By Mofor Samuel Che
Despite the phenomenal rate of technological advancement in recent decades, solutions to many simple problems continue to elude the world community. The conservation of our natural environment and the provision of clean water within easy reach of every household are just some of them. The reasons for the failure of the world community to meet even the basic needs of its citizens – clean environment, clean reliable water supplies, control of pollution and deforestation are complex and lie in the realms of politics and economics at both national and global levels. Worldwide pressure on natural resources- water, forest (flora and fauna); land etc continues to mount as population growth, increasing consumption, pollution and climate change take their toll.
The theme for this year’s World Environment Day was “Nature at our service”. The environment: “a war we must win”, is a slogan closely associated with the late Dr. Ngwa Che Francis- widely known botanist and environmentalist, who spent virtually all his professional life teaching some 25,000 youths how to plant flowers.
Beyond just teaching young people, he was the brain behind the creation of the Savannah Botanic Garden (SABOGA) otherwise known as the Bafut Botanic Garden. Through him nature has been put as the service of the people. The Savannah Botanic Garden has a surface of 17 hectares which includes a savannah botanic garden and sanctuary forest reserve.
Late Dr. Ngwa Che Francis then as the North West Provincial Delegate for Environment and Forest, was very supportive of the project. According to Tafor Princewill Che, Coordinator of the Project, Dr. Ngwa Che assigned Tangie Peters to do the survey, mapping and prepare a technical report. Once the report was completed, they started involving and sensitizing the surrounding populations on the need to conserve the patches of the forest found in the project area.
In June 1997, the first thematic gardens were established. These are the ornamental garden, a medicinal garden, a rock garden and a waterfall garden.
The Bafut Botanic Garden project has identified and intends to conserve some patches of the lowland forest savanna. These forests are rich in plant and animal (bird) life. The forests are at Akossia, Akoyoh, Buwie, Ndung, Aga and Mako Bujang. These forests make a major contribution to the flow of the famous Menchum Falls. Unfortunately these forests are being cut and burnt for farmland and timber. According to the Project Coordinator, they intended to introduce conservation methods and income- generating activities such as agro forestry, bee farming and mushroom cultivation in order to control the abusive exploitation of these natural resources.
The Bafut Botanic Garden with all its waterfall, patch of forest and thematic gardens enhances the tourist potential and provides a quiet and natural environment for relaxation and leisure.
It is necessary to make mention of Fon Abumbi II of Bafut, another individual behind the project who willingly gave the old palaces of Mbebeli and Njibujang and the main garden area of Niko/Mankaha for the project. The Bafut people built the palace here when they first arrived from Tikari several hundred years ago. It contains the tombs of the first three fons- Firloo, Nebasi Suh and Ambebi. Libation for the famous Bafut Annual Dance “Abin” begins here. It will now serve as an arboretum.
The palace at Njibujang contains the tomb of the 8th King of Bafut- Achrimbi. It harbours some rare medicinal plants and has a grinding mill which was used to grind an extinct species of maize (musang). This will serve as the second arboretum.
Elsewhere in an interview accorded to The Recorder newspaper early this year, the Mayor of Bafut Council, Ngwa Abel Che said they recently planted 4,725 trees following a convention signed with the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. The Bafut Council planted some ornamental trees along roadsides, planted water-giving trees in catchment areas; planted some trees and timber in the Bafut Council Forest.
At a time when the consequences of climate change in Cameroon are being felt through poor crop yields, rising temperatures in the north; floods in the south, advancing desert, lack of water and arable land, movement of farmers, herders/fishermen, loss of property etc, Cameroonians in all walks of life must strive to continue and above all sustain this great initiative started by an illustrious son of theirs in the person of the late Dr.Ngwa Che Francis to conserve and protect our biodiversity by protecting our environment.
From the University of Buea at the foot of Mount Cameroon through Dibanda, Mutengene, major junctions in Douala, Yaoundé, Hilton Hotel, Presbyterian Church Bastos- Yaoundé, Kribi and many other towns in Cameroon, one sees the great work started by this great environmentalist of blessed memory. The beautiful flowers and the landscapes all have something to do with him either directly or indirectly. Not to talk of the countless number of young persons who now earn a living by planting and selling flowers. This very exemplary initiative of his is like using one stone to shoot two birds – beauty and nature on the one hand and earning a living on the other hand. In fact when one passes where these plants and flowers are planted, the beauty alone takes away any form of stress that one has in mind. Pollution and global warming have no place in these environment, public places or surroundings.
The best tribute we as policy makers, administrators, municipal authorities, communities, the civil society, lovers of nature and beauty, fellow botanists and environmentalists can pay to Dr. Ngwa Che Francis is to preserve the legacy that he has left behind as individuals and as communities. It is only by doing this that we can put nature at our service and contain the onslaught and devastation caused by climate change and global warming.