Promoting sustainable protein sources in communities around Mount Cameroon National Park.
Mount Cameroon, which rises 4090 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.
While Cameroon is working to protect forest resources surrounding Mount Cameroon through the creation of a National Park, CREE is partnering with a local nonprofit organization to ensure local populations can maintain their livelihoods as well. This is because local people will lose access to the park’s wild resources with the creation of the National Park. Without offering them alternative food sources, they will likely end up poaching illegally to meet their needs.
With limited funds for park enforcement, stopping bush meat harvesting without offering alternatives is not a viable option, nor is it just. Through encouraging communities to adopt the traditional practice of snail farming, forest dwelling tribes will be able to generate income and obtain a vital source of protein in a way that promotes conservation and sustainable forestry and prevents them from harvesting within the park.
As plantations have expanded, the human population has gradually consumed forest resources and has nearly destroyed its biodiversity. The Mount Cameroon region is at risk of losing its position among the 10 most conservable ecosystems on Earth. It merited such special attention due to its volcanic soils, inspiring peaks, proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, substantial rainfall, natural ecology and cultural heritage.
These high-value characteristics have attracted the attention of the Government of Cameroon, as well as other international organizations. In a joint effort with the German Development Bank, the government’s Ministry of Wildlife and Forestry is currently in the process of setting up a National Park in the area.
Unfortunately, the establishment of a national park means either total restriction or limited user rights for the surrounding communities to use the forest and its resources, including hunting and the collection of non-timber forests products (NTFP’s). Such limitations will have a severe impact on the economic vitality and local way of life for those living near the park.
These rich forests are a direct source of income for more than 300,000 inhabitants of the region. Mount Cameroon has an active volcanic peak that erupted only 10 years ago and has attracted many farming activities to the region for its rich soil. Plantations of banana, palm oil, and rubber abound, as well as tea farms operated by agro-industrial companies like the Cameroon Development Corporation and PAMOL Plantations Limited. This fertile landscape has attracted a highly heterogeneous population of different tribes from across both Cameroon and Nigeria.Both perennial cash crops (coffee and cocoa) and food crops (plantains, cocoyam and cassava) constitute a significant portion of the economic base of this population. Because these activities require the use of land, however, more and more forested land has been cleared for the establishment of farms over the years. It has been shown that forest dwelling communities depend almost 100% on the forest and its resources for both subsistence and income. Over time, these resources are becoming very scarce due to urbanization, farming, timber exploitation and other human activities.In the past, some very common forest products such as snails (Achachantina spp), edible mushrooms and caterpillars were harvested in small quantities for home consumption. There has always been a cultural attachment to the eating of such products known only to the local people of a particular area. But recently, there has been a dismantling of these cultural barriers due to an increase in intermarriages and urban interactions.
Such is the case with the snail, which was once predominately consumed by only a few ethnic groups and is now is common delicacy for almost everyone in Cameroon. Consequently, there is a high demand for snails both within Cameroon and from neighboring Nigeria. Some households depend on snails as a major source of income, making as much as 48,000 FCFA ($100 USD) from their harvest per day.
On the other hand, some rural households depend mainly on the forest for household protein because they cannot afford meat or fish from the markets. The forest snail has been identified as one of the forest products from which the family derives its animal protein. Unlike bush meat, snails are easy to collect and can be harvested by women and children with men getting involved only during the high demand seasons.
The German Development Bank (KFW) and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife in Cameroon are working towards the sustainable management of forest resources within the Southwest Province of Cameroon, including Mount Cameroon. The program’s objectives are livelihood development and natural resource management which are mandated to be achieved in a participatory manner with local communities. Through this program the government of Cameroon is establishing a National Park around the Mount Cameroon area to protect its rich biodiversity.
However, establishing and maintaining a National Park can only be truly successful if there is maximum cooperation and collaboration from the communities in and around it. This collaboration can only come when people have other satisfactory activities to replace their current hunting and farming activities.
Snail farming is a very feasible micro-project that could be carried out by the communities to reduce pressure on the forest while providing income to meet household needs. Facilitation of snail farming activities in the village will have a great impact on the lives of the villagers, especially the women and children who spend hours during the night hunting for wild snails in the forest for sale and consumption. CREE, in partnerships with Forests, Resources and People, will couple project execution with talks on sustainable harvesting and use of the forest to ensure an improved environmental ethic is fostered.
This project will accomplish the following objectives:
- Reduce the level of forest encroachment that results from hunting, farming and other forest-related activities
- Promote conservation of an endangered animal species (snails)
- Increase household income through sustainable harvesting of a valuable resource
- Prevent children malnutrition from insufficient protein intake
Before partnering with CREE, for nine years the staff of Forests, Resources and People (FOREP) have been working with communities around the Southwest Province, including the Mount Cameroon region. FOREP has carried out research on non-timber forest products (NTFPs), trained community members in the construction and management of community nurseries, and facilitated sustainable community development plans and other developmental processes.
During the planning process and other visits to the communities, FOREP initiated environmental education ideas with the members of the village planning team, educating them on the need to conserve the forest and use it wisely. Good relations have now been established with the communities and they rely on FOREP to support them in achieving their conservation and livelihood development goals.Share