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Hunters, Farmers, Students Pledge Support for Conservation of Endangered Birds

History was made early this February when for the first time hunters, farmers and students all came out in their number in one forum in Ako-subdivision, Donga-Mantung Division, pledging their support for the conservation of the endangered birds of the Bamenda Highlands. “I have been hunting for over 10 years today, but I am here because  I think it is time for us to join our hands together to protect our forest resources for the future generation, especially because the population of the bird are fast reducing’ Theophille Yembe, hunter told this Reporter. Other fellow hunters, farmers and students demonstrated similar commitment as a team from the non-profit Sustainable Run for Development(SURUDEV) marched into Ako with over 2000 posters carrying pictures of the different endangered birds.

Just o recall that the Western Highlands of Cameroon is home to some 35 restricted-range endemic bird species, the third richest Eco region for birds in mainland Africa. The Ako-Mbembe forest is one of the many forests area SURUDEV and its partners has been working to preserve the remaining population of the bird through research, sensitization and advocacy.

During the event which brought together over 200 people, students, hunters, and communities members were sensitized on the needs and reasons to protect and conserve birds so that their children or future generations will be able to appreciate them too.

This took place at the GBHS Ako, PS Ako and GS Ako school campuses. Seven different birds on the conservation chart produced were distributed to students in the respective schools. There after the Executive Director of SURUDEV, Kari Jackson further enriched the minds of the students with adequate knowledge and information about the various birds and how to protect them. Identification was his first remark about keeping and reserving these birds, reason why the organization produced a chart.

Students were encouraged to be bird activists and to advocate for the conservation of the birds. In these light students were given the opportunity to identify and name these birds in their local or native language, with the Banded Wattle Eye known as “ntchorong”, the Bannerman’s Turaco known as the “kind bird”. This activity was a success and the students expressed happiness and declared their readiness to protect their natural heritage.

In addition, the project team equally organized a bird conservation workshop at the Ako Council hall. This workshop brought people from far and near. Notably the Secretary General of the Ako Council, chiefs, civil servants of other works of life, hunters and head of farming groups around the Ako community and the community at large. During this workshop, participants shared their views about this project and again the Mr Kari Jackson educated the participants on the need to protect and conserve their natural heritage and further encouraged them to grow broilers, set up sustainable gardens as alternative means of raising income. Also, he encouraged hunters to particularly grow table birds and rear cane rats as it brings more income. The workshop ended with all the participants amazed at what they have and also promised to keep and watch over the Mbembe forest. To show their delight for such a lofty idea, they all join the project them members in unique group photo in front of the Ako council building singing Bannermans-bannermans………………

By Victor

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By Regina Fonjia Leke, Environmental Reporter

Experts in the Northwest Region of Cameroon in particular and other regions are warning that despite government and local development actors caution to farmers to shun bush burning and adopt more environmental friendly practices in farming, bush burning unfortunately is still on the rise and this is only escalating the dreadful phenomenon of global warming.

It is another farming season and it has been noticed that farmers in the Northwest Region in particular and other regions in Cameroon continue to set large patches of land with fire in order to cultivate different crops. They use different types, the most popular being the one called ‘ankara’ where farmers clear, put the grass into small heaps and some soil is then put on the heaps and then burning done. Another type of burning is the brush fires where farmers just set a large patch of land on fire instead of clearing and there is also wildfire where a bush is burnt perhaps for fresher grass to come out for grazing.

Experts say no matter the form used, burning forests down for cultivation is a hazardous to the environment and accelerate the very dreadful climate change. ‘Bush burning contributes adversely to global warming. Bush burning produces tons of incomplete combusted carbon (carbon monoxide) which is very dangerous and forms part of the Green House Gases(GHG) , steam (water vapour) which is the number one GHG, which destroys the ozone layer and precipitate global warming’ Earth Scientist Kari Jackson, told this Reporter

The negative effects of climate change in Cameroon have become very glaring, with rapid changes in precipitation levels rising in sea level, and more frequent and intense weather. Officials in the Northwest Regional Delegation of Agriculture and Rural Development reported recently that losses in soil biodiversity and a variety of genetic resources as a result of increased heat or water stress is reducing agricultural productivity in the region.

Farmers in Cameroon are dependent on rain-fed agriculture and erratic rainfall patterns resulting from climate change has made it difficult in following cropping calendars due to unpredictable and unseasonably long rainy periods, leading to decline in crop yields, high disease incidence and crop losses thereby causing increased post-harvest losses and high labour costs which adversely affect agricultural activities and their livelihoods thereby exacerbating the already entrenched poverty which prevails at the grassroots level.

