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International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 2 (2006) 73–86 Degradation of useful plants in Oku tropical montane cloud forest, Cameroon Ndenecho Emmanuel Neba Department of Geography, University of Yaounde I, Bamenda, Cameroon Key words: Tropical montane cloud forest, useful plants, indigenous knowledge, degradation, ethnobotany, mountain livelihoods, sustainable management SUMMARY An ethnobotanical survey was carried out in some villages of Oku in the Cameroonian tropical montane cloud forest. Farmers and their relatives were interviewed on how they use indigenous plant species. The uses of plant species were studied with regard to life form, habitat or ecosystem and knowledge of these plants by mountain people. The study made an inventory of 86 useful plants and identified threats to their survival. It concluded that the use of the native species is under serious biological stress and socio-economic pressure, and it identified the ethnobotanical parameters required for future studies. INTRODUCTION The Cameroon Highland ecoregion comprises The west Cameroon highlands support some montane forest/grassland patches, scattered in an 100 km of montane forests, with some further frag- archipelago along the border between Nigeria and mented patches. Most of the area was once covered Cameroon (Figure 1). Habitat ranges from sub- by forest, but cover has declined by more than 50% montane to montane forests and ultimately sub- since the 1960s through incursion of agriculture alpine grasslands. Most of the ecoregion lies within into the relatively fertile soils with reliable rainfall a narrow rectangle 180 × 625 km, oriented south- (Stuart 1986; Collar and Stuart 1988; Alpert west to northeast and originating about 50 km 1993). Macleod (1986) estimated that there were inland of Mount Cameroon (Stuart 1986; Gartland 17,500 ha of forest in the Mount Oku area in 1963. 1989; Stattersfield et al. 1998). The highest point Between 1983 and 1985, agricultural encroach- is Mount Oku (3011 m) in the Bamenda–Banso ment caused the loss of 1700 ha through agricul- highlands, with the remainder from 900 m to ture, grazing and burning, and by 1986, about 2600 m. Between 800 m and 1000 m, the land 10,500 ha had been lost and 2700 ha were heavily grades into lowland vegetation of other ecoregions. degraded. In the majority of cases, however, the lower bound- As a result of a 1986 survey by the International ary of these forests is now determined by conversion Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP), Mount Oku to agricultural land. was identified as the only extensive area of tropical Correspondence: N. E. Neba, Department of Geography, University of Yaounde I, ENS Annex Bambili, PO Bamenda, NW Province, Cameroon. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 73 Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Figure 1 Geographical location of Mount Oku 74 International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba montane forest left in the Bamenda Highlands of mountains are part of a volcanic chain and hence Cameroon and in critical need of conservation have fertile soils, which makes the land attractive to action (Lambi 2000). The forest is of great eco- farmers. Combined with adequate rainfall, this logical importance because it contains a disjunct contributes to a high human population density vegetation association found nowhere else in West of 64/km . Average household size is 9.6. Africa, and is home to several endangered species In White’s (1983) phytogeographical classifica- of plants and animals, including two bird species tion, these mountain areas fall within the Afro- which are totally dependent on it for their survival. montane archipelago – a regional centre of The Oku forest was declared a reserve and pro- endemism that spans the entire continent. The tected by law in 1987. Unfortunately, this protec- elevational stratification of the vegetation has been tion status is ineffective. Currently, community described by Macleod (1986) and Thomas (1986), forest management institutions are being setup in ranging from submontane forest (900–1800 m) to a some villages, using participatory approaches. mixture