Recovering an over-exploited resource
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CTA. 2007. Recovering an over-exploited resource. Rural Radio Resource Pack 07/3. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57308
Attempts to restore Prunus africana trees to the Lebialem highlands of Cameroon, where over-harvesting has almost wiped them out.
Recovering an over-exploited resource Cue: Medicinal plants are a highly valuable resource, both for use by local communities and as a source of income. But as with most resources, they are limited. Over-exploitation can quickly lead to the resource being finished, offering no benefits to future generations. The Prunus africana tree is one of the most famous medicinal plants in Africa. Known as piju in Cameroon, the bark of the tree is traditionally used to treat a wide range of illnesses, including malaria, stomach ache and urinary problems. In the 1970s a pharmaceutical company also began harvesting the bark from the forests of Cameroon, to make drugs used to treat prostate cancer. Demand for the tree bark was very high, but the rate of harvesting was not sustainable. By the 1990s, nearly all the Prunus trees in one area of South West Cameroon, the Lebialem highlands, were gone. Now, the Environmental and Rural Development Foundation, a Cameroonian NGO, is working to restore the trees, and make sure they are managed in a sustainable way. Louis Nkembi, President of the Foundation explained to Martha Chindong what they are doing. IN: ?We are trying to replant? OUT: ? the opportunity to talk to you.? DUR?N: 4?23? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Louis Nkembi of the Environmental and Rural Development Foundation. The interview comes from a resource pack produced by CTA. Transcript Nkembi We are trying to replant. We are also trying to push ahead for the creation of community forests which could now become sustainably managed by the local people. The government has put in place this legislation on community forest which provides the opportunity for community groups to organise themselves and manage these forests for their own benefits and also to replant those areas where they have previously existed but today they are no more, to several problems including over-harvesting, landslides etc. Chindong So you are not trying to prevent the people from harvesting the bark of the tree again? Nkembi No in terms of sustainable management we are not preventing, we are not stopping. We rather want to see there is that the use is done wisely so that future generations could continue to use the same species, the same quantity of products for the wellbeing of these communities. We are not stopping communities from using these products but rather assisting them in a way such that they would continue to use them forever. Chindong So how are you doing it, in very concrete terms? Nkembi We organise communities into functional community groups and we have been registered with the relevant government departments. We have now identified, mapped out the forest areas and all the farmlands where they have to be planted. Some farmers will like to have these planted in their farms, personal farms. So we have also identified who these farmers are and we have created what we call the Lebialem Prunus Farmers Association and we are now identifying the different kind of trainings which we want to offer to them. Chindong Is there a better way to harvest the bark of a tree that you are trying to introduce to the people? Nkembi We have been able to put into place a better system where not all of the bark is peeled off. Bark is peeled off in certain quantities over a certain period of time and by the time we come back to the same tree to reharvest it has taken two, three, four years, given the opportunity to the tree to regenerate itself. But if the whole bark is peeled off at once that would definitely lead to the death of a tree. Chindong How are the farmers taking it considering that it is there source of income? Are they patient enough to harvest just a portion and then wait for some years first before they come back to the same tree? Nkembi Well every new thing is painful to adopt. Gradually they are adopting it and we are also not just taking Prunus as the sole enterprise but integrating it into the farming system, so that while they are not harvesting Prunus they could be harvesting other products within their farms. In that way they have a kind of a continuous income stream coming from the different farming enterprises. Chindong Now can you paint us a picture of the relationship between forest conservation, medicinal plants and income generation? Nkembi These areas are ecologically fragile habitants which need to be protected and by encouraging local population to plant these trees, they are indirectly promoting and protecting the ecological fragile landscapes. They are indirectly conserving the birds, because the trees give the birds the suitable habitats, and promoting conservation in general. Chindong And where is the place of the income generation? Nkembi Planting trees of economic importance means that they could harvest these trees for sale, for household use. And we know that Prunus has a very high demand both in national and in the international markets. So if this Prunus africana is promoted on intensive and large scale this is going to generate a lot of money for local communities once they are organised. Chindong So how are you getting funding for the project you are carrying out? Nkembi We, over the last year we have had an agreement or a convention with one of our US partners ?Trees for the future?. They currently are assisting us to develop a country programme on tree planting and Prunus africana, neem, jatropha and the moringa are some of the key species which we are promoting alongside some of the fast growing multipurpose agroforestry species. So they are our principal partner ?Trees for the future? and we hope to identify other partners who assist us in funding and so forth. Chindong Thank you for making yourself available to us. Nkembi Thank you very much Martha Chindong for giving me the opportunity to talk to you. End of track.