If you want to learn more about the Cross River Gorilla Project and why you should get involved, here is the perfect way to do it! Oisin has been on the board of our committee right from the beginning and in particular, he was instrumental in helping us to apply for charity status. Why not take a few minutes to find out what Oisin has to say about volunteering with us ... "CRGP is a fascinating and wide-ranging initiative which has attracted considerable interest already from people in the North East, elsewhere in the UK, Cameroon and beyond. There are a number of reasons why people would want to support and contribute in various ways to the work of this charity. These will probably differ from person to person, but I would like to share with you my personal viewpoint – in other words, what motivates me to get involved.
Although the Cross River Gorilla gives the project its headline name (quite rightly because it is one of the most endangered great apes on this planet), securing the goal of preventing its extinction is not about one species, but a multi-faceted task, involving many different aspects of conservation, sustainable economic development and education. These are all closely inter-connected and the challenge has become even greater in the last year or so with the need for humanitarian aid resulting from the current political crisis in Cameroon. All of these issues happen to strike a chord with my personal interests from childhood to the present day, including a number of themes from my working life.
I’ve been interested in natural history and biology since I was a very young boy and later became a botanist and microbiologist, being fortunate to spend a year at Kew Gardens for my first professional job. Therefore, to be involved in a rainforest conservation project is a great privilege and the link that CRGP has established with Kew since John Daniels’ first visit to Cameroon makes things even more enjoyable and rewarding for me.
The science behind the biology of the flora and fauna of the Lebialem Highlands remains a key interest of mine as the work of our charity unfolds, but the interaction of the human population with the rainforest is of equal importance. Developing sustainable agriculture for people living in and around the forest areas is critical and it is also important that conservation measures involve local people, including creating jobs for them. Following my time doing research projects, the lion’s share of my working life focused on the interaction of universities with regional economic development. This involved building strategic partnerships with the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and inter-disciplinary working on a large scale within and between universities, so it is also very interesting for me to see this dimension to CRGP’s potential work programme.
Education is a core pillar of our charity’s work and I find it very rewarding to see it operating at so many levels, in the UK as well as in Cameroon. There have been numerous events at local schools in the North East, creating an awareness and understanding of the Cross River Gorilla and the importance of conserving rainforests. Newcastle University has been an invaluable asset and partner to CRPG for most of our journey so far, so it’s great to see how our work is embedded in higher education through student work experience as well as the scientific and public relations dimension. Of course, education is one of our key activities in helping children in Cameroon near the rainforests and Newcastle students are directly involved in much of this too.
Finally, it has been a pleasure for me to be involved with the Cross River Gorilla Project since its inception and seeing the range of people from all ages and walks of life becoming involved. The future looks bright in terms of us expanding our support base through social media, which is vital for us up-scaling our work and making a really significant impact. We look forward to being able to enhance the sterling work made by the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in Cameroon over the last 20 years.
There is little doubt that climate change and the response of the human race to it represents the biggest challenge facing us. However, it isn’t easy for us as individuals to do something useful other than making modest changes to our domestic lives. The focus of this project on the preservation of important rainforests provides a constructive way to channel some of those energies, albeit on a small scale, which can help nature and enrich our lives.