28 June 2005

Cameroon: World Agro-Forestry Officials Review Anti-Poverty Strategies

Officials of the International Centre for Research in Agro-forestry, ICRAF, also known as the World Agro-forestry Centre, recently in Yaounde, began reviewing strategies to better fight poverty through tree domestication.

The officials who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria and Cameroon, met at a planning workshop aimed at tackling Phase II of the ICRAF tree cultivation project.

Dubbed, "Growing Out of Poverty: Tree Cultivation in West and Central Africa for Home Use and Markets," the project had phase one from January 2004 to December 2006.

Funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, the projects cover some countries of the West and Central African sub-regions said to be home to some of the world's poorest people and most important forest areas.

These countries are: Cameroon, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Nigeria. Experts say poverty gripped these countries when the prices of their main income earner cash crops like cocoa and coffee dropped drastically.

According to ICRAF officials, it was discovered that the domestication of indigenous trees and the use of their products could have a positive impact on poverty and the environment.

During Phase I of the project, therefore, ICRAF helped the farmers to develop knowledge for sustaining the development, dissemination and better commercialisation of indigenous trees and their products.

While presenting highlights of Phase I of the project, ICRAF Director, Dr. Zac Tchoundjeu, said the workshop was a forum for participants to review the results they have achieved so far.

"We will also plan activities for Phase II in the following years," he added.The Director said through partners, NGOs and farmer groups, ICRAF succeeded in achieving techniques of participatory tree domestication.

According to him, tree domestication has bailed many farmers out of poverty. He said there are 40 centres in the country in which farmers do tree nursery, which he described as a lucrative activity.

He cited one farmer in the Northwest whose tree nursery venture has earned him FCFA 5 million this year. He also said due to the marcoting techniques they have taught farmers, food trees that used to take 20 yeas to produce, now take only about three to two years to produce fruits.

In an over all assessment, Dr. Tchoundjeu said the tree domestication bid has been quite a success, given that it has helped farmers in the five countries to improve on their livelihoods and fight poverty.

Since the issue is the domestication of trees and medicinal plants, he said, the second phase of the project would be focused on expansion and diversification. He said their ambition was to domesticate some 350 plants.

The main species, on the domestication project are: irvingia gabonensis (bush mango), dacryodes edulis, (African plum) ricino dendron heudelotii (njansang) cola nitida (kola nut), prunus africana and pausinystalia johimbe.

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