Forest conservation, resilience and adaptation in the face of climate change
Mt Cameroon is an active volcano, the largest mountain in West Africa, and one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. The indigenous groups living around Mount Cameroon include the Bakweri, Bomboko, Bakolle, Balong, Isubu, and Wovea. These groups retain strong traditional resource management systems that reflect deep historical and cultural connections to place. As a result, these systems enhance resilience in a complex and uncertain environment, helping local groups adapt to climate and other change.
Cultural landscapes around Mt Cameroon and other biologically diverse parts of the world have been shown to retain greater forest cover, and so conserve forest carbon stocks, and be more adaptive to social and environmental change than competing land uses. In the Mt Cameroon region, forests are under pressure from land grabs for agriculture, oil and other external forces. Part of the region was recently incorporated into a new Mt Cameroon National Park, but much of the forest remains outside the park in indigenous lands and cultural landscapes. However, alongside biodiversity and forests, traditional knowledge and practices are also under pressure, often as the result of similar causes.
What we will do
Through an education and outreach program built upon 15 years of collaboration between People and Plants International and local villages, organizations and institutions, this project will support threatened traditional management systems around Mt Cameroon. In partnership with local communities which have requested these activities, the first phase of the Mt Cameroon Biocultural Diversity Project will produce traditional knowledge manuals and undertake village education and outreach programs to bolster young peoples’ interest in cultural traditions; assist local schools seeking culturally-appropriate educational materials; help communities claim rights to land and resources, and slow deforestation; help migrants learn more sustainable ways to manage the forest; and give local communities a voice in the dramatic changes taking place in the region, including those resulting from climate change and local responses to REDD+.
Manuals will include drawings by local artists, myths and stories from older members of the community, information on historical uses of species, ecology and botany, and the importance of species in livelihoods and local culture. Topics covered include traditional foods, construction and household products, medicinal and symbolic plants, musical instruments and dance, traditional games, and homegardens. Extension programs will not only include workshops and lessons, but also practical activities undertaken with older members of the community like collecting and cooking foods no longer widely consumed (eg mushrooms, wild greens, and wild yams) and collecting materials from the forest to make musical instruments and pieces for games, followed by playing games and music, and dancing.
Monono Joseph is the only individual in Likombe village who still has the knowledge to gather the forest species and make these instruments. The ekule dance that accompanies the music of the ngombi and ewoki is also dying out. His son helped Monono make two new instruments for this project, and has taken an interest in playing, as have others. Younger women are also learning the elements of the ekule dance that are still known.
 For more information on indigenous management systems around Mt Cameroon, see Laird, S.A., G.L. Awung, R.J. Lysinge and L.E. Ndive. 2011. The interweave of people and place: biocultural diversity in migrant and indigenous livelihoods around Mount Cameroon. Special Issue: Forests, Biodiversity and Food Security, International Forestry Review, Vol. 13 (3), pp 275-293.