of montane elements, including distinct The forest provides local employment and liveli- montane forest, and patches of montane grass- hoods, is of strong cultural significance and is a well land, bamboo forest and subalpine communities. known ethno-medicinal centre. Important liveli- Although plant diversity and biogeography are hood activities of the mountain dwellers depend on poorly known, tree species diversity tends to be low, these plants. The indigenous people, due to their while non-woody plant diversity, such as grasses, is isolation and remoteness in the highlands, have high (Hawkins and Brunt 1965). Highest levels of acquired a high level of ethrobotanical knowledge tree endemism are found in the submontane over the centuries. However, the natural habitats region (Macleod 1986), decreasing with increasing are very threatened and are being lost through con- elevation. There is a significant endemic flora in the version to agriculture, unsustainable use of timber, grasslands, heathlands and moorlands and other fires from farmland and collection of firewood and non-forested habitats at higher elevations (Dowsett- construction materials (Collar and Stuart 1988; Lemaire 1989, Thomas and Thomas 1996). Gartland 1989; Alpert 1993). Mount Oku has exceptional levels of avian Kappelle et al. (2000) found that most articles on endemism (Dowsett 1989; Dowsett-Lemaire and ethnobotany in tropical highlands stress the impor- Dowsett 1989, 2000; Fotso et al. 2001). Eleven small tance of lowland flora for subsistence and survival mammal species are considered strictly endemic in of local populations and their cultures. As few the area (Macleod 1986). Very high levels of ende- ethnobotanical studies of the upland tropics have mism are observed among amphibians (Gartshore, been conducted (e.g. Xu and Mikesell 2003), there in Stuart 1986; Amiet 1975). is little published information on montane forest indigenous knowledge. The present study includes an inventory of plants used by mountain people in METHODS Oku tropical montane forest. Plants were identified A total of 65 farmers were randomly selected along and their uses were quantified according to habitat an altitudinal gradient of 2000 to 3000 m on a and life form and established threats to their sur- west–east transect, from Belo District in the west vival were noted. through Jikijem to Simonkoh (north of Wvem) in the east (Figure 2). Two complementary survey methods were used for each farm: STUDY AREA Although located in tropical Africa, mean maxi- 1) Interviews using formal questionnaires mum temperature is 20–22°C (December), and the addressed to each farmer and their relatives; mean minimum is 13–14°C (November). Rainfall and varies from 1780 to 2290 mm and most falls 2) Informal visits to the habitats and agroeco- between July and September. Generally, the rainy systems mapped by Macleod (1986), and with season starts in mid-March and ends in mid- the same interviewees. November when the dry season sets in. January and February have the lowest relative humidity (average Plant species identification was made by the bota- 45–52%), rising to 80% in July and August. These nist of the Oku Mountain Forest Conservation International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 75 Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Figure 2 Oku montane forests and adjacent forest villages 76 International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Project and vernacular names and indigenous uses and fauna of Mount Oku (Hawkins and Brunt 1965; were established. Ethnobotanical parameters of Thomas 1986; Macleod 1986; Stuart 1986). Because habitats (ecosystems) included the number of use- of extensive degradation by grazing, burning and ful plant species known, the particular use of a plant subsistence agriculture, the vegetation is now a and the life form. The following life forms were complex mosaic of six communities: forest, wood- used: large tree, small tree, climber, shrub, herb, land, scrubland, grassland, fallows and farms. epiphyte, bulb/tuber/corm, and succulent. Six The mountain cloud forest is characterised by a habitats were identified: forest, woodland, scrub- low canopy at 10–20 m, with occasional trees up to