MINFOF Delegate, Conservator Cry Fowl over Wildlife Exploitation at Cameroon-Nigeria Border

Illegal timber truck from Nigeria

The problem of illegal wildlife trafficking along the Cameroon-Nigeria border ranging from Akwaya and  Gayama in the extreme west of the Kimbi-Fungom National Park through Furu Awa right down to the Dumbu Ranch, seems perennial. Forestry and wildlife officials in and around these areas are becoming more and more frustrated by illegal wildlife traffickers, mostly from Nigeria, whom they accuse of rubbing the country of its wildlife and timber.  

“Just this year, we have made them (Nigerian illegal exploiters) in Furu Awa twice with a truck filled with timber ready to be exported to Nigeria. We couldn’t carry the timbers over to Cameroon because of no roads; we wanted burning the truck and timber all together but were scared of the fire going out of control. So the vehicles were disabled but we don’t know if they later came with another vehicle and offloaded or not…..we are helpless! We have also met with wildlife traffickers a couple of time. Each time we meet with them, they hide their guns so we get their catch. Sometimes they sense our coming even before we come because I am sure they work in complicity with the villagers” Mr. Christopher Fominyam, Conservator of the Kimbi-Fungom National Park narrated his plight in an interview granted this writer.

The Divisional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife for Menchum (one of the border Divisions to Nigeria), Mr. Lucas Tajouego, on his part, explained that some three weeks ago, a baboon was confiscated at the Bawuru frontier from Nigerians who were just about crossing with it over to their country and taken to the Limbe Wildlife Center.

Confiscated bush meat from illegal traffickers

He painted a vivid picture of how illegal wildlife trafficking operates at the Cameroon-Nigerian border: “There are two ways which these traffickers get into Cameroon by land and the river. They get through Furu Awa by land into the forest, exploit our resources and use trucks to carry over to Nigeria given that this area is more accessible from Nigeria than Cameroon. In the Gayama area, they cut down trees and use boats to transport to Nigeria.”

The MINFOF officials attributed this worrisome situation to the porosity of Cameroon border, limited resources for repression and complicity on the part of Cameroonians and traditional rulers along the border.

Besides being many, these officials said the Nigerians have more sophisticated weapons. “Sometimes when you go to the field, you find over 100 of them equipped with sophisticated guns, machetes against some 11 and less equipped Ecoguards. It is therefore not easy for us to fight with them” they added.

Both the Menchum Divisional Delegate and Conservator of the Kimbu-Fungom National Park however, disclosed a number of strategies they are putting in place to handle the situation at their own level.

“Recently, we accompanied the SDO during his walking visit to Furu Awa. During this visit, we had a walking session with the  chiefs of villages adjacent to these areas because we belief the Nigerians cannot exploit these resources without their knowledge.  We are also imploring them to collaborate with us in the fight against illegal exploitation. Meanwhile we are in talking terms with the Senior Divisional Officer of Menchum to see if a military base can be established in Fru Awa. If this is done, it will help the Chief of Forestry Post in that area especially during patrol because the chief of Forestry Posts in these areas are all there alone” MINFOF Delegate for Menchum disclosed.

The Conservator of Kimbi-Fungom, on his part, said the park service has put in place a regular and a quarterly patrol scheme. “We have regular patrols and quarterly impromptu patrols targeting various trans-borders accesses. Gayama is a melting pot for illegal wildlife trafficking so we pay more attention there; Furu Awa is a little better because it has a gendarmerie post though with only two elements. So we do four impromptu patrols per year and 12 to 24 regular patrols in different parts of the forest” the Conservator said.

Reacting to this, the North West Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, Mr. Desire Julien Mbelley, promised transmitting a letter to “hierarchy” explaining the situation and recommending that the country strengthens international collaboration with the Nigerian government and make them know that her people are illegally exporting the county’s natural resources.

By Shancho Ndimuh

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Discover Julien Mbelley’s Vision for Biodiversity Conservation in Northwest Region

Julien Mbelley, MINFOF RD for NW

Jullien Mbelley has been the Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife for Northwest since 2016. Less than a year into office, the 49 years Forestry and Wildlife Engineer, who came in with over 22 years of professional experience in environment and biodiversity conservation has already carved out a vision for the conservation of natural resources in the Region.

“We have too much to do in this Region. My first year was directed to promoting reforestation and intensifying the fight against poaching. My next target is intensifying the fight against climate change through the promotion of tree planting campaigns to compensate depleted forests as a result ofroad and house construction and fuel wood. Given that over 29% of Northwest ‘s forest cover is under permanent protection and the population is on the increase, I will also have to speedy the valorisation of these resources to benefit the population of the region,” the Delegate divulged.

