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Story Publication logo June 3, 2022

Considerable Gains in Biodiversity Management

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An aerial overview of a village near a rainforest.
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For many years, illegal logging and unsustainable exploitation of the lush tropical rainforest...

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Revenue from community and council forests is helping to support education and improve habitat. Image by Cameroon Tribune.

"The Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Minkebe (TRIDOM) landscape today boasts many logging titles, while local people and councils manage their forests. As a result, illegal logging has been curbed and more powers granted to councils, communities, and logging concessions to carry out surveillance of their forests,” says Alphonse Ngniado, World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF Cameroon National Forestry and Climate Coordinator. 

Checkmating Illegal Logging

He adds that checkpoints manned by forest guards or rangers and other staff of the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife (MINFOF) have been set up on the Mintom-Sangmelima-Ouesso highway. This has curbed the incidence of illegal wood being taken out of the area. In collaboration with forest/conservation authorities in Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, Cameroon organizes regular joint patrols to check illegal activities in TRIDOM, Ngniado notes.


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Collaborative Efforts 

An avenue has been created for conservation stakeholders from the three countries to meet regularly to discuss how their forests can continue to be managed sustainably. Owners of logging concessions and their staff have also been involved in efforts to protect forests. For example, they take Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of sites where illegal activities are noticed and pass on the information to the Cameroon Ministry of Wildlife and Forestry for action. 
Moreover, forest officials have been offered logistics to ease movements. They are also equipped with GPS to collect data and produce maps on illegal logging. As a result, the rate of illegal logging on the Cameroonian side of TRIDOM has been dropping over the years. Though there are still pockets of illegal logging on the Mbalam-Mintom road, Ngniado adds.

Declining Poaching Numbers

"Before the advent of TRIDOM, elephant poaching was rife because of high demand for ivory on the international market. Some years ago, 11,000 elephants were killed in Minkebe National Park in Gabon. Wildlife surveys undertaken in Nki and Boumba-Bek National Parks in Cameroon some years ago showed we lost about 70 per cent of the elephant population in less than 10 years. With the strategy put in place by TRIDOM, poaching is now on the decline,” explains Gilles Etoga, Senior Policy and Conservation Coordinator, WWF Cameroon.

Alternative Revenue Sources

Community forests have become main sources of revenue to local communities in TRIDOM Cameroon. The money is used in improving housing and supporting education. Women have been organised to collect Non-Timber Forestry Products (NTFPs) and connected with buyers to better market their produce. WWF has offered assistance under the Green Cocoa scheme, which seeks to rejuvenate cocoa farms by replacing old trees without having to cut down forests to expand farms. This is achieved by introducing high-yielding cocoa varieties. Secondly, chemical fertilizers are not used and best practices are employed to assure greater productivity, Gilles Etoga discloses.

Rainforest Alliance Support 

Rainforest Alliance has since 2017 been involved in a similar cocoa project in Mintom Subdivision, Dja and Lobo Division of South Region. According to Cédric Happy, Rainforest Alliance Field Supervisor for Organisation of the Community Forest Project,  Southern Dja Wildlife Reserve, a cocoa producers’ cooperative has been set up. Members have been offered training on how to boost productivity; a revolving fund set up and reputable sale outlets secured for the farmers. “We also offer assistance in sustainable community forest management and for gathering Non-timber Forestry Products, NTFPs,” Happy says.

Community Forests As Economic Drivers

Local councils have been allocated forests to manage. They are larger than those allocated to communities – almost the size as logging concessions. WWF provides technical assistance on managing council forests, and trains local Non-governmental Organisations, NGOs to represent and speak for local community people and councils by raising their challenges with government for possible solutions.

“My people wholeheartedly welcomed biodiversity conservation in order to ensure the sustainable management of our resources. WWF presented us several alternatives, including gazetting Nki National Park, and later on the Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve. We supported all these activities to their successful completion,” says His Majesty Mpono Pierre, Traditional Ruler of Ngoyla, Upper Nyong Division in the East Region.

Prosper Medoulou, Second Deputy Mayor of Mintom Council in Dja and Lobo Division, South Region, speaks with glee of the gains of sustainable forest management. Mintom Council Forest, which was gazetted in 2015 and covers about 43,000 hectares, now generates between 150 million FCFA-200 million FCFA per annum from logging. This has enabled the council to construct the Mayor’s residence, council hall, boreholes, sink wells and construct boukarous in traditional rulers’ palaces, etc, Medoulou discloses.

Most of the 13 community forests in Mintom Council also have similar success stories to tell. Logging revenue from their forests is helping to improve habitat and support education. “TRIDOM has achieved some success in building capacity for efficient governance of protected areas and the illegal wildlife trade in Cameroon,” says Ze Jean Louis Parfait, Cameroon National Director, TRIDOM II Project. “We look forward to seeing more improvements in the management of protected areas in order to curb wildlife criminality. This can be achieved by putting in place a participatory monitoring and evaluation approach that includes women,” Ze adds.

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