land, grassland, fallows, and farms. Fifteen use cate- 30 m tall. There are rather few lianes, but the gories were distinguished: agroforestory, food, epiphyte load is very heavy, with many bryophytes, timber, alcohol, firewood, wood carving, construc- ferns and orchids. Species richness decreases with tion fibre, honey, insecticide, dye, musical instru- elevation (Macleod 1986). The understorey is ment, fence, medicinal, ritual/traditional use, and dominated by small trees and tall woody herbs, other. These use categories were complemented by particularly in the Rubiaceae and Acanthaceae, previous inventory lists established for the area while in places which have not been burned, ferns by Thomas (1987) and Tame (1993). are abundant. Epiphytic communities tend to be Subsequently, the data on useful plants were impoverished where burning, farming and grazing analyzed and interpreted in order to reveal para- prevail (Table 1). meters in the distribution per habitat and life form, Table 1 gives the distribution of plant species of grouping of plant families according to number of Mount Oku according to life form and ecosystem. uses and agro-silvo-pastoral plant elements. The Woodlands, scrubland, fallows and farms are the evaluation of the quality of browse plants was based tropical montane forest derivatives. The climax on Asah (1984), for nutritive quality (i.e. dry mat- montane forests possess 63 large tree species, 10 ter, crude protein, mineral content of phosphorus, small tree species, 25 shrub species and 24 herb calcium and magnesium) in fresh and dry leaves. species. Due to farming, grazing encroachment, The frequency of occurrence of browse plants per forest fires and selective exploitation, only three hectare was related to the percentage of trees large tree species occur in woodlands and per hectare (Asah 1984). Finally, anthropogenic scrublands. Small trees dominate woodlands and threats to the useful plant species were identified. scrublands and small trees and shrubs dominate fallows and farms. Five tree species characterize the forested montane zone: Nuxia congesta, Podocarpus RESULTS latifolius, Prunus africana, Rapanea melanophloeos and Botanical explorations since 1963 have made it Syzygium guinese bamendae. At higher elevations, possible to produce a checklist of vascular plants these trees become increasingly covered with Table 1 Distribution of plant species of Mount Oku according to habitats and life form Number of species per habitat or ecosystem Life form Forest Woodland Scrub Grassland Fallows Farms Aquatic Large trees 63 3 3 0 2 2 0 Small trees 10 13 9 0 8 8 0 Shrubs 25 5 24 0 7 7 1 Herbs 24 11 31 94 3 7 2 Epiphytes 7 0 2 0 0 0 0 Climbers 2 0 6 0 1 0 0 Sedges 0 0 0 13 7 0 0 Ferns 2 0 4 4 0 0 0 Grasses 0 0 1 4 3 1 0 Bulbs & corms 4 4 0 0 0 0 2 Succulents 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 Source: Thomas (1986) and Hawkins et al. (1965) International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 77 Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Table 2 Distribution of useful plant species on Mount Oku according to uses and life form Number of useful plant species per life form Large Small Bulbs, tubers Users trees trees Shrubs Climbers Epiphytes Herbs & corms Succulents Timber 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Alcohol 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 Firewood 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Wood carving 4 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 Construction fibre 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 Honey 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Insecticide 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 Dye 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 Musical instruments 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 Fencing poles 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 Medicinal 2 9 4 3 2 11 4 5 Agroforestry 0 2 4 0 0 0 0 0 Food 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 Table 3 Common browse plants of Oku Mountain forest (Less frequent = < 20% of trees/shrubs per ha) Family Species Life form Quality Frequency Euphorbiaceae Bridelia sp. Shrub Good Less frequent Guttiferae Parinari sp. Large tree Good