The MINFOF boss added that the principal focus during his stay in the region is to safeguard wildlife and habitat as well as reduce illegal trans-boundary exploitation of wildlife and timber resources, promote selective deforestation and reforestation of degraded area, promote fundraising through ecotourism, marketing of NTFPs for the improvement of the welfare of the local population and the improvement of the socio-economic plight of the local communities.

Besides these, Mr. Mbelley said he will ensure the development of agroforestry and agriculture in forest adjacent communities, the protection of watersheds and water sources as well as encourage the establishment of a centre of learning and research on environmental issues, wildlife and climate change in Northwest Cameroon.

He noted that the State, through her sustainable management drive, has created numerous protected areas in the Northwest Region including but not limited to the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, Kimbi Cattle Game Reserve, and the KilumIjumPlant Life Sanctuary and the Kimbi-Fungom National Park, which needs the collaboration of all stakeholders for effective management.

“The Government has created these areas but cannot ensure the effective management of natural resources within them without the collaboration of the local communities and conservation actors. There is thus, need for financial supports from NGOs and international organisation to fight against the illegal exploitation of wildlife and forest resources and the illegal encroachment into the protected area. If these are done, then great exploit will be done for this region in term of natural resources conservation” the Delegate added.

Northwest Region is situated in the Humid Savana zone with diversified ecosystems; Forest, Savana and wetland playing host to large mammals such like buffalos, gorilla, chimpanzees and duikers amongst others. This shows the rich biodiversity of the region.

By Shancho Ndimuh

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Uncovering Touristic Sites in Kimbi-Fungom National Park, Periphery

Tourists having a boat ride at the Katsina River

Besides the over 81 wildlife species distributed across its over 95,380 hectares, the Kimbi-Fungom National Park and its peripheries are obsessed with touristic sites unique in location, form and structure.

There is the python cave in Gayama. Can you belief that there is a cave at the heart of a national park that as you get in, you see pythons freely everywhere? But watchou! Let one not be very hungry because you may be its prey.

Few metres from this cave, is the Gayama twin hill protruding toward the sky like the breast of a 14 year girl.  Then the triple river confluence at Kimbi that poses like an incredible ocean! This is a spectacular fishing camp with emblematic fish species that sooth secreted saliva of visiting tourists.

As you move a little towards Akum, you find the picturesque katsina water fall and a gentle flowing river beneath, navigable with boats and canoes from Cameroon and Nigeria. Here, you may want to get a feel of a boat ride.  From this river, you just need to cross a little through Kwep towards the New Man Hill to have amazing and thrilling view of the national park.

100meter Geraman cable bridge established since 1800s

The most attractive of all these is the cable bridge at Nkang built by the Germans in the 1800s. Be one of the few to see this recently discovered cable bridge left behind by Germans in the North West Region of Cameroon; it’s about 60 to 100meters long crossing you over River Katsina through a very narrow but spectacular gorge.

Then you have the Hill Top View Point between Marshy and Nkang, which is more or less like a watch tower giving a real view of the Ndubu Ranch and Nigeria. All you need is a telescope and you will feed your eyes with all it desires. These are just a few of thrilling sites you can find within the Kimbi-Fungom National Park, but there are even more sites of great aesthetics around the park.

We have the remains of Lake Nyos, which  exploded  in 1986  suffocating 1746 people, 3500 cattle and displacing 4430 persons besides other thrilling sites like the Dumbo Cattle Ranch, Lake Wum, the Caves around Fonfuka, the Misaje Shrine Forest alongside palaces with their historic artifacts collections and spectacular natural landscapes.

By Shancho Ndimuh

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Kimbi Fungom National Park, Prospective Category 1 Protected Area

Close up of KFNP

After evolving from Fungom Native Authority Forest Reserve in 1932 and Kimbi River Game Reserve in 1964, this biodiversity hotspot, which was last February 2015 christened the Kimbi-Fungom National Park is en route to becoming a Category 1 protected area.

Created as category 2 protected area with a surface 95,380, the Pioneer Conservator of the Kimbi-Fungom National Park, Mr. Fominyam Njoh Christopher said the Park has all it takes to be a category one protected area and will soon become one.

“To be a category one, you must have a surface area equal or above 100,000 hectares, and we are 95400 only short of 3600ha and the land is there. Everything has been done and we are just waiting for a team to come from Yaoundé to confirm the boundaries of the areas that are to be added to the park such that there are not infringing into other land use plan. If the identified areas are added, the Park’s surface area will increase to 150,000 hectares and will thus be upgraded into a Category 1 protected area by the end of 2017” the Conservator disclosed.

