Tansi Godwill Tansi, the Eco-Optimist as he is commonly known is one young environmentalist working to save nature and uplift livelihoods of the rural poor through his organization ECoDAs Cameroon.
When and who founded the Environment and Community Development Foundation (ECoDAs) Cameroon? And what are the objectives of ECoDAs Cameroon?
Before I answer your question, permit me to thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about our organization.
ECoDAs was formed in 2015as the Climate Research and Education Initiative (CREI) by myself, Tansi Godwill Tansi, primarily as a climate change education and research organization. In that early stage ages the success of the organization was the raising of awareness in schools and communities in Ndu and carrying out research on Climate change with support from local communities, Faculty of Science University of Buea, Cameroon and the Partners Enhancing Resilience of People Exposed to Risk in Africa (PERIPERI U).
Later in 2018, I was able to consult and win the support of professionals in diverse fields such as forestry, wildlife conservation, agriculture, and natural resources management, livestock breeding and rural development. Thanks to the support of these people, CREI was officially registered as ECoDAs on 13 August 2018 by Cameroon’s Ministry of Territorial Administration (Reg No: 247/E.27/750/SAAJP). ECoDAs objectives include Forest and Environmental Restoration, environmental education and awareness creation, Food Security, Livelihood Improvement and Poverty Alleviation, Climate change mitigation and adaptation, water resource development, research, and development.
To achieve this, ECoDAs collaborates with communities and like-minded organizations to rehabilitate and conserve the environment, uplift the technical and environmental awareness of people and improve the lives and livelihoods of the rural poor. ECoDAs is a youth-led, membership-based, non-profit, non-partisan, and non-governmental visionary rights-based local organization. ECoDAs does not favor any particular religion or ethnic group.
What is the motivation behind its creation?
Cameroon is known as “Africa in miniature”. However, the quality of the remaining forests is fast declining. The depletion and degradation of the country’s forest resources have been negatively impacting the lives and livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. This has accelerated poverty due to the destruction of wildlife, water resources, decreasing availability of timber and Non-timber Forest Products (NTFPs) and declining agricultural productivity due to the looming hydra of climate change. It was therefore critical, as a matter of urgency to reverse declining forest resources, increase food security and reduce disaster risks of rural communities in the face of the changing climatic patterns. Thus an urgent need was evident to restore forests, improve ecosystems, enhance technical capacity and environmental awareness of local communities, and promote their participation in natural resource management. With this in mind, ECoDAs’ goal is to educate and empower people who inhabit, rely on, use and care for natural resources around them.
How is the administrative set-up/structure of ECoDAs? What is the composition of members?
ECoDAs constitutes of the General Assembly (GA), which is the main decision-making body, the Board of Directors (BoD) who are in charge of policies and direct the affairs of ECoDAs and the Executive Committee charged with the implementation of the decisions of both the GA and BoD. The Executive Directorate ensures the effective implementation of projects and programs of the organisation. The advisory committee advises ECoDAs governing board and directorate to take effective decisions. Members of ECoDAs are youths, men and women drawn from all works of life including farmers, environmentalists, foresters, conservationists, livestock technicians, health practitioners, etc.
What is the staffing situation of ECoDAs at the moment? And are there some challenges at the level of coordinating staff?
ECoDAs has five staff, all recruited as volunteers in the response of the organization’s needs. These volunteers composed of 4 nationals and 1 international from Toronto Canada. Since the staff are recruited as volunteers with little or no salaries, there is limited staff motivation and outputs. The key challenge we have in coordinating these volunteers is that many are not willing to commit fully to service with no salary. However, there are few key staff doing their best to ensure the organisation’s activities move smoothly.
What have been the reactions of the indigenous communities towards ECoDAs Cameroon’s Activities? Have the local communities been cooperating? And has the outcome been encouraging from a general point of view?
The reactions have been awesome. We have also built a certain level of trust and confidence in the communities. This is seen in the level of commitment of the communities in our project activities. For example, most of our nursery construction and tree planting activities in the Bakossi landscape were championed by the local communities as well as in Bana where the experience was even more amazing. YES, to us the outcome is encouraging and we hope for the better in the future.
Has ECoDAs lived up to expectations since its creation? How satisfied is ECoDAs Cameroon towards community services?
Yes, ECoDAs Cameroon has lived up to expectations with most of our achievements witnessed in the year 2018-2019. Though satisfied with our ongoing projects and the impact we see in the lives of people, ECoDAs, is yet to be fully satisfied with our activities. You know it takes time for the impact of developmental projects to be visible.
What are some current projects by ECoDAs? Are there some major accomplishments that ECoDAs Cameroon and its partners can boost of?
ECoDAs is currently engaged in about 4 projects: Two of the projects supported by pollination project, Global Greengrants, and Arcus Foundation.
