Bamboo: A Promising Resource for the Restoration of Degraded Landscapes in Cameroon
Deforestation, climate change, land degradation, and inflation in food, oil, and fuel prices are just some of the many challenges affecting the Cameroonian economy.
The Restoration Initiative (TRI) is providing solutions to these problems in the landscapes of Mbalmayo, Douala-Edéa and Waza to change the course of ecosystem degradation towards sustainable development.
Mbalmayo, which was once known as a forest pond, has now been transformed into a mosaic of forest plantations.
Douala-Edea, for its part, is primarily occupied by vast industrial plantations and marked by massive destruction of degraded mangroves for fish smoking. The intensive drought of the Waza landscape threatens not only the forest ecosystem but also the livelihoods of the local communities. The TRI Project aims to restore these degraded ecosystems by developing a local industry of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), including bamboo.
Bamboo, long considered a worthless resource in Cameroon, is now regaining its importance in the landscapes of the TRI Project. Even though this species existed locally in the landscapes of Mbalmayo and Douala-Edéa, the communities were not interested in its development due to the lack of information on the socio-economic potential of Bamboo. The situation differed in the Waza landscape where the TRI Project helped re-introducing native bamboo species.
A critical element under TRI is raising awareness of the usefulness of bamboo to local communities and promoting communities living around forest ecosystems to adopt restoration activities, including using bamboo species on degraded lands. Thus, more than 186 restoration areas have been established, covering a total area of 152.44 ha and nearly 150 communities involved for 1639 beneficiaries (including 1158 men and 481 women). Bamboo in these areas generates income, contributing to the fight against poverty while playing an essential role in carbon sequestration and the fight against climate change.
Given the growing demand for bamboo for construction support in Cameroon's major cities, the market for planted bamboo is guaranteed, especially since the TRI Project is working with the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) to facilitate the exploitation of this resource when the time comes through the allocation of the agroforestry booklet to the owners of the said plantations.
Papa FOUDA Zacharie, beneficiary of the TRI Project in Ebogo in the landscape of Mbalmayo said, "I couldn't imagine that bamboo, which we and our ancestors have long considered as a useless plant, could be turned into green gold. I see significant quantities of bamboo being cut for marketing in Yaoundé. I am seizing this opportunity offered by the TRI Project to grow bamboo to guarantee my retirement and my children's future."
Papa MVIENA SAMBA, a community member participating in the TRI project added that the farmers benefiting from the project in the Mbalmayo landscape are now reassured that their daily life after the project will no longer be the same. He said, "My wish is that the TRI Project does not stop there. May it continue to accompany us until we move on to the industrialization of bamboo," added Papa Samba.
In addition to the economic and environmental contribution, promoting bamboo has facilitated the participatory management of forest reserves in the landscapes of Mbalmayo and Douala-Edéa. Through bamboo cultivation, the long-standing conflicts between park managers and communities over land use have vastly diminished. As bamboo is a fast-growing plant, those planted under the Project have been able to colonize the Disputed Lands, thus constituting a barrier against any advance of human activities.
The TRI Project has been working with the National School of Water and Forestry (ENEF) and has offered an opportunity for students to specialize in bamboo trades. "The TRI Project has provided us with skills in appropriating bamboo cultivation. The training that the students have received will enable them to become experts in the bamboo field," says Mr. MBOCK Germain, Director of ENEF.
TRI’s project in Cameroon is working to support the implementation and scaling-up of FLR in Cameroon to facilitate biodiversity conservation, sustainable land management, climate resilience and improved community livelihoods. An innovative focus of the project is on piloting and assessing bamboo's role in supporting restoration efforts in Cameroon. Bamboo is indigenous to Cameroon and possesses qualities that potentially make it suitable for restoring degraded lands in certain areas.
Learn more from The Restoration Initiative here: https://www.iucn.org/our-work/topic/ecosystem-restoration/restoration-initiative