Friday, 25 September 2015

Illegal logging mares the livelihoods of Cameroon’s pioneer indigenous people

The Baka’s were the earliest inhabitants of Cameroon. They live in the Congo rainforest but increasingly, their homes are invaded by logging companies in search for less controlled areas to illegally harvest wood

Paabo Odette, 14, junior sister, Denge and clan members endure the effects of logging as they migrate without stopping to get a better shelter and hunting grown in the rainforest. 

Ropes tied on imposed sticks and thatched leaves are drenched with light mud particles as the light of the day shows up. The whole is developed into a tiny round house of 1.6M2. This is now the new home where Maka Daniel, 24 years old, his five weeks daughter and wife Paabo Odette, 14 years old, will live as from this day, Sunday, 23 August, 2015. 

“It took me seven days to build this our new home and two others for my grandparents.” Said Odette. She and her family have been migrating since she was three and since she got married at the age of nine, she has changed more than ten homes in search of a new shelter after their household is been invaded by a logging company with felling authorization from the government. About 105 timber companies exists in Cameroon. They export wood mostly to France, China and Lebanon. Their exploitation activities cause a lot of problems to the Bakas(Pigmies) living in the villages of Ngatou and Massea, on the high way that leads to Congro Brazzaville, some 750KM from Yaoundé in the Yokaduma sub-division of the Boumba and Ngoko Division of the East region of Cameroon.

“They come with their big engines, destroy the forest and chase all the animals away. That is why we are constantly migrating. Some even cut trees on the nose of our houses. So we have to move.” Daniel laments. 

Consequently, “we find it difficult to hunt or harvest forest products. Even hunting now is done with a lot of precaution. WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) warn us not to take any kind of animal from the forest. Our children are hungry.” Said Njeng Tama, leader of the Baka community in Massea.  For the Bakas and other forest communities, the forest represents everything to them. Food, agriculture, tradition and other rights are been performed in the forest. 
Because of strict regulation and surveillance in forest exploitation areas, loggers have changed strategy to illegally take wood out of the forest. They go right into the hinterlands cut prohibited species, saw into plank and mix with legal wood to transport to the city or better still traffic the illegal wood in cargo containers.

A report published in 2009 by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), tells us among the 105 industrial timber companies in Cameroon, 15 of them who harvest, process or/and export are illegal. Also, Cameroon suspended the extraction and processing licenses of some 72 industrial logging companies and has moved head on to punish some of the defaulters in 2013. But illegal logging is rapidly becoming popular, especially in small communities like this, where there is little surveillance. 

“We see a lot of logs pass here that does not respect the norms. Sometimes we keep them waiting for days sometimes we report them to the forces of law and order or call our administrative authorities”.  Said Raymond, a forestry technician on the road between Makak and Lomie. 
Raymond and colleague are heading to their office in Abong Bang after controlling more than 300 trucks leaving the forest with wood on this day, Saturday, 22 August, 2015.

However, Cameroon’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF), Philip Ngole Ngwese continues to express the country’s commitment to fighting corruption and engaging local communities in forest management and exploitation of resources. 

In a joint declaration signed by the MINFOF boss and the European Union (EU) on the 10th of August, 2015, the government re-iterated their will to fight against illegal logging under the scheme of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement - “Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)” (APV FLEGT). Cameroon signed the FLEGT agreement with the EU in 2010 to help curb illegal logging and fight deforestation.

Although recent reports from Google and the University of Maryland tells us there is a decline in global forest loss (18.7 million hectares) of 9% compared to 2013 and 20% paralleled to 2012, NGOs participating at the 14th edition of the World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa, say Congo basin countries must fortify their efforts to fight illegal logging but equally called on their partners (Europe, Asia and America) to take solemn actions against this act which brings distressing effects to the nations.

To Michael O’Brien Onyeka, Greenpeace Africa Executive Director, “the international trade in illegal wood from the Congo Basin can only be tackled effectively if Europe and the USA as well as China work together with the Congo Basin countries to effectively tackle the root causes.”

Boko Haram and Cameroon security forces found guilty by Amnesty International’s recent report

In a new report launched by Amnesty International today in Yaoundé condemns human rights violations committed by the parties involved in the Boko Haram war in Cameroon.

Yaoundé -Today September 16, 2015, Amnesty International published a report, “Human rights under fire: attacks and violations in Cameroon's struggle with Boko Haram” revealing how the Boko Haram attacks has encouraged more violence in northern Cameroon.
According to the report, Boko Haram militants has murdered 400 civilians in northern Cameroon while the Cameroon military’s hefty counter attacks and unfriendly prison conditions let to the suffering and death of dozens more.
Alioune Tine, Amnesty International director for West and Central Africa, speaking at the conference center of Hotel La Falaise in Yaoundé. Credit: Amnesty International

Untold suffering

The report, which was built on three international missions in northern Cameroon and interviews with more than 160 people, said “Boko Haram has killed at least 380 civilians since January 2014. Since mid-2014, Boko Haram fighters have attacked scores of towns and villages in the far north region of Cameroon, killing and kidnapping civilians, burning down hundreds of houses and looting livestock and other property. In a raid on 15 October 2014, Boko Haram fighters shot or slit the throats of at least 30 people in the border town of Amchide. One eyewitness told Amnesty International: "I saw Boko Haram fighters brutally cutting the throats of at least two of my neighbours.”

