Considerable Gains In Biodiversity Management

Some 17 years on, the cross-border conservation initiative between Cameron, Congo- Brazzaville and Gabon appears to have largely justified its raison d’être.

*This report was realised with the support of Pulitzer Centre and the Congo Basin Rainforest Journalism Fund.

"The Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Minkebe, TRIDOM landscape today boasts many logging titles, while local people and councils manage their forests. As a result, illegal logging has been curbed and more powers granted to councils, communities and logging concessions to carry out surveillance of their forests,” says Alphonse Ngniado, World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF Cameroon National Forestry and Climate Coordinator. 

Checkmating Illegal Logging
He adds that checkpoints manned by forest guards or rangers and other staff of the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife, MINFOF, have been set up on the Mintom-Sangmelima-Ouesso highway. This has curbed the incidence of illegal wood being taken out of the area. In collaboration with forest/conservation authorities in Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, Cameroon organizes regular joint patrols to check illegal activities in TRIDOM, Ngniado notes.

Collaborative Efforts   
An avenue has been created for conservation stakeholders from the three countries to meet regularly to discuss how their forests can continue to be managed sustainably. Owners of logging concessions and their staff have also been involved in efforts to protect forests. For example, they take Global Positioning System, GPS coordinates of sites where illegal activities are noticed and pass on the information to the Cameroon Ministry of Wildlife and Forestry for action. 
Moreover, forest officials have been offered logistics to ease movements. They are also equipped with GPS to collect data and produce maps on illegal logging. As a result, the rate of illegal logging on the Cameroonian side of TRIDOM has been dropping over the years. Though there are still pockets of illegal logging on the Mbalam-Mintom road, Ngniado adds.

Declining Poaching Numbers
"Before the advent of TRIDOM, elephant poaching was rife because of high demand for ivory on the international market. Some years ago, 11,000 elephants were killed in Minkebe National Park in Gabon. Wildlife surveys undertaken in Nki and Boumba-Bek National Parks in Cameroon some years ago showed we lost about 70 per cent of the elephant population in less than 10 years. With the strategy put in place by TRIDOM, poaching is now on the decline,” explains Gilles Etoga, Senior Policy and Conservation Coordinator, WWF Cameroon.

Alternative Revenue Sources
Community forests have become main sources of revenue to local communities in TRIDOM Cameroon. The money is used in improving housing and supporting education. Women have been organised to collect Non-Timber Forestry Products, NTFPs and connected with buyers to better market their produce. WWF has offered assistance under the Green Cocoa scheme, which seeks to rejuvenate cocoa farms by replacing old trees without having to cut down forests to expand farms. This is achieved by introducing high-yielding cocoa varieties. Secondly, chemical fertilizers are not used and best practices are employed to assure greater productivity, Gilles Etoga discloses.

Rainforest Alliance Support 
Rainforest Alliance has since 2017 been involved in a similar cocoa project in Mintom Subdivision, Dja and Lobo Division of South Region. According to Cédric Happy, Rainforest Alliance Field Supervisor for Organisation of the Community Forest Project,  Southern Dja Wildlife Reserve, a cocoa producers’ cooperative has been set up. Members have been offered training on how to boost productivity; a revolving fund set up and reputable sale outlets secured for the farmers. “We also offer assistance in sustainable community forest management and for gathering Non-timber Forestry Products, NTFPs,” Happy says.

Community Forests As Economic Drivers
Local councils have been allocated forests to manage. They are lar...



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