Climate Change (204)

BERTOUA, Cameroon (PAMACC News)—As night falls, scores of timber trucks line up at a weighing station outside the city center here, one of the last rituals before the long road trip to the port city of Douala, nearly 600km away.

Every day, trucks like these, with logs of timber stream through bumpy earth roads onto the highway at the dead of night; and head to Douala, from where they are shipped to foreign markets.

“The East region is very rich in timber,” says Andre Lepot, a resident in Batouri, a town that has become known for timber exploitation, more than anything else. “We have seen this happen since we were kids.”

Timber is Cameroon’s second most important export commodity after crude oil. In the past decades, logging has increased, attracting Chinese, Lebanese, French, and other foreign companies.

The country is one of the leading exporters of tropical timber to the European Union.

“We have observed a surge in timber trade activities with the increased presence of foreign timber business operators especially from China and Indonesia in the sector,” says Bernard Njonga, coordinator of the Local Development Initiatives Support Service, an NGO in Cameroon.

“Cameroon’s forest has continued to be logged to feed the country’s growing timber market.”
Logging in Cameroon is shrouded in illegality. Illegal timber exploitation is severe and getting worse in the country, say officials and environmental protection workers.

“Without being an expert, I can say that before exploiters fell only large trees,” says ZeVina, a resident of Ebolowa in the South region, another timber exploitation center. “But today we see timber of all dimensions transported away in trucks.”

Ze describes Cameroon's timber sector as anarchic. Both legal and illegal exploiters are involved in unlawful activities, particularly harvesting timber below the legal size, and outside designated concessions, he says.

Weak legal systems and deteriorating control mechanisms are fueling an unprecedented frenzy of illegal logging and wildlife trade that is fast depleting the nation's natural forest resources, PAMACC News found.

“Illegal forest exploitation and logging business in the country has been compounded by ineffective and discriminatory law enforcement,” says Njonga. “This betrays the sincerity of the government in forest governance reforms.”

In the East and South regions, vast expanses of forests now lay bare, one of the main consequences of rampant and illegal exploitation.

According to Global Forest Watch, an online forest monitoring platform, Cameroon lost 657,000 hectares of forest between 2001 and 2014, with the annual rate of loss rising over the period to around 141,000 hectares in 2014.

“The government does not respect its laws and many forest malpractices go unpunished,” Augustine Njamnshi, board member of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, PACJA told PAMACC News in an interview.

“When laws are not implemented or are implemented selectively, then there is injustice, and this weakens the legal system in the country.”

Dr. Joseph ArmatheAmougou, the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change Focal Point for Cameroon admits that the non-respect of forestry laws has to a large extent weakened forest governance reforms.

“Cameroon is a state of law, and so for any forest governance reform to yield the expected results, the laws must strictly be respected,” he says.

Apart from the European Union imposed monitoring system, the country lacks a credible forest law enforcement mechanism, a situation that has continued to drive illegal logging and forest depletion.

Several control points have been set up on the route from the forest to the port city of Douala. But corruption means that tons of illegally felled timber still makes it to markets in Europe and Asia.

Timber is central in the country’s development agenda. In the last few years, Cameroon has invited multiple foreign investors in large-scale investment projects as the country drives towards economic growth.  

Unfortunately, many of these investments and potential investment opportunities are nestled in the heart of the country’s productive forest spans. In many cases, the projects are not only breeding conflicts between investors and forest communities, but also fuelling illegal activities.

There is thus increasing environmental footprint of these foreign investors in Cameroon and government’s heavy reliance on them for funding of its multiple ongoing infrastructural projects has made the country vulnerable to illegal practices.

“In many instances, the government is helpless in dealing with cases of illegal logging by these foreign business operators,” says Samuel Nguifo, Executive Secretary of Center for Environment and Development.

With the country facing serious development challenges, there is a growing quest for and reliance on foreign capital, and it is thought this dependence has led to oversights on illegal activities especially in the exploitation of forest resources in Cameroon, Nguiffo explains.

