Tue. May 14th, 2024

By Leocadia Bongben

UNESCO is working on the Dja Biosphere Reserve project. The reserve serves as a test bed for initiatives to combat climate change. This location can promote harmony between humans and their surroundings and help people find peace with the natural world. In 1971, the reserve was established as part of an intergovernmental cooperation with UNESCO spanning 50 years. It is an innovative, sustainable development initiative.

However, the reserve was in danger due to the implementation of projects like the Mekin hydroelectric development project and SUDCAM, an agro-industry.

During a “Café Science” (a customary meeting of the Cameroon Association of Science Journalists, SciLife), Bandiougou Diawara, the Science Chief for UNESCO Central Africa, stated that Cameroon followed recommendations to prevent the Dja from being recognized as a World Heritage in Danger.

Acting on UNESCO’s advice, Cameroon carried out an environmental impact assessment study and put its recommendations into practice. Secondly, the government revised the Mekin hydroelectric development project. Thirdly, the initial surface area ascribed to the Hevea company, SUDCAM, an agro-industry, was decreased.

According to Bandiougou Diawara, a model that balances resource sustainability with conservation is best suited for reserves. “The preservation of natural areas and the socioeconomic advancement of local communities are the two faces of a reserve; they are interconnected and cannot be selected at the expense of the other,” he stated.

UNESCO member states decided to elevate 30 percent of the world to protected areas by 2030 as part of the global effort to save nature.

Within this context, UNESCO is urging mobilization at all levels, given that the target seems slow to attain. Journalists, a key component in reaching the target, were called upon to enlighten, educate, raise awareness, and aid the shift in public opinion. He emphasized that the mindset needs to shift, not the climate.

Bandiougou Diawara maintained that the reserve contributes to reducing conflicts based on specific zoning. He identified three zones: a central space of protected areas consisting of parks, classified forests,… Then, there is a buffer zone where communities can develop their activities in line with sustainable development, where eco-tourism, if well exploited, generates revenue for local communities. The third is the industrial zone.

UNESCO member states came together to create a world network of reserves. On five continents, 134 member states opted for the creation of reserves, and today there are 748 reserves for 280 million inhabitants, representing 6 percent of the planet, as big as China. In Africa, there are 93 reserves in 30 countries: 13 in Central Africa and five in Cameroon.

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