Income-generation, development for youths around Lobeke

Posted on
28 June 2022
Marlyse Bebe Guewa and Frédemi Sebeneli are natives of Mambele village for the Lobeke National Park (world heritage site within the TNS lands in the southeast of Cameroon). They have been working with the Park since 2014 when they were formally recruited as biomonitoring assistants. They participate in field biomonitoring by collecting data on wildlife presence in forest clearings (bais) and setting camera traps to film animals in the forest. As biomonitoring assistants, they lead teams into the forest comprising local Bantu and Baka community members (most of them youths) living in villages around the Park.

While they are proud that they are contributing to the conservation of their natural heritage, they have a sense of fulfilment that the revenue they make has helped them to provide shelter for them and their families.
Bebe Guewa (mother of two) beams with joy as she talks about her achievement. From the savings of her income working in the forest, she was able to build for herself and her family a modest plank house in Mambele. Bebe Guewa explains how she achieved this. “Before going into the forest, I set an objective for what I want to do with my money. Thanks to this system, I have been able to construct my house and furnish it with a set of chairs, plates, pots and other kitchen utensils,” Bebe Guewa says.

Two years ago, she bought a fairly used motorcycle, which helps her in her farm work and brings in extra income to cater for her household. For Fredemi Sebeneli, while contributing to protect wildlife for future generations, he has provided shelter for himself and his family. “I bought this house and a farmland from the money I made working in the forest,” states Sebeneli, pointing to his two-bedroom plank house situated a stone’s throw from the Mambele village square. Sebeneli explains that he also funds the education of his children and provide food money regularly for his household.

This is a marked departure from the past when money generated by local youths working in the park was often squandered. The examples of Bebe Guewa and Sebeni signals a gradual change, with many youths undertaking developmental projects.

Employment, income-generation
As part of its strategy to ensure that local Bantu and Baka people in communities surrounding the park participate in the management of Lobeke National Park, the Park management with support from WWF and the TNS Foundation employ youths in communities around Lobeke who serve as biomonitoring assistants, guides and porters. For the biomonitoring team, an average mission in the forest lasts between 10 to 12 days with a daily stipend of FCFA 5000 (10 dollars) per person. At the end of a 12-day mission, a biomonitoring assistant (commonly referred to as ASMO: Assistant Monitoring) earns an average FCFA 60,000.

Between October 2019 and November 2021, the Lobeke management paid out close to FCFA 16 million (US 29,000 dollars) as remuneration for field activities. Youths learn skills like the use of tools like the GPS and the compass and installing camera traps in the forest to film wildlife. They also take participate in the entry of data collected from the field into a data base.
“Our work with communities is providing employment and generating significant revenue for many youths in the periphery of the park, thereby keeping them away from illegal activities such as poaching,” states Romanus Ikfuingei, Programme Manager of WWF Jengi TNS Programme.

In spite of efforts being made by the Lobeke Park management to provide jobs and income-generation opportunities for the youths, the park still faces an uphill task meeting the ever growing demand for employment by many young people in the over 20 villages surrounding Lobeke. Poverty is still endemic in the communities where employment opportunities are scarce and basic amenities are absent. For many youths, excessive indulgence in alcohol dries up their little income, leaving them vulnerable.

However, sensitization and training offered by the Park, and support for community micro-projects are easing the burden of many households and contributing to improving the local people’s living conditions.