Cameroon is rich with an enormous diversity of plants, animals, and microorganisms which places the country on the 5th position in the official ranking in this domain. This is important to the people particularly in the socio-economic; scientific and medicinal domains but for years, the private sector has exploited these resources without sharing the profits with the local communities which can improve their livelihood. The convention on biological diversity (CBD) was adopted in 1992 to ensure biodiversity conservation, sustainable usage and access to genetic resources, the fair and equitable sharing of profits arising from the use of these resources. To make sure profits are shared fairly and equitably, the Nagoya protocol on access and benefit-sharing (ABS) was adopted in Japan in 2010.
Cameroon ratified the convention on biodiversity in 1994, participated in all negotiations of the protocol, signed it in 2014 and became a recognized party in 2017 with Its action plan validated in 2016.
The project concerns two species in Cameroon, “echinops giganteus, locally called ‘Ayilagwem and mondia whitei locally known as ‘nkang bongo’ or ‘yang’” found in Magha-Bamumbu and Lewoh, all in Lebialem-southwest region. A partnership agreement has been signed between the two localities and a French company V.MANE FILS which will use the genetic resources in Echinops giganteus for the production of cosmetics. These plants are used to treat different types of illnesses such as yellow fever, cough, constipation, menstrual pain, sexual weakness, and low sperms count amongst many others. Mondia whitei is used as a food spice.
The implementation of the Nagoya protocol will improve the livelihood of local communities not only financially but in terms of local development which will be based on the terms of negotiations between the providers (local communities) and the users (companies, pharmaceuticals, etc.)
Ajuandem Folefoc Cherita, president of the mondia whitei cooperative Lewoh says the sale of mondia would shine a light in her community.
“The project will not benefit only the cultivators of the plant but the whole community. For now, we are still at the research level, so the only benefit that has gotten to the cooperative is the farmer’s incentives given by the French company to encourage them to cultivate healthy mondia whitei. Hopefully, this will bring developmental projects such as hospitals, schools and good farm to market roads. It will also help educate our children in school. Even if it’s a water project the farmer will still benefit from it.” Explained Cherita
According to Dr. Dingom Taylor, ABS National focal point – Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development – providers of genetic resources in Cameroon should always include local development in the ‘mutual agreement terms’ when negotiating with the users. “Providers of traditional knowledge should not concentrate only on the financial benefits when selling the genetic resources. They can ask the users to develop their communities.” Why should we always sell our resources to users at very low prices or with no reasonable benefit?
Though the cultivation and sale of mondia have been beneficial to Ajuandem Folefoc Cherita, the whole process has been challenging as well.
“We don’t have a good farm to market roads, safe water, cars or bikes to transport the products. Now, the Anglophone crisis has worsened the situation as we can’t go to check on the plants or harvest them because of insecurity. We have practically abandoned our farms.” Says Cherita
Cameroon, as a member state of both the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol, seeks to strengthen the current legislative framework for access and benefit sharing arising from the utilization of the nation’s rich genetic resource and diversity. By providing the appropriate national legal framework that favors the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as well as strengthens the opportunities for fair and equitable sharing of benefits from their use, Cameroon will prevent biopiracy – the illegal appropriation – of its Genetic Resources and associated traditional knowledge.
It is in line with this, that the Ministry of Environment, Protection of Natures and Sustainable Development in partnership with UNDP www.cm.undp.org/, organized a 3 day workshop from the 24th to the 27th of April 2019 in Douala, funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) https://www.thegef.org/ for over 30 journalists drawn from different parts of the country, to be educated on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.
Mass Communication acts as a multiplier of sustainable development
Being the watchdog of the society, journalists have the responsibility of educating the public on developmental projects and opportunities that can profit communities. Many people in different works of life always depend on the media to keep them updated with new developments and events. The Echinops giganteus and mondia whitei are also found in different parts of the North West region and probably used by many or neglected without knowing its advantages. The Nagoya Protocol with focus on these species in Cameroon has opened the eyes of local communities to the extensive opportunities attached to the cultivation of these plants and conservation.
Maikem Emmanuela Manzie