Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch (CAMGEW) created in 2007 to act locally and think globally was among the 22 organisations that received the Equator Prize in New York - USA on the 24 September 2019. The winners were selected from a pool of 847 nominations across 127 countries by an independent Technical Advisory Committee of internationally renowned experts. The organisations represented 22 local and indigenous communities from across the world. The winning organizations showcased innovative, creative, nature-based solutions for tackling climate change, environment, unemployment and poverty challenges. Winners came from Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Micronesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Tanzani, Guinea-Bissau, Australia and Vanuatu. The projects were assessed based on their innovation, scalability, replicability, resilience, adaptability, self-Sufficiency, reduced inequalities, social inclusion and gender equality.
CAMGEW team was represented in the ceremony by Wirsiy Emmanuel Binyuy who is Director/Apiculture and Nature Conservation Campaigner and Sevidzem Ernestine Leikeki who is Social and Forest Officer. CAMGEW got the award because of her work in Kilum-Ijim forest that has reduced bushfire from 7 in 2012 to zero in 2018 and 2019. This initiative engaged forest community to conserve the forest through apiculture, forest regeneration, forest peasant women microfinance, agroforestry for soil conservation and food production, social support to persons in need and forest education. This created jobs and increased community income. Ownership of beehives in the forest engaged communities in fighting bushfire to protect their beehives and so protecting the forest. Cameron Gender and Environment Watch (CAMGEW) have recognized that local livelihoods are deeply integrated with the health of local ecosystems. She has planted 80,000 bee-loving native forest trees since 2012 in degraded areas of Kilum-Ijim Forest to serve as bee forage, future income source, carbon sink, medicinal plants and to protect key watersheds. CAMGEW has also trained 1.018 bee farmers in honey production and bees wax extraction. She has distributed above 895 beehives to trained bee farmers and organized them in to 5 Honey cooperatives located around Kilum-Ijim forest. She created a CAMGEW HONEYSHOP in Bamenda to convert bee farmers honey to money in town. 772 farmers have been trained on agroforestry techniques. 18 youths were trained in 2018 on entrepreneurship in honey value chain development for 3 weeks and are now active in the honey value chain. CAMGEW with other stakeholders have succeeded to create a Forest multi-stakeholder plateform to exchange ideas on forest issues and assist in decision making. The 7 Forest Management Institutions (FMIs) in Kilum forest that manages community forest have been reorganized by CAMGEW with other forest stakeholders after more than 10 years that their terms of offices ended. As of December 2018 about 1.580 women have been trained on business skills and 1.325 women received financial assistance in form of loans about US$ 5500 monthly as alternative sources of livelihood to the forest. 24 teenage boys and girls have been trained on dress making, shoe making and hair dressing. CAMGEW has also developed 3 tree nurseries with more than 100.000 trees.
One of Cameroon staff, Sevidzem Ernestine Leikeki representing CAMGEW in the award event was unanimously chosen to present the statement on climate change mitigation group during the award ceremony. She made a passionate presentation that amazed many persons and institutions in the ceremonial hall. This also reflected her dream and that of CAMGEW for a world that put mother-earth health at the centre of their lives for the goo of future generations. The message was strong and many person saw the need to engage in protecting the mother-earth. She talked of Land as the father, forest as the mother and water as our blood that needs protection by all.
This work has been recognized nationally and globally and we are grateful. In May 2019, CAMGEW also received the UNIDO Prize Award on Agro-food & Biodiversity Category in Rome - Italy in recognition of her work in apiculture and Biodiversity Conservation in Kilum-Ijim forest area. This award recognized our method of using apiculture as a tool to fight bushfire, create jobs and income for local people. CAMGEW early in 2019 also received “The Guardian Post Newspaper National Award” in Cameroon for her work in Biodiversity Conservation and the Energy Globe Award for Cameroon in the same line.
CAMGEW winning the Equator Prize Award for 2019 and other awards is an acknowledgement that “CAMGEW is a Trust to be Trusted”. This makes our team proud of their commitment and community acceptance and encourages them to work harder. This success could not be there without the engagement of the Kilum-Ijim forest communities’ engagement Wirsiy Emmanuel said. CAMGEW is proud of community ownership of her work that ensures sustainability. These awards come to strengthen community solidarity and show that local actions can have global impacts in tackling climate change. The awards have come to encourage CAMGEW team and forest communities to do more and never to relent their efforts. CAMGEW is proud of citizen engagement in conservation of Kilum-Ijim forest that is shown through the reduction in bushfires (a major forest threat) from 7 in 2012 to zero in 2018 and 2019. This demonstrates that community solidarity can be their insurance to tackle their present community challenges. Our local actions especially in forest regeneration and agroforestry have shown too that it has a global impact and recognition especially in climate change mitigation/adaptation and this has just encouraged our people to keep working. Our people can see that their engagement has something to do with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
CAMGEW and 21 other winners will join a network of 223 communities from 78 countries that have received the Equator Prize since its inception in 2002 to continue sharing and learning from each other. As a winner, Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch will receive $10,000 USD to continue forest conservation and livelihood improvement activities in Kilum-Ijim forest area. We thank the partners who will make these funds available to us.
These awards would not have come without the support from CAMGEW’s present and past partners. These awards come thanks to the team work done with various partners and stakeholders. CAMGEW is grateful for financial, technical and moral support from these her partners: MIVA Switzerland, French IUCN (PPI-FFEM), Future in Our Hands-UK, Swisshand Foundation-Switzerland, Bees for Development – UK, Man & Nature(now Noe) - France, Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW)-UK, New England Biolabs Foundation –USA, Critical Endangered Ecosystem Fund –CEPF of Birdlife International, World Bank, Well Grounded, Groupe SOS – France, AIMF – France, Hub Cymru Africa - UK, Both ENDS -Netherlands, Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, BERUDA, Oku Honey Cooperative Society, SOPISDEW, SHUMAS, CCREAD, TF-RD, ERUDEF, Kilum-Ijim White Honey Association (KIWHA), Cameroon Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training, Cameroon Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry(MINEPIA), Cameroon Ministry of Women Empowerment and the Family, UNDP, UNIDO, The Pollination Grant, Plant A tree In Africa, Stickting OOK – Netherlands, Creative Action Institute – USA, etc. We are particularly grateful to Various Councils, Senior Divisional Officers, Divisional Officers, Village Heads, MINFOF staff, MINEPIA staff, FMIs’ members, Oku Rural Radio, Kumbo City Community Radio, Bui Community Radio, Boyo Rural Radio and Oku Honey Cooperatives around Kilum Forest. We are grateful to the Median, Guardian and Advocate Newspapers.
We are also grateful to the Equator team that worked with us continuously to make this happen. We thank especially all other persons or institutions that have supported us in one way or the other in winning these awards.
WIRSIY Emmanuel BINYUY
CAMGEW Team Leader/ Apiculture and Nature Conservation Campaigner