By Bakah Derick
Bushfires are a regular occurrence in the North West Region of Cameroon especially between the months of October and February. This period is generally referred to as the dry season as a result of the absence of rain which allows for partial or complete dryness of vegetation. This dry vegetation burns easily and fast at the slightest introduction of flames resulting to huge bushfires. The introduction of flames according to environmentalists like Wirsiy Emmanuel Binyuy working in the Kilum-Ijim protected forest area that covers Bui and Boyo division is mostly done by hunters, farmers, mentally challenged persons and smokers.
"Hunting done by hunters in and around the forest area, Slash-and-burn farming method done by farmers to gain more land or as a method of preparing the farm for planting, Grazing done by grazers who lack skills in improved pasture cultivation and turn to burn vegetation yearly to get new vegetation for their animals, Poor honey harvesting by bee farmers in and around the forest area with no training in modern bee keeping and who lack harvesting materials/equipment, Cigarette smoking in and around the forest area, Activities of mentally challenge persons around the forest like setting fire to prepare food or for heating, Score settling by community members to inflict pain are some of the major cause of bushfires" Wirsiy Emmanuel Binyuy, Executive Director of Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch (CAMGEW) explains
These bushfires have been largely responsible for the destruction of biodiversity, water catchments, bee hives, farms, research sources, economy, homes, habitats and sometimes human life. Fighting bushfires which sometimes are drastic is key and to get this work done, community solidarity is important.
"Bushfire needs to be prevented or managed when it occurs. Human life and biodiversity matter. Our farms are a source of livelihood. Considering that poverty and unemployment is still with us and we do not want situations to get worst, there is need solidarity which is our own insurance to tackle bushfire... building community solidarity to fight bushfire and promote socio-cultural, economic and ecological stability is neccessary." Wirsiy Emmanuel Binyuy adds
With support from GEF Small Grant Program under a project titled “Eco-friendly Bushfire Prevention and Management in Kilum-Ijim forest” to build Kilum-Ijim forest community capacity on bushfire prevention and management, CAMGEW has been training community leaders and members on best practices to prevent bushfires. With several training sessions organised so far, it is hope that dry seasons in the region will witness a reasonable drop in bushfires.
"There is need for the participation of women and men especially youths through team work and solidarity in to bushfire prevention and management." The CAMGEW Director states