Interview: Radical Impact in Cameroon
A conversation with Lauriane and Kenya about Cameroon's Internation Tree Foundation project.
Kenya: I'd like to officially welcome Lauriane to the call to tell us about it. So thank you for being here, Lauriane and welcome. Please tell everyone a little about yourself and why you're passionate about the trees.
Lauriane: Hi, I want to say that I am holding the TreeSisters reforestation program. I'm so passionate about trees, you know; I grew up on Reunion Island, a volcanic gem in the Indian Ocean covered with that humid and dry tropical forest. I believe that's what has given me that never-ending fascination for woods and trees.
Kenya: Thank you, Lauriane. I have never been to the island where you live, but I can imagine that it's just gorgeous. So thank you for sharing that. And a little bit about your passion. And I'd like to dive into our project in Cameroon. So, I'd like to ask you why you decided that TreeSisters should support this project, and I'd love for you to share what you're most excited about it.
Lauriane: Last year, International Tree Foundation came to us with a proposition to restore
the Cameroon Highlands forest, which used to cover the Mt. Bamboutos mountain range entirely. Over 90 per cent of the forest has been logged, over-exploited, over-grazed, set on fire, and converted into agricultural lands. When I screened the project through the lens of our reforestation strategy, here is what stood out:
Firstly, one of our desired impacts as TreeSisters is to restore and maintain watersheds. Water is essential for all life on Earth. But many regions are experiencing water shortages. That's what the people of the Mt. Bamboutos watershed are experiencing today. And that's what the project is addressing through forest and tree restoration. So Mt. Bamboutos stays the second most crucial water tower in Cameroon.
Secondly, another of our desired impacts is to stop the deforestation and forest degradation of the remaining intact tropical forest. This is what restoring the Cameroon Highlands forest is about; it aims to prevent further encroachments into the remaining natural forests of the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and a nearby, vast "intact forest landscape".
Now the two things that I'm most excited to share with you today are that with this project, we are contributing to the establishment of the Biodiversity Reserves of about 6,000 Hector to protect Mount Bamboutos' exceptional biodiversity and endemism.
We are also contributing to conserving about thirty Cross River gorillas living in the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. The project is setting up a community forest for firewood and timber provisions to stop adjacent communities from creeping into the sanctuary.
Kenya: That was an excellent overview, and it was great to hear the theme again about how important it is for us to focus on water. And it's this area of Cameroon. It is similar to Kenya's mountains. It's called a water tower, as you mentioned, which I think is an exciting crossover. I also want to return to the gorillas for a second, but I want to ensure everyone on the call understands. So, thirty of these Cross River gorillas live in the wildlife sanctuary. Our project is creating a buffer around that area with the trees we're planting so that, as you mentioned, Lauriane, people...communities will stop encroaching in the sanctuary. And I would love for you to share, Lauriane, how endangered these gorillas are. I think it's essential to say because, as I understand it, they're the most endangered gorilla in Africa. And could you tell us a little about how many are left in the world? How many gorillas of the Cross River gorillas?
Lauriane: Yes, you're correct. It's the rarest and the most threatened of all gorillas. There are just about 300 left in the wild. And they have scattered all over an area twice as large as the size of Rhode Island or half the size of Wales. But and unfortunately, the Cross River gorilla's territory is also a region with a dense human population. And the human population has encroached into their habitats with slash-and-burn agriculture. They have also cleared the forest to create fields; room for agriculture. They are also poached. That's why they are so rare and threatened.
Kenya: Wow, I just... every time I...every time I hear about these gorillas I, I feel, I feel a sense of heartbreak, to be honest, and it's just a testament as to why it's so important to protect them what you just shared. So thank you for going into more depth about that. And I'd like to remind everyone that this is a new project, as I already mentioned, and Lauriane, I'd like, gorillas, you to tell us a little bit about what's involved in starting a planting project like this.
Lauriane: So the first years are crucial to reach the restoration goals creptslash-and-burnset up for the next three years. So it's to plant three hundred sixty thousand native trees for forest restoration that, through vapour vital: the freshwater, provides the significant, two hundred and forty thousand trees for purposes-green farmlands with at least seventy per cent native species.
What's involved is all that's needed to establish and operate seven central tree nurseries and one thousand individual tree nurseries for Agroforestry purposes. The focus is on mobilizing, recruiting, planning, training, and mentoring women in project development and investments in materials and equipment.
Because community buy-in and participation are essential. The project starts with several workshops to sensitise the restoration and sustainable management of the Cameroon Highlands forest. It is also an opportunity to identify the community members who would like to engage and associate with groups.
Kenya: I think it's important for everyone, especially our donors, to understand what's involved with setting up new projects because it's a lot of work. And it's a lot of community involvement and education. And it's wonderful to hear you talk about it. Lauriane, thank you so much. And we're ending our conversation about Cameroon, and thank you so much, Lauriane, that was such a wonderful overview. And before we finish, I want to ask you one more question. So from your knowledge and expertise. What kind of global impact can trees have on the world?
Lauriane: There are two per cent individual purposes and global impacts. So the first one is global cooling. So trees cut out the heat by reflecting some of the sense incident light. Trees absorb the air's heat through transpiration; through transpiration, trees release water vapour, which may condense and form clouds, and those clouds deflect additional radiation from the terrestrial surfaces. So important impact is for cooling our Earth.
The second important impact to me is that I'm on the same line as Marie-Noelle that the trees are sustaining the freshwater flows globally. Through the process of transpiration, trees form clouds and precipitation. And when it rains, trees capture water and drain it down to the forest soil and ultimately feed the water table, which in turn wants the streams and the streams would transport fresh water to the other end of with continents. So trees are crucial in the global water cycle of our planet.
Kenya: Wow. Thank you, Lauraine. And I'm so inspired, and I'm sure people are inspired too.