Research is one of our key interests so we have partnered with ERuDeF and Newcastle University to fund a data modelling project using data collected from gorilla tracking in the Lebialem Highlands. This will enable us to learn more about these elusive gorillas' location and movements within the Lebialem Highlands which will help us learn how best to protect them. We have funded the collation of the Great Apes data collected from the rain forest and are glad to be working with Ms Gwendoline Angwa, ERuDeF's Biodiversity Research Manager and researchers at the Department of Modelling Evidence and Policy at Newcastle University's School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.
Due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in South West Cameroon, our plans to build a research centre have had to be postponed until it is safe to continue and this is now a long term goal. Prior to this, we worked with ERuDeF to develop plans for a series of research facilities located throughout the Southwest Province of Cameroon to help aide in their conservation efforts. Our visit in 2017 helped to survey possible locations and select a project management team for the build.
The women in the area surrounding the rainforest of the Lebialem Highlands are some of the most marginalised woman in the world. They grow up knowing they have very little options for their future. These woman receive very little education and are expected to stay in the community and prepare the meals, gather the produce, and raise children.
Through the CRGP Woman's Empowerment Group we hope to help with the education, healthcare, and overall support of the women in these communities. We have been lucky enough to have a commonwealth scholarship recipient who is from the Lebialem Highland join our board; with her help we are developing strategies and practices that are sustainable and will improve the day to day lives of these woman and will empower them to have a way forward and a better future.
Prior to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, we were working on a proposal to set up a women’s and pre-school children’s centre as the first phase of the proposed development of the ERuDeF complex in Besali. Whilst this has become a long term plan, we are working with ERuDeF's Centre for Advanced Women's Initiatives to support families by funding school fees, books, uniforms and bags for children that have had to flee their homes.
-WOMEN'S AND CHILDREN'S CENTRE PLANS-
Rationale for building the women’s and pre-school children’s centre: one of the problems about the proposed developments (research centre, hostel and rangers’ office) is that these measures may not be seen by the communities to be of direct benefit to them. While local labour can build the structures,
the numbers of researchers and volunteers (eco-tourists) visiting the site
– particularly at a time of political uncertainity –
are unlikely to provide much sustained employment and economic benefit to the community.
For the community the rain forest will be seen as a traditional source of food and land for agriculture and the presence of the gorilla will not always be seen as an advantage.
Amenity value: The centre would provide an important amenity for the women in the community, its presence a constant reminder of the support given by ERuDeF. Local people might look with more understanding on the need to protect their forest and to engage in conservation work, once the centre has been set up.
Nature of the Women’s Centre: the centre would provide a place where women could gather in the community, somewhere for them to go with their young children.
It might be possible to run a café and possibly a small kitchen to serve cold drinks and snacks.
For the children a play area with some equipment to keep them amused,
both inside and in the courtyard of the complex, would help make the place more attractive.
The centre might be made sustainable through a small charge for membership.
Once the centre is established, it would be possible to arrange for talks to be given by local experts on topics of interest to the women in the community such as medical matters, how to set up a business, looking after small children, local recipes. There would also be the chance to talk about the rain forest and the presence of the iconic Cross River Gorilla.
The possibility of creating a cooperative based in the centre producing local goods and crafts for sale to visitors coming to the community and also, for sending for sale out to local towns would be
a key element in the successful setting up of a centre of this kind would be for someone to come to explain the benefits of such an amenity and to choose a local person – someone well- respected in the community =to be responsible for carrying out this project with a committee of helpers.
Funding: it might be anticipated that a project of this kind would be attractive to fundraisers, especially those concerned with women’s welfare, particularly if it could act as a model for similar projects being set up elsewhere
Support Conservation - Support Community
The ambition of the Cross River Gorilla Project is to work with partners like ERuDeF in order to introduce a number of initiatives to help support the conservation of the Cross River Gorilla and the biodiversity of the Lebialem Highlands and support those who live in the local communities with particular reference to education and women. The long term ambition is to work with ERuDeF in order to set up a research/hostel centre in the rain forest through UK fundraising.
We are developing a ‘Needy Student’ support programme’ with local schools raising money
for families from the forest areas of south west Cameroon unable to pay for the school fees, uniform,
money for books and school equipment (pencils, pens, rulers and school bag), a support programme with a particular focus on orphaned children. The model for this programme has been developed through work done
with Longridge Towers School in North Northumberland.
Thanks to your support and the funds you helped us to raise at the Kew Gardens Rainforest Ball, we have supported over 40 students with the IDP Student Project. These students are from the Lebialem Highlands and together with ERuDeF's Centre for Advanced Women's Initiatives we were able to identify the students in need and fund school fees, uniforms, books and bags so that they could start education in Dschang, the city where they have fled to due to the humanitarian crisis. We hope to sustain the support given to these children and their families and hope to help many more children in the coming academic years.
These projects provide a way to directly support the forest communities of Besali and Bechati; and in the process, to help develop a more positive attitude towards the conservation of
the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla and the rain forest of the Lebialem Highlands.
We would like UK schools to sign up to raise money for ‘Needy Students’
as one of their annual school or class charity activities. The money would go
directly to supporting one or more children from the forest area of Cameroon. In return UK schools would learn
about life in the forest communities and the work to conserve the rain forest and the rich flora and fauna found there.
Where possible direct links would be established between students in UK schools and those in Cameroon.
-COMMUNITY SURVEY, CAMEROON, FEBRUARY 2017-
In an effort to better understand the attitudes of the local villagers in regards to Gorillas we conducted a survey amongst villages in the local communities surrounding our research centre site. Information gathered from CRGP team upon last visit to Cameroon from local community;
questionnaires written and data processed by student interns also known as CRIT.
Cross River Information Team (CRIT) Questionnaire Information
CRIT 1 were a group of 6 second year biology students from Newcastle University working to write
a literature review each for the Cross-River Gorilla Project. The topics they covered were: setting up the research centre;
ecotourism and how it is carried out in other areas; integrating with the community; research of the flora and fauna;
specifically the history of the Cross-River Gorilla and the Bannerman’s Turaco and
cultural beliefs associated with the gorillas.
We created a questionnaire which was completed by students in Besali, Cameroon containing questions regarding how the students use the forest around them, their thoughts and concerns about a research centre being built and their views of bush meat, hunters and the Cross-River Gorilla. Due to the current situation in Cameroon students had to meet in a house in the village of Besali which meant that only 19 questionnaires have been filled out and not all questions were answered. However, they do provide a range of views which will help the CRIT group to understand the hurdles that must be overcome to build a research centre, introduce ecotourism and be accepted by the community. A large proportion of the population are young people which makes these student’s opinions even more important.
When asked about the forest, gorillas, the Bannerman’s Turaco and hunters,
95% of the students recognised that the forest is important.
The students did not know a lot about the Bannerman’s Turaco, but they said that it tells them the time.
Almost half said that gorillas are good, and one of the most common written responses was that gorillas are like humans, one student even said that ‘a gorilla was like a brother to them’. Questions about hunters produced mixed views,
26% felt they were good, whilst a majority of 32% thought they were bad.
A large amount of the students, 89.5% admitted to having eaten
bush meat with only 10.5% of the group saying they had not which shows
their reliance on hunters for protein whatever their view is of hunting the gorillas.
In terms of how the centre can give back to the community, 64% of students wanted the centre to be close to the village, 95% would be happy for people to stay at the centre and most liked the idea of having access to the internet and a library. Every student said they would like to be involved with the centre and 79% said that they would want to study there.
This feedback was really positive and suggests that locals would welcome the centre if
the Cross-River Gorilla Project could provide opportunities for them as well as the environment.