Less frequent Psorospermum sp. Large tree Good Less frequent Mimosaceae Albizia sp. Large tree Good Less frequent Moraceae Ficus sp. Large tree Good Less frequent Rubiaceae Canthium vulgare Large tree Good Less frequent Caspara grandiflora Large tree Good Less frequent Sterculiaceae Cola anomala Large tree Good Less frequent Euphorbiaceae Croton macrostachyus Large tree Good Less frequent Loganiaceae Nuxia congesta Large tree Good Less frequent Sapotaceae Allophyllus bullatus Large tree Good Less frequent Aningeria altissima Large tree Good Less frequent Fabaceae Millettia arastica Large tree Good Less frequent Millettia conranii Large tree Good Less frequent Compositae Vernonia amygdolina Shrub Excellent Less frequent Vernonia conferta Shrub Excellent Less frequent epiphytes, especially orchids and mosses. Other degradation in the Oku tropical montane cloud important montane species include Crassocephalum forest. The main use categories distinguished were: mannii, Hypericum lanceolatum, Myrica arborea, timber; alcohol; fuelwood; wood carving; construc- Philippia mannii, and Schlefflera abyssinica. Outside tion fiber; honey; insecticide; dye; musical instru- forests and woodlands, tree species diversity tends ments; fencing poles; medicinal; food (flavouring, to be low, but the diversity of herbs is high (94 antioxidant, colourant); and agroforestry (soil species) in grasslands, with 31 species in amelioration, anti-erosion and provision of shade). scrublands, 11 species in woodlands and 24 species Large trees, small trees and herbs offer the highest in forests. number of uses. The main uses of herbs are medici- Table 2 analyses plant species according to life nal. Agroforestry species are found mainly on farm- form and uses. A total of 86 plant species were classi- lands and fallows. These useful plant species can fied as useful and under threat of anthropogenic be grouped per plant family as follows: 78 International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Table 4 Useful plants, habitats and uses of Oku mountain forest Species Local name Form Habitat Uses ACANTHACEAE Brillantaisia bauchiensis Keuvengeu HB, SB FO; GR B. nitens HB, SB FO; SC Minulopsis solinsii HB, SB FO FW AGAVACEAE Sanseviera trifasciata Elang HB, CT CT FW Dracaena deisteliana Nkeng SB CT TR ALANGIACEAE Alangium chinese Febom TL FO; SC IN AMARYLLIDACEAE Crinum jagus King BB AQ; FO Crinum ornatum HB GR;SC;FO Haemanthus multiflorus HB GR;SC;FO AQUIFOLIACEAE Ilex nutis Jeai TS; TL FO ANACARDIACEAE Sorindeia peleoides Kintieh'she TS, SB SC, CT TR; TC Sorindeia sp. Kintieh'she TS; SB FO; SC ARACEAE Amorphophallus abyssinica Kelang-a-feyin BB AQ; FO ARALIACEAE Polyscias fulva Keghang TS; TL FO; CT TC; OT Kebongsa Schefflera abyssinica Djia TL FO TC; HO S. barteri Elang TS; EP FO FE; MD S. mannii Ebwos-rewus TL FO TC; HO APOCYNACEAE Rauvolfia vomitoria Ebtum TS SC; FO TC Tabernaemontana sp. Ebtum TS SC; FO TC Voacanga africana Ebtum TS FO; CT MD ASCLEPIADACEAE Pachycarpus linedatus HB SC; GR Pentarrhinum insipidum HB FO; SC BALSAMINACEAE Impatiens bartonia Kimvas HB SC FO I. sakeriana Kimbas HB FO; SC BASELLACEAE Bassala alba Kefu feyin LN SC; FM MD BIGNONIACEAE Kigelia africana Kinlieh'she TS SC; CT TR; TC Markhamia tomentosa Enggweh TS SC; CT MD BORAGINACEAE Cynoglossum sp. Imbanen HB SC; FO MD CACTACEAE Opuntia vulgaris Njongseh SU SC CAMPANULACEAE Wahlenbergia mannii HB GR LOBELIACEAE Lobelia columnaris Ndian HB scGR International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 79 Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Table 4 continued Species Local name Form Habitat Uses CELASTRACEAE Cassine aethiopica SB SC Maytenus accuminalus Fdruss SB SC; FP Maytenus undatus Fdruss TS SC; FO CHENOPODIACEAE Chenopodium embrosioides HB CT COMMELINACEAE Commelina camerunesis Ewoi HB FO; SC COMPOSITAE Adenostemma mauritianum Imbanen HB SC; GR HO Ageratum conyzoides HB FM Bidens pilosa Ebhame HB FM Coreopsis barteri Foll HB FM; SC AG Coreopsis camporum HB GR Crassocephalum bouyhyamum HB GR; SC MD Crassocephalum mannii Nganggang TS SC Echinops milbraedii HB GR Emilia coccinea Ebjenen HB SC Helichrysum camerunensis Eufuenb HB GR; SC H. foetidum Eifiemn HB GR H. odoratissimum Eifiemn HB GR Lactuca glandulifera