Forest Food Buffer: Dom Forest

Forest Food Buffer: Dom Forest

Project Location: Nkwen, Bamenda Cameroon

Project Partner: Community Assistance in Development (COMAID)

Start Date: May 2016

Est. completion Date: April 2017

This year COMAID plans to maintain 6 tree nurseries; plant 15,000 native trees to complete the Food Forest buffer; further, build local capacity to manage the forest for the community.   
The Dom Community Food Forest project is being implemented by the people of Dom village, in a remote part of the Bamenda Highlands of Cameroon. This is a hotspot for biodiversity, recently documented by a team of Cameroonian and UK scientists who recorded 354 plant species of which 23 are threatened, 12 new to science and 5 are endemic to the Dom forest.

Background on Dom Forest

This is an Afromontane forest, one of the ‘island’ forests of Africa, separated from other mountain forests by surrounding lowlands.  The 472 hectare forest has been officially gazetted as a community forest to be managed by local people, and COMAID have been helping them to protect and restore the unique ecosystem through the creation of a forest food buffer.

The forest is rich in tree species that produce a range of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) including foods, medicines, and dyes that are highly valued by the local community for their own use or for sale to generate income.  In recent decades the forest was encroached by agricultural expansion, and degraded by unsustainable levels of harvesting. This led to a gradual reduction in the ‘ecosystem services’ the forest provides: the NTFPs, and its role as a water catchment, whose springs and rivers serve Dom and other downstream communities.

Protection Efforts

COMAID has been working with the community to protect the forest since 2008.  Last year, funding from Worktop Express and support from ITF enhanced their capacity.  During 2015 they made great strides together.  The community set up a Forest Management Institution to ensure that the forest is effectively protected and managed.  They established tree nurseries and planted 20 hectares of degraded land on the north and west sides of the forest with nearly 20,000 trees of seven indigenous species valued for food and medicine.  Fire lines have been cleared around the forest and the sites are patrolled to prevent the young trees being destroyed by bush fire or cattle. Nearly 18,000 of the trees were surviving at the last count. They include Prunus africana and Cola acuminata.

Underlying the practical achievements, there is a longer-term process of culture change, supported through community meetings and educational resources.  People recognise that times have changed: the forest is no longer a free resource – it needs to be protected; agriculture needs to become both more productive and more sustainable. People are beginning to adopt agroforestry practices and plant more trees within their farms.  They are keen to consolidate what has already been achieved.

Project Aims

During 2016 they aim to maintain 6 tree nurseries close to the forest; plant a further 15,000 trees in remaining accessible sections of the west side of the forest buffer, and further build local capacity to manage and protect the forest on behalf of the entire community.  Building on the experience of 2015 and discussion within the community, COMAID recognises a need for the Forest Management institution ‘to be more gender sensitive, and for a conflict resolution mechanism to be put in place to resolve conflicts arising from the management of the community forest and the buffer by different land users’.

Kenneth Kumecha Tah, Conservation Officer of COMAID, who has led this initiative, foresees that the knowledge gained in the process, results and challenges of implementing this model will be of widespread interest to networks of people working on similar issues in Cameroon and beyond.

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