Efforts to protect forests on Mt. Cameroon started in 1927 under British Rule, which culminated to the final classification of the Bomboko Native Authority Forest Reserve in 1939. Since then, several expeditions and re-search missions to the mountain have confirmed the uniqueness of the ecosystem in the region and its need for protection. In 1988, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) launched the Mount Cameroon Project (MCP) to encourage the conservation and sustainable use of forests, which was later supported by German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and German Development Servic (DED). All projects intended to strengthen the participation of local communities in the management of natural resources. During the land use planning (Plan de Zonage) Phase V process in 2001, several types of protection units were proposed for Mount Cameroon, buttressing further the need for protection.
A section of the mountain that includes Mount Etinde was proposed to be gazetted as a flora and fauna sanctuary, while the wettest part with its unique plant species and its important wildlife habitat was proposed to be gazetted as an integral ecological reserve. The biodiversity richness of the Mt Cameroon area has been suffering different threats over the years (habitat loss through conservation into farmland and agro-industrial plantations, poaching, illegal logging). In a bid to safe-guard a representative portion of this ecosystem, finally the Government of Cameroon, with the support of GTZ, WWF and then in 2006 starting German Development Bank KFW co-financed Programme of Sustainable Management of Natural Resources – South West Region (PSMNR-SWR) initiated the creation of the Mt Cameroon National Park. Following the MINFOF classification procedure for Protected Areas, over a period of three years (2005-2008) adjacent communities and other stakeholders were sensitized and the park creation discussed and negotiated. As a result the Mt Cameroon National Park (58,178 ha) was created by Prime ministerial decree No. 2009/2272/PM of 18th December 2009.
Divisional commission for park creation in Kumba
By 2025, the Mount Cameroon National Park ecosystems, biodiversity, environmental services and its integrity will be managed effectively with the participation of all stakeholders and will be recognised as a worldwide ecotourism destination” (Mt Cameroon National Park Management plan 2015-2019). The decree of creation make mention of the following objectives for the creation of the park: conservation of wildlife species and their habitats, regulation of the hydrological regime of the area, contribution to the improvement of livelihood of the adjacent communities, promote eco-tourism as revenue generating activity, creation of new employments through park management and promotion of the image of Cameroon concerning biodiversity conservation.
Mount Cameroon National Park is managed under the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife by a conservation service led by a conservator and different management units: Finance and Administration, Protection, Collaborative management, Research and Monitoring, Eco-tourism. A group of eco-guards is mainly working under the protection unit for law enforcement patrols but also executing tasks of the other units.
The motto of the park is “Managing with people” : the Collaborative Management Approach or short “co-management” introduced by PSMNR-SWR intends to enhance community participation in the management of the National Park. The National park is working is working with Village Forest Management Committees (VFMCs) of the 41 communities around the park These communities have been regrouped into clusters. Each cluster is animated by a cluster facilitator, a person out of these villages and serving as communication hub between the park and the cluster. Inside the National Park territory each cluster is co-responsible for the management of a “Cluster Conservation Zone CCZ”. On half-yearly cluster platform meetings – representatives of the VFMCs of the concerned cluster -plan and agree on co-management activities (eg boundary opening, monitoring activities etc) and evaluate past performance. The communities equally receive a conservation bonus, depending on their performance in co-management activities and the occurrence of illegal activities in their cluster conservation zone. The conservation bonus is used to sponsor small community projects. In future the cluster platform will have even a stronger role in developing site specific management objectives and strategies to be translated in the revision of the management plan of the park. Other stakeholders as the councils will be also stronger involved in planning and monitoring.
A basic instrument for the collaboration between the community and the park is the “Conservation Development Agreement (CDA)” which is a long term partnership agreement signed between the park and the communities and which defines roles and responsibilities of both parties in support of conservation and development activities (income generating activities, socio-economic infrastructure). In Mount Cameroon National park in the last years the park supported the villages with multiplication of improved cassava varieties and plantain varieties, as well as improved plantain multiplication with PIF facilities and multi-purpose nurseries (cash crops and useful trees) to enrich and diversify community members’farms. The ultimate goal is to enhance sustainable land management in the peripheral zone of the park and by this improve the livelihood of the communities. Since the start of PSMNR-SWR twelve villages benefitted from the construction of drinking water supply projects.
Mobilising communities for livelihood improvement (video)
Managing with people in practice (video)
In the framework of the collaborative with the communiteis the National park is managing the Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) of Prunus Africana bark in a sustainable way . Local communities insisted on further exploitation of the Prunus Resource as a user right during the participatory process leading the creation of Mt Cameroon National Park . Mount Cameroun hosts one of the largest populations of Prunus africana in Cameroon, the tree is occurring mainly in the mountain forest close to the border of the savannah. The Prunus bark is used as traditional medicine and since the 1970s in the pharmaceutic industry in Europe to treat benign prostate. The National park with support of PSMNR-SWR has realized in the last years a 100% inventory of the resource and elaborated and revised a special resource management plan for Prunus which is found mainly in the National Park and in two adjacent community forests. Sustainable harvesting rules have been established and monitored with the community based MOCAP CIG who is organizing the harvesting and the commercialization. A part generating direct benefit to harvesters Prunus exploitation benefits also surrounding communities for their village development. Activities of harvesting and commercialization are monitored by the park. The park is promoting also the plantation, harvesting and commercialization of Prunus from private farms including the putting in place of traceability system in order not to mix bark from the wild and from plantation; on long term the harvesting from plantations shall replace the harvesting from the wild.
The park has a protection units with a number of eco-guards (park rangers) attached to it. The protection unit organises regular patrols all over the park to fight against poaching, encroachment and illegal logging in the park. The unit is using cybertrackers and the SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) a special software in their patrol management. Encroachment, illegal logging and poaching have reduced a lot of the last years but are still occurring. One of the ecological problems linked mainly to poaching is the burning of the savannah every year which in the dryer places of the mountain degrades and destroys part of the mountain forest. The 130 km of park boundaries are well demarcated with signboards and other marks and need from time to time cleaning and maintenance.
Patrol data management with Cybertracker
Under its research and monitoring program the park undertakes regular wildlife surveys. In the last years camera trapping was introduced as survey method for terrestrial mammals and has increased the knowledge of the wildlife of the park. The drill which was not seen in the last years with other survey methods was detected by camera traps. The method permits also to monitor wildlife abundances over longer periods.
Camera trap video
The first management and business plan of the Mount Cameroon National park and its peripheral zone was elaborated in 2014 for the period 2015-2019. The management measures of the park are organized according specific objectives in six park management programmes:
- Administration and Finance
- Park Protection and Surveillance
- Collaborative management and local development
- Eco-tourism development
- Research and Monitoring
- Sustainable Financing