Community activities to assist in alleviating rural poverty and protecting genetic resources
Non-timber forest products — especially those with medicinal value such as Voacanga, Harungana, and the well-recognized Prunus Africana ** — have long been the pharmacy to locals. Due to the frequent need for such genetic resources, some people have begun to domesticate these resources to ease collection, guarantee availability, and also for economic purposes. The affordability of these resources and the increasing demand in local, national, and international markets has motivated locals to increase the number of trees on their farms.
With the increasing numbers of farmers growing prunus trees, there is also an increased need to protect their common interests, especially from buyers seeking such products. For this reason, prunus farmers and communities with community forests have united through the Multipurpose Cooperative. This has allowed them to strengthen their bargaining power and expose their concerns and interests to the outside world. Because plants like prunus are harvested once after every 3 to 5 years, these farmers organize regular meetings to discuss issues affecting them and to exchange ideas.
Since the marketing of prunus bark is not determined by the farmers themselves but by the international market and international conservation and genetic resource policies, it can be difficult for farmers to determine their income. Some of the farmers have prunus trees that have never been harvested for over 20 years, thus affecting their income and leaving them in abject poverty. Other farmers have resorted to using their prunus trees as fuel. Consequently, the need to assist and support them through complementary activities is essential.
It was in this regard that during the 26th January 2023 meeting in the Regional Delegation of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife—South West Region, that Global Hand, a collaborating partner with the Multipurpose Cooperative, took the opportunity to talk with members about the International Day to Overcome Poverty (17th October) and to propose some complementary activities that can assist these farmers with additional income during off seasons. Some identified activities include snail rearing, beekeeping and honey processing. The trainings have been scheduled to take place in the months of March and May 2023. These two activities have been selected and agreed to be the pilot phase of the initiative.
By working together to preserve valuable genetic resources such as Prunus Africana, we can effect positive change — directly benefitting both the environment and people’s lives.
** Prunus Africana, locally known as “kanda stick”, is a large tree native to Cameroon which has a wide range of benefits — both ecological and medicinal. Not only is it a critical player in the ecosystem, providing shade and soil stability, but its bark has long been used to treat a variety of illnesses by brewing as a tea or mixing with other herbs.