Reclaiming land with the right trees in Cameroon

Replacing eucalyptus trees with indigenous species in agroforestry systems has helped thousands of farmers in Cameroon regain productive land.

When coffee prices plummeted on the world market in the 1970s there was a rush to plant fast-growing eucalyptus trees to earn income from the sale of timber. In a large number of cases, men planted the trees on land previously farmed by women.

Inter Press Service reports that land adjacent to eucalyptus plantations became arid and barren as the roots of the trees sucked up available groundwater. Fertile farmland was lost, crop yields declined and water sources dried up.

The Eucalyptus Replacement Project began in 2006, coordinated by the non-governmental organization, Strategic Humanitarian Services Cameroon (SHUMAS). It has assisted farmers to plant alternative trees, including nitrogen-fixing species which help fertilize the soil such as Carica papaya, Prunus africana and Psydium guajava.

For Sabina Shey Nkabiy, a farmer in Cameroon’s North West Region, the change has meant she can now feed her family from produce grown on her own land rather than traveling 10 kilometres a day to farm.

To date, more than a million eucalyptus trees have been felled. Locals say the replacement project and the planting of fruit and medicinal trees has boosted their incomes through increased crop yields.

Read the full story: Every Eucalyptus Felled Equals Gallons of Water