Conservation Composting

To celebrate International Day of Forests, Donald Mbohli, Programme Lead for Born Free’s Guardians of Dja initiative, explains how composting is helping protect Cameroon’s apes.

Practical Training on the Production of Compost

Practical Training on the Production of Compost

Composting is a process many will be familiar with but, did you know Born Free now uses composting to restore and rejuvenate critical forest for endangered great apes in Cameroon?

Donald Mbohli, Programme Lead for Born Free’s Guardians of Dja initiative

Donald Mbohli, Programme Lead for Born Free’s Guardians of Dja initiative

‘Slash-and-burn farming’ is a traditional agricultural method, practiced by local villages on the northern periphery of the Dja Biosphere Reserve, where Born Free’s Guardian of Dja programme is located. Slash-and-burn farming involves the cutting and burning of vegetation, clearing large areas of forest to create fields. But, these are only usable for as few as one or two seasons, after which the fertility of the soils is lost.

More forest is subsequently cleared, in an endless and destructive cycle. Many people continue to engage in slash-and-burn farming because of a false belief that virgin forest is more fertile and will result to a good agricultural yield, and because they have limited opportunities to adopt alternative, sustainable livelihoods.

In response, Born Free and our partner in Cameroon, APGS (Association de la Protection de Grands Singes*), have been encouraging the adoption of more sustainable farming methods. The aim is to encourage local people to produce compost and use it to cultivate crops on ‘fallows’ (land previously used for farming) rather than virgin forest, reducing the need to engage in slash-and-burn farming.
In December 2023, three local villages – Malen V, Doumo Pierre and Mimpala – on the northern periphery of the Dja Reserve came together to receive training on the production of compost. They were told to bring along kitchen waste that they had been storing to use in the compost.

During the training session, attendees gathered other ingredients, including fresh and dry grass and leaves, and wood ash, which will all add nutrients to the resulting compost mix. At the end of the session, each attendee was provided with the tools they would need, including spades, cutlasses, files, buckets, and watering cans. Each armed with a training manual, the practical training and equipment provided by Born Free allows them to produce their own compost at home.

During the session, the damaging effects of slash-and-burn farming, particularly its contribution to wildlife declines and climate change, were explained. Sensitisation and education are pivotal to any successful conservation project to ensure that there is an understanding of the environmental issues and their solutions. With this understanding, people are far more likely to adopt more sustainable practices for the long-term, thereby reducing pressures on their environment.

After the training session, each villager was encouraged to set up their own compost site at home. It is anticipated that the compost will be ready for use this month – just in time for the start of the farming season. We will monitor the effect that the use of compost has on crop yields over the coming seasons. It is anticipated that over time we will see more people taking up composting as an alternative to slash-and-burn, protecting the forests and the great apes living in them while still making sure families can grow the crops they need.

We thank the generosity of all our supporters. You can donate to Born Free to help us continue to implement simple but effective methods to protect biodiverse ecosystems across the globe.


*Association for the Protection of Great Apes