Traversing the winding roads that cut through Mamfe Central sub-division, one easily gets an overwhelming sensation of taking a journey though a lush, evergreen paradise. What the eyes cannot perceive at first sight is the high rate of deforestation taking place behind the green façade.
“Individuals are clearing forests to farm crops like cocoa, coco-yams and cassava, which are short-lived seasonal crops,” explains Agbor Adolf Tabi of Etemeteck, one of the 11 villages that make up the sub-division. But that is not all. International companies are also carrying out thriving logging activities in the area.
Mamfe Central lies in Manyu division, in which large chunks of forest were transformed into Forest Management Units (FMU). Through FMUs, companies could obtain concessions to carry out logging of timber in the forests. Today, FMUs with a cumulative area of some 200,000 hectares all pertain to the sub-divisions of Manyu division.
Now, the residents of Mamfe Central sub-division are faced with the difficult task of halting the rate of deforestation in their area.
Planting trees for future generations
Ebot Beltha from Egbekaw village is saddened by the loss of indigenous knowledge that has always been passed on from generation to generation. “Medicinal plants in the bush have been destroyed. The generation coming after us and even I myself cannot identify some medicinal plants that are very vital for our health,” she states. Her sentiments are shared by Takang Norbert, a resident from Eyangchang village who has been practicing agro-forestry together with members of his common initiative group. “Some of the children growing up only know the common cash crops like cocoa, oranges and palm. Through this project, maybe they will begin to learn about other useful tree species,” he says.
An effective way to protect precious natural resources is to engage local communities and support their own efforts. One way to do this is through education on the technical and practical aspects of environmental protection and conservation.
Promoting agro-forestry in Mamfe Central
In July 2013, the Environmental Governance Institute (EGI) initiated an agro-forestry project that will be implemented in Mamfe Central sub-division. The project was made possible by a grant from the UK based Rufford Foundation. Currently in its pilot phase, the project has carried out community mobilization and training. In the next months, tree seedlings will be provided to the villages for planting. EGI is partnering with agricultural extension officers and foresters to support the project participants.
Some communities will plant trees on the land they had kept aside. In other villages, community initiative groups have teamed up to plant and take care of the trees. With one thought for the present and another for the future generations, Eyong James Tabot, the regent chief of Mfaitock II village says, “We plan to plant trees on that land so that they can help us in future. I hope that those trees will be in place so that our children’s children can grow up to see them as a landmark.”