Currently the end of the moto track, the villagers of Ekom are positive about the prospects of support under the Darwin Initiative project. They are keen to support small livestock farming, and this will be the basis for ongoing discussions. Fish farming isn't likely to go ahead here "why do we need to build fish ponds when the river is so close by?"
We’ re looking for solutions –or rather, supporting people living inside the Dja Biosphere Reserve, but outside of the Dja Faunal Reserve. The area is a buffer zone between the core area of the DFR and the people living in towns such as Somalomo, so what the people can and can’t do is restricted by law. This is especially relevant when looking at how the environmental resources are managed: this element of the project is focussed on how animal protein is obtained, and how we can support people to access meat and fish legally and sustainably.
The challenge is relatively easy to define, but harder to solve. The people in the northern buffer zone (Somalomo to Ekom) need animal protein for their diet. They are allowed to hunt for animals that are not endangered (class c animals) but only for their own consumption. The difficulty is that as the number of people in the villages increases, the greater the demand for meat. We’re pretty sure that there aren’t enough animals in the buffer zone to feed everyone, so we need to offer sustainable alternatives. In terms of animal protein, we’ve looking at increasing the amount of fish - and this may mean ensuring that the Dja river is a ‘sustainable’ fishery, and also at intensifying livestock production, using animals such as goats, chickens and sheep. Discussions with the villagers will make things dearer. But even at this stage, it is clear that they are keen to try new ways of living to improve their lives, and those of their children.