Our Green Inheritance
More than two generations ago, the more than 200,000 people that inhabit the slopes and hollows, the valleys and foothills of the majestic Kilum Mountain (aka Mount Oku) came to an existential epiphany. The Oku people gradually realized that the forest that covered all sides of their mountain, the Kilum Forest, was more like a perennial plant that could nurture them and their descendants for years on end, rather than an annual plant that could be cut down and consumed on the spot. It was revealed to the people of Oku that the trinity of the mountain, the forest and the crater Lake Oku (aka Mawes or ‘Our Mother’) at the top of the mountain was a blessing from God, a gift from the gods.
Mount Oku (or Kilum Mountain) is the second highest mountain in West Africa, surpassed only by Mount Cameroon
The Kilum Mountain Forest is the largest area of the rare Afromontane forest left in West Africa. The area is an important one for biodiversity, including rare bird and mammal species that are found nowhere else on earth.
The mountain, the forest and the lake together comprise an ecosystem that serves as a water tower for people living in the area and hundreds of miles away from Oku.
Since the Oku people settled in the area, the forest has been a source of water, firewood, timber, fibers, medicinal plants, and food such as honey, mushrooms, fruit and animals for most of the population of the area. It also plays an important role in local tradition and culture.
The Dimensions of this
Unique Gift are Impressive!
This precious resource, this gift of God and of the gods, this legacy of Mkong Moteh, the founding ancestor of the Oku people, was nearly lost in the years between 1958 and 1988. This was the period during which the forest was being cut down to provide access to farmland for a growing population. It was also at this time that foreign pharmaceutical companies began ruthlessly extracting the rich pharmacopeia within the forest, which Oku ancestors had harvested sustainably and judiciously for generations past.
In this short thirty-year span, the size of the Kilum Forest was reduced by 50 percent.
By 1987, the Oku people had come to realize that their forest and its resources were not infinite and had started to seek ways of preserving what was left and, if possible, bringing back what had been lost.
In 1988, in collaboration with the government of Cameroon and Birdlife International, a global NGO dedicated to conserving birds, their habitats, global biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources, the Oku people helped to put in place a participatory
community-based forest management system.
Satellite imagery shows that almost 10 percent of the lost forest acreage has been recovered thanks to this effort by the Oku people and their partners. It is an encouraging start to the recovery of a resource that the people are determined to conserve for their
descendants and for humanity. Surveys also show that more than 80% of the population support the community-based forest management system.
The United States branch of the Oku Cultural and Development Association (OCDA-USA), with its status as an NGO registered in the state of Virginia, has access to funds, expertise and human resources to provide a boost to the efforts of their home communities in the regeneration of the forest. OCDA-USA has been actively participating in the development efforts of the community in various fields since its creation but intends to make the regeneration of the Kilum Mountain forest a perennial priority. To this end, OCDA-USA proposes to:
Under the authority of His Royal Majesty Fon Ngum IV, sovereign of the Oku people, join in, and provide material and intellectual support to the ongoing effort of the community-based forest management system.
Launch an OCDA-USA forest regeneration initiative through an annual Tree Planting Day focused on primary and (TPD) secondary school children, which will foster a long-lasting sense of ownership in the children as they grow up along with the trees they plant. Locally procure and provide endemic seedlings for the Tree Planting Day
Provide funding for the TPD activities (food, drinks, games, prizes, etc.)
Provide support to the communities for the establishment of tree nurseries and tree planting for soil food, timber,improvement, fuelwood, medicine and improving fruit tree production e.g. grafting methods.
Support soil and water conservation activities e.g. establishing contours and ridging on steep slopes to reduce erosion and run-off.
Source equipment and expertise to support beekeeping by improving processing of honey and wax using top-bar hives and tree planting for improved forest honey production.