On 25th and 26th July we reached a significant milestone in the Darwin Initiative project (24-005, Enabling rural poor to help protect biodiversity of Dja, Cameroon). Staff from APGS, FCTV, AWF and TF-RD organised two days of signing Reciprocal Environmental Agreements (REA). The REA had been finalised through many weeks of discussion with people living in the northern buffer zoned of the DFR (‘boucle du nord’). The people that live in this area are constrained by important wildlife laws that are set to help conserve the valuable biodiversity of Cameroon. Our approach throughout is for local people to benefit from the presence of a protected area, not just suffer the consequences.
The agreements were based around two areas of activities: cash generation from cocoa farming, and giving better access to sustainable sources of animal protein through fishing. Both of these activities were identified through community-owned discussions, using decision making tools such as pair-wise comparisons (see earlier blogs). In return, the villagers committed to a number of activities to help address loss of biodiversity, such as not lodging poachers in their homes, not keeping or using illegal guns, not commercialising illegal bush meat, not killing or consuming protected species without authorisation from conservation authorities. They also committed to manage income and fishing activities sustainably. Over 1,000 attended the events over two days, with around 90% of households signing up to one or other of the agreements; which is clearly a great success.
As with any agreement, there is a considerable amount of time and effort needed to make sure that all parties are happy before proceeding. Finalising the details of the REA has required hard work from all, and the project team would like to thank the villagers of the northern buffer zone for staying with the process until conclusion. As Project Manager, I would also like to thank the members of the Darwin Initiative team for their dedication to the cause.
Full details of the events can be found on the project web pages here.