In both Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), village communities are witnessing the disappearance of their sacred forests. Place of ancestral rites and sacrificial practices, the sacred forests are under increasing pressure, jeopardizing their biodiversity and their ecological role. To reverse the trend, traditional leaders, civil society and governments are multiplying initiatives.
In Bafoussam, the capital of the western region of Cameroon, "Ngouh Ngouong," a sacred forest located in the Ndiangdam district, is at the heart of a case between the high chief and three notables of the royal court. Chief Njitack Ngompe Péle has imposed heavy sanctions on these three notables for their role in the invasion of this sacred forest. The latter concluded the sale of a plot of land between the two sites, considered male and female, of "Ngouh Ngouong." Yet this forest has already lost more than half of its area in only five years.
Human pressure is now being exerted on all of these sacred forests, which are found scattered throughout the various villages of the West Cameroon region. In this area, which is essentially made up of savannah, and where plantations extend as far as the eye can see, traditional chiefs, considered locally as the first guardians of the sacred forests, deplore a litany of threats.
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"Nowadays in Batié, the sacred forests face several threats. People come there to look for wood and others hunt. And some hunters set fires in order to push rodents, especially rats, out of their burrows. Besides this destructive practice, there is the invasion of these forests by agricultural activity. Some forest dwellers are extending their plantations into the forest," explains Tchouankam Theodore Dada, senior chief of the Batié village.
The sacred forests of Batoufam, a locality located about 50 km northeast of Batié, are no less affected. "The deforestation that we suffer here is mainly due to young people who leave the cities to settle in the village. They do not respect the customs and even less the sacred forests. This is why they enter, cut wood, or practice agriculture," explains Nayang Toukam Inocent, Batoufam superior chief.