In addition bush fires have led to deforestation causing a great loss of biodiversity. Burning sweeps hectares of forests leading to habitat loss of biodiversity for fauna and flora causing the disappearance of certain species of trees and animals that have fled to distant places A typical example is the case of 500 hectares of the kilum-ijim forest that was burnt around Lake Oku in March 2000 leading to a drastic decline of the population of some endemic endangered birds such as the Bannerman’s turaco and bannerman’s weaver.

However bad experts say bush burning may be, some farmers especially those in Babessi, Ndop and neighbouring villages in Ngoketunjia Division say they are reaping benefits and that suffices to them. ‘I burn my farm because clearing takes time plus when I burn the land, it helps to increase my yields’ Lukong Martin, a groundnut Farmer in the Sabga Plateau, Bamenda told this Reporter.

However experts are warning that even though this might be true, the long run effects are devastating to the soil and biodiversity at large ‘It is true that especially for some crops such as cocoyams, groundnuts, sweet potatoes and cassava could do better when brush fires are used on the farm, but this is only for a short run and could be just for one farming season and the next year the farmer may have to migrate to look for another land to burn’ Earth Scientist, Kari Jackson explained. Mr. Kari said bush burning is really disadvantageous ‘When the farm is burnt, it destroys the food chain. In the soil, there exist microbes and denitrifying bacteria which help to boost the fertility of the soil. But when land is burnt, these are destroyed’ Kari said.

Some farmers however understand the implications of bush burning and are integrating more environmentally friendly ways to cultivate ‘Some people burn their farms because they want to avoid the stress of clearing and also for fertility, but to me I think when I put the grass on the folds and farm it, it maintains the fertility of the soil. When you burn the farm, it destroys the ecosystem and subsequently the soil becomes very fragile, it gradually loses its fertility Ndufor Jakyln, a farmer in Mile Nine Bambili who is also an English teacher said.

Additionally it is advised that farmers could integrate in their farms fast growing luminous natural nitrogen fixing trees such as Acacia, Leucaena and Caliandra who act as natural fertilisers in the soil.

Farmers especially in the Bamenda Highlands like Sabga and the Nkambe Plateau of the Northwest Region may want to consider this other means of boosting fertility especially as recent findings indicate that bush fires accounts for the loss of 50% of water bodies in the highlands as the fires expose the land causing water sources to dry up because of the excess heat. This no doubt adds to precarious water shortage already facing homes in Bamenda and the Northwest at large.

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Four new schools in the Northwest region will henceforth benefit from the green school project of the NGO, Sustainable Run for Development (SURUDEV).

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1000 trees Envisaged to Reforest Degraded Lands and Restore Water Catchments

The Sustainable Run for Development (SURUDEV) has launched a new project dubbed ‘Tree for Generation’.

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The Sustainable Run for Development (SURUDEV) has been awarded over $ 17000 to carryout biodiversity conservation in the Oom-Wum forest in Menchum Division of the North West Region of Cameroon.

The project which is aimed at conserving the Pan troglodytes ellioti in the Oom-wum forest also engages adjacent forest users in alternative income generation activities, tree planting, sensitization of some 10.000 community members with chimp posters, junior secondary school students with chimp handbooks, reconnaissance survey of Chimp nests among other activities.

Kari Jackson says this is the only generation that is feeling the impacts of climate change and that something has to be done about conservation practices if not this generation will have nothing to hand to the next one. “How can we fight the phenomenon of poaching, illegal logging, poor farming, forest encroachment without involving those whose mindsets are still a threat to these forests and its biodiversity? Remember you cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them and you help them to understand that these resources are their own and they must protect them” Kari added.

He also expressed gratitude to the commitment of the Arcus foundation, for supporting SURUDEV efforts in encouraging biodiversity conservation in the Bamenda highlands. He said that SURUDEV Bio Farms-Bongom continues to inspire youths and communities in practicalities in mitigating climate change. “After harvesting our onions of over 10 tons, we have earmarked to kick start water melon harvesting next week. Sales are encouraging and we intend to train more widows in the upcoming season and plant more 2000 trees”. According to Kari Jackson, the bio farms have enabled them to raise enough funds to be able hire office spaces in Bamenda and Nkambe. He said SURUDEV will equally be launching a new and more flexible web site http://www.surudev.org, was well as kickstart an e-newsletter as well as a print newsletter. These, he emphasized is aimed at highlighting the works of SURUDEV, other international and local environmental news that is vital for the community. And he concluded that this year was a very successful year for SURUDEV “and we hope to do better next year given that we served some communities with over 10 projects and hope to improve on our services and the number of communities too”.