Kenya: Hello everyone, I'm Kenya Ference and I'm the Director of Marketing here at TreeSisters. I'm going to introduce you to Lauriane in a few moments, who is our Reforestation Director here at TreeSisters and she is going to be speaking on behalf of the International Tree Foundation. We have two projects at ITF. One which is replenishing the slopes of Mount Kenya and the other is reforesting the highlands of Cameroon.
Today we're going to focus our conversation with Lauriane on Cameroon which is a brand new project, not only for TreeSisters, but for ITF as well. I'd like to officially welcome Lauriane to the call to tell us about it. So thank you for being here Lauriane and welcome. It would be really great if you could let everyone know a little bit about yourself and why you're passionate about the trees.
Lauriane: Hi, I'd like to say that I am holding TreeSisters reforestation program. I'm channeling our generous sisters donations towards amazing and impactful restoration projects. Why I'm so passionate about trees. You know, I grew up in Iranian Island, which is a volcanic gem in the Indian Ocean covered with those humid and dry tropical forest. I believe that's what has given me that never ending fascination for forests and trees.
Kenya: Thank you, Lauriane. I have never been to the island where you live, but I can just imagine that it's just absolutely gorgeous. So thank you for sharing that. And a little bit about your passion. And I'd like to dive into our project in Cameroon. So, I'd like to first ask you why you decided that TreeSisters should support this project, and I'd love for you to share what you're most excited to share about it.
Lauriane: Last year, International Tree Foundation came to us with a proposition to restore the Cameroon Highlands forest, which used to cover entirely the Mt. Bamboutos mountain range. Over 90 percent of the forest has been logged, over exploited, over grazed, set on fire, all converted into agricultural lands. When I screened the project through the lens of our reforestation strategy, here is what stood out:
First: One of our desired impacts as TreeSisters is to restore and maintain watersheds. Water is important for all life on Earth. But many regions are experiencing water shortages. That's indeed what the people of the Mt. Bamboutos watershed are experiencing today. And that's what the project is addressing through forest and tree restoration. So that Mt. Bamboutos stays the second most important water tower in Cameroon.
Secondly: Another of our desired impacts is to stop the deforestation and forest degradation of the remaining intact tropical forest. This is actually what restoring the Cameroon Highlands forest is about; it aims to prevent further encroachments into the remaining natural forests of the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and a nearby, vast "intact forest landscape".
Now the two things that I'm most excited to share with you today is that with this project we are contributing to the establishment of the Biodiversity Reserves of about 6,000 Hector in order to protect the Mount Bamboutos' exceptional biodiversity and endemism.
We are also contributing to the conservation of about thirty Cross River gorillas living in the living in the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. The project is indeed setting up a community forest for firewood and timber provisions in order to stop adjacent communities encroaching into the sanctuary.
Kenya: That was really a wonderful overview and it was great to hear the theme again about how important it is for us to be focusing on water. And it's this area of Cameroon is similar to Kenya's mountain. It's called a water tower, as you mentioned, which I think is a really interesting crossover. I also just want to come back to the gorillas for a second, but I just want to really make sure that everyone on the call understands. So, there's thirty of these Cross River gorillas living in the wildlife sanctuary and our project is creating a buffer around that area with the trees that we're planting so that as you mentioned, Lauriane, people...communities will stop encroaching in the sanctuary.
And I just would love for you to share Lauriane, how endangered these gorillas really are. I think it's really important to say because, as I understand it, they're the most endangered gorilla in Africa. And could you tell us a little bit about how many are actually left in the world. How many gorillas of the Cross River gorillas?
Lauriane: Yes, you're correct. It's the rarest and the most threatened of all gorillas. There are just about 300 left in the wild. And they are scattered all over an area twice as large as the size of Rhode Island or half the size of Wales. But and unfortunately the Cross River gorillas territory is also a region of dense human population. And the human population has encroached into their habitats with slash and burn agriculture. They have also cleared the forest to create fields; room for agriculture. They are also poached. That's why they are so rare and threatened.
Kenya: Wow, I just... every time I...every time I hear about these gorillas I just, I feel, I feel a sense of heartbreak, to be honest, and it's just a testament as to why it's so important to protect them what you just shared. So thank you for going into more depth about that. And I'd like to remind everyone that this is a new project, as I already mentioned, and Lauriane, I'd like for you to tell us a little bit about what's involved in starting a planting project like this.
Lauriane: So the first years are crucial to reach the restoration goals that were set up for the next three years. So it's to plant three hundred sixty thousand native trees for forest restoration purpose, and two hundred and forty thousand trees to re green farmlands with at least seventy percent native species.
What's involved is all that's needed to establish and operate seven central tree nurseries and one thousand individuals' tree nurseries for Agroforestry purpose. The focus is on mobilizing, recruiting, planning, training, mentoring women into the project development, investments in materials and equipment.
Because community buy in and participation are essential. The project starts with several workshops to sensitize to the restoration and sustainable management of the Cameroon Highlands forest. It is also an opportunity to identify the community members who would like to engage and associate into groups.
Kenya: I think it's really it's so important for everyone, especially our donors to understand what's involved with setting up new projects, because it's really a lot of work. And it's a lot of community involvement and education. And it's really wonderful to hear you talk about it. Lauriane, thank you so much. And, and we're coming to the end of our conversation about Cameroon, and thank you so much, Lauriane, that was such a wonderful overview. And before we finish, I just want to ask you one more question. So from your knowledge and expertise. What kind of global impact can trees have on the world?
Lauriane: I think there are two major global impacts. So the first one is global cooling. So trees actually cut out the heat by reflecting some of the sense incident light. Trees absorb the airs heat through the process of transpiration, through transpiration trees release water vapor, which may condense and form clouds, and those clouds deflect additional radiation from the terrestrial surfaces. So you see how important trees are for cooling our Earth.
The second impact that is important to me is, it's like I'm actually on the same line as Marie-Noelle is that the trees are sustaining the fresh water flows globally. Through the process of transpiration trees lead to the formation of clouds and precipitation. And when it rains, trees, capture water and drain it all the way down to the forest soil and ultimately feed the water table which in turn feeds the streams and the streams would transport fresh water to the other end of continents. So trees are really important in the global water cycle of our planet.
Kenya: Wow. Thank you, Lauraine. And I'm so inspired and I'm sure people listening on the call are just as inspired too. Thank you so much.
If you'd like to listen to the recording of our entire Radical Impact Event, which was part of our 2018 Earth Day Celebrations, please go here or listen below!
Transcript by Terra Canova
Published 7 May 2018
Photographs courtesy of ITF.