Rapid population growth had led to increased dependency of the population on natural resources. The coastal environment is very rich in natural resources, timber, non-timber forest products, fisheries, wildlife, petroleum and fertile soils. Thus, there is an overall tendency for the drift movement of persons from other less productive ecosystems to the coastal environments. The result is the rapid depletion of these natural resources since the rate of consumption far exceeds the rate at which resources are being replenished. There is a high probability that the coastal environment will not be able to sustain the geometric population growth in the near future if the unsustainable trend of human dependence on natural resources is not controlled.
Activities that take place along the coast include fishing, fish trading, mangrove wood exploitation, agriculture and petroleum exploration and exploitation. Due to decreasing fish trends, thousands of fishermen and others involved in this chain of activities may become jobless. Hamilton and Casey (2016) report that Cameroon’s mangrove forests have decreased from 250,000 hectares to 134,400 hectares in just 10 years. This is more than 11,000 hectares lost per year.
Mangrove conservation actions within the area ranged from the planting of trees to the construction of improved smoke houses (to reduce quantity of wood used in fish smoking) which are currently not being used by the population. In 2018 hybrid solar dryers that can curb the rate of mangrove deforestation (not yet being used by the population) were introduced. The hybrid solar dryer project was an innovative research sponsored by International Development Research Centre (IDR) through the African Climate Change fellowship program.
Nevertheless, for conservation objectives to be fully attained, the introduction of alternative activities is a sure way to reduce population dependency on natural resources. It is intended to reduce the prevalence of activities deemed to be environmentally damaging by substituting them with lower impact livelihood activities that provide at least equivalent benefits. Relating to this reflection, the Australia Aid (AusAid) small grant program and the Africa Climate Change Leadership Prpgram (AfriCLP) sponsored activities relating to the reduction of population dependency on the natural environment. The project which commenced in February 2018 to February 2020 has trained over a 100 fishermen, 40 fish smokers and 20 farmers on the following activities:
- Bee keeping; and
- Snail rearing;
Local communities through the AusAid and AFriClp projects benefited projects titled Reducing dependency of the coastal communities on Fisheries and Forestry and building Magrove Resilience through the use of a Hybrid Solar Dryer respectively.
Bee hives, maize, snail pens and agricultural tools were donated to local groups within the coastal environment and the construction of three snails rearing tents. The project benefited groups from Enyenge, Bamusso, Debuncha, and Limbe.
The beneficiaries appreciated the different activities heartily. Bee keeping is advantageous not only for the honey it produces but also in its role to keep elephants away from their farms due to the buzzing sound of the bees. The coastal environment within the South West Region of Cameroon is very rich in elephants. The elephants drift from the forests into farm lands and destroy crops especially maize. It should however be noted that the farm lands were previously forested areas that constituted elephant habitat. In order to keep the elephants away, the bee hives will be placed in a transition zone between farms and forest lands.
Snail rearing presents a very important source of economic activity. There is a ready market for snails all year round nationally and beyond. It is important to note that snail diet make up an important source of protein for the population. With snails introduced into the tents, we expect harvesting to take place within six months.
The maize seeds distributed in January 2020 were planted in February 2020 and harvested in April 2020. Below are pictures showing the different groups happily harvesting maize and expressing gratitude to the program.
There is need to follow up and provide training on the management of micro projects to the groups for sustainability purpose.
The importance of introducing alternative activities
The project identified groups in the community whose activities have the greatest environmental impact and those most vulnerable to resource access. These groups depend solely on fishing and fishing related activities such as fish drying and forests.
- Alternative activities provide other sources of income;