ECoDAs is currently empowering landless poor women farmers in Bana, West Region of Cameroon with support from the Pollination Project, USA. We are helping 31 poor landless farmers rejuvenate their soils, boast yields and improve their livelihoods in a sustainable manner. Our aim was to provide the farmers with the tools and training to sustainably increase farm production at the household and local level through a community-led approach. We facilitated the creation of a Producers Association and established a Farmer Field School to facilitate farmers’ training. We also provided start-up support by supplying vegetable seeds, organic manure and farm tools to enable project participants to create and manage individual farms and improve crop yields without negatively affecting the environment. The outcome of such an approach is not only relevant but also ensures an in-depth analysis of the challenges the target farmers face and guides them collectively in the initiation and adoption of feasible solutions thus ensuring the sustainability of the project’s impacts.
The participants have gained immense knowledge and built up their skills after attending the training on integrated sustainable agriculture by ECoDAs team and their peers through Farmer Field School. After their training, some participants have continued on by training non-participants in their community of what they have learned while others have focused on sustainable organic farming. They have been sold seasonal organic vegetables, maize, yams and beans in the local market. All the concerned initiatives have made them successful entrepreneurs. While not all efforts have been met with the same degree of success, community participation and ownership of the project, providing income and livelihood support in the midst of degraded lands and climatic challenges provides proof of best practices that has encouraged other non-project participants to take up efforts for replications.
Secondly, ECoDAs is working with local communities in the Bakossi Landscape for the conservation of great apes through a community-led approach.
The landscape comprises of the Bakossi National Park (BNP) (29,320ha), the Kupe (4,676ha) and Muanenguba (5,252ha) Integral Ecological Reserves. In the landscape, endangered species of primates such as the Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), Preuss’s monkey (Cercopithecus preussi), Putty-nosed guenon (Cercopithecus nictitans) and Red-capped Mangabey (Cercocebustorquatus) are under pressure and threatened with extinction due to illegal and non-selective hunting methods and practices, and rising bushmeat trade.. Additionally, with limited economic opportunities, desperate communities have delved deeper into the protected Kupe forest, clearing it for subsistence farming. ECoDAs with supports from the Global Greengrants Fund and the Arcus Foundation we are creating community awareness on the 1994 wildlife laws and regulations about great apes conservation in general and chimpanzee conservation in particular; expanding local economies and livelihoods as an alternative to engaging in illegal hunting and bushmeat trade; and planting indigenous trees in great apes habituated areas that are being transformed to farmlands while convincing the local population to avoid cutting trees in protected areas. Through this project, we have learned that when people’s perceptions and attitudes toward wildlife are positively impacted and they are given the opportunities, skills, and capacity to engage in viable, ethical and sustainable livelihood opportunities, they feel more connected to wildlife. With this heart and mindset, they are more likely to undergo the means to ensure the safety of wildlife, from which the wildlife populations will greatly benefit. Thus, what we need is sustained conservation efforts through conservation education that is contextualized to the community, conservation strategy anchored by the community and alternative livelihoods that can support, defend and nurture the local ecology by empowering fringe forest communities.
Has ECoDAs encountered some challenges in the field while executing her community projects?
We have encountered challenges. I don’t know if this is a challenge but it is somehow a positive challenge. ECoDAs continue to receive a request from needy communities for support. However, at our stage and limited resources, we are unable to meet up to the request of these communities. Therefore, we hope in the months and years ahead we would be able to raise funds to scale up and replicate our projects to reach these needy and expectant communities.
Has ECoDAs been affected in any way in the ongoing socio-ecological upheavals in the North West and South West regions where it has extended her activities?
Yes, of course, we have been affected by the crisis. There are times that we are unable to carry out field activities or visit some communities due to insecurity. However, when things are calm, we always brave the odds to work. You know we can’t stop work because of the crisis, our communities and nature need us now more than ever before.
How ECoDAs Cameroon does sees itself in the next five years?
In the next five years, ECoDAs sees itself to be a lead grassroots national organization in ensuring that Cameroon’s natural environment and resources are valued and well conserved, sustainably benefiting the livelihoods of the people who inhabit and need it most, with enhance sustainability of human, capital and financial resources for ECoDAs to effectively carry out her activities.
Are there some people, partners, and sponsors ECoDAs Cameroon will like to acknowledge?
Yes, for ECoDAs to be where one of the growing national environmental conservation and development organization; is thanks to the support of donors, fellow NGOs, fellow NGOs, Universities and Individuals. I would like to acknowledge Prof Samuel Ayonghe (Deputy Vice-Chancellor in Charge of Internal Control and Evaluation, University of Buea), Prof Nkwatoh Anthanasius Fuashi (Heard of Department, Department of Environmental Science, University of Buea), the management of Ndu Tea Estate, Partners Enhancing Resilience of People Exposed to Risk in Africa (PERIPERI U), Programme for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the South West region (PSMNR-SW), The Pollination Project, the Global Greengrants, the Arcus Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and national organizations such as CIRMAD, CAEPA, GERAS, OCOTONAP. I thank them for their generosity and cooperation.