Human-Elephant Conflict Around Mount Cameroon National Park

Participants in RRT meeting
Participants in Rapid Response Team meeting

Global Hand Cameroon has recently been working in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Programme for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR-SWR) to develop a new “Rapid Response Team” strategy for preventing human-elephant conflicts in communities adjacent to Mount Cameroon National Park.

Over the past few years, the problem of forest elephants raiding farmers crops has been getting steadily worse, and especially in the West Coast and Bomboko Clusters (northern and western border of the national park). Not only have the number of raids by elephants increased, but the elephants are now remaining in the area. Farmers are losing entire crops, and human-elephant encounters are becoming dangerous. The situation in this area has reached a crisis stage and workable solutions are urgently needed.

According to stories passed down by village elders, elephants have always used this area as a corridor to move between places (e.g., to the Mukoko Forest Reserve and back to Korup and Takamanda National Parks) and until recently there rarely were any problems. However, with the traditional elephant corridors being encroached upon by human settlement, along with disruptions caused by ongoing political instability, the elephants’ traditional patterns of movement have been altered. Of course, forest elephants are recognized as an essential part of the area’s rich biodiversity — and are in fact a big draw for ecotourists — so the question is not how to completely eliminate them, but simply how to dissuade them from entering farms and populated areas.

A number of creative techniques to dissuade the elephants have been tried, including building hot chili fences and installing beehives along some parts of the boundary separating the national park from the affected communities. Unfortunately, these measures have only provided a temporary solution since the elephants have simply adapted to these installations and continued with their unwelcome activities.

Undeterred, villagers have resorted to a more active approach to chasing off the elephants. Now, the national park is encouraging communities to respond to the elephants’ destruction through an “early warning alert system” using a Rapid Response Team (RRT), in which elephants are monitored and immediately chased from community farms as soon as they are first detected.

It is in this endeavor that Global Hand Cameroon has been actively working. In its capacity as a Local Support Organization (LSO), GLOHA, in partnership with WWF and PSMNR-SWR, is helping train villagers and farmers on the best RRT strategies, including how to use the vuvuzela (horn), GPS, and other monitoring gadgetry. This is just one of the many conservation issues we are addressing as we seek to find long-term, sustainable solutions to improve people’s livelihoods and maintain the overall health of the planet.

[See also our news article of June 2023:  Human-Elephant Conflict, Mount Cameroon]

Video of two elephants in a farmer’s field. The farmer is calling to the elephants to leave the field.

Consultation and preliminary negotiations with six core conservation communities for a Conservation Development Agreement

As a Local Support Organization for the Mount Cameroon National Park Service, Global Hand Cameroon (GLOHA) actively works on livelihood and conservation activities in six communities in the Bomboko I Cluster, located just outside the national park.

In this role, GLOHA participated on 4 April 2024 in a conference with representatives from these six communities to discuss the establishment of a Cluster Conservation Development Agreement (CCDA). The conference was held at the Botanical Garden in Limbe and included officials from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR) and Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP). The conference consisted of a number of activities, including the establishment of a Local Collaborative Management Committee (LCMC) and setting up a Cluster Collaborative Management Platform (CCMP).

The purpose of meetings such as this is to enable the conservation organizations to have frank and open discussions with the partner communities. After the target communities have been identified and mobilized, discussions include:

  • clarifying micro zoning (i.e., drawing accurate maps of villages to show available resources),
  • defining the roles and responsibilities of the various actors,
  • identifying management issues (bushfires, encroachment into the park, poaching, etc.),
  • defining local strategies,
  • adopting sustainable management measures for peripheral zones,
  • supporting the institutionalization of the co-management interventions,
  • endorsement of the CCDA
  • integrating the CCDA into the Communal Development Plan (CDP), and
  • protecting the management areas.

During the conference, participants were encouraged to work in groups with respect to their communities of origin. The participants did a micro zoning of their various communities, after which they were requested to do resource mapping on their various micro zoning. This exercise is very important in that it enables the conservation organizations to know the various resources that are available in the park and the peripheral areas, as well as the various administrative units and social amenities that are available. In that light, livelihood interventions for communities can be well strategized and targeted. In addition, it facilitates the planning of conservation activities.

Ultimately, the target communities undertake to uphold, promote and assist in conservation activities to ensure biodiversity sustainability. In return, they receive benefits through focused group engagement strategies and community interest projects that can substantially improve community livelihoods.

Collaborative management is an essential tool in managing protected areas and administering conservation activities within the Mount Cameroon National Park and its peripheries. We are pleased that local communities and conservation organizations are working together to benefit both the communities and the area’s remarkable biodiversity.

