Cameroon: Ammco initiates a synergy of actions for the sustainable management of the Sanaga basin

Published on 04/03/2024 | La rédaction


From February 15 to 17, 2024, the town of Dizangué in the Sanaga-Maritime department, Littoral region, hosted a workshop on the integrated management of water resources in the Sanaga basin, otherwise known as "Street Manatee 2024", organized in partnership between the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organisation (Ammco) and the University of Douala, under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Forests and Fauna (Minfof). The event was chaired by the Inspector General of the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife, Bruno Mfou'ou Mfou'ou, representing Minister Jules Doret Ndongo, who was accompanied by the mayor of Dizangué, the sub-prefect, the curator of the Lac Ossa Wildlife Reserve, as well as organizations from the private sector, civil society and local traditional authorities. Activities took place under the theme: "Towards sustainable management of biodiversity in the Sanaga basin".

The aim of this multi-sectoral meeting was to reflect on the best solutions to be applied in order to achieve sustainable management of biodiversity in the Sanaga watershed. The initiative also highlighted the problems affecting the daily lives of local populations. The ultimate aim is to create a framework for collaboration that will enable us to pool our efforts and gain a better understanding of the current situation at basin level, in order to identify effective options for better management and monitoring of the watershed and its biodiversity.

Highlights of the event included a tour of the fair's stands, the handover of support equipment to the Dizangué conservation department by Ammco president Dr. Aristide Takoukam Kamla, and the inauguration of the manatee monument created by a local artist. The first national symposium on manatees and freshwater resources in Cameroon was also held. Presentations were given by experts on themes relating to the manatee and the Sanaga watershed.

In his inaugural speech, Ammco president Dr. Aristide Takoukam Kamla reviewed the problems threatening biodiversity in the Sanaga watershed. He called for the synergy of stakeholders in scientific research, resource sharing and multilateral collaboration to better understand this aquatic and energy resource, in order to improve its conservation.serve aquatic and energy resources in order to better manage it in a concerted manner, while preserving the interests of riparian communities.

The biodiversity of the Sanaga watershed is unique

The Sanaga watershed is the largest in Cameroon. With its 140,000 km2, or 25% of Cameroon's surface area, it covers the Adamaoua, Centre, East, West, North-West and Littoral regions. The basin is home to an impressive biodiversity, including the African manatee, the dwarf crocodile, the soft-shelled turtle, oysters, aquatic birds and a wide variety of fish. Businesses in the Sanaga basin are directly dependent on the water resources and climate created by the basin for their operations.

The population around this watershed is largely dependent on fishing. Similarly, many communities depend on the Sanaga and its tributaries for their cultural and even religious needs. This is the case, for example, of the Malimba people with their "Ngand'a Behona" ceremony, and the Mbandjock and Mbamois whose history is linked to the Mbam and Sanaga rivers. The Sanaga basin is also home to several protected areas, including the Lac Ossa Wildlife Reserve, the Douala-Edea National Park, the Mpem et Djim National Park, the Mbam et Djerem National Park and the Deng-Deng National Park.

Anthropogenic activities and natural phenomena, the main threats

Despite these cultural, economic and ecological assets, the Sanaga, Lake Ossa and other river systems associated with this watershed face a number of threats. These include: pollution, poaching, gallery forest degradation, erosion, infrastructural and urban development combined with climate change. In 2017, Lake Ossa, a wildlife reserve and habitat par excellence for the African manatee, was invaded by the invasive plant Salvinia molesta, also known as water fern. The plant has gradually covered up to 50% of the lake surface, preventing the manatee from feeding and forcing it to migrate to other habitats. Fishing grounds were reduced by around 80%, and access to the rest of the lake was impossible.

This situation has led to a food and economic crisis in the locality of Dizangué, which relies heavily on the lake's resources. Preliminary studies show that this invasion followed an increase in the load of essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the lake. Most of these nutrient inputs come from the Sanaga River, which communicates closely with Lake Ossa via a nearly two-kilometre-long canal.

Around 10,000 people made aware of the threats

The state of aquatic ecosystems along the Sanaga watershed remains largely unknown to the government and the public. Moreover, there are very few studies available on the subject. Nor is there any effective coordination between scientists invested in this basin, and therefore a lack of capitalization of research results to inform the formulation of good policies or solutions in terms of sustainable management of land and natural resources upstream of the lake.

The establishment of a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration and a data repository is essential for better monitoring of the evolution of the health of the Sanaga basin's hydrographic network and the interdisciplinary formulation of solutions. As part of the "Street Manatee" campaign, some 10,000 people were made aware of the threats facing the Sanaga watershed and the measures to be adopted for better management.

Review of actions to reverse the degradation of the Sanaga watershed

Action has been taken to reverse this negative trend. Local initiatives have been launched by local populations, communes, protected area conservation departments, civil society organizations, private companies and sectoral organizations. In Mouanko and Dizangué, for example, the local population has decided to implement a biological rest period by closing fishing in certain areas and/or for a certain period of the year. This initiative is supported by the NGOs Ammco, Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Society (CWCS), which provide local populations with alternative means of substance. In addition, the biological control of Salvinia molesta carried out by Ammco in collaboration with Minfof, Minepded and other sectors, combined with manual removal efforts by the local population, have helped to reduce lake cover by over 70% in two years.

The establishment of a village economic development system around the Nachtigal dam by the Nachtigal Hydro Power Company (NHPC) and support for scientific research by the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) have helped mitigate the impacts of dam construction in the upstream part of the Sanaga River. In collaboration with the University of Douala (Institut des sciences halieutiques and Institut universitaire de technologie), Ammco is carrying out studies to assess and monitor the level of fish stocks in the river.In collaboration with the University of Douala (Institut des sciences halieutiques and Institut universitaire de technologie), Ammco is carrying out studies to assess and monitor the level of pollution from nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus along the main course of the Sanaga River from its source to the estuary, while also cataloguing the threats to wildlife.


Did you like this article? Share it ...


Leave a comment

Your comment will be published after validation.