19 July 2006

Cameroon: Logging Company Compensates Villagers 5 Years After

In its thrust to eliminate illegal logging, World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, alongside other conservation organisations, have encouraged a logging company, Transformation Reef Cameroon, TRC, to compensate local people in four villages in the Southwest Province.

TRC on June 29 disbursed FCFA 20 million, five years after, to compensate the people of Matondo 1, Matondo 3, Molongo and Ediki villages in the Southwest Province of Cameroon.

The benefit came within the framework of the Central Africa Forest and Poverty Alleviation Programme, CAFPAP, an initiative of WWF. WWF is sharing its missions of sustainable development, nature conservation, biodiversity, environment and ecological development with the World Conservation Union, IUCN, Regional Office Central Africa and the Centre for Environment and Development CED, Yaounde, Cameroon.

According to a release sent to The Post by Molisa Janet Mbella, CAFPAP Intranet Officer, the FCFA 20 million was disbursed as compensation to individuals and the community as a whole.

"Illegal logging has for some time been carried out indiscriminately in some parts of the country. In those areas where the residents do not know their rights, logging companies carry out activities leaving the populace in great depression," stated the release.

"This was the case five years ago in some four villages in Meme and Kupe-Muanenguba Divisions of the Southwest Province of Cameroon. TRC reportedly exploited timber in the area, which resulted in far reaching damages to many villagers whose livelihood depends entirely on the forest. Cash crops were reportedly destroyed in the process as logs were cut down and new roads created," explained the release.

CED, in line with the objective of CAFPAP, held dialogue with TRC to ensure that natural livelihood resources and poverty related policies and opportunities are highlighted and better understood in the national and global context.

"Our aim is to work closely with local communities, to be able to safeguard and restore natural livelihood resources for the sake of poverty alleviation. This should serve as an eye-opener to your community. Watch out for companies which come to exploit your forest without authorisation," Mr. Belmond Tchoumba, CED representative at the compensation ceremony told the beneficiaries.

At each stop during the compensation scheme, Tchoumba urged the villagers to always fight for their rights. "Make sure that your community benefits from any company that will in future come to exploit your forest. This will contribute to poverty reduction and improved livelihood in the community," he said.

Mr. Effala Jean, the Assistant General Director for TRC said, "My company is a friend and not an enemy. We try as much as possible to keep a good reputation and relationship with the local people where ever we work. That is why we have come five years after to say we are sorry for our mistakes."

Effala announced that his company has set aside FCFA 5 million as assistance to the construction of the Ediki road.Chief Samuel Etongwe Itoe of Ediki Village, on behalf of the community, acknowledged that they are protected as they have identified an organisation that has local people at heart.

To TRC, the Chief said, "we suffered great damages when your company carried out activities in our village. This token cannot cover the loss we incurred. We do appreciate it anyway because I believe my people will use it to improve and extend farmlands. All our families depend solely on our farms," he declared.

During the period of exploitation in the area, TRC constructed a road over the Mungo River leading to Molongo village, some 40km from Kumba, says the release. There are also some temporary plank bridges over several small rivers and streams.

A large community hall, which is near completion and planks to construct a church house are some of the benefits the inhabitants of Molongo enjoy thanks to the logging company.

TRC recently joined the WWF's Central African Forest and Trade Network, CAFTN, geared towards setting new standards for responsible forest exploitation in the Congo Basin. TRC is working towards obtaining a Forest Stewardship Council, FSC certification.

This is a milestone for the Central African Forest and Poverty Alleviation Programme. The programme implementation has brought hope to the people of these villages.

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