Analog Forestry is an approach to ecological restoration which uses natural forests as guides to create ecologically stable and socio-economically productive landscapes. Analog Forestry is a complex and holistic form of silviculture, which minimizes external inputs, such as agrochemicals and fossil fuels, instead fostering ecological function for resilience and productivity. Analog Forestry values not only ecological sustainability, but recognizes local rural communities’ social and economic needs, which can be met through the production of a diversity of useful and marketable goods and services, ranging from food to pharmaceuticals and fuel to fodder.
In retrospect, in 2006, one of our team members attended a training workshop on Analog Forestry in Zimbabwe. After the training, we carried out a feasibility study to introduce it in Cameroon. This study enabled us to involve the local communities in the development of a project titled “Restoration of Degraded Montane Forests in Cameroon Using Analog Forestry Techniques”. This was our pioneer analog forestry project in Cameroon, financed by the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN NL) and ran from 2008 to 2010.
In Cameroon, the sites targeted for analog forestry were once covered with natural forests comprising a variety of species of plants and animals some of which are endemic. These forests have now been highly degraded leading to a number of environmental problems amongst which is water shortage. Water became one of the most critical resources in the area and was the driving force for analog forestry adoption especially in the North West Region of Cameroon.
One of our pioneer analog forestry demonstration sites was the Kitiwum “man-made” forest. We supported the community in the creation of an 18.5 ha Analog Forest. Today this forest has made it possible for over 12000 people to have water throughout the year because the forest has led to a rise in the water table. In North West Cameroon in general, over 10 communities have been supported to implement analog forestry as tool to protect their water sheds. We had consistent support from a number of international NGOs and foundations such as the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN NL), New Englands Biolabs Foundation , WWF through Russell E).
Across Africa, we are working with our partners notably BothENDS, Netherlands (www.bothends.org) and the International Analog Forestry Network – IAFN (www.analogforestry.org), based in Costa Rica in the sensitization and training of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Our training centre is located in the North West Region of Cameroon. The centre covers 11 hectares of land bordering the Mbiame communal forest in Bui Division. We provide residential training to CSOs across Africa consisting of theory and practical field exercises thereby equipping these organizations with the necessary tools to engage in sustainable ecosystem restoration efforts in their target communities. With the advent of the covid-19 we embarked on virtual training through which we are able to reach trainees across a number of African countries. As of January 2022, we have trained 155 CSOs and more than 350 individual participants covering nine (09) different African countries.
ANALOGUE FORESTRY AND MONTANE FOREST CONSERVATION
The Northwest Region of Cameroon with over 70% of its population engaged in peasant agriculture has over the years experienced severe land and watershed degradation resulting from unsustainable farming practices (shifting cultivation and bush burning), unsustainable timber exploitation, grazing, farm encroachment into montane forests rich in biodiversity and water catchments in search for new and more fertile farmlands. In addition, eucalyptus trees introduced in the early 1900s by German colonial masters for timber and fuel wood has affected water cycles resulting in the drying up of streams. These activities have led to soil degradation, declining crop yields, increasing search for new farmlands, lack of water, conflicts and poverty especially for the rural women. Frantic efforts are currently being made by stakeholders to eradicate eucalyptus trees in the area as a mitigating strategy to reduce water shortages.
To achieve her mission CENDEP investigates and trains forest resource users on sustainable forest resource management techniques. So, in October 2006, CENDEP received training on Analogue Forestry in Zimbabwe. Based on results of its successful implementation in Latin America and in other parts of the world, CENDEP embarked on introducing this conservation concept in Cameroon, starting with the grass field areas of North Western Cameroon, specifically in Bui Division. This began with a feasibility study in December 2006 that led to the elaboration of a proposal for a pilot project on Analogue Forestry in Cameroon. This project was supported by the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN NL.
The Analogue Forestry Project aims at assisting small scale farmers in seven communities in Bui Division of the North West Region of Cameroon to improve their incomes and food supply while at the same time increasing their capacity to adapt to changes in climate through the adoption of improved farming practices. This consists in promoting permanent reforestation/afforestation within degraded watershed and forest areas to help regulate water flows, provide the communities with access to valuable non-timber forest products, and provide permanent carbon sinks that contribute in climate change mitigation on a global scale. Being a new concept the analogue forestry project had three main objectives namely:
- To educate and raise awareness on the functions, products and services of traditional forests and the need for sustainable management to ensure that the forest benefits continue from generation to generation, through the practice of Analogue Forestry.
- To restore and/or expand two degraded and one man-made forest through enrichment planting, sustainable forest management and strengthening of local forest and water management institutions.
- To improve livelihoods of the local population by diversifying farm and forest based income generating sources through the promotion of analogue forestry, sustainable agriculture such as organic farming, bee keeping and improved pasture management, cultivation of agricultural and forest-based products having economic potentials.
Awareness raising and information campaigns were conducted in all the seven communities where analogue forestry project is being promoted. Meetings on awareness raising and information dissemination were held with already existing forest/water management institutions, civil/traditional authorities, local NGO’s, councils, schools, churches, cultural/developmental associations in all the communities concerned. To complement the awareness raising and information dissemination meetings, posters were displayed in public places such as road junctions and public buildings. Collaborating local NGOs like GREEN, CARE and CEPROCA, also complemented the awareness raising and information dissemination. In 2008, there was an estimated public awareness outreach of about 9750 of the targeted 37000 people in the communities concerned.