Chyinawum HB;LN SC MD L. schweinfurthii HB SC MD Mikania cordata Elik LN FO; SC Vernonia leucocalyx Keghaghang SB;TS SC Vernomia sp. Keghaghang SB SC Vernomia tufrelliae Elik LN SC CONVOLVULACEAE Impomoea tenurostris LN FO;SC CRASSULACEAE Bryophyllum pinnatum King-ketuleh HB SC MD Kalanchoe laciniata Ketuhleh HB SC MD Kalanchoe crenata Ketuhleh HB SC;FO MD Umbilicus bonyoides EP FO CRUCIFERAE Cardamine africana HB FO CUCURBITACEAE Raphidiocystis phyllocalyx Momordica foetida Ebfierfer Nak LH SC MD CYPERACEAE Carex spicalopaniculata HB AQ Maricus alternifolius HB AG Rhynchospora corymbosa HB GR Cyperus tomaiophyllus Nsahsak HB FO Rhynchospora corymbosa HB FO;AQ DIPSACACEAE Diospyros sp. HB SC;GR Succusa trichotocephala HB SC;GR ERICACEAE Agauria salicifolia Bhang TS FO;SC MD Blaeria spicata SB;TS SC;GR Phillipia mannii Fenguang SB;TS SC 80 International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Table 4 continued Species Local name Form Habitat Uses EUPHORBIACEAE Bridelia speciosa Eblum TS SC FE Croton macrostacyus Ebjam TS;TL FO;SC TC Euphorbia kamerunica HB CT MD E. Depauperata HB GR E. schimperiana HB FO;SC Neoboutonia velutina Fa'ngum TS FO;SC MU Phyllanthus mannianus SB FO;SC;GR Ricinus communis Jang TS;SB CT MD Sapium ellipticum Kehtorh TL FO;SC MD FABACEAE Phaseolus vulgaris Ekuum HB CT MD GENTIANACEAE Swertia abyssinica HB GR GERANIACEAE Geranium simense HB GR;FO;SC Geranium ocellatum HB GR;FO;SC GRAMINEAE Arundinaria alpina Ebtotom SB FO CF Huparrhenia rufu HB GR Melinis minutiflora Fejang-e-egwei HB GR MD Oxytenanthera abyssinica Mbangsehtotom SB GR;CT CF Pennisetum purpureum HB SC Pennisetum clandestinum HB GR Pennisetum clandestinum HB CT Pennisetum typhoides HB CT Zea imperata HB FM MD GUTTIFERAE Garcinia polyantha Nkahmen TL FO Hypericum lanceolatum Fembagalum SB SC H. riparium Fembangalum SB SC H. peplidifolium HB GR Psorospermum aurantialum SB SC HYPOXIDACEAE Hypoxis angustifolia HB GR ICACINACEAE unknown Salangang TS FO;GL DY IRIDACEAE Gladiolus psittacinus Ntuk HB GR Moraea schimperi SB FO LAMIALES Plechtanthus insianis Dzur SB FO P. esculentus Ndongfenkeir HB;SB GR;CT;FM FO LABIATAE Pycnostachys meyerii SB GR;SC Satureja robusta Fegis HB SC MD Stachys arvensis HB GR;SC S. pyramidalis HB GR;SC LEEACEAE Leea guineensis Cheng SB FO;SC MD International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 81 Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Table 4 continued Species Local name Form Habitat Uses LILIACEAE Albuca nigritata Keland fejin SB GR MD Urginea altissima SB GR Wurmbea lenues LOGANIACEAE Anthocleista vogelii Kewanten TS FO Nuxia congesta Efjang TL FO LORANTHACEAE Globimetula oreophila Ehbinbin mlam EP GO;SC Pragmanthera polyerypta Ehbinbimalam EP FO;SC MALVACEAE unknown Ebfierfernen HB FO;SC Pavonia urens variglabrescens SB SC Sida rhombifolia Nshim SB SC FB MELASTOMATACEAE Dissotis bambutorum Egangahua HB;SC SC;GR D. elliotii Egangahua HB;SB SC;GR MARATTIACEAE Marattia frazinea Kelang SB AQ;FO MD MELIACEAE Carapa grandiflora Evum TL FO FW MELIANTHACEAE Bersama abyssinica Ebhielese FS FO MENISPERMACEAE Stephania abyssinica Libi LH FO;SC MIMOSACEAE Albizia gummifera Fuim TL FO TB Entada abyssinica Kilung TS SC Newtonia buchananii Kilarni TL FO TB MONIMIACEAE Xymalos monopora Fegei TS FO CF MORACEAE Ficus exasperata Keghawus SB FO MD F. oreodryadum K'ghum figgak TL FO TR;FE Ficus sp. Ntoh TL FO FE F. vogeli Kilom TL FO MYRSINACEAE Ardisia cymosa Enchia SB FO Embelia schimperi Kenlimlim LW FO FE;MD Maesa lanceolata Seim TS FO;SC MD Rapanea melanoneura Ntohkoh TL FO CF MYRTACEAE Syzgium standtii Oweh TL FO HO;FW OLEACEAE Jasminum dichotomum LW FO ORCHIDACEAE Bulbophyllum cochleatum EP FO Cyrtorchis ringeus EP FO Disperis nitida HB FO Polystachia sp. EP FO P. cultriformis EP FO 82 International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Table 4 continued Species Local name Form Habitat Uses PALMAE Raphia farinifera Eluk TS CT CF;AL FABACEAE Adenocarpus mannii Gum SB SC AG Crotalaria sp. SB SC;FM Dalbergia lacka Feuncha LW FO;SC Dolichos chrysanthus LN SC Desmodium repandum Efeumen LN FO;SC OT Millettia concraui Eyis TS SB AG Sesbania sesban SB CT;FM Tephrosia preussii Kohlen SB SC;GR AG;MD Tephrosia vogelii SB CT;FO Trifolium simense HB GR PHYTOLACCACEAE