Some of the trees grow less than two decimetres a year. Lots of the forest types are sensitive to sunlight. Most of them are a lovely snack for cows (or get stamped on). Very few of them can resist fire. And none of them can survive a machete swing.
To plant a tree and revive the forest is quite hard work, but the reward is bountiful and people are getting attracted to the idea. For the intrigued and the impatient, we are posting this manual to share the knowledge how to do it, so everyone can constructively use their free time and join us..
Step by step to plant a trees in Cameroon
- First ask: Do we want to plant trees at all? If the answer is no we should just stop there and not read any further.
- Look for a place where trees can be planted.
- Check if forest was there before. If the local people doesn’t even know the word forest, we better not plant anything.
- Look what types of trees grow in the area or grew in the past. We should avoid trees which are not indigenous for the area.
- Identify who is the owner of the land and ask him if he is fine with our intention to plant some trees there. In Cameroon most of the land is owned by government so we should ask there first.
- Explain the advantage of having trees and ask for help in the reforestation. The government usually agrees to a mutually beneficial cooperation. We will offer help guarding the original forest and in exchange get some funds for reforestation.
- If the owner of the land is an individual and will agree to having the trees, we will offer him a bee-keeping course where he not only learns the necessary skills, but also gets the tools to be ready to breed bees. That is in exchange for taking care of the trees, protecting them from fires and cows. That way the owner will learn that the forest can be beneficial for him and to be used to give him income to feed his family. Honey is well paid in Cameroon and the demand is high also.
- Choose trees of one of the original types.
- Wait for its fruits to ripe.
- Search the forest for seeds. Take more at that time as we don’t know how many will survive.
- We try to reference any specialist information for the species that exists (for example in scientific literature) to help us plant the trees correctly.
- We use three nursery which are usually dark and moist to help the seeds germinate.
- In the dry season water the seeds every second day.
- Buy seedling bags and fill them with good soil mixed with manure.
- Carefully put the germinated seeds into seedling bags and place them in the nurseries. There they may spend 1-2 years before being planted to the wild.
- Protect the seedlings from direct sun and water every second day.
- Place a peg at the location where the tree is going to be planted and clear the grass (not other trees!) around to make a space for tree to grow.
- Dig a hole of about 20x20x20cm for a 1-2year old seedling.
- Place the seedling to the ground. Add manure and cover the hole with original soil. (Replanting of trees has to be done in the rain season – the end of June to the start of September. They would not survive the dry season)
- Fence the tree. With barb wire if possible to fend off the cattle.
- Protect the tree on daily bases. Cut the overgrowing grass, fend off the cattle and extinguish incoming fires.
- In 3-5 years the tree will take care of itself. If not burned down by fires or cut down by someone’s machete.
The crucial part of the process is that local people must understand the importance of the forest and be willing to protect it. Those people are left with agricultural practices which are causing irreversible damage to the indigenous nature. Extensive pasturage of cattle, burning of forest and using dangerous pesticides are just a few examples. Education for the young and old, offers of alternative sources of income, better use of natural resources- that all plays an important role in helping mountain misty forests in the North West Cameroon, in Bamenda Highlands. That is why we used the mountain area of Kedjom-Keku (trans. People of the Forest) to build up an educational centre, where are we doing our best to teach the local people to make the decision on their own to protect the forest and also use it as source of income for their family.