is therefore expected to pay FCFA 259 billion to the state for the three years while and land tax of FCFA 198,430,000 million for the same period.
Civil Society Condemn Land Lease
Civil Society Organisations, Network for the Fight against Hunger, RELUFA and the Centre for Environment and Development, CED maintain that at a glance the irregularities decried over the years seem to have been corrected. But, they note that the decree legalises the activities which the company claimed were legal four years ago.
Napoleon Jaff Bamenjo, RELUFA Coordinator laments that, “The presidential decree has not succeeded in changing the project into an acceptable investment”.
They say questions continue to linger attracting suspicion as nothing is said about the communities that refused to cede their land and potential conflicts.
“For the past four years the company has not demonstrated the will to respect the law and the rights of the local communities.
Cameroon should avoid giving the impression that she is ready to welcome every company in a sensitive areas like land management. An urgent national policy on the lease of arable land with a rigorous selection of investors should be adopted so that the experience of SGSOC does not repeat itself”, says Samuel Nguiffo, CED Secretary General.
CED and RELUFA regret that the decree does not make mention of the wood from forest cut to plant palms hinting on the fear that this may jeopardise the Voluntary Partnership Accord, VPA between the government and the EU on the sale of legal wood.
International NGOs, Greenpeace and Oakland Institute have described the land lease signature as an alarming development.
“A downsized project does not resolve the problems related to the palm oil project by Herakles Farms,” said Irène Wabiwa, forest campaigner with Greenpeace Africa.
“It simply remains the wrong project in the wrong place, as the impact on communities’ livelihoods and the forests remain unacceptable”, she adds.
Going by her “The opaque and illegal manner in which the project has been carried out demonstrates the threats to Africa’s forests if operations like this are allowed to proceed unchecked.”
New Palm oil companies and investors are targeting Africa and if the Herakles project is not stopped, it would set a bad example for this type of large scale plantation development in the region.
Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute Executive Director regrets, “The Cameroonian government has shot itself in the foot with this decision. They are making it clear that under the guise of “investment” virtually anyone can get away with illegal activities in the country and even be rewarded for it. It will be the government itself and the Cameroonian people who lose out from this”.