By Shout-Africa Cameroon correspondent – The project to plant 4,000 young mangrove plants along the Douala II estuary, Bois des Singes, was recently launched.
The sprawling economic city of Douala and the increasing use of wood as kitchen fuel and especially to smoke fish along the Wouri estuary is rapidly eating up one of Cameroon’s most valuable and prestigious resources, mangrove, according to conservation experts.
At Bois des Singes, a locality in the Douala II Sub-Division, the practice has been rampant. In the past decade, mangrove swarms have rapidly been exploited as fuel wood for fish smoking or simply cut down and moisture dried up to make way for residential construction. Conservation experts from the Cameroon Mangrove Conservation Network (CMN) observed that fish smokers along the Wouri estuary prefer mangrove as fuel wood to smoke fish because it gives the fish a golden colour and a good taste than when it is smoked with other woods. As a result exploitation of the mangrove forest over 10 years has not only exposed but destroyed the underlying ecosystem more so with the building of houses in mangrove plots.
Faced with the dangers of this exploitation, the estuarine community with the collaboration of the CMN initiated a support programme for the sustainable use and reforestation of degraded mangrove plots and associated forests. Officials of the organisation, Littoral administration and Douala II Sub-Divisional Council authorities recently visited the zone and officially launched the planting of young mangrove as well as sensitise the local community around the mangrove zone with the goal of raising awareness of the population on all actions influencing mangroves. The purpose was to strengthen the participation of local populations, groups and assemblies in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the project relative to the conservation and sustainable management of the mangrove ecosystem.
The launching of the Community Support Programme for Sustainable Use and Reforestation of Degraded Mangrove Plots and Associated Forests in Cameroon at Newpriso, Bois des Singes in Douala, was also a continuation of activities marking the 41st World Day of the Earth and Tree celebrated last April 22.
Quoting from the 2007 UNEP report, Dr. Gordon Ajonina, CMN National Coordinator, pointed out that despite its high value and importance to human well-being, over 25 per cent of Cameroon mangrove areas have already been lost between 1980 and 2006 with yet unknown estimate for degradation.
Dr. Gordon Ajonina together with other mangrove conservation experts also exchanged with the grassroots community within the goal of setting up and running joint action that will culminate in sustainable management of mangrove forests within the context of integrated coastal area management. He expressed that Cameroon is today among the few countries in the world with mangroves covering an area of about about 200,000 hectares in three major blocks: Rio Del Rey (South West Region), Cameroon estuary (Littoral Region) and Ntem estuary (South Region) spread over 30 per cent along the Atlantic coast of Cameroon, occupying a length of 590km between Akwa Yafe (border of Nigeria) and Rio Ntem (Equatorial Guinea border). Cameroon was ranked fourth in Africa and the first in Central Africa with regards to mangrove cover.
Mangrove forests found uniquely in sheltered inter-tidal areas within the tropical and subtropical areas of the world are extremely valuable, unique but fragile ecosystems that provide many critical ecosystem services, such as food and energy, carbon sequestration, coastal disaster protection, shoreline stabilization, waste processing, and recreation. Being at the interface of land and sea, they also play key roles in linking terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems, thus keeping all three productive and healthy. As various natural disasters have demonstrated, mangroves can protect
coastal communities and reduce death tolls in the event of major storms or tsunamis.
Valued at as much as US $37,000 per hectare annually for fisheries, mangroves serve as key fish nursery habitats for important commercial and subsistence fish species, such as groupers, snappers, mullets, and blue crabs. They are a main barrier to nutrient runoff causing harmful algal blooms. Mangroves are critical to maintaining the high biodiversity of tropical systems, and thus underpin valuable recreation and coastal economies.
Despite their high value and importance to human wellbeing, not enough has been done by government to protect its mangrove swarms. Like with other plants, inadequacies in conservation accrue, according to Dr. Gordon Ajonina. Insufficient monitoring of reforested areas poses a serious threat to conservation efforts so far deployed in the country. “After planting or replanting trees it is absolutely necessary to monitor their growth till they attain a stage where they can be left on their own,” he emphasized. “What we see in the country is the opposite, reforested areas are abandoned at their young stage, hence some dry up, eaten up by animals, or burned by fires and nobody comes back to take care of the situation,” he added.
The Cameroon Mangrove Conservation Network is a civil society organisation created in May 2005 to conserve, manage and promote sustainable exploitation of mangrove and coastal resources in order to meet local and national needs of the present and future generations.