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There is a daring project with ecotourism experimented in villages in the south of Cameroon. The objective is to fight against logging while ensuring the economic development of village communities.
The atypical experience comes from the municipality of Campo, bordering Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The municipality with the coastal façade is struck in its forested part by an intense illegal activity of wood cutting. Every year, thousands of cubic meters of wood leave the rainforest in logs, squares, and planks to reach Yaoundé, then Douala, where they will either be sold or shipped to Europe or Asia.
According to the National Agency for Financial Investigation (ANIF), foreign companies, but also local people, are at the helm of this activity, which causes the State of Cameroon to lose about 33 billion CFA francs each year. In addition, this illegal activity does not benefit village communities. However, for the past few years, the fight against this phenomenon has been slowly but timidly bearing fruit. Thanks to the concept of ecotourism of marine turtles, villagers recognize that illegal logging has decreased in the area.
*Ebodjè, the turtle village
Ebodjè is a small village of just over 1000 inhabitants, fed by the waters of the Atlantic. Every year between March and September, when the turtles are laying their eggs, the small village receives a large number of tourists. "The ecotourism of the marine turtles has changed Ebodjè," says Oscar, a local resident. "In this village, there are several young people who have finished their secondary education thanks to the sponsorship system. A fisherman who catches a turtle, gives it to a tourist.
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"The tourist treats it and releases it into the sea. And in return, the tourist takes charge of the schooling of a child of the fisherman's family. This system of child sponsorship has subtly allowed us to convert several of those who were illegally exploiting wood at our own risk, to leave the 'bush' and find something else to do," explains the former operator.