Saturday, 25 January 2014

WWF DRC Country Head, Raymond Lumbuenamo, Fear the New Hydrocarbon Law May Not Benefit the Congolese People.

WWF DRC Country Head, Raymond Lumbuenamo, Fear the New Hydrocarbon Law May Not Benefit the Congolese People.

In a press release published  on the 15th of January 2014, by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Central African Region, Raymond Lumbuenamo Said  ““I am deeply concerned by elements of the hydrocarbon bill, and fear that it will better serve the desires of foreign interests than the rights of the Congolese people.

The mining sector failed to deliver benefits to our communities as promised. Now we are set to make the same mistake again with petroleum. Our resources should not be used to make foreign corporations rich while our country continues to struggle on its journey toward sustainable economic development.

Our hope is that this new oil code will require oil companies operating in DRC to put the needs of the Congolese people first. Our laws must hold them accountable for good business practices. A weak oil code will let them exploit us. Our natural resources are some of our country’s greatest assets and should benefit our people.”

Experts believe that this statement is made to lay more emphasis on the complaints WWF has been filling against oil companies.  WWF filed a complaint Monday, October 7 2013 at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) against the oil company Soco International PLC on its activities around the park in the Virunga North Kivu.

Radio Okapi reports say; the exploration activities of international Mining companies endanger local people living in the park, the animals and their habitats. Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s business environment remains challenging, and the new hydrocarbons law has no better elements to back up the population.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Science Daily Report: Climate Change A Promising Future for Cotton in Cameroon

While climate change threatens most crops in Africa, its impact could be less on cotton cultivation in Cameroon. A new study by researchers from IRD and its partners shows that the expected climate change over the coming decades should not have a negative effect on Cameroonian plantations. Against all odds, their productivity should even improve significantly by 2050, thanks in particular to conservation agriculture practices adopted by the country. These projections, made ​​according to six climate scenarios based on different farming techniques, are optimistic for Cameroonian producers, for whom cotton is the leading cash crop and often the only alternative.

Improved yield

From observations made in stations and plots from 2001 to 2005 and in 2010 in North Cameroon, the research team simulated the impact of climate forecasts for the next 40 years on the growth of cotton plants. To do this, they calibrated then applied the crop model called "Cropgro" using several farming techniques and six climate scenarios in the north of the country according to projections that, among other things, served as the basis for the fourth IPCC report. While climate projections differ for some variables such as rainfall, the average of these scenarios shows stable rainfall, higher temperatures and evapotranspiration. According to the researchers' simulations, the predicted 0.05°C rise on average per year is expected to slightly increase the annual yield of fields by 1.3 kilograms per hectare, rising to more than 2.5 kg per hectare according to the climate scenarios considered.

Conservation agriculture is essential

This unexpected benefit would result from the combination of several factors. Firstly, how the cotton is grown is crucial. Field productivity is highly dependent on local farming practices. For ten years, Cameroon has adopted measures to restore land with conservation farming techniques, such as sowing under plant cover, tillage or mulching. Many farming practices that would limit the deterioration of cultivated soils are at work in the north of the country and, according to the researchers' simulations, counteract the effects of climate change on crops.

CO2 has a fertilizing effect on cotton

Climate factors themselves could have an unexpected positive influence, and among them, the increase in the percentage of carbon dioxide. Cotton belongs to a type of plant for which CO2 in the atmosphere stimulates photosynthesis (like soya, peanuts and a majority of plants, including all trees). The new study shows that this fertilizing effect will help offset other impacts of climate change. The annual yield from cotton fields in Cameroon could increase by around 30 kg per hectare. Nevertheless, the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere on crop yields remains controversial: it varies greatly depending on the model of plant growth used.

The importance of a season of regular rain

The effect of rainfall change on cotton yield also differs from that of crops such as maize, sorghum and millet. In particular, excess water threatens cotton, with increased runoff, leaching of soil and inputs needed for cotton cultivation. In addition, more than the total rainfall, the start date and duration of the rainy season are paramount. A previous study has shown that these two parameters can be used to predict annual cotton yields. Despite the optimistic forecasts of this new work, a steady impoverishment of soil remains, as well as risks related to inter- and intra-seasonal variability and to changes in the price of cotton on the international market, driven by global giants in the sector, the United States and Asia. An insurance system with a compensation level based on these rain indices could consolidate the positive outlook for the Cameroon cotton sector, by limiting the debt of the poorest producers.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

2013 worst ever for rhino poaching in South Africa

Image from Google

South Africa, 17th January 2014—The South African Department of Environmental Affairs revealed official figures today that 1004 rhinos were illegally killed during 2013 in South Africa, the equivalent of nearly three animals a day, making it the worst year ever on record for rhino poaching in the country.