A May 2016 World Bank/IMF report indicates that Cameroon has an accrued external debt of US$5,289 million and is ranked 10th among 42 African nations whose debt statistics were studied in 2016.

Experts see the dependence on foreign investors as a significant threat to the country’s willpower to strictly control illegal practices fueling corruption and poor governance in the forest and natural resource sector.

Like in Cameroon, sustainable management of forest resources has been perilous in many countries in the Congo Basin region. Environment experts argue scaled up support for governance reforms that need to be at the heart of government forest management programs are virtually absent.

Environment experts are worried that the growing illegal harvesting and trade of timber will have devastating impacts on the environment and contribute immensely to global warming which is currently threatening the Congo Basin and the world as a whole.

Thus, the promotion of sustainable forest management is imperative to create and preserve jobs and contribute to improving rural livelihoods, protect the environment, mitigating climate change, preserve biodiversity and above all reduce poverty, experts say.

External Pressure
Some European countries have urged Cameroon to reinforce its laws on forest exploitation and timber trade.

Cameroon was one of the main sources of tropical wood imports to the European Union in 2014, at around a fifth of the total, followed closely by Malaysia, according to EU data.
Britain recently imposed or warned of sanctions on 14 UK importers believed to be illegally sourcing wood from Cameroon, according to Greenpeace.

That followed a similar move by the Netherlands in early March 2016 demonstrating that timber from Cameroon is “coming under increasing scrutiny in international markets,” Greenpeace said.

“Cameroon’s authorities must examine this new set of sanctions and start investigating the companies in question as a first step to tackling the illegality and corruption in the timber sector,” said Eric Ini, Yaounde-based Forest campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

In 2009, Cameroon appointed an independent observer, NGO Agreco-CEW, to oversee the allocation of forest concession. But its recommendations are not implemented, according to Samuel Nguiffo.

A May 2016 report from Greenpeace, for example, said Cameroon's timber exporter Compagnie de Commerce et de Transport (CCT) had sourced wood from La Socamba, a company logging several kilometers outside its designated area, which it sold in Europe and China.

CCT and its suppliers are now facing an audit, which has yet to be officially announced, Greenpeace said at the end of June.

Cameroon bows to pressure
In what looks like bowing to pressure from the European Union and forest governance stakeholders, Cameroon government has suspended 23 forest exploitation companies and two community interest groups (GICs) working in the logging sector for six months, a November 09, 2016 release by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife stated.

The sanctions according to the Minister Philp NgoleNgwese, generally relate to the non-compliance with sustainable management standards such as breach of the terms of reference, the exploitation or fraudulent use of the forest resources.

The suspension, which involves “the immediate cessation of activities, will not be lifted until after the close of the litigation opened against the offenders, as well as the payment in full of the charges that will be levied against them,” the minister said in a statement.

Minister Ngole Philip Ngwese also threatened to withdraw the authorization in the event of non-lifting of the suspension due to the continuation of activities after notification of the measure or a new offense in the last 12 months following the infringement leading to suspension.

Officials of Etamfa Sarl and Entrepise Forestiere du Cameroon, two of the companies suspended for illegal logging refused to comment when approached by PAMACC News.  

In a similar sanction in 2012, the Cameroon Treasury recovered the sum of CFAF 1 billion, compared to CFAF 100 million a year earlier, representing the fines imposed on operators for violations of logging regulations, statistics from the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife showed.

Intensified control measures
The government says it is working with other stakeholders to strengthen control measures against illegal logging. Among these measures is the increase of forest guards on checkpoints along the road from the East region through the South to the shipping port in Douala.

The Kadey Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife, Bangya Dieudonne admits "illegal exploitation of wildlife and logging activities existed in the region but said the government was intensifying and renewing its strategies to combat the scourge.”

