EUCALYPTUS REPLACEMENT PROJECTS
(EUREP 1 & 2)
Eucalyptus trees drain water and nutrients from the soil in very large quantities to the detriment of any other plants nearby. Hence water catchment areas are seriously harmed by eucalyptus plantations. The trees, introduced by missionaries, began to be planted in the 1920s to resolve the cooking fuel shortages in the grassland regions of Cameroon, when wood was the only fuel available for cooking.
In the 1970s, there was a drastic fall in the world price of coffee, an important crop in Cameroon. This problem, coupled with disease attacking coffee pods before maturity, led to great losses for local coffee farmers, as coffee was the mainstay of this area.
In order to survive, farmers resorted to indiscriminate planting of eucalyptus trees on most available arable land, pushing women, who had no say, to move further and further away from homes in search of farming land.
In the late 1980s, this resulted in generalized water shortages and low crop yields. Many villages and even towns now have little or no water and standpipes run completely dry. The problem extends to hydro electricity generation, as water flow is not adequate to run generators.
Although attempts by government and traditional bodies were made to prevent eucalyptus planting during the 80s and 90s, little progress was made.
From 1997 to 1999 SHUMAS, with her project partners FIOH FUTURE IN OUR HANDS' and Plant a Tree in Africa with other local partners, carried out feasilbilty studies of the problem working with grass roots organisations. In 1999 the chairman of FIOH - UK visited us and after consultation with all stakeholders, a pre-pilot phase was set up to test the proposed strategy.
Eucalyptus Replacement Phase 1 (EUREP 1) started in 2000 and ran to 2002:
- SHUMAS has nursed hundreds of thousands of agro–forestry tree species like acacia, calliandra, tefrosia, etc, for training the local population and for transplanting. More than 100,000 seedlings have been provided free of charge, to many families and groups in the North West Province of Cameroon.
- we felled 500,000 mature eucalyptus to recover productive farmland from water catchment and farming areas. (Wood obtained from the felling has proved a good source of income for owners, and many of them have used the money to improve their farms or for other income generating activities.)
- we propagated around 1.5 million seedlings of over 40 different indigenous environmentally friendly African tree species with added medicinal and food advantages to replace eucalyptus.
- 200,000 nitrogen fixing trees were also provided to poor peasant farmers for agro-forestry.
There is now a general awareness of the negative effects of eucalyptus trees. Individuals, councils, churches and organizations are trying to replicate the project, though on a very limited scale.
The impact of this project has been and continues to be very significant. The results have been expanded farming land, arresting and preventing conflicts, improved health of women, promotion of wild life, and raising of the badly lowered water tables. This project was and continues to be sponsored by partners FIOH UK and the UK Big Lottery.
This project targets parts of Bui and Donga Mantung Divisions in the North West of Cameroon where two giant tree nurseries of indigenous and environmentally friendly trees have been established and felling of eucalyptus is progressing well.
Several women/peasant farmers and their families are now able to farm closer to their homes and enjoying better health. Low water tables are rising. The project is in its second phase and is being extended to other regions to ensure an amplified and sustainable effect is produced.. This phase is expected to replace 1,000,000 eucalyptus trees with 1,500,000 indigenous and environmentally friendly trees which will greatly benefit rural populations.
So far, about 800,000 eucalyptus trees have been felled and about 500,000 replaced with indigenous tree species. More than a million seedlings are still in the SHUMAS tree nursery pending out-planting at eucalyptus felling sites and water catchments.
EUREP 2, the final stage, ended in April 2009.
However, SHUMAS still continues with the program though on a reduced scale. We no longer assist with felling eucalyptus, as was the case in EUREP I &II, but our Tree Nursery, recently relocated to the SHUMAS Organic Farming Training and Demonstration Centre, continues to support individuals, communities and councils by providing indigenous replacement for felled Eucalyptus.