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.