“The government is training and deploying more guards in the field to intensify control. Many youths here have received training to detect and report cases of illegal logging to us and the forces of law and order,” said Bangya.

Officials of FODER, an NGO in forest protection in the region that carried out the training also attest monitoring of illegal forest activities has intensified.

“Forest people, mostly youths have been trained and equipped as community observers to report what they see in logging activities to help save the forests. These residents are on the frontline of the fight against deforestation. We call them the rainforest defenders of Central Africa,” RodrigueNgonzo from FODER told PAMACC News.

He said the training provided communities and civil society with new tools to monitor changes in forest use and their environment so they can inform local authorities and the forces of law and order in real-time for prompt action.

According to officials of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, empowering forest people, taking climate action and protecting forest resources are at the heart of changing the new narrative and putting government activities firmly on the path to sustainable development.

AnicetNgomin, Head of Monitoring, Regeneration, Reforestation and Woodland Extension Unit, in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, pointed out that since the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Ministry has embarked on assessing the gravity of illegal forest exploitation challenges and has intensified interaction with the concerned communities.

“Creating opportunities for an empowered people, capable of taking action and contributing to the protection their forest resources will certainly help in the fight against forest resource depletion,” Ngomin said.

Members of African Civil Society organisations on Climate change are worried that President Donald Trump may derail his country’s progress towards implementation of the Paris Agreement that seeks to slow global warming, which was coined particularly to accommodate the United States of America.

“The Paris agreement was weakened because we were looking for a treaty that the US President could sign by Executive Instrument, since it is usually very difficult for US to be party to a legally binding treaty that require ratification by the Congress,” said Dr Seth Osafo, the Legal Adviser to the African Group of Negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

However, with the president’s latest moves to dismantle the legacy of his predecessor Barrack Obama, CSO representatives are afraid that even after accepting to weaken the treaty, Trump is likely to withdraw from the process.

Their worries are complicated by the fact that during his campaigns, Trump had indicated that "the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive."

“He is a climate denier and that is very unfortunate for the entire world,” said Mithika Mwenda, the Secretary General for the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance during a workshop to review the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP 22), which was held in Marrakech, Morocco.

In one of the presidential debates, Trump further said that the issue of climate change is an issue that requires further probing, and that money used to fight the phenomenon should be channeled to other uses.

"There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of climate change. Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water. Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria,” said Trump.

Perhaps, he continued, “We should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population. Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels. We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.”

To cement his words, he has already selected a close ally of the fossil fuel industry to head up the environment department, which analysts say may do a big blow to president Obama’s progress on climate change.

So far, in less than fortnight after his inauguration, the President has already changed the federal government’s approach to the environment by clearing the way for two major oil pipelines that had been blocked by his predecessor.

NAKURU, Kenya (PAMACC News) – Many Counties in North Eastern Kenya, Eastern and Coastal region are currently staring at starvation right in the face, as residents drop dead due to famine caused by the ongoing dry spell.

The country is already going through power rationing due to the reduced amount of water used for geothermal power generation, as the sun burns with vengeance across the entire country.
It is for such reasons that Egerton University, one of the major training institutions in Africa has convened am international conference, and climate change and variations are to be among the main topics to be discussed.

The conference that will run from 29th-31st March 2017 at the university’s main campus in Njoro-Nakuru County will also discuss natural resources as well as health and environment under a main theme “Knowledge and Innovation for Social and Economic Development.”

The chair of the conference committee who is also the university’s Deputy Director in charge of Research and Extension says the above subthemes have been inspired by the need to address climate change as “a developmental threat that will affect agriculture and the economy.”

While looking forward to presentations on climate change adaptation and mitigation during the conference, among others, Bockline Bebe, a Professor of Livestock Production says as that Kenya should lead the way in providing solutions to climate change, given that it hosts the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

This is not the first time that the University, known for agriculture, is including the above subthemes that directly touch on climate change in the conference. However, Dr. Gilbert Obwoyere the Dean Faculty of Environment and Natural Resource Development (FERD), enough attention has not been given to the phenomenon that has caused havoc in many parts of the world.