Beekeeping Within the Periphery of Conservation Zones and Protected Areas

Enhancing collaborative management activities with local communities in the Mount Cameroon Area is a primary objective of Global Hand Cameroon; to this end, we have been working alongside Mount Cameroon National Park in furthering discussions with community leaders and locals. Two of the main topics of discussion recently have been the increasing number of wild bush fires and the declining honeybee population. Both of these problems are attributed to the destructive techniques used in wild honey hunting. Some locals have acknowledged that the most frequently used method of harvesting honey in the wild is with fire, which can destroy more than 75% of the entire colony and very often leads to serious, uncontrolled bush fires. These fires can completely destroy the savannah vegetation, thus negatively affecting other micro- and macro-organisms that depend on this vegetation. In the end, the entire ecosystem is disrupted: habitat is destroyed, and deforestation reduces the carbon sink.

In an attempt to manage this situation, Mount Cameroon National Park and its partner, the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR), have established a training program for wild honey hunters to teach them modern beekeeping techniques which are far less destructive, and far more productive. After this training, participants have been given modern beehives, together with associated beekeeping equipment and materials, to start their own apiaries that can be easily accessed and managed without any of the negative effects caused by the older honey hunting methods.

After a series of follow-up exercises, it was realized that there was a need to create a cooperative that would bring all the beneficiaries together for idea sharing and to promote marketing and future training opportunities. This cooperative has now been formed, and Mr. Evambe Thompson, founder and CEO of Global Hand Cameroon, has been appointed to the post of board chairman due to his extensive experience and knowledge of modern beekeeping and organizational management.

In the course of managing the cooperative affairs, more hives will be delivered to some 40 beneficiaries of the Buea I, Buea II and West Coast clusters. So far, 200 hives and 80 swarm catcher boxes with other beekeeping equipment and material have been delivered to the selected beneficiaries who are equally cooperators of the Mount Cameroon Bee Farmers’ Cooperative with Board of Directors (MC-BEEFCOOP-BOD).

Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that every beneficiary sees beekeeping not only as a source of complementary income, but that they also understand the critical role they play in the environment and agriculture and other ecosystem services. Above all, we hope to see more locals transitioning away from the old, destructive methods of wild honey hunting and adopting the much more lucrative and environmentally friendly methods of modern beekeeping.

Strengthening measures to eradicate poliomyelitis

Since the year 2019, when four cases of type 2 polio were registered and thirteen cases in 2023 related to other countries within the Lake Chad basin, the government of Cameroon has engaged in several campaigns to fight against this debilitating illness. The most recent of these campaigns were in September and November of 2023.

Child receiving polio vaccination
Child receiving polio vaccination

Taking into account the severity of the disease as well as the difficulty of reaching everyone during the last campaign (partly due to accessibility issues, but also due to factors related to the political crisis), the concerned parties or stakeholders are taking the challenge of relaunching the campaign during the month of March, 2024. This information was released during a press briefing at the Regional Delegation of the Public Health for the South West Region, Buea, which Global Hand Cameroon attended.

As before, this campaign is targeting children from 0 to 5 years of age in order to boost their immunity, while vaccination for children 0 to 32 months is for those who missed out in their routine vaccinations either as a result of the COVID pandemic or the socio-political situation affecting the region. On that note, while the media professionals keep sensitizing the population and debunking false rumors about the vaccine, social mobilizers will do a door-to-door sensitization on 28-29 February before the launch of the campaign on 1 March 2024.

The campaign strategy is to make use of a mobile unit (going door to door), fixed unit (health facilities) and temporal fixed units (motor parks, churches, schools, popular meeting places, palaces, etc.). The goal of this campaign is to vaccinate over 28,700 children within the South West Region. Parents are cautioned that some children might experience some allergic reactions; should that happen, parents and/or guardians are advised not to panic but to report to the nearest health facility.

Sharing Experience and Knowledge About Tree Nurseries

In line with the collaboration between development stakeholders like the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR) in the South West Region, three nursery operators from the village of Kotto II were recently invited for an exchange visit to the multipurpose nursery (MPN) in Bakingili. Global Hand Cameroon, as the Local Support Organization appointed to assess a new MPN in Kotto II, was a key participant in this visit.

The Bakingili MPN grows over 80,000 seedlings per year, including non-timber forest products, economic, and agroforestry seedlings. Because the members of the Kotto cooperative have extensive experience on nursery upkeep and benefit sharing, the exchange visit between these two communities allowed all to share their combined experiences on nursery maintenance, cooperative management, record keeping and the broad benefits of a large nursery project.

The visit was extremely positive and has opened a path for collaboration between the two communities. Through this exchange, both parties appreciated the role that each other is playing and agreed to consult one another when needs or questions arise; for example, Bakingili MPN can get seedlings from Kotto II MPN and vice versa if they are short in supply. In addition, by working together they will be better able to set targets and goals towards conservation actions and can buy and sell seed and seedlings at better prices.

