How VSLAs are helping wildlife and people in protected areas in Cameroon

by ZSL on

The successful conservation of wildlife and natural resources, vital for both wildlife and people, requires many different partnerships. For several years ZSL Cameroon has been partnering with local communities to create Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). 

Photo - Two participants of a Village Savings and Loan Association meeting taking notes

This is an established system of community banks managed by local communities, targeted to mobilise small incomes and allow access to loans with flexibility in terms of reimbursement. We have helped create VSLAs in high impact villages surrounding key protected areas in Cameroon such as the Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR) and the Douala-Edea Conservation Complex (DECC). 

These associations act as an entry point for collaboration and communication with local communities, enabling us to work with them on issues related to wildlife conservation and empowering them to tackle illegal wildlife practices which deplete local natural resources.

Through the VSLA groups, we work with communities to encourage the sustainable use of natural resources, support Income Generating Activities (IGA) to diversify their incomes and contribute to anti-poaching activities. 

Photo- ZSL Cameroon  member Amandine holding a young plant as part of livelihood diversification activities

A total of 49 VSLA groups have been established so far, 31 in DECC and 18 in the DBR. Through this process, we help local communities adopt wildlife-friendly practices and support sustainable forest management initiatives. Participation in these activities is voluntary and the communities themselves decide which activities they want to contribute to and how to adapt these activities to their local needs.

In the communities around the DBR efforts designed to tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade are being carried out, through VSLA groups, such as Community Surveillance Networks (CSN), Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS), the development of Non-timber Forest Products (NTFP) and IGA. Our partner communities are engaged in reducing illegal wildlife activities by reporting activity through the CSN and ExCiteS programmes and diversifying their livelihoods through reduced bush meat consumption and tree cutting. 

Photo - Someone from the ZSL Cameroon team carrying out a survey with a member of the local community

By providing training and support to partner communities we help them benefit from livelihood diversification, such as through agroforestry techniques, NTFP development, poultry rearing and tree-nursery production. They are also become better informed on wildlife law, particularly their rights and duties toward wildlife, including local usage rights. Through engaging in all these activities, communities feel more concerned and participate more in efforts aimed towards the conservation of wildlife and natural resources. 

The VSLA programme seems to be succeeding, the reporting of acts of illegal wildlife crime is increasing and bush meat consumption is reducing in partner villages where alternative methods of providing income and daily dietary needs are having an effect. 

 

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