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High hopes: How Cameroonian youths prepare for COP27

October 18, 2022
topics: Climate action
by: Nalova Akua
located in: Cameroon
tags: Cameroon, climate action, COP 27, Sustainable Development

Local initiatives to restore lost forests are now sprouting across Cameroon, and some of them see COP27 as an opportunity to galvanise support for their work.

Mbingmboh, a small river, was until recently the only natural source of potable water and electricity of the remote village of Bamunkumbit in northwestern Cameroon. But with climate change worsening, this river is drying up quickly, putting the lives of the predominantly peasant community of over 20,000 inhabitants at great risk. 

In an effort to restore the river to its previous levels, Support Humanity Cameroon (SUHUCAM), an NGO, has initiated a reforestation scheme in its surroundings. With support from the Yaounde Chapter of Global Landscapes Forum (GLFx), a global network of communities taking action to make their local landscapes more sustainable, SUHUCAM has developed a tree nursery with solar-powered irrigation. Some 10,000 seedlings are expected to be raised in 2022 alone.

"So far, it’s very effective, and our seedling growth is very effective as well," Sunday Geofrey, SUHUCAM's coordinator, told GLF Landscape News in an interview in May. "It saves time that could have been used in watering the seedlings [by hand] and is environmentally friendly."

Located on the Bamenda ecological highlands, the nursery channels the energy to pumps transporting water from what is left of the Mbingmboh River to sprinklers in the nursery. Those sprinklers then water medicinal plants such as moringa, fruit-bearing trees such as oranges and avocados and additional trees used for other economic purposes, including ones that grow kola nuts.

These trees are then replanted to replace the forests that have been lost over time, chopped down for fuel wood or agriculture or fallen victim to the pressures of conflicts between farmers and grazers.

"This innovation is a demonstration of our commitment to take a lead on climate action and promote landscape restoration in grassroots communities in Cameroon," Sunday said. "But as a young organization, we are struggling with finances and resources. At the moment, we don’t have nursery nets and other basic nursery equipment." 

Massive forests, accelerated deforestation

Spanning approximately 21 million hectares and covering almost half of the country, Cameroon's forests make up a significant portion of the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest forest ecosystem after the Amazon. But Green Cameroon, a local NGO, is warning that the country’s forest is "subject to serious problems," including deforestation associated with logging and farming, the absence of an effective forest management programme, climate change and population growth. 

The restoration of the forest and agro pastoral landscapes in Bamunkumbit was initiated in 2019. The flagship project was the Bamunkumbit Integrated Community Forest (BICFOR), which aims to restore 151 hectares of land. But Sunday regrets that the unique features of this landscape and the existence of endangered wildlife species like monkeys, baboons and chimpanzees aren't known as a result of lack of information.

"Because of the interest expressed by some communities and the high potential of this initiative to create jobs, especially to women and youths, we are now elaborating the Ngoketunjia Plateau Restoration Initiative (NPRI)," Sunday told FairPlanet.

Ngoketunjia district encompasses 13 villages in north-western Cameroon, including Bamunkumbit.  The long-term ambition, Sunday says, is to restore approximately 109,700 hectares of degraded land and the planting of 5,000,000 trees in earmarked communities by 2035.

"This far, over 10 hectares of Forest and agro pastoral landscapes have been restored in this area," he said.

High hopes for COP27

At COP26 in 2021, Cameroon committed to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 35 percent by 2030 – up from the 32 percent pledge made in 2015 during COP21 in Paris.

The central African nation also joined a host of other countries in signing the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, pledging to "halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030," while delivering "sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation."

Cameroon also promised to integrate industrial biochar production into its climate and sustainable development strategy, which could see it eliminate at least 250,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

But this year’s COP comes with more pressing challenges for the country, according to Sunday.

As he awaits confirmation to attend the COP27 in Egypt in person through the Africa Climate Reality Project (ACRP) or participate virtually through the Global Landscapes Forum, Sunday sees in COP27 a "hope for our climate advocacy."

"Our restoration initiative in North West Cameroon is a perfect example of a local action promoting nature-based solutions as a strategy to strengthen the resilience of frontline communities to mitigate and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change," he told FairPlanet. 

"COP27, gives my organisation and country the opportunity to spotlight these grassroots activities that are empowering frontline communities, smallholder farmers and grazers and negotiate for the scaling of the initiatives to other communities and countries," he added.

"This is an opportunity for Cameroon to negotiate for these frontline communities bearing the brunt of climate change with little and most times no financial support."

Sunday explained that until 2022, SUHUCAM’s restoration initiative was largely self-sponsored. But recent assistance from the Global Landscapes Forum, the New England Biolabs Foundation, National Forestry Development Agency (ANAFOR) and Africa Climate Reality Project gave an added push to the organisation’s restoration drive.

He laments the fact that the Cameroonian government and international donors still choose to prioritise humanitarian needs over those of environment in the conflict-affected northwestern region.

"This has limited our ability to fundraise despite the potential economic and environmental benefits of this restoration initiative and the looming farmer/grazer conflict, as these groups continue to fight over degraded land and water resources," he said.

"Cameroon must take a brave decision to change this narrative, prioritise and negotiate for the funding of projects within these regions."

Sunday also believes that Cameroon should lobby for increased financial and technical support to smallholder farmers, grazers and fishermen at COP27.

"The alarming rate of agro pastoral land degradation, the increasing water scarcity and the potential conflict that will erupt because of scarce natural resources should be part of this advocacy," he said.

"Working in grassroots communities in northwestern Cameroon, I have experienced first-hand what these communities are going through."

Image by Nalova Akua Mambeh

Article written by:
IMG-20221008-WA0000
Nalova Akua
Author
Cameroon
In an effort to restore Mbingmboh River to its previous levels, Support Humanity Cameroon (SUHUCAM), an NGO, has initiated a reforestation scheme in its surroundings.
In an effort to restore Mbingmboh River to its previous levels, Support Humanity Cameroon (SUHUCAM), an NGO, has initiated a reforestation scheme in its surroundings.
© Nalova Akua Mambeh
With support from the Yaounde Chapter of Global Landscapes Forum (GLFx) – a global network of community members taking action to make their local landscapes more sustainable – SUHUCAM has developed a tree nursery with solar-powered irrigation.
With support from the Yaounde Chapter of Global Landscapes Forum (GLFx) – a global network of community members taking action to make their local landscapes more sustainable – SUHUCAM has developed a tree nursery with solar-powered irrigation.
© Nalova Akua Mambeh
Some 10,000 seedlings are envisaged to be raised in 2022 alone.
Some 10,000 seedlings are envisaged to be raised in 2022 alone.
© Nalova Akua Mambeh
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