Rich biodiversity earned it the nickname “Africa in miniature.”
Cameroon has often been called “Africa in miniature” for how much it mirrors the continent’s diversity. Like the continent it calls home, Cameroon boasts a coastline, mountains, savanna, desert, and tropical rainforests.
Its 22 million hectares of tropical forests are a vital part of the Congo Basin forest ecosystem. These forests provide a source of livelihoods for communities and habitat for over 9,000 plant species, about 900 bird species, and roughly 320 mammals — including the critically endangered western lowland gorilla and the endangered chimpanzee. The northern province in Cameroon, Bénoué, hosts the largest hippo population in the entire West-Central region of Africa.
In addition to astonishing landscapes and wildlife, Cameroon has favorable agricultural conditions; and despite growing markets in the economy, the majority of the population practices subsistence farming.
Oil resources are abundant in Cameroon, making its GDP one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa — aluminum, raw and roasted cocoa beans, raw cotton, and gold are some of its other major exported goods.
The Challenge Today
Expanding development is threatening already vulnerable areas.
Africa is on the doorstep of being completely modernized and overwhelmed by development — and Cameroon is on the frontlines of this trend. While recent economic developments such as the Kribi deep sea and industrial port complex, the Memve’ele Hydropower Dam, iron ore exploration projects, rubber and oil palm plantations, and new railway terminals bolster Cameroon’s economy, the development borders Campo Ma’an National Park and is a serious threat to the park’s wildlife.
Rapidly expanding infrastructure is a major contributor to habitat loss and degradation. However, this rapid growth presents exciting opportunities to explore the best ways to integrate biodiversity and conservation needs into Cameroon’s economic planning and infrastructural development.
Under-resourced wildlife authorities can lead to poaching massacres.
In February 2012, heavily armed poaching gangs from Sudan massacred more than in 50 percent of elephants in northern Cameroon’s Bouba N’djida National Park. Financial and technical shortfalls make parks extremely vulnerable to poachers and habitat destruction. Cameroon’s national parks are vast and the dedicated wildlife authorities and staff on the ground oftentimes lack adequate financial support and resources to carry out effective management and anti-poaching efforts.
Meeting the Challenge
Our solutions to protecting Cameroon's unique biodiversity:
African Wildlife Foundation, with support from the European Union, is working in Faro National Park, Dja Faunal Reserve, and Campo Ma’an, to improve park management and to bolster anti-poaching efforts by training and equipping rangers, expanding areas under patrol, and providing support for the effective enforcement of wildlife crime.
Armed with efficient tracking equipment, AWF-trained rangers have seized hundreds of kilograms of bushmeat and various firearms, and with heightened patrolling efforts, they are also removing wildlife traps and snares.
Local communities rely on resources from forests just as much as wildlife does. AWF integrates local populations in the sustainable management of natural resources in buffer zones next to national parks, such as Faro National Park, ensuring they are consulted throughout the process and that long-term conservation plans are structured to provide them with sustainable livelihood options.
In Dja Faunal Reserve, AWF is improving the livelihoods of communities in surrounding areas by establishing sustainable, designated village hunting areas and negotiating hunting management agreements, as well as involving the communities in wildlife monitoring.
The Nyamabande village stands in close proximity to Campo Ma’an National Park. The village is also close to Kribi, which is a big tourism destination due to significant populations of apes and elephants.
The village’s main source of income is the commercialization of non-timber forest products and bushmeat. Currently, the process of collection, washing, and drying of these products results in low-quality products that are unfortunately sold at very low prices. AWF is engaging local people in sustainable income-generating activities by creating non-timber forest products such as bush mango and njansang to produce oilseeds and butter.
Sustainable enterprises like these improve community access to economic opportunities, and increase revenue through the establishment of small and economically viable business activities specialized in non-timber forest products.
AWF also plans to develop and promote ecotourism for the habituated apes living in close proximity to the community. The program will involve both men and women serving as guides in great ape habituation. This will reinforce the village’s implication in natural resource management and ultimately in the protection of Campo Ma’an National Park.