Dr Obwoyere says, however, there is need to also focus on the positive attributes of climate change apart from just looking at it from a negative perspective.

“For instance areas that had too much rainfall will receive little (or perhaps, manageable) rainfall,” he points out while citing out “food security, infrastructure and growing economies” and their relation to climate change as three of the most urgent areas that need to be researched on.

Like Dr. Obwoyere, Peter Macharia a Nakuru based Consultant on environmental issues agrees that there exists a gap on climate change research.

For him there is need to research on the relationship between economics and demographics on matters that influence climate change, among other issues.
“What pushes people to subdivide land for example when it has a direct impact on climate change,” he points out.

There has been an intensified debate at the international level on matters of climate change in the recent past. While Kenya has always been part of this debate it has gone ahead to even pass a specific law on climate change.

The law, Climate Change Act (2016) “provides for a regulatoryframework for enhanced response to climatechange; to provide for mechanism and measures toachieve low carbon climate development.” It aims at integrating climate change response mechanisms at both the national and county government level.

Macharia says for climate change policy to succeed there is need to have a bottom-up approach in both the formulation and the implementation of the same.

The deadline for the submission of abstracts for the Egerton University conference is 20th January, 2017.

Abidjan (PAMACC News) - After almost one year of dry spell in Kenya’s Makueni County, rains have finally come down. Now, everything looks green, very green.  But residents know, for sure, that this is a very short-lived spectacle, because two days after the downpour subsides, all seasonal rivers will dry up, and in two months, the sun will be burning with vengeance, upon perched thirsty sandy soils.

That’s why they have invested in sand-dams, as their magic bullet for harvesting the rain water, and using it for another set of months after every rainy season.

The dam is simply a reinforced concrete wall built across a seasonal riverbed. When it rains, the concrete wall gathers sand, which becomes a reservoir for water.

As residents in the entire semi arid Eastern Kenya rush to propagate their seeds following the pounding rainfall, women in Songeni village are completely relaxed. One thing they are sure of is that their sand-dam constructed across Tawa River has already captured millions of litres of water, which the entire village will use for domestic purposes and irrigation for the next one year – if it doesn’t rain again.

“It is the most appropriate way of harvesting water from seasonal rivers in dryland areas,” Simon Middrell, the founder of Excellent Development, a nonprofit organisation that supports rural, dryland communities to work their way out of poverty told delegates at the 2016 Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) forum in Abidjan.

Since February, when it last rained in Makueni, villagers of Songeni have been farming French beans for export, and other crops for domestic consumption using water from their sand-dam.

And now, Middrell, whose organisation supported the construction of the sand-dam used by Songeni villagers through a local NGO known as Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) wants the ‘gospel’ of sand-dam construction in dryland areas spread all over the world, especially in developing countries.

However, said Middrell, it cannot be a copy and paste technique. “Sand-dams do not work everywhere. If the place has a lot of clay soil, then the dams are likely going to be silted, and as a result, they will not help the residents,” he warned.

It therefore calls for a feasibility study, so as to be sure that the dam will be able to amass sufficient sand, which acts as a cover for water underneath to protect it from evaporation. It also calls for appropriate technicians to construct it, because the intensity of rainfall in dryland areas is likely to break poorly constructed dams.

“The sand-dams have numerous advantages,” said Middrell. “They form the best bridges in dryland areas because culverts always break during floods. They recharge ground water, water from the dams is safe for drinking, can be used for domestic purposes and by animals both domestic and wild,” he added.

However, Middrell cautioned that without involvement of community members, sand-dam projects are bound to fail because they will lack ownership. “You need to involve the surrounding community, and have them own the project. That way, they will protect it as their property, hence, they will maintain it sustainably,” he told the water form.

So far, Excellent Development has supported construction of over 900 sand-dams in nine countries in Africa, supporting over one million households.

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