Tree species of both environmental and socio-economic importance were raised in 7 community nurseries. The nurseries provided seedlings for reforestation/afforestation activities in the various communities. 35 different species were sown in the various nurseries. These nurseries are being managed by the forest/water management institutions who are working in close collaboration with the field staff. Most of the seeds were provided by the project which in turn trained the community members on the propagation techniques of the various species.
In 2008 the following achievements were made:
- Creation of 7 tree nurseries to meet the seed needs of the communities;
- Creation of 2 school garden nurseries for environmental education purposes;
- Production of 5816 plants belonging to 19 different species.
A total of 210 interested farmers were selected and trained to practice analogue forestry on communal lands earmarked for protection. The first stage in the analogue forest restoration process is agriculture.
The project thus had the challenge of convincing forest management institutions to make a U-turn in their forest management approach. This entailed bringing farmers into areas where they had been forbidden from cultivating. Through past projects these areas had been allowed to regenerate naturally, a process which had been hampered by bush fires and grazing by cattle. Over 40ha of land were released to the trained farmers. In addition to the protection they offered to the planted trees, their presence in these areas has equally curbed the phenomenon of out migration in search of arable land. The farmers cultivated a variety of food crops that increased their food production. Excesses were sold to generate income. Farming in these areas was according to laid down guidelines. In Mbiame farmers signed agreements indicating that they were caretakers and not the owners of the trees planted.
In 2008, efforts were made to discourage farmers from poor and unsustainable farming practices that have rendered their farmlands impoverished and less productive. Some of these practices include the famous bush burning commonly referred to in the region as “Ankara”, wrong usage of fertilizer and farming across the slope.
A lady cultivating in the Mbiame water shed area lamented that without bush burning and use of fertilizers her children would starve to death when she was informed of the new regulations guiding farming in the area (no bush burning and use of agrochemicals in water shed areas). In an attempt to remedy this situation, the project organized a two-day workshop where 25 farmers, drawn from 5 different farming groups received training on the long-term benefits of organic farming to people and the environment. Key emphasis was laid on compost making, planting and use of agro forestry tree species as green manure, mulching and erosion control using vetiver grass on contour slopes.
Demonstrations were established in farmers’ fields.
Six cattle owners grazing around the communal forest received training on improved pasture production and 6kg of improved pasture seeds. The seeds were used to establish demonstration plots on their grazing land. By the end of the year their livestock was already grazing on the established pasture.
This was through fire tracing, eradication of invasive species and enrichment planting. Water retention pools were constructed in the forest to provide water for wildlife. Footprints and droppings were an indication that these pools were being used by wild life.
With the objective of assisting farmers to generate income to improve upon their livelihoods two activities were supported as requested by the farmers during the first six-monthly review and planning workshop that took place in July 2008 namely:
- Distribution of 50kg of snails to 10 interested farmers in the project area for trial rearing. At the end of the year some of the snails had started reproduction showing that the initiative could succeed and new farmers supported in 2009;
- Distribution of 250 apple seedlings to 14 farmers in the project area.
During the review and planning workshop that took place in February 2009, participants requested further support in bee keeping (material and technical know how), intensification of fruit tree planting to reach more farmers, improvement of local poultry (medication, technical know how)
Of the 5816 tree seedlings raised in the 7 community nurseries, 2213 seedlings representing 10 different species were out planted on approximately 12ha of degraded forest land.
A central nursery which also doubles as a seed bank with facilities for testing seeds (germination tests) prior to their distribution to the village nurseries was established.
Environmental Education activities undertaken were linked to the new forestry management method and included amongst others, lessons on current key environmental issues such as the causes of global warming and the importance of tree planting, naming of the different tree species found in the community nursery, (their uses and means of propagation) and above all, the introduction of Analogue Forestry as a new forest management technique aimed at establishing tree dominated ecosystems analogous in architectural structure and ecological function to that which existed in the area. Tree nurseries were established in four schools that had regular water supply and where there was assurance of proper management and maintenance during holidays. Environmental Education Clubs were created with the following membership:
A staff of the organisation went on a learning visit to Rainforest Rescue International (RRI) Sri Lanka. The goal of the visit was to empower CENDEP to effectively implement analogue forestry in Cameroon.
Apart from her partnership with Bothends that has been lobbying for the organisation in the North, CENDEP made other partners. For example, the New Forests Project through her partnership with CENDEP donated five Kg of five different tree species for nursery work. At the local level CENDEP established win-win relations with GREEN CARE that led to joint seed collection expeditions and sharing of information on seed propagation techniques. In turn GREEN CARE embarked on promoting analogue forestry in her working area. Through the IAFN, CENDEP indicated interest in carbon trading using analogue forestry (REDD activities). Discussions are underway for First Climate www.firstclimate.com to provide technical assistance to integrate CENDEP and others into the Carbon trading system. This is to enable CENDEP and others to tap from the potential in developing analogue forests into a REDD project. The relevant government services have been supportive of the initiative, attending evaluation meetings and advising.
The main difficulties that the project encountered included:
- Low participation in community work (principally nursery activities) as it was the same community members participating in carrying nursery and out planned activities;
- Discouragement by detractors;
- Continued grazing by some graziers in and around protected areas.
To ensure participatory monitoring and evaluation, six-monthly review and planning workshops were programmed with the following objectives:
- To evaluate progress;
- To plan for the next six months, and
- To make recommendations for amendment of agreed activities so that corrective measures can be taken to ensure maximum achievement of project results.
- So far two workshops have been held (see report 1 and report 2). Participants at the workshops came from the project communities, local NGOs, relevant government services and the private press.
A Baseline Study was conducted to produce data to monitor project impact (read the report).