Mr. Fominyam indicated that the upgrading of the Park into a Category 1 protected area has a lot of implications especially with the management of natural resources in the area.

“The intensity of activities within a category 1 protected area is higher also attracting higher assistance/attention from the state. You can realise bigger dreams; you can also use such a status to attract funding in line with government investment and you get more work done. It will also mean more resources, more staff that will enable us better ensure the conservation of the park,” he expounded

The Kimbi-Fungom National Park boss noted that the upgrading of the park will equally go a long way to create a large wildlife habitats/safe haven and some wildlife species that migrated before the Lake Nyos disaster may come back given that the Park is surrounded by some biodiversity hotspots and animals are no respecters of boundaries.

The upgrading of the Kimbi-Fungom National Park into a Category 1 protected area will only add to a host of other protected areas within this rank included but not limited to theKorup, Bakossi, Campo-Ma’an, MbamDjerem, and BoubaNjida National Parks.

By Shancho Ndimuh

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We Native Seems To Be Begging Land from Graziers-Fonfuka Mayor.

Mayor Gwe fires at grasiers

“If you want to compare the amount of land that the graziers occupy with that of the natives, you will see that we are instead begging land from the graziers” the Mayor of Fonfuka, Mr. Philip Gwe disclosed in an interview recently.

Drawing inspiration from the land law, mayor Gwe stated that any land that is not demarcated is a state land and belongs to nobody but graziers are proving to have more rights over the land than the inhabitants.

“It is rather unfortunate that we make laws in this country but fail to implement them. Most of the time, when you want to open up a farm in this area, you face confrontations with graziers. When you run to the administration for protection, they tell you it is grazing land. When did grassier start owning lands, how does it become personal land to be termed grazing land?” the mayor questioned.

Mr. Gwe recounted how his council battled with graziers over a piece of land dedicated for reforestation: “ Last year, we had funds from the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and planted some trees but up to now we are still battling, not with the fons of the areas were the trees were planted but with the graziers areas. They intentionally burn these trees because they don’t want them (the planted trees) to reduce their grazing space. How do you handle this kind of a situation? Do you need to employ people to be guarding the trees day and night so that they can track them down each time they burn?  In other countries, graziers keep a good number of cattle in a small piece of land but here our own graziers want to occupy the whole area”.

He therefore called on the “administration” to step in and help remind the graziers that the land does not belong to them.

Fonfuka is the Head Quarter of the Bum Subdivision-Boyo Division, North West Cameroon. It is made up of 16 villages with a population of over 27750 persons 95% of whom depend of farming for their livelihoods.

By B. Shancho Ndimuh

 

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Uncovering the ‘Maggots’ In Cameroon’s Tourism Sector

They road to the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, one of Cameroon’s key touristic sites

In Africa, Cameroon is described as ‘Africa in miniature’ as it encompasses a bit of everything within the African continent, from landscape and culture, to climate and religion. Besides its over 275 ethnic groups with about 160 African languages, Christianity, Islam and African Religions, the country is obsessed with terrific scenery including the arid plains in the North; emblematic mountains in the South, Southwest, West, Northwest etc; biodiversity-rich national parks  across the ten regions; exceptional rich cultures; gloriously un spoilt beaches and countless lakes.

With these spectacular features and exceptional contrast, one will expect Cameroon to be one of Africa’s hubs in term of international tourists’ arrival. Unfortunately, that is not the case. While African countries like Morocco and South Africa, boast of over 10 million visitors annually, receiving 1 million tourists in Cameroon per year remains a dream.

This is no accident! There are a number of maggots that have eaten deep into the country’s tourism sector, which must be removed and detached soon.

Infrastructural development remains a great nightmare to the advancement of Cameroon’s tourism. Movement of tourists to any destination is either carried out by air, land or sea, but all of these channels of transportation in the country still leave much to be desired.

The 2016 World Tourism Day was observed under the team: Tourism for all, Promoting Universal Accessibility. However, movement by air in Cameroon is more or less still restricted to the North, Centre and Littoral Regions, unlike neighbouring Nigeria where all States are linked by air.

This is not supposed to be the case! If Cameroon must promote tourism and achieve its goal of 1 million tourists by 2020 as well as encourage internal tourism, all regions with great touristic potentials must be linked by air. It means hitherto abandoned airports like that of Bamenda, Bafoussam and Tiko must be revived and new ones opened in other regions.

Also, access to touristic sites remains really frustrating especially in the rainy season. Though efforts have been made to connect all 10 regions with tarred road, most of the so-called tarred roads are punctuated with pod holes. Even at that, most of the tourist sites are found in rural areas which becomes mud paths in the rainy season. In the heart of the rainy season, places like the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary with the endemic and critically endangered Cross River Gorilla, for instance becomes virtually difficult to access.