The figure is more than 1.5 times the official figure of 668 rhinos killed for their horns in 2012 and brings South Africa’s White Rhino population ever closer to the tipping point when deaths will outnumber births and the population will go into serious decline.

Rhino horns are smuggled by organised transnational criminal networks to the main consumer markets in Viet Nam and China, where they are primarily used as a status symbol and health tonic. There is evidence of links between the criminal gangs masterminding the trafficking and other forms of organized crime, including the trafficking of people, drugs and weapons.

Mozambique, which neighbours South Africa, is widely seen as both a transit point for rhino horn smuggling activities and an operational base for poachers who cross the border to kill rhinos.

“South Africa and Mozambique must decisively up their game if they hope to stop this blatant robbery of southern Africa’s natural heritage,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s rhino expert.

“2014 must mark the turning point where the world, collectively says ‘enough is enough’ and brings these criminal networks down.

“Rhino horn trafficking and consumption are not simply environmental issues, they represent threats to the very fabric of society.”

In March 2013, Parties meeting at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) singled out certain countries heavily implicated in rhino trade crime to take action to address the ongoing crisis.

By the end of January 2014, the Vietnamese government must report to CITES on their progress in making seizures, arrests, prosecutions and convictions for rhino horn trafficking and use offences, as well as implementation of a robust tracking system for preventing imported rhino horn trophies from going into illegal trade. The country has also been instructed to develop and implement measures to reduce demand for rhino horn.

Similarly, Mozambique, a transit point for horn exiting Africa, must show the enactment and implementation of legislation with deterrent penalties to combat wildlife crime and stop the killing of rhinos and trafficking of rhino horn effectively.  Right now, rhino crime in Mozambique remains only a misdemeanour.

In late December 2012, South Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Viet Nam on tackling wildlife trafficking between the two nations and later developed a joint Rhino Action Plan. South Africa signed a similar MoU with China in 2013 and is developing others with Mozambique, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Hong Kong.

“The world’s rhinos are facing a genuine crisis and high level agreements and statements have to translate into meaningful conservation action, both in rhino range States and in key consumer countries such as Viet Nam and China,” said Dr Naomi Doak, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Programme in Viet Nam.

“We are still waiting to see the rhetoric result in significant arrests and prosecutions of those orchestrating the rhino horn trafficking.

“We also urgently need to see a reduction in demand for horn in Viet Nam, the introduction of a system for tracing hunting trophies in the country, and strong sentences imposed on those convicted of rhino horn trafficking.”

On 12th and 13th February 2014, the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade will seek commitments from key priority governments to combat the growing global threat posed by illegal wildlife trade. Heads of State and Foreign Ministers from around 50 countries, including those at the centres of the current rhino and elephant poaching crises are anticipated to attend this high level summit convened by HRH Prince Charles and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

The conference will produce a declaration of political commitment to ensure a co-ordinated global response as well as necessary resources to turn the tide on illegal wildlife trade through improving law enforcement and the role of the criminal justice system; reducing demand for illegal wildlife products; and supporting the development of sustainable alternative livelihoods.

This article was first published by

Monday, 13 January 2014

Lions face extinction in West Africa: less than 250 survive

A male lion in Pendjari National Park during Panthera's survey of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex, located in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.
A male lion in Pendjari National Park during Panthera's survey of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex, located in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.

The lions of West Africa, which may represent a distinct subspecies, are on the precipice of extinction. A sober new study in PLOS ONE reports that less than 250 mature lions survive in the region. Scientists have long known that West Africa's lions were in trouble, but no one expected the situation to be as dire as it was. In fact, in 2012 scientists estimated the population at over 500. But looking at 21 parks, scientists were shocked to find lions persisted in just four with only one population containing more than 50 individuals.

"Due to the complete lack of roads in some protected areas, we had to conduct all survey work on foot in those areas, hiking up to 600 kilometers through rough terrain during individual surveys," lead author Philipp Henschel with Panthera told "Encounters with aggressive poachers, and, in some countries, rebel groups, were frequent, and it was devastating to realize that despite all this physical effort, despite weeks spent searching for spoor, no lion sign could be found."

Henschel has a rare encounter with a lion cub, estimated at 8-10 months old, in Nigeria's Yankari Game Reserve. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.
Henschel has a rare encounter with a lion cub, estimated at 8-10 months old, in Nigeria's Yankari Game Reserve. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.

