June 6, 2018 | Resource degradation

Cameroons forests are rapidly dwindling. According to the Global Forest Watch, the Cameroonian forests have lost 893,557 hectares of forest between 2001 and 2016. About 22,000, or 0.09%, Cameroonians are directly employed by the forestry sector by the last count in 2011 approximately 2.8% of the country’s GDP.

With about 2,548 million metric tons of carbon stocks in living forest biomass, the Total Area of Certified Forest in 2014 was 1,013,374 hectares. Taking into consideration that the country is rapidly losing this mass and has currently lost 893,557 hectares of forest cover, a situation that can be best described as dire. Experts say that not only is this bad for the ecosystems but it is also debilitating for the economy.

The Cameroonian government realized that this is a problem and is trying to reverse the trend by restoring 12 million hectares of deforested land and conserve indigenous forests. This plan has been well received by local councils, nongovernmental organizations, and businesses who are all worried about the effects of climate change. The government says its approach is two-pronged; reinforcing forest management to protect existing forests and moving to restore those already lost.

Scientists contend that the need to protect existing forests provides the greatest benefits in terms of limiting climate change and protecting biodiversity. Julius Chuezi Tieguhong, a forest researcher in Cameroon, believes that indigenous forests have the potential to store more carbon, harbor greater biodiversity and regulate climate better than reforested areas.

Tieguhong further advises that while embracing both approaches, Cameroon’s government and its partners should not lose sight of the economic and environmental advantages of conserving existing forest over reforestation.

Cameroons restoration programme is part of the Bonn Challenge Initiative on forest restoration launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2011. There are a lot of concerned parties across the globe involved in this initiative, in Cameroon, there are 183 bodies nationwide, including 74 local councils, 36 non-governmental organizations, and business bodies. The programme is expected to be completed in 2030.

Its unprecedented for government and the nonprofit sector to be working together but in this case, they both realize the importance of this arduous task. Local councils will receive FCFA 500 million ($820,000) annually to plant new forest in their areas, while some chiefdoms (village administrative areas) in vulnerable regions will receive FCFA 70 million ($115,000) annually in government support.

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