Forest communities generate income while conserving their environment

AgricultureEnvironment and climate change

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Populations of many wild animals and plants are declining. For example, it is thought that there were three to five million African elephants in the 1930s and 1940s. Their number is probably less than half a million today. In the past, illegal trade in ivory posed the greatest threat, but since the 1989 ban on the ivory trade, the biggest problem is loss of habitat from expansion of logging and agriculture. For some other species, bushmeat hunting is the most immediate threat.

Some communities experience serious damage to crops and even loss of human life from conflicts with wild species. These situations are largely due to expansion of human populations into wildlife habitat. But villagers must find food and generate an income. How are wild species and human populations to live harmoniously side-by-side?

In many cases, governments and NGOs are working with communities to find sustainable ways of interacting with and preserving their natural environment. In other cases, communities themselves have found ways to preserve their environment while feeding themselves and generating an income.

This script profiles a project in the South West Region of Cameroon. A large international NGO – World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – is helping forest communities to develop enterprises which generate income from wild species without destroying the forest. If you research what is happening in your own area, you may find similar projects operated by WWF and other organizations.

This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.


Good morning, dear listeners. Did you know that you can help protect nature? Well, today’s program will help you to understand how. The program talks about the experiences of three villagers in a forest region located in the South West Region of Cameroon, and how they were supported by an organization called World Wild Fund for Nature or WWF.


Wherever they live, people rely on their immediate environment to produce food and generate income. In forested areas, people cut down trees to use wood or bark for various purposes, or simply to harvest honey. They kill animals for food or for sale. Forest products are very popular. But whether it is for medicinal plants or animals, people often destroy the animals and plants of the forest to generate income and to satisfy their daily needs.

The destruction of the forest has had many negative impacts both on the immediate environment and on the Earth as a whole. For example, forest destruction contributes to the rising temperatures that come with climate change. Destroying the forest also causes the extinction of many species of animals and plants.

Many organizations are working to preserve the forest. One is the World Wild Fund for Nature or WWF, an international organization founded in 1961. The organization’s mission is to stop the degradation of the natural environment and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature by conserving the world’s biological diversity, promoting the reduction of pollution and waste, and ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable.

WWF has been working in Cameroon since 1989 and manages four programs, including the WWF Coastal Forests Programmme in the South West and Littoral Regions of Cameroon. The interviews you will hear were conducted in one of the programme sites in the Kupe Muanenguba Division, in the South West Region of Cameroon. Among the many biodiversity hotspots in the South West where WWF works, the Kupe Muanenguba area stands out as special.

Sounds of the forest – birds chirping and other animal sounds

Kupe is a mountainous area with peaks that reach over 2,000 metres above sea level. It is largely forested, and its forests are some of the oldest in Africa. In addition to rare plants that grow only in this region, there are also many endangered animal and plant species: primates such as the drill, rare species such as the chameleon, and over 300 species of birds.

Faced with the growing threat of environmental destruction in this region, WWF has been active since the late 1990s. WWF’s activities complement and strengthen the work begun by other organizations such as Birdlife International and Cameroon’s Ministry of Forest and Wildlife, which organized a campaign in 1999-2000 urging people not to kill endangered animals or cut trees illegally in the forest.

WWF works with communities living in the region. It educates and trains them to generate income without destroying the forest, supporting them with funds, materials and training to conduct their activities and help them find buyers for their products. In this way, WWF is helping to reduce poverty in the local communities and helping them to practice sustainable forest management.

Here are the stories of Ngol’epie, Pa Atabe, and Mbonteh, three people from Kupe Muanenguba Division, who, with the help of the WWF, are contributing to the sustainable management of the forest.


We will first hear from Ngol’epie, who lives in Nyasoso, a small village near the forest of Kupe.

Hi Mr. Ngol’epie, how are you?

Hello. I am fine.

Can you tell the listeners how and why you have decided to change from being a hunter to a farmer?

Of course. I live in Nyasoso with my family. As a hunter, I would go into the forest daily to kill game for sale, and to harvest tree bark for use in traditional medicine.

I have also worked as a guide for NGOs who work in the forest. But through my relationship with WWF, I learned that my hunting activities were helping to destroy the forest.

One day, when I was in the forest searching for medicinal plants, I saw a palm rat coming out of a hole. I grabbed it. With the help of my dogs, who enlarged the hole, I captured more palm rats in my bag. With my wife, I decided to try breeding these rats. First, I made a wooden cage, but it was unfortunately chewed away by the rats. But thanks to advice and support from WWF, I will make a new cage and continue breeding rats. I feed them with dried fish, bananas, tubers, nuts, field grasses such assissongo (Editor’s note: also known as bush sugar cane or elephant grass), and potato leaves.

To encourage me, WWF bought me a rickshaw to help carry the feed for the rats. WWF also gives me ongoing advice which helps me not to put pressure on forest animals or the forest in general.