Booming human populations, expanding livestock herds, declining prey populations due to habitat loss and poaching, and a potent mix of poverty and underfunded parks have pushed the West African lion to the brink. Worse still, conservationists were witnessing West Africa's lions vanish, even as scientists were just beginning to understand its unique place. A surprising study in 2011 found that the West African lion is genetically closer to Asiatic lions (today found only in a single population in India) than their much closer East and Southern Africa cousins. Scientists theorize that natural barriers like the Congo Rainforest and the Rift Valley in conjunction with climatic changes allowed West Africa to be colonized by lions roaming out of Asia down through North Africa. These same colonizers also likely led to the Barbary lion of North Africa, which went extinct in the 1940s. In fact, West African lions are generally smaller than their African counterparts with shorter manes and differently-shaped skulls.

In other words, if West Africa's lions are allowed to go extinct, they will take a distinct evolutionary path with them.

"West African lions have unique genetic sequences not found in any other lions, including in zoos or captivity," says Christine Breitenmoser, the co-chair of the IUCN/SCC Cat Specialist Group. "If we lose the lion in West Africa, we will lose a unique, locally adapted population found no-where else."

In fact the new study recommends that West African lions be dubbed a distinct subspecies by the IUCN Red List, but adds "irrespective of taxonomic status, we recommend listing the lion as critically endangered in West Africa." Adding to the alarm is the fact that there is not a single known pure-bred West African lion in captivity: most captive lions are hybrids of various populations.

Distribution map of the last surviving West African lions. Graph courtesy of Panthera.Click to enlarge.

Meanwhile, the animal's historical range in the wild has been whittled down by 98.9 percent. The gloomy surveys across the region found that West Africa's lions were present only in five countries: Senegal, Nigeria and a single population that crosses between Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso in a trans-national three park complex known as W-Arli-Pendjari. Making up over 80 percent of West Africa's total lion population, these lions represent the best hope for the subspecies. However, a recent aerial survey discovered 50,000 heads of cattle in the eastern part of W Transborder Park. More shocking still, trophy hunting of lions is still allowed in Burkina Faso and Benin. Although a few remnant lions may survive in two parks in Guinea, the scientists believe the populations are very close to extinct if present at all.

The researchers found that, not surprisingly, large protected areas were more likely to contain lions than small ones. More importantly they also discovered that protected areas with higher budgets were more likely to retain lions.

"All but a few of the areas we surveyed were basically paper parks, having neither management budgets nor patrol staff, and had lost all their lions and other iconic large mammals," notes Henschel.

Lions are vanishing rapidly across Africa as well. Scientists estimate that only around 15,000-35,000 lions survive today on the continent, down from 100,000 in 1960. The same pressures that are decimating West Africa's lions—growing human population, prey decline, and poor park management—are taking their toll on Africa's lions in East and Southern Africa. But the situation remains most critical in West Africa, even though these are the very populations that have been most ignored by conservationists.

Rangers collect genetic samples from lion scat in Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal, during Panthera's survey of the park in 2011. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.
Rangers collect genetic samples from lion scat in Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal, during Panthera's survey of the park in 2011. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.

According to the researchers, West African lion conservation "is limited by few field data on the species' current distribution, abundance, and predominant drivers of declines...While lions have been the object of extensive research effort in parts of Eastern and Southern Africa, they have been largely ignored in West Africa." These recent surveys were meant to rectify the dearth in data and begin to implement plans to save these distinct.

"We finally know where lions remain and where we need to invest our efforts to save them," says Henschel. "This was a vital first step, but the real work of saving them is only just beginning. Even the protected areas that retain lions are understaffed and underequipped, and we intend to assist lion range countries in improving management helping them to increase the numbers, expertise, and operating budgets of enforcement personnel in protected areas with lions, in an effort to curb the killing of lion prey and illegal incursions into protected areas by pastoralists."

The scientists say rapid and substantial investment in West Africa's last lion parks will also benefit many other imperiled species, including both of the Critically Endangered Saharan cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) and western giant elands (Tragelaphus derbianus derbianus), as well as the last populations of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the region.

Henschel (second from left) and a lion survey team in Nigeria's Gashaka-Gumti National Park. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.
Henschel (second from left) and a lion survey team in Nigeria's Gashaka-Gumti National Park. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.

Although the "massive survey" was disheartening, Henschel says there were high moments. In fact, the most rewarding part of the survey occurred in Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park, according to the team leader, "where after over one month of survey work rendered near-impossible due to the extreme heat (over 95 degrees Fahrenheit even at night) we finally set eyes on a lion."

Although accompanied by four "long-serving" park staff members, Henschel says this was the first time any of them had ever seen a lion in the park.

"It was extremely rewarding to see how excited they all were to finally have seen the animal that is also a symbol of national pride in Senegal."

However, to allow the next generation of Senegalese the chance to see West African lions will require not only considerably more investment and effort from international conservation groups, but also from local governments and people.

A poacher's camp filled with roan antelope at Comoe National Park, Ivory Coast. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.
A poacher's camp filled with roan antelope at Comoe National Park, Ivory Coast. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.