Sustainable Forest Resource Management and Forest Restoration

Cameroon is ranked the fourth largest cocoa producing country in the world and third largest in Africa, with a yield of over 290,000 tonnes in the latest cocoa season. Cocoa plays a major role in the country’s economy as it is the second largest export product. With its fertile volcanic soil, good climatic conditions and favorable terrain, the South West Region of Cameroon presents one of the best settings for the cultivation of cocoa in the country.

Amongst the communities in the South West Region, Bomboko — a clan of thirteen villages found in Meme Division and one of the most affected communities by the current Socio-Political Crisis — is a major cocoa producer. These communities are registered as park villages in relation to the Mount Cameroon National Park’s policy regarding their conservation activities. In that light, proper follow up and implementation of sustainable use and management of forest resources is paramount.

The Bomboko villages are highly dependent on forest resources for all aspects of their livelihoods, including fuel for their traditional ovens used to dry cocoa which results in a considerable loss of forest cover each year. With this in mind, officials have proposed a multipurpose nursery and agroforestry project for Bomboko, with a pilot project starting in the village of Kotto II.

We are pleased that Global Hand Cameroon has been selected as the Local Support Organization (LSO) by the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR) to conduct a rapid assessment of the project. This will include assessment of other livelihood activities that can revitalize the living conditions of these crisis-affected communities. We look forward to integrating complementary agroforestry activities such as planting economic fruit and timber trees that can provide alternative income sources to these communities during off-cocoa seasons.

One of our first goals is to upscale the nursery project in Kotto II to an Integrated Resource Centre (IRC), with the goal of producing over 80,000 seedlings through vegetative and non-vegetative propagation every year. While the centre will serve as a reliable source of seedlings for people in need, it will also be a guarantee to protect forest cover, wildlife habitat, and a stabilized ecosystem.

We are excited to be a part of such an encouraging project — a project that promises to be a win for the people as well as a win for the ecosystem.

Phase two of the campaign to eradicate polio

According to health experts, many children in Cameroon still have not been immunized against polio. This is especially true in rural communities and in those areas affected by the ongoing political crisis where communication networks are poor and there are conflicts with the farming calendar. Considering that polio is such a devastating, debilitating disease, the government of Cameroon has organized campaigns and other programs with the goal of immunizing every child, particularly those under five years of age.

Group photo, polio phase 2
Group participants

In furtherance of this goal, a number of media professionals, including a representative of Global Hand Cameroon, gathered again on Friday, 26 October 2023, at the South West Ministry of Public Health in Buea for a second meeting to discuss these latest campaigns and to promote awareness in the target communities.

According to communication focal person Mukwelle Cynthia, the aim of this second-round campaign (occurring one month after the last) is to strengthen the collective immunity of children under the age of five years against type 2 poliovirus by vaccinating all children in this age group with the new type 2 Oral Polio Vaccine, thereby halting the spread of the virus. The new campaign rounds are planned for Friday 3 November to Sunday 5 November 2023, and will occur in the Centre, Littoral, North-West, West, South and South-West regions.

“The main vaccination strategies will be door-to-door (preferred method), fixed strategy in health facilities, and temporary fixed strategy in schools, places of worship, markets, stations, farms and other public/gathering places,” Ms. Mukwelle said.

Ms. Mukwelle stressed that rumors discouraging people from taking vaccines must be dispelled; public education is essential so everyone understands the importance of vaccination against polio. The vaccines are free, safe and effective. They are our most useful tool in the fight against this devastating virus.

Once again, Global Hand Cameroon is pleased to support this important work in our community.

Potential for collaboration with Agricultural Training Center

Global Hand Cameroon recently had the opportunity to view an exceptional example of how biological agriculture is being taught and put into practice at the Centre Polyvalent de Formation agricultural training institution in Mbouo, Bandjoun (Western Region of Cameroon).

Biological agriculture, also known as bio-ag or organic farming, is a farming system that rejects the use of synthetic chemicals or fertilizers. Bio-ag has been a somewhat controversial practice, with some farmers arguing that it is too time-consuming and too strenuous. And yet, over the years, bio-ag has proven to be the most sustainable, cost effective, and ultimately the most profitable farming system. Importantly, it has been shown to have strong health and environmental benefits.

While we often look at farming only in the light of guaranteeing food security, we cannot overlook the fact that agriculture is a primary reason why wetlands and forests are being degraded, leading to the environmental and health crises we are facing today. Considering that over half of the people living in Cameroon are small-scale or subsistence farmers, the need to utilize bio-ag techniques is urgent.