Mero Zubairo is a 30 years old woman who lost her junior brother in 2014 in the Boko Haram attacks. After the Amnesty International report, FairPlanet discussed with Mero about what happened. According to family reports, Imrana Zubairou, her brother was a hard working lorry driver who transported goods from Cameroon to Chad. He died a tragic death alongside 13 of his colleagues on the same day in the Cameroon -Chad borders, some 50 kilometers away from Ndjamena.

 “I lost my junior brother; Imrana Zubairou on the 24th of July 2014. He was slaughtered by Boko Haram forces at the borders between Cameroon and Chad. His money (800 000FCFA) and parts of his goods were taken away. He was the sole bread maker of the house. He left us with his pregnant wife and two children. Our family has been suffering since he was killed.” Mero Zubairo cries.

Thieving Soldiers

However, the report also denounces the flaws of the Cameroon security forces.  The report says the Cameroon Army is guilty of remorseless killings, mass arrest, torture, unfair prison conditions, among others.  “In response Cameroonian security forces have raided villages, destroying homes, killing civilians and detaining over 1,000 suspects, some as young as five years old. Serious incidents have not been effectively investigated, including one where at least 25 people died in custody. More than 130 people remain missing.”

Alioune Tine, Amnesty International director for West and Central Africa present at the launch said. “At the same time, while providing much needed protection to civilians, the response by Cameroonian security forces has also been marred by serious violations. Cameroon’s security forces have killed civilians unlawfully or through excessive use of force. People have been arbitrary arrested, and many held in inhumane conditions which have led to dozens of deaths.”

However, last week, traders of Mokolo in the Mayo Tsanaga division staged a march to manifest their anger against the rife in robbery perpetrated by the military and dropped an accusation at the Division Officer  for Mayo Tsanaga’s office. Meanwhile, testimonies from traders who were raided by the military has let to the arrest of two soldiers, Corporals Manfo Steve and Mba Rodolph, working for the Army’s air unit.

And Alioune Tine is taken aback by the fact that the army which has as mission to protect civilians from Boko Haram also “committed atrocities themselves.”
Get the full report here.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

COP 21 negotiators could inspire from an Eco-village project to reach climate justice

Joshua Konkankoh, Cameroonian farmer urges Paris aspirants’ to emulate his works in rural areas if they want to successfully implement short term goals and help poor people.

This picture was taken from the Bafut Eco-village, one in its kind in Cameroon. This project weaved traditional materials and methods plus modern knowledge to create an exemplary Eco friendly place. Credit: Mowah Sixtus Mbom.
Douala- It is now less than 90 days to Paris COP21, another decisive moment where world powers will meet to discuss how to save the world from future apocalypse, as we continue to experience hostile temperatures and rise in sea levels.

Long term goals, innovative technology, renewables, long term goals, short term goals, loss and damage, adaptation, intended nationally determined contribution (INDC), resilience etc. are some common terms the Paris aspirants are going to quite often use to negotiate the deals.

In the meantime, Cameroon and other Sub Saharan countries continue to show their commitment by giving up on some unfriendly climate practices in production such as slash and burn, consumption and management of earth’s limited resources and are now embracing what is more sustainable and renewable.

But the ways of man seems not to be the ways of nature, the clock is ticking very fast, so too is the earth becoming warmer and unbearable for people as 2015 is already considered as the hottest year on record by scientists of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA).

However, scientists of the World Health Organization (WHO) say one of the major ways that climate change directly affects man is that it speeds up heat related diseases: cardiovascular illnesses and respiratory problems. And statistics from Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health say more than 25 percent of Cameroonians aged 15 and above suffer from respiratory problems.

Cameroonian authorities are aware of the heavy threat that climate change poses. That is why after the Minister of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development in Cameroon, Pierre Hélé prepared Cameroon’s agenda for COP21 in July, the country joint Ministers of The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on 27 August, 2015, in an extraordinary meeting in Libreville, Gabon to prepare the Central African position for Paris.

In Libreville, the Ministers called for legally binding and universal agreement on climate change in Paris this year and furthermore discussed several issues amongst which: the INDCs, Loss and Damage, Climate Finance, Adaptation and mitigation etc.

But Joshua Konkankoh thinks Paris negotiators can only attain real climate justice if they adopt a purely natural approach but most importantly use short term goals to tackle the damaging effects on the most vulnerable communities.

Joshua is a Cameroonian farmer who for the past 10 years has been developing local sustainable agricultural strategies that use indigenous knowledge systems to sort food crises and life-threatening poverty in rural communities. He also runs a unique Permaculture eco-village in Bafut- Cameroon where he trains farmers, students and youths how to lead eco-friendly lives and how develop sustainable agriculture.

 Joshua will be joining the Technical Southern Africa Regional Workshop for Cities and Local Governments on the Durban Charter (DAC) organized under the auspices of ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) in Durban on 14-16 October to share his concept in the build up to Cop21.

 Joshua urges Paris aspiring negotiators to emulate his works in order speed up climate actions for disfavored groups and quotes his Eco-village project as an example of work where he has successfully implemented a five year goal to realize something sustainable.“They could consider our ecological building developed in the north-West region.”  Joshua illustrates.

 “Cameroon has plenty of local building materials and a rich tradition of using them. In our work we combine modern knowledge with traditional methods to create beautiful sustainable buildings.”Joshua adds.