The mission to save the western lowland gorillas and impact lives in the eastern region of Cameroon has reached a milestone, after The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) launched the Deng Deng- Belabo conservation corridor project, in the east region of Cameroon, Betoua, which brought together local authorities, NGOs, government officials and other stakeholders who put pen to paper, giving the project a go-ahead.
With funding from WORLD LAND TRUST,ERuDeF will be supporting both the local communities of the corridor area and the Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife for Lom, to create two Community Forest Reserves of respectively 5,000 ha and 4,588 ha, to preserve a vital corridor between Deng Deng National Park (DDNP) and Belabo Council Forest in Eastern Cameroon.
According to the Paramount Chief of Deng Deng, Chief Kassala Roger, he believes this Project will reinforce the community, and he gives ERuDeF and its partners the full support needed. “This project is for all of us and for our benefits, not for an individual. Our dream is that, ERuDeF succeeds in linking the Corridor not limited to Belabo,but right down to the Dja Reserve.” The chief also applauded the initiative of ERuDeF and called for maximum collaboration for the protection of animals and development of their community.
This forested link is currently threatened by habitat loss from timber extraction and clearance for subsistence farming. The project is needed in order to preserve the forest habitat for a wealth of resident endangered species including but not limited to the Western Lowland Gorilla, Central Chimpanzee, African Forest Elephant and two species of Pangolins ( Giant and White bellied Pangolin). Whilst the forest is still relatively intact, a window of opportunity exists to preserve it against a trajectory of rapid forest conversion in the region.
“This project is not ERuDeF’s project”. The Executive Director of ERuDeF noted. “ERuDeF is a philanthropic organization, and it is both specie focus and human focus, that is specie focus for conservation and human for development. The project is for the community and we are here to facilitate the process, looking for technical and financial means. Our main concern is the connectivity between the Deng Deng Conservation Corridor and Belabo. The animals are stock in what can be called an island, and if abandoned, inbreeding might lead to an extinction of the specie. In the next 15 years to come, we are going to link the corridor from Deng Deng to Dja, which will ensure free movement of animals. We cannot do this without engaging the community. This will give them more employment and revenue as well.
The Senior Divisional Officer for Lom and Djerem Bamock Francis also expressed his satisfaction towards the objectives and goals of the project. “We are enlightened and are offering our full support to ERuDeF to tackle the problems in the corridor and of course bring development to the community.”
According to Angwa Gwendoline, the Project Manager, there are alternative sources of animal protein like the raring of pigs, sheep and goats. She revealed that, “the project has a task to train the local community on piggery and we are going to provide an improved variety of pigs that can be able to give birth to about ten piglets. The people poach animals because they need money to take care of their families and send their children to school.one of the ways to combat this poaching is by introducing bee keeping in this community. There are so many bees in the area and the locals have no idea about bee keeping. We would be providing many other alternative sources of income which will provide even more revenue for the people”.
After a working session, all stakeholders came to a consensus and came out with a final communiqué which was signed for ERuDeF kickoff with its activities along the corridor.