Phytolacca aodecandra Etohtam SB FO TR PIPERACEAE EP FO Piper capense Boboi EP;HB FO MD PEPEROMIACEAE Peperomia sp. Mbol Peperomia fernadopoisna Mbol TS FO MD PITTOSPORACEAE Pittosporum mannii Egheyese TL FO TB PODOCARPACEAE Podocarpus milanjianus Efshia HB GR POLYGALACEAE Polygala lenuifolia HB AQ POLYGONACEAE Polygonum salicifolium Rumex abyssinica Kilarluk HB FO;GR PROTEACEAE Protea elliottii Tentamelum SB GR RANUNCULACEAE Clematopsis scabiosifolia HB GR Delphinium dasycanlon HB GR Ranunculus extensus HB GR Thalictrum rhynchrocarpus Fehtohtom HB FO RHAMNACEAE Gouania congispicata Ngouf LW FO;SC Rhamnus prinoides SB SC RHIZOPHORACEAE Cassipourea ugandensis Elung TL FO TB Cassipourea sp. Elung TL FO ROSACEAE Alchemilla cryptantha Kilum HB GR Prunus africanus Eblah TL FO MD;TB Rubus pinnatus Bakoh LH SC FO International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 83 Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Table 4 continued Species Local name Form Habitat Uses RUBIACEAE Canthium subcordatum Bangefonembessei TS FO TR Corynanthe pachyuras Owing TL FO FW Cuviera longifolia Ketyelum TS FO FO Diodia scandense Njejiae HB WD Galium simense Imbaneketang HB;LN FO;SC Ixora foliosa Feguoh TS FO Otomeria camerunica SB;HB FO Oxyanthus formosus TS FO Pavetta hookeriana Fifyan TS FO Pentas ledermannii SB GR P. schimperiana Felumekeng SB O;GR P. pubeflora HB GR P. purpurea Febham HB GR Psychotria peduncularis SB FO P. succulenta SB FO;SC Rytigynia neglecta TS FO R. umbellata TS FO Trema guineense TS FO RUTACEAE Clausena anisata Fii TS FO IN;MD Fagara rubescens Bjung TS FO MU SALICACEAE Salix ledermannii Infeumajies TS AQ SAPINDACEAE Allophyllus bullatus Njiabas TS FO CF SCROPHULARIACEAE Agauria salicifolia HB GR Celsia ledermannii HB GR Sibthorpia europaea HB GR Sopubia mannii HB GR S. racemosa HB GR Veronica abyssinica HB GR SMILACACEAE Similax kraussiana Fekim HB SC;FO SOLANACEAE Datura candida Eytohkin SB CT FE Discopodium perminervium Eytohkin SB FO;SC Key: Life form: TL = large tree, TS = small tree, LN = climber, SB = shrub, HB = herb, EP = epiphyte, BB = bulb/tuber/corm, SU = succulent Habitat: FO = forest, GR = grassland, CT = cultivated fields, AQ = aquatic, SC = scrub, FM = farmland Uses: AG = agroforestry, FO = food, TB = timber, AL = alcohol, FW = firewood, TC = wood carving, CF = construction fibre, HO = honey, OT = other, IN = insecticide, DY = dye, MU = musical instruments, FE = fence, MD = medicinal, TR = ritual/traditional uses 84 International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba Plant family with 1 to 2 useful species: highlands. This study has identified 86 species used Acanthaceae, Agavacae, Alanngiaceae, Anacar- by the people of Mount Oku. All these species are diaceae, Bignoniae, Ericaceae, Fabaceae, Icacin- native to the area and are collected from the wild. aceae, Labiatae, Leeaceae, Liliaceae, Malvaceae, The use of these native species is under serious Marattiaceae, Maltaceae, Mosaceae, Monimiaceae, biological stress and socio-economic pressure. Fire Myrtaceae, Phytolaccaceae, Piperaceae, Pittospora- damage constitutes a serious threat, despite the ceae, Rhizophoraceae, Rutaceae, Rosaceae, national prohibition of uncontrolled fires. Most of Sapindaceae. these fires are initiated by farmers, graziers, hunters and children. One of the most devastating fires Plant family with 3 to 4 useful species: occurred in 1985 and swept through an area of Apocynaceae, Crassulaceae, Moraceae, Myssina- about 1600 ha above Simonkov, killing 50 to 80% ceae, Rubiaceae, Araliaceae, Graminae. of the canopy trees (Macleod 1986). In such Plant family with 5 to 7 useful species: areas, dead trees are being exploited for firewood Compositae, Euphorbiaceae, Papillionaceae. and the goat populations are high. Many fire- damaged areas are used as farms up to 2600 m. Trees and shrubs are essential perennial compo- The most critical problem within the forest is nents of the rangelands. The potential of trees and illegal grazing. The encroachment of agriculture shrubs used to enhance cattle and goat production and drastic reductions in fallow durations as a result is presented in Table 3, which categorises quality of demographic pressures have led to a reduction according