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Trees Cameroon Restores Degraded Forests With 2 Million Trees 

By Azore Opio — Trees Cameroon has planted a record two million trees to restore the environmental and social value to areas in the Southwest, West and Northwest Regions damaged by unsustainable environmental exploitation.

“To enhance the natural capital of trees and make the degraded forests more economical, Trees Cameroon has so far planted two million trees, among other villages, in Maumu, Owe in Fako Division, Ikiliwindi in Meme, Alou and Upper Lewoh in Lebialem, Baleveng, Bafou, Bakassa, Bana in West Region, and Bamendankwe, Bafut, Mankon and Batibo in the Northwest,” Trees Cameroon Agro-forestry Technician, Marquise Payong, told The Post.

The farmers in these villages confessed to have used agro-forestry techniques (using leaves of certain forest species like leucania and acacia as natural manure for maize, beans and yams, potatoes) to increase yields. Most said they have witnessed double yields since 2008 when Trees for the Future introduced them to agro-forestry techniques and advised them to shun chemical fertilisers. Trees Cameroon was started in 2007 with a meagre FCFA 150,000.

“We are trying to grow it from scratch. In five years, we have reached US$ 55.000,” said Louis Nkembi, CEO of the Environmental and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF). “So far we have planted some two million trees through farmers, farmers’ groups, councils and schools,” Nkembi told The Post. Trees Cameroon doesn’t supply seedlings per se.

“We train people in the Southwest, West and Northwest Regions to raise seedlings using bare-root system (no polythene bags). Then we teach them to transplant the seedlings and raise them to maturity,” Nkembi said. The ERuDeF CEO said they want to begin mentoring the agro-farmers on on-farm management. Each year, a staff from the headquarters of Trees for the Future in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, comes over to asses Trees Cameroon projects on the ground.

“They used the funds very well,” Benjamin Addlestone, Trees for the Future, Cameroon Program Coordinator, said. Addlestone said the farmers have adopted and are using the farming technologies introduced by Trees for the Future-Cameroon. “They are practising alley cropping. Once the trees are mature, they cut some for firewood, while the leaves provide organic fertilizer,” he said.

John Munsell, associate professor at the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and an independent researcher, noted that adoption of agro-forestry in the areas where the practice was introduced by Trees for the Future-Cameroon has occurred. “The first great step that the farmers have taken is adoption. This has been followed by benefits such as soil fertility and increase in crop yields. More importantly, the conservation of the natural capital is beginning to be observed,” Munsell said.

Most importantly, ERuDeF has addressed the needs of the people in those localities – women’s and children’s needs, wildlife conservation and so on. To ensure continuity, the ERuDeF CEO says they are embarking on creating an agro-forestry farmers’ network to move to new communities. “We want trees planted to impact on the surrounding environmental; the natural, cultural and financial capitals.

Meanwhile, in January this year, the Institute of Biodiversity and Non-profit Studies, IBiNS matriculated the pioneer batch of conservation leaders. The first batch of trainees was sworn in at a ceremony that took place at the Institute’s campus at Mile 18, Buea. In an academic discourse, the Chair of Scientific Committee of IBiNS, Dr. George Chuyong explained that biodiversity provides goods and services for the most fundamental of human needs ranging from food, medicine.

“Eighty percent of the world’s population still use plants as medicine based on ancestral knowledge and close to 30 percent of all pharmaceuticals are developed from plants and animals,” Dr. Chuyong said. He urged the pioneer students to champion the conservation struggle by living a more sustainable life and influencing others around them to conserve the biodiversity of the nation.

IBiNS is the capacity and scientific building division of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation, ERuDeF. ERuDeF Board Chair, Eric Akemnda, told the parents and students at the matriculation ceremony that it was exactly one year since IBiNS was launched. He said, upon completion of studies, 95 percent of the graduates would be absorbed by ERuDeF.

“At IBiNS, we intend to set the pace in conservation science development in Cameroon. Some of the specialised programmes offered amongst others include Certificate Diploma, Postgraduate and Masters Programmes in Mountain Studies, Water Resource Management, Environmental Journalism, Fundraising, NGO studies, Applied Social Research and Forestry and Climate Change,” Akemnda added.

The pioneer Director of the Institute, Dr. Justin Okolle, stressed that the institute will go a long way in supporting the development of environmental reporting, which according to him has hitherto been neglected in the country. Dr. Okolle insisted that at the end of the academic year, a student must show prove of having mastered the techniques for fundraising, writing a project proposal and publishing research results in peer-review journals.

First published in The Post print edition no 01411

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