Mount Cameroon, which rises 4,090 meters from the sea, is located on the western coast of Cameroon in the Southwest Province and is considered a ‘hotspot’ of biological diversity. The lower parts of the mountain are covered by dense equatorial rain forest with diverse species of plants ranging from herbs, shrubs and lianas to large timber species, many of which are endemic to the area. It is also the domain of a wide variety of animals, including drills, monkeys, elephants, chimpanzees and other mammals and rodents.
CREE began its work in support of community leader Stella Asaha and the local NGO she co-founded (Forests, Resources, and People or ‘FOREP’) in 2008, alerted to the lack of natural resource livelihood options after the creation of Mount Cameroon National Park. CREE started small, helping Stella craft this work focus within FOREP’s portfolio. CREE provided funding for training and supplying seven farmers to institute domestic snail farming as a means to prevent illegal encroachment into the newly created park and reduce pressure on the park’s wildlife. With this modest investment, CREE’s Leader Stella Asaha began earning the confidence of the community and twinning her snail farming work with environmental education focused around forestry and wildlife. In 2010, CREE received funding from Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund, enabling us to multiply our impact and work with 28 different households. This work resulted in production of a snail-farming manual and extensive entrepreneur mentorship. This work is especially needed now to curb increasing demand from neighboring Nigeria for wild snails.
Future work is now focused around strategic guidance to Stella in how to most effectively take this work forward long-term, given lessons learned working with women, men, youth and elders. It was found that women and elders took the best care for their snail farming enterprise, and given the area’s need to empower women, CREE’s is now helping Stella to focus on women’s eco-entrepreneurial cooperatives. CREE will provide examples of financially viable businesses for other villages to emulate, such as Mary Kinge’s below.