We thus were highly encouraged to see such techniques being taught at the Centre Polyvalent de Formation (CPF) when we visited. Among the existing agricultural training institutions, the CPF has an exceptional record in its training procedure. Created in 1981 by decision of the council of Evangelical Churches of Cameroon, the CPF offers multidimensional trainings, with agriculture as one of its best. Agricultural classes are focused on natural techniques to overcome both food crop and livestock challenges. Some of these techniques include the production of bio-fertilizers, efficient micro-organism (EM) bio-pesticides and bio-insecticides, enhanced organic food for animals, and the use of solar dryers to transform crops for household consumption.

During our visit at the CPF, we discussed the possibility of a collaborative effort to extend their agricultural trainings to the South West Region of Cameroon. A smooth collaboration would improve the lives of a great many people in the South West Region by improving the quality of food they eat and preserving the natural state of the environment. Together, officials at the CPF and Global Hand Cameroon are enthusiastic about pursuing such a collaboration. We have agreed to further discussions and will be working on obtaining necessary grants and other financial support to achieve this very important and promising goal.

Media professionals attend training workshop on vaccination against polio

On 15 September 2023, a representative of Global Hand Cameroon attended an informational meeting on the upcoming campaign for polio vaccination in the South West region of Cameroon. The meeting was held at the conference hall of the South West Region of the Ministry of Public Health in Buea, and was designed for local journalists to help them sensitize the community on the importance of vaccination.

According to communication focal person, Mukwelle Cynthia, polio is a communicable disease that is usually transmitted by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. Primarily affecting children under the age of five (although it can also affect adolescents and adults), the polio virus causes permanent paralysis of the limbs and thus is an extremely debilitating and terrible disease.

The aim of this round of campaigns is to strengthen the collective immunity of children under the age of five against type 2 polio virus by vaccinating all children in this age group with the new Type 2 Oral Polio Vaccine, thereby stopping its circulation. It is hoped that the campaigns will provide an opportunity to improve vaccine coverage for those children under two years of age who may have missed out on routine immunization — especially those children from crisis-torn communities.

The campaigns are planned for September and October 2023 in the Centre, Littoral, North-West, West, South and South-West Regions. The main vaccination strategies will be door-to-door (preferred method), fixed points in health facilities, and temporary fixed points in schools, places of worship, markets, and other public/gathering places. The vaccines are free of charge.

Health experts agree that vaccination is by far the best way of preventing polio, providing safe and effective protection. We at Global Hand Cameroon are proud to support such worthwhile community efforts. Healthier people make a stronger community and a better environment for all.

Denouncing hate and hate speech, online and offline

Within the framework of a partnership agreement between Global Hand Cameroon and the organization Civic Watch — and in collaboration with the r0g_agency under the #defyhatenow programme — a one-day workshop was held for locals within the Bonavada communities in Buea on methods to identify, expose, and eliminate hate speech in their various localities.

The workshop, conducted on 13 June 2023, brought together men, women and youths, comprising people local to the area as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been forced from their homes due to the ongoing Anglophone Crisis.

During the training on the theme, “denouncing hate and hate speech, online and offline”, participants were educated on issues such as misinformation, disinformation and malinformation, and how these can form the basis of hate and hate speech. Making use of local examples, instructors described how slang words and stereotyped perceptions can affect people negatively — even when the user did not intend to cause harm.

Participants were urged to always process and reflect on information they receive, and if they want to continue to spread it, they should first consider the implications of what spreading the information will be (#thinkbeforeyouclick).

After participants had been sensitized to the dangers of using certain words with negative connotations on particular people or groups, they posed questions relating to how to better address and refer to other groups or people in ways that do not cause hate. They also asked about redlines to respect when it comes to using speech in a constructive way.

According to Mr. Evambe Thompson of Global Hand Cameroon, the purpose of the workshop was to “to teach people how to live together and how to avoid and denounce hate speech, because it is revealed that during this crisis period a lot of things have gone wrong. Communities have clashed with displaced people [IDPs] because the displaced people were competing for resources, and the communities sometimes did not want to grant them access.”

Moreover, rising tensions during the crisis are exacerbated by the way information is received and spread around communities — often without fact-checking — leading to people building and adopting biases. At the end of the day, these biases foster hate and inspire hate-speech, thus creating conflict.

The workshop was productive and well received. One of the participants, community member Azeteh Julius, said he learned a lot about things that he and others had normalised because they did not know any better. He termed the workshop fruitful, and stated he learnt things that will help society — how to live with others and not discriminate. “We learnt how to live with people from different places,” Mr. Azeteh said, “and I think that will help us a lot.”

At the end of the session participants requested further training workshops on the subject, as well as on other issues such as gender and gender-based violence, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and “smart agriculture”. We look forward to facilitating more of these types of workshops to create positive change.