Another maggot, which has become even more dangerous to Cameroon’s tourism sector than infrastructural development is the rude, corrupt and obstreperous attitude of some police and military persons on the way.  Most of them transcend the mare carrying out of security checks to using intimidating tactics to extort bribes. This becomes worst when they discover that you are a tourist, who is rich and naïve.  Such attitudes shy away tourists and prospective tourists from Cameroon to countries where they can receive a much better treatment.

Inhospitality and unilingual nature of service providers within the tourism sector is another stumbling block to Cameroon’s tourism sector.  The first stop of any tourist getting into the Country is the Hotel and any impression given to that tourist is very hard to erase. Most hotel receptionists, especially those in state owned hotels are only not bilingual but disruptive, after all, they will still earn a salary at the end of the month irrespective of what happens. These, besides insecurity induced by the Boko Haram insurgent in the North and ongoing strikes in the two Anglophone regions of the country amongst others have greatly suffocated Cameroon’s tourism sector depriving the country of the necessary socio-economic and financial benefits that go with the coming of tourists.

The government therefore needs to consider increasing investments in the tourism sector and marketing to a wider range of potential customers. The organisation of capacity building workshops for all structures, which directly or indirectly relate with tourists like hotels, the police, tourism organisations and others will be another panacea for some of the obstinate maggots destroying this lucrative sector.   Meanwhile, measures should be put in place to ensure maximum security in around touristic sites and hotels in the country. If these and other more stringent measures are put in place to dig out the maggots, then Cameroon will by 2020 transcend her 1 million target of tourists coming in to the country.

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Cameroon’s 10 Year Governance Report Picks Hole On Accountability

The 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) published recently by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation-UK indicates that Cameroon has failed in overall governance in Africa within the last decade.

According to the index, Cameroon came 38/54 with a total score of 45.7 %. Meanwhile Mauritius, Botswana, and Cape Verde were the first three with a total score 79.9, 73.7 and 73.0 respectively; and  Central African Republic, South Sudan and Somalia, the last three with a score of 25.7%, 18.6% and  10.6 % respectively. Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, and Zimbabwe, and were the three most  improved countries in Africa in term of overall governance, and Libya, Madagascar and Eritrea,  the three most deteriorated countries in Africa in this category within the last 10 years.

The detailed result indicates that, Cameroon is 30th in Africa in term of  Personal Safety with a 47.3%  score and an improvement trend of 3.6 within the last 10 years. Regarding the Rule of Law Cameroon came 36th with 42.8% score.

In the area of National Security, this ranking placed Cameroon on the 41st spot with a total score of 62.8%. The country was scored 30.9 % in Accountability and ranked as the 33rd most accountable country in Africa.

The country’s performance in Participation & Human Rights stood at 37.9%, occupying the 39th spot on the continent with a deterioration rate of -2.4. This rating placed Cameroon on the 29th  spot in term of infrastructure in Africa with 36%  with a +16.2 improvement trend within the last decade.

In term of Public Management, Cameroon came 32nd  in Africa scoring 40.4 % in the continent with a deterioration trend of -8.7.  Regarding Business Environment Cameroon occupied position number 28 with a 40% score and a -6.8 deterioration trend.

In the Educational Sector, Cameroon was ranked 20th in the continent with a score of 53.4% and a 10 year improvement trend of +10.9. A similar result was also recorded in the domain of Health. Here Cameroon was the 21st in Africa with a 71.5 with a +0.6% improvement trend within the last 10 years. In Human Development, Cameroon was the 26th with a total score of 48.3%.

Summary result therefore indicates that Cameroon failed in Personal Safety, Rule of Law,  Accountability, Participation and Human Right, Infrastructure, Public Management, Business Environment and Human Development within the last 10 years; and passed in National Security, Education, and Health. She registered her highest score (71.5) in the health sector and her lowest score (30.9) in accountability.

Following the Anglo-Saxon grading system, Cameroon within the last 10 years passed in three sub-sectors recording a ‘B+’ in Health, a ‘B’ in National Security and a ‘C’ in Education, and failed in eight sub-sectors recording a ‘D+’ in Personal Safety, a ‘D’ in Rule of Law, an ‘F’ in Accountability, an ‘F’ in Participation and Human Right, an ‘F’ in Infrastructure, a ‘D’ in Public Management, a ‘D’ in Business Environment and a ‘D+’ in Human Development per the 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

In a nutshell, Cameroon’s report card on Governance in Africa within the last 10 years will read; 1B+, 1B, 1C, 2D+, 3D and 3F.

By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh  & Emmanuel Nkeng

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