Paul Laird, ITF Programmes Manager, is encouraged by the commitment of farmers to grasp the challenges of Mount Bamboutos in Cameroon.
“It is a big challenge – they will have to learn again to do what their grandparents always did” – Paul Laird
The slopes of the mountain are increasingly farmed. Young farmers need land – and the mountain provides cool temperatures and water to grow potatoes and vegetables. Farmers complain about the cost of fertilisers and pesticides, but there is still money to be made, until the soils get degraded. The savannah trees and riverine palm forests have gone.
The streams are polluted. Cultivated soils on the slopes are exposed to erosion. Bamboutos was once famous as a water catchment but has become a market place for vegetables – and the streams have dried.
At the village tree nurseries we met Chiefs, the Village Forest Management Committee (VFMC), and women volunteers. ‘Mme la présidente de la coopérative’ (pictured below wearing black) was elected to lead the farmers – mostly women – who volunteer at the tree nursery. This is not driven by the project, it is the choice of local people, and especially the women.
The VFMC leader spelled out the challenges at one site. As one of 4,000 farmers who cultivate crops in a valley that once held a Sacred Forest, he knows this is not sustainable. They have agreed to set aside land along the stream to restore Raffia palms. They need to establish a forest around the spring and incorporate agroforestry on their farms. It is a big challenge – they will have to learn again to do what their grandparents always did in the ancestral villages on the lower slopes.
We look forward to the tree planting season which will start in April 2019.