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The Darwin Project Launch

The Darwin project launch was initially planned to hold in Somalomo in the presence of project partners, government authorities and representatives of villagers. After the first trip to some of the villages by Donald, Neil and Mama, the plan was changed. The new sub divisional officer (SDO) of Somalomo invited us to participate in his village visit and use the opportunity to present the project in his presence.

The SDO’s visit to the villages began on the 8th of August and ended on the 9th. His delegation included the assistant mayor, representative of the conservator, inspector of education, delegate of sports, delegate of youths, delegate of agriculture, delegate of livestock and fisheries, representative of elections Cameroon, etc. The Darwin project partners included Nwafi Adi (TF-RD). Mouamfon Mama (FCTV) and Donald Mbohli (PGS). We all crossed river Dja in canoes and continue on motor bikes to Ekom on the 7th of August where we spent the night.

The SDO visited some villages on the 8th and the rest on the 9th. During each visit, he attributed 15 minutes to us to present the Darwin project. We presented the 4 years project and drew villager’s attention to the need to REAs, and sensitised them that REA are meant to ensure success of the project – livelihood amelioration and reduce human pressure on wildlife in the forest.

REAs are familiar to villagers; they signed them with the conservation service of the Dja reserve when they received their first cocoa. Signing REAs in this project is not a problem. Socioeconomic and biological data collection will start in the coming weeks.

Some important points noted included the following:

1. Villagers confirmed that they rely on bush meat for income because they don’t have other sources of income. The Darwin project will therefore provide them a sustainable income source. This is very important for the conservation of natural resources in the forest.

2. The main food items that villagers prepared for the SDO included cassava, plantains, fish and bush meat. This confirms that their main source of animal protein is fish and bush meat. The fish came from the Dja river. This confirms that our idea to reorganise and reinforce local fishing along the Dja river is important. It is important to note that villagers will not only fish for local consumption, they will certainly sell some of the fish. There are no measures set aside to regulate fishing in the Dja. Villagers buy fishing material they need and fish as much as possible. The delegate of livestock and fisheries of Somalomo confirmed that he cannot request taxes normally from villagers on fish sales because they will not afford. He simply collects an affordable amount and let them go.

3. Sheep are reared in two main villages – Ekom and Nkolekoule. They move around in the villages and destroy crops in farms. The SDO requested villagers to have them tied up or locked up in enclosures otherwise the mayor will confiscate them.

4. In some villages, communication between the chief and his population was not good. Villagers in Schwan accused their chief in the presence of the SDO for not informing them on the procedure to obtain birth certificates following the SDO’s instructions. This again confirms that if the project was launched in the presence of village chiefs only, the rest of the population would not be properly informed.

5. The SDO confirmed that 150,000,000fcfa (one hundred and fifty million francs) has been reserved by the Cameroon government for the reinstallation of the movable bridge on river Dja to link the 17 villages and Somalomo. The company in charge of this work has already made the first visit to the river. He also confirmed that once reinstalled, caterpillars will cross and repair the rest of the road between Somalomo and Ekom including bridges. This will facilitate the evacuation of farm products to Somalomo

6. We sensitised villagers to avoid cutting down forest to create new cocoa plantations, they should use old farm lands. The population of Kongoulou and Djolempoul complained that they have limited farm lands – 1km on both sides of the road. If cocoa plantations are created on this limited land (to avoid deforestation), nothing or less will be available for food crop farms. The chef d’antenne nord said a cartography team will remap out the area.

7. Lack of classrooms and teachers in some villages was another challenge to village chiefs. The mayor confirmed that once the movable bridge is installed, classrooms will be constructed. While waiting for this, villagers should build local classrooms. The SDO instructed the inspector to make concrete propositions about teachers.

8. The SDO also confirmed that 102 billion fcfa was also reserved by the Cameroon government to help youths 15 – 35 years (both educated and illiterates) financially and materially in all domains. They are called to register themselves.

The village project launch went on successfully and the entire target population was informed and not only their representatives. Villagers were happy to hear about the project and are anxious to get involved. They are expecting us to start with baseline data collection. The ongoing government project on the reinstallation of the movable bridge on river Dja is a favorable factor. It will facilitate the sales of agricultural products.

The village project launch went on successfully and the entire target population was informed and not only their representatives. Villagers were happy to hear about the project and are anxious to get involved. They are expecting us to start with baseline data collection. The ongoing government project on the reinstallation of the movable bridge on river Dja is a favorable factor. It will facilitate the sales of agricultural products.