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30.000 Seedlings For Regeneration Of Mt. Cameroon Forests 

By Carthia Ndingi Elangwe*

CameroonPostline.com — The forests of Mount Cameroon have been identified as being highly threatened by conversion to agriculture, logging and hunting.

A study carried out by an environmental conservation NGO, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in collaboration with the Southwest Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife and the Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP) revealed that some 21 tree species are threatened with extinction, especially zebra wood (Microberlinia bisulcata).
Some of these endangered species include mahogany (Entandrophragma angolensis), Pygeum (Prunus Africana), drummer stick (Cordia platysthtera) and Iroko (Milicia excels).

It is against this backdrop that ERuDeF and its collaborators set out to establish a 30.000-capacity nursery to nurse seedlings of the threatened tree species for domestication.
“The project is relevant because it is coming at a time when we are losing a majority of our plants and animals due to certain harmful activities,” said Charles Tekwe, the Chief of Service for the Promotion and Transformation of Forest Products at the Southwest Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF).

He added that, “in the 90s zebra wood could be found anywhere in the forest and in homes as furniture, but not now.” Tekwe was speaking during a meeting to assess the first phase of a two-year project aimed at conserving threatened tree species which held at the MINFOF conference hall, August 14. The MCNP conservator, Philip Nkeng, said the National Park and the local population identified some threatened tree species.

“We did desktop studies with the Limbe Botanic Garden, and collected plant species and we already have a database of the plant species,” said Nkeng. On his part, EruDeF Founder and CEO, Louis Nkembi, said “our aim is to identify the threatened trees in the wild, nurse them in bulk and propagate the tree species for re-generation.”

Presenting the first year assessment report on the Conservation of Threatened Trees in the Mt. Cameroon Area, the Project Coordinator, Asa’a Lemawah said, “We sensitised locals around the Mt. Cameroon area and the Mokoko Village on the importance of trees and the need to replant them.” The Project Coordinator said they made an inventory of the threatened tree species and collected planting materials and seeds for the nursery. “The farmers are willing to plant the trees and own them,” Asa’a said.

She added that they carried out field surveys in 21 villages and discovered the high concentration of the country’s threatened tree species around the Mt. Cameroon area.
“Some of the threatened trees such as mahogany, iroko, dosie, bilinga, bubinga, dabema, zingana, frake were discovered to be highly exploited by saw mills.

The Coordinator said since most of the threatened trees are difficult to find around the Mt. Cameroon area, the saw millers now import timber from Idenau, Konye, Kumba, Mudemba, Nguti, Mbonge, Mamfe and even eucalyptus from the Northwest. Besides starting a nursery of 7000 seedlings of the threatened tree species, the project also increased the capacity and awareness of local stakeholders.

“Presently we have 2700 seedlings to begin the regeneration of zebra wood and a temporary nursery has been constructed at Bonjare village in the Mokoko area to raise seedlings of Microberlinia bisulcata,” Asa’a noted. Asa’a, however, said the project encountered some challenges.

“Seed collection of threatened species has been slow as most of the identified tree species are not yet fruiting. In addition, with the high deforestation rate coupled with ecological differences of the species, most of the threatened species could not be identified within the MCNP; hence the scope of the project was broadened to include the MCNP and the lowland forests of Mokoko Forest Reserve, the proposed Onge and Mabeta-Moliwe Reserves,” said Asa’a.

Also, most of the threatened trees have actually disappeared since they were felled before they ever attained maturity inside the park and reserves and none of the threatened species earmarked as a priority species for survey was identified. Another difficulty faced during the survey was the acquisition of seeds of these threatened species to the envisaged number (30.000) and most sawmill owners were not willing to give out information needed for the survey.

In a bid to combat some of these difficulties, it was recommended that MINFOF should review the management of protected areas (Mt. Cameroon National Park and Reserves) and reinforce controls within the areas to check encroachment and illegal exploitation as well as organise more sensitisations in communities on the project activities.

The assessment workshop also concluded with resolutions which included, project staff doing a thorough research by reviewing literature on the vegetative factors of the envisaged threatened species while taking into consideration their pollinating agents of the species (insects, animals, wind…), seed dispersal mechanisms of the species, seed viability of the species and the fruiting mechanisms of the species.

A soil analysis was also recommended for the different soils where these tree species would be grown to ensure the better understanding of the ecology of different species and their responses to light, water efficiency, nutrient levels.

In order to ensure the effective development of the nursery, both artificial and natural methods of regeneration were advised to be carried out, ensuring a regular monitoring of the disease situation of species at the nursery and species brought in from the field, establishing data collection sheets to ensure effective monitoring of growth parameters in the seedlings; data on leaf length and width, collar diameter, leaf number, leaf height, root density and mortality rate of species could be assessed.

It was also recommended that a compost unit and two nurseries be established at the central nursery location within MINFOF premises (one constituting wildings and the other constituting seeds of the species). The project to cconserve the threatened trees in the Mt. Cameroon area is funded by Fauna and Flora International (FFI)

*(UB Journalism Student on Internship)

First published in The Post print edition No 01368               
 

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