After a year of breeding, the rats have matured and I’m happy to say that I can sell them and can make a good profit.

Because of this, I am convinced that livestock will allow me to earn a living. I used the money from my first sale to buy pigs.

Mr. Ngol’epie, what have you done so that others may benefit from your experience?

Following the advice of WWF, I created a group of seven people to jointly manage the livestock. The group is known in my local Bakossi dialect as “Dion de Dienge.” The business is so profitable that we are building a large cage made of aluminum. I now understand that I can live near the forest and make money without having to kill animals in the forest.

Thank you, Mr. Ngol’epie.


After hearing about Mr. Ngol’epie’s experience, we will now hear Pa Atabe’s story. He is a retired civil servant living in Tombel, a village next to the great forest of Kupe. He is involved in honey making.

Forest honey has a particular taste and is very expensive when it is sold in the cities. To harvest forest honey, people cut down trees that hold the hives, thereby destroying the trees.

Let’s hear about Pa Atabe’s experience.

Hello, Pa Atabe.

Hello, and hello to all your listeners.

Can you tell us about your experience with honey making and with WWF?

Thank you! With support from WWF, I have attended trainings on honey making in the UK and in Cameroon. Here in Tombel, I will train others and together we will create a Common Initiative Group or CIG. It will be called the Tombel-Bangem Bee Farmers Association or TOBA. With the support of WWF, we will learn how to make wooden hives and we will receive protective clothing, tables, bottles, wax, cloth filters and a nursery.

To attract bees in July, August and September, TOBA members burn beeswax at the hive entrance. The smell of the burning wax attracts the bees. We will also plant caliandra nurseries near the hive, because caliandra is a tree which bees seek out. Once attracted to the caliandra tree, the bees gradually settle and build their hives. Several months later – in March, April and May – the honey is harvested and each member brings their harvest to the headquarters of the CIG. The sale is centralized and many local consumers and those from adjacent towns will come.

What kind of benefits can you make from honey making?

There are several kinds of benefits. TOBA produces about 2,000 litres of honey each year, which generates approximately 9,000 US dollars in gross income. The incomes of TOBA members have increased and we have created employment for young people. The pressure on the forest from cutting trees to harvest honey has been eliminated.

Finally, our third story is that of Mbonteh, who lives in Tombel.

Hello, Mr. Mbonteh. How are you today?

Hello. I am fine, thank you.

You are responsible for an association that contributes to the preservation of the forest through snail breeding. Snail meat is highly valued and sought after in urban centres.

Tell us about your experience.

Bakossi people living in other forested areas collect snails in the forest. Then they sell the snails. But they were destroying other species in the forest. For example, if a hare crossed their path, it would be shot. Although the Bakossis went to the forest to collect snails, they would hunt any other small animal they saw.

Following the campaigns organized by WWF in 2001 with the former Mt. Kupe Forest project, I and other villagers were interested in raising snails at home.

WWF supported us to organize ourselves into groups to raise snails. That is how the group called Community Action for Development or CADEV was formed. WWF trained us in management and writing project proposals.

Snail breeding is very delicate work. It takes three to four months from the time when an egg is laid until maturity. Breeders change snail cages three times during this period. The cages must be carefully managed to control humidity and ventilation. The snails’ food is made from papaya, cocoyam, green leafy vegetables, and bananas.


Throughout this process, WWF supported the group with materials, advice, and trainings conducted in Cameroon and elsewhere. I had the opportunity to participate in training workshops in Nigeria, Chile and South Africa. WWF is also helping CADEV to transport the snails to retail stores and even to negotiate with foreign markets which value snail flesh. Orders from Nigeria and Italy arrive regularly.

The collaboration with WWF has significantly improved the incomes of group members. CADEV’s business generates a monthly profit of about 210 US dollars for the entire group. I became an expert, and was able to train other groups. Several families are raising snails and improving their incomes and living standards. Because snails are no longer harvested in the forest, but rather obtained from snail farms, the pressures on the forest have decreased.


Dear listeners, in conclusion, by focusing on helping communities to sustainably manage natural resources in the South West Region of Cameroon, WWF has been able to support more than 33 community-based organizations which are engaged in various income-generating activities such as beekeeping, snail farming, raising of pigs, cane rats and giant pouched rats. These groups have operated environmentally friendly activities while gradually improving their standard of living.


Contributed by: Serge Kuate, PROTEGE QV, Cameroon, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.

Reviewed by: Janet Molisa, Communication Officer, WWF Coastal Forests Programme, Cameroon and Peter Ngea, Communications Manager, WWF Central Africa Regional Programme Office (CARPO), Yaounde, Cameroon.

Thanks to Ngwene Theophilus, Socio-economic Officer, WWF Coastal Forests Programme, Cameroon; Dr. Atanga Ekobo, Programme Coordinator WWF Coastal Forests Programme Cameroon; and Sylvie Siyam, President of PROTEGE QV.

Information sources

Interviews took place on February 11, 2009.