A female lion with a roan antelope kill in Benin's Pendjari Natl Park during Panthera's survey of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.
A female lion with a roan antelope kill in Benin's Pendjari Natl Park during Panthera's survey of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Photo by: Philipp Henschel/Panthera.


This article was first published by 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Cameroon: Carbon Market Woes Blunt Prospects for Cameroon CDM Projects

Cameroon: Carbon Market Woes Blunt Prospects for Cameroon CDM Projects

Picture From Google
Yaounde — An initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfill sites in Cameroon cannot be expanded to other Central African countries as planned due to a lack of income from the troubled carbon market, its backers say.

Two projects in Cameroon are registered to sell carbon credits via the U.N.'s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), but the price of CDM offsets has slumped, blunting prospects for the landfill improvement scheme, according to officials with the state-owned Hygiene and Sanitation Company Cameroon (HYSACAM).

The Nkolfoulou-Yaounde and PK 10 Douala plants, built at a cost of around 10 million euros (around $13.6 million), mitigate methane emissions from waste decomposition by capturing and destroying landfill gas in enclosed flare stations.

"We started these two landfill projects in 2009, with plans to use our expertise to reproduce similar projects in other countries in the Congo Basin by 2015. But the expansion has been delayed for lack of funding," said Bikoe Betrant Noel, head of Nkolfoulou-Yaounde.

According to Noel, the landfill projects are expected to generate more than 1 million CDM carbon credits by the end of 2015, but so far it has proven hard to find buyers for them.

"These are the first CDM projects in the Central African region, and we had envisaged reproducing similar projects in the other countries in the region at an estimated cost of 4.8 million euros ($6.5 million) each, but we don't have funding for this," Noel said.

Facilities to convert the trapped methane into cheap cooking gas have also had to be put on hold, HYSACAM director-general Michel Ngapanou said last year.


Experts say the failure of November's U.N. climate change conference in Warsaw to agree on measures that would lead to a sustained market price increase for CDM credits is likely to discourage private investment in CDM projects in developing countries.

This also spells trouble for the Adaptation Fund, set up under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to finance adaptation programmes in developing nations, as the CDM is meant to be its main source of income.

At the opening of the recent U.N. talks in Poland, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said investment in CDM projects was dwindling and needed a boost.

"Unfortunately countries could not agree in Warsaw on any better way for funding," said Joseph Armathe Amougou, a Cameroonian delegate to the negotiations.

"Even proposals for green (climate) funds to be used to increase the price of CDM credits or to set a minimum price for CDM offset were rejected by Annex 1 countries (industrialised countries that are party to the Kyoto Protocol). This is not encouraging to investors in this area in developing countries," Amougou added.

Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) - a unit representing one tonne of carbon dioxide-equivalent sequestered or abated - can be traded, and are purchased by industrialised countries to help meet their emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, the main international treaty for curbing global warming.

But the price of CERs has dropped from more than 10 euros in 2011 to below 50 cents, due to over-supply and uncertainty over future demand.

"We in Africa need to cushion current CDM efforts - such as integrated bio-gas production in countries like Kenya - from ongoing and future shocks, instead of letting (the CDM) die at a time when it is beginning to function," said Robert Gichange from Kenya at an event organised by the PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance on the sidelines of the Warsaw conference.

Some representatives of civil society groups said the creation of a special fund to support CDM projects - especially in Africa where they are suffering setbacks after a slow start - was imperative to revive investor interest.

"The private sector needs to be encouraged because this is the prime mover of any economy," said Agustine Njamnshi of the Cameroon branch of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme.


But some environmental experts in Cameroon believe all is not lost.

"Financing of climate change (activities) in developing countries today - be it mitigation or adaptation - has both the approach of carbon markets and that of carbon funds," said Zachee Nzohngandembou of the Centre for the Environment and Rural Transformation, a Cameroonian nongovernmental organisation.

"The Cameroon government, like other developing countries, cannot afford the resources required to encourage low-carbon and climate-resilient development, but they get support in the forestry sector, especially (from) international donor institutions like the European Union and World Bank," he said.

Officials at the ministry of forestry and wildlife also struck a positive note.

"Carbon financing from bilateral and multilateral institutions in the forestry sector constitutes the major source of funding for the fight against climate change in Cameroon," said Koulanya Koutou Danis, secretary-general at the ministry.

Officials point to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, a readiness fund that prepares countries in the Congo Basin and elsewhere in the developing world to receive and spend grants and other funding to protect their forests.

Cameroon's application for $1.6 billion was approved by the World Bank at the end of November.

Elias Ntungwe Ngalame is an environmental writer with Cameroon's Eden Group of newspapers.