Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Local people rally to conserve a threatened vegetable

Conserving Eru for biodiversity and livelihood purposes

Author: Wirsiy Eric Fondzenyuy
Organisation: Centre For Nursery Development and Eru Propagation
Contact: C/O PO Box 437, Limbe Cameroon

Gnetum spp. (eru), is an important wild vegetable found in the the Central African region and consumed by many tribes in the Congo Basin. In Cameroon eru was common among the Bayangi tribe in the South West Province. Because of its rich protein content it conveniently replaced meat in poor households. They also used the vegetable as medication. Over the years the Bayangi people jealously preserved this vegetable, only exploiting it to meet their subsistence needs. But this did not last for long because of the increased demand by people from other villages. It was an important income earner and income from its sales gave women financial independence which the men did not cherish! So some tribes banned women from harvesting it. This did not work because of the free access to forest resources in the region. Harvesters from nearby villages continued to exploit it for economic purposes and this intensified after the economic crises of the 1980s. This was to offset the declining revenues from coffee and cocoa. Soon it became difficult for the villagers to get eru for their subsistence needs and the women now had to travel for days in the forest to get a hand full of it. They lost an important income source and their culture was being eroded. Attempts at the village level to address the problem had limited success. In the late 1990s the Mount Cameroon Project based at the Limbe Botanic Garden carried out a survey that documented the damage caused to the culture of the people and to the wild stocks by the increased harvesting pressure. Research then began on the development of a propagation model to enable farmers to cultivate eru on-farm. By 1999 a propagation model had already been developed and field tested. Following this groups of pilot farmers were trained amongst which was CENDEP. Since 2000 CENDEP has trained hundreds of innovative farmers, some of whom now grow eru with satisfactory results on their backyard gardens giving hope that this resource will not disappear.

Local people rally to conserve a threatened vegetableLocal people rally to conserve a threatened vegetableLocal people rally to conserve a threatened vegetableLocal people rally to conserve a threatened vegetable

Local Organising Committee