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Prunus Africana Needs Urgent Attention – MINFOF Scribe 

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

The Secretary General in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, Denis Koulagna, has stated that the situation of Prunus Africana, a plant with diverse medical values in Cameroon and other countries in Africa needs urgent attention.

Koulagna made the statement in Yaounde on October 25 while representing the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife at a workshop on "Development of Strategies for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Prunus Africana to Improve the Livelihood of Small-Scale Farmers."

The workshop was organised by Italian and German organisations, Bioversity International and Natural Hazards and Landscapes. Bioversity International is hosted in Cameroon by the Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR. Meanwhile, funds for the four-year research findings on Prunus Africana conducted in some nine African countries were provided by the Austrian Development Cooperation.

Koulagna told the participants that Prunus Africana is a special product and draws special attention in Cameroon not because of its capacity to yield income for the rural people, but also because of its international value. He added that the product is included in annex II to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

He said from monitoring of species listed in the CITES appendices, it has been concluded that Cameroon and other states constitute countries where Prunus Africana needs urgent attention.
"This situation…has unfortunately been compounded by the suspension of exports of Prunus Africana to European countries, thus compromising the process of consolidation of achievements that started in the sector," he regretted.

He, however, remained hopeful that findings from the research would provide solutions to the management of Prunus Africana in Cameroon and other countries. Stating how deep Cameroon is interested in the research results, Koulagna said, "We are all concerned about the depletion of this resource (Prunus Africana)… and we need scientific data to develop sound strategies for sustainable management of the species."

Acknowledging that Prunus Africana is under threat, he told the scientists that government would use the results "to improve not only regeneration through public and private plantations but also to promote the best harvesting practices." It is worth noting that apart from inappropriate harvesting practices that have led to suspension of export of the product from Cameroon; the plant is also affected by uncontrolled fires and invasive alien species.

The Regional Director of Bioversity International for sub-Sahara Africa, Jojo Baidu-Forson, outlined a series of workshops on Prunus Africana that has taken place in Cameroon since 1996. He said the plant is found not only in mountainous areas of Cameroon, but also in similar mountainous tropical areas of the continent and Madagascar.

Hammering on why the plant must be sustainably managed, he talked of the important value of extracted elements that serve as herbal remedy prepared from the bark of Prunus Africana and used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, common in men.  "The timber from Prunus Africana is a hardwood used in manufacturing handles for axes, hoes and utensils, wagons, floors and furniture.

The wood is tough, heavy, straight grain," Jojo held.
Estimating that 35,000 tons of barks of the trees were processed annually in the 1990s, he said because of the growing demand for the bark; the tree is now being cultivated for its medicinal uses. Thomas Geburek of the Natural Hazards and Landscapes known by its German acronym as BFW, told the participants that the partnership is fair and that all stakeholders in the project should come up with what they intend to do.

According to Verina Ingram, who represented the CIFOR Region Coordinator, her institution has for the past seven years been sharing information on Prunus Africana with Cameroon’s decision makers. She said they contributed enormously in designing the Prunus Africana Management Plan that was submitted to the Cameroonian government.

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