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Smallholder tea farmers learn about analog forestry in Ndu, Cameroon

Smallholder tea farmers learn about analog forestry in Ndu, Cameroon

Ndu, in the North-West Region of Cameroon, is a town with a great potential for restoration and analog forestry. With some of the highest elevations in the country, its rolling hills were singled out for tea plantations in the 1950s, and it has become one of the centres of tea production in the country.

Many smallholders who have been farming tea are looking for alternative approaches that involve diversified crops and the incorporation of forest products for food security and increased production. They have also joined forces in order to share information and adopt better techniques.

Tea farm in Ndu, Cameroon, showing signs of environmental degradation. Photo: CENDEP

Tea farm in Ndu, Cameroon, showing signs of environmental degradation. Photo: CENDEP

IAFN partner CENDEP has been working with both smallholder tea producers and larger plantations in the area since 2013, and recently had the opportunity to learn from Sri Lankan tea farmers who produce in a forest garden system that uses analog forestry techniques.

Wirsiy Eric Fondzenyuy and Perry Ndzefemmegho from CENDEP recently had the opportunity to share these experiences with 34 smallholder farmers in the Ndu region. Their involvement comes at an opportune time, as the Ndu local council has been engaged in organizing tea farmers under their poverty reduction strategy.

The European Union is supporting the tea farmers with a processing unit but these farmers will need to adopt sustainable production techniques to avoid problems of land degradation. These problems, arising from conventional tea production techniques, are well-known in other parts of the world where tea production has been going on for a long time.

That’s where CENDEP’s involvement is crucial: it is part of an initiative through the Rich Forests concept, which creates links between local farmers’ groups and business groups in Cameroon. This event was the beginning of a months-long process of trainings and technical advice, which would eventually lead to linking local sustainable tea production to value-added markets in Cameroon and abroad.

Biodiverse forest tea garden in Mirahawatte, Sri Lanka. Photo: K. Garden

Biodiverse forest tea garden in Mirahawatte, Sri Lanka. Photo: K. Garden

Perry and Eric, members of the IAFN trainers’ network, led the training explaining key elements of analog forestry and relating the experience of tea gardens in Sri Lanka. With the farmers’ group, they also mapped out potential complementary forest products that could be useful to include in small-scale tea plantations.

These exchanges of good practices, be they between Cameroon and Sri Lanka, or between farmers in neighbouring villages, are the basis of the adoption of practices such as analog forestry, and important steps toward the restoration of degraded ecosystems around the world!

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