to Asah (1984). A large number of these in land available for sheep, goat and cattle grazing. trees are suitable for fodder. Some trees can be Consequently, these animals are being introduced found in most grazing areas, particularly in the in the forest, where they range freely and threaten transition zones where they form large plant some of the best remaining areas. Goats and sheep communities. Shrubs of the Euphorbiaceae and are voracious feeders and inhibit natural regenera- Vernonicaceae offer good to excellent quality tion of forest species. In fire-damaged areas, browse. In ruminant production, malnutrition dur- herders have built livestock shelters and introduced ing the dry season due to low forage availability and large numbers of goats and sheep. Browse plants poor quality is the most significant factor affecting are less frequent and, once heavily grazed during production for pastoral livestock producers. The the dry season, the vegetation becomes degraded. problem is further compounded by expanding Over the years, information on multipurpose tree agriculture into upland areas, decrease in pasture and shrub resources in the area has been haphaz- productivity in terms of quantity and quality of ardly recorded by resource managers and research- forage, and poor animal health. The poor quality ers and often is not made available to farmers and forage grasses produced is due to bad management graziers (Asah 1984). This, to a large extent, practices and inherently poor quality of tropical explains why the potentials of this germplasm is not forage. However, the trees and shrubs presented in rationally exploited. Table 3 remain green year round and are browsed Trends in the region favour introduction of during the dry season when forage matures to exotic and economically important species, result- become straw of very low nutritive value. ing in the neglect of indigenous species. An impor- Species-rich plant families can be found in Table tant indigenous knowledge base may therefore 4, the most abundant and dominant being disappear in the short or medium term. Future Araliaceae, Boraginaceae, Hyperiaceae, Myrsina- studies should consider ethnobotanical parameters ceae, Orchidaceae, Rubiaceae, Urticaceae and such as: known useful plant species; specific uses Pteridophytes. of plants; species origin (native or exotic); species status (wild or cultivated); plant organ used (root, tuber, shoot, stem/trunk, bark ); and status of use DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS (used in the past, still in use, used very recently). Mount Oku is one of the last remnants of surviving This should be complemented by a study of local tropical montane forest in the West Cameroon knowledge transfer systems in the ecoregion. International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 85 Ethnobotany of Oku cloud forest, Cameroon Neba world. Much gratitude is extended to students of ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS the University of Yaounde I, University of Buea and Many thanks first and foremost to the Oku and Ejim Regional College of Agriculture Bambili who con- community and to the Kilum Mountain Forest tributed to the field aspects of this study. Project for sharing this knowledge with the wider REFERENCES Alpert P. Conserving biodiversity in Cameroon. Ambio Hawkins P and Brunt M. Soils and ecology of west 1993,22:44–9 Cameroon. Rome: FAO 1965:2083:477–95 Amiet J-L. Ecologie et distribution des Amphibiens Kapelle M, Avertin G, Juarez E and Zomura N. Useful Anoures de la région de Nkongsamba plants within a Campesino Community in Costa (Cameroun). Annales de la Faculté des Sciences Rican montane cloud forest. Mountain Research and Yaounde 1975;20:33–107 Development 2000;20:162–71 Asah HA. Potential of multipurpose trees and shrubs in Lambi CM. 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International Journal of Biodiversity Science & Management – Taylor & Francis
Published: Jun 1, 2006
Keywords: TROPICAL MONTANE CLOUD FOREST; USEFUL PLANTS; INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE; DEGRADATION; ETHNOBOTANY; MOUNTAIN LIVELIHOODS; SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT
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