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06 March 2014

Cameroon Government Convenes 1st National Forum on the Practical Delivery of the ABS Principle through Echinops Project

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Stakeholders pose after conference

The Cameroon government Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development (MINEPDED), through the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) National Focal Point team in collaboration with Cameroonian Conservation Non-profit, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), the Deutsche GesellschaftfĂĽr Internationale Zusammenarbeit(GIZ), and local stakeholders held the first national stakeholder meeting to review the implementation of the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) through the Echinops giganteus pilot project in Magha-Bamumbu, Lebialem Highlands of SW Cameroon.

This was during a Round table Conference that took place, November 22, 2013, at the Chamber of Agriculture in Yaoundé. The conference brought together the Representative of the Minister of Environment Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development, the ABS National Focal Point, the CEO/President of ERuDeF, Echinops Project Coordinator, Staff of GIZ, the Mayor of Wabane Council and traditional authorities including Fon Lekunze of Bamumbu and the chief of Magha-Bamumbu, amongst others. In total, more than 55 participants attended from all the Cameroon to discuss about the Echinops project.

In his opening remarks, the Representative of MINEDEP, located Cameroon within the context of the ABS principle into the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) tracing the history of Echinops giganteus project in Cameroon, which according to him, has moved from the identification of the resource to research and development by a French enterprise. The MINEDEP representative said the Cameroon government in August 2012 adopted its National Strategy on ABS and in December 2012, officially launched awareness campaigns and capacity building seminars for ABS in the country.

The ABS National Focal Point, Mr Palouma Joel, expressed total satisfaction with the progress of the pilot project on the ABS principle. He disclosed that the Cameroon Government is the first in the whole of central Africa to have ratified: "this important legal instrument of international concern".

On his part the representative of the ABS initiative to this Round Table Conference, Mr SuhelAl Janabi, in a presentation on the cosmetic and perfumery sector involvement of ABS, said the process of resource identification and use is usually very long and requires a lot of patience. According to him, the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutual Agreed Term (MAT) documents are always signed at the beginning of research and development. However, given that the Echinops project is the pilot phase of the ABS principle in Cameroon, only the pre PIC document has been signed between the owners of the resource, the managing organization, ERuDeF, the mediator and the user of the resource in France. But this document is not yet officially recognized by the government.

Echinops project Coordinator Manuella Huque reviewed the project since the official launch of the pilot phase, December 1, 2012, thanking all stakeholders for their collaboration.

The climax of this Roundtable conference was the review of the draft convention the ABS- Echinops agreement for phase research / development for access and use of the plant. The aim was to discuss about the access to the plant Echinopsgiganteus between the French enterprise, the government and the representatives of the local communities of Magha-Bamumbu. A number of amendments were made on the draft most especially regarding the role of different stakeholders. The document would be reviwed by legal experts for final adoption before the signing between the Cameroon Government and the French enterprise.

At the end of the conference, His Royal Majesty, Fon LekunzeNembo-Ngwe III of the Bamumbu First Class Fondom, just like the Chief of Magha-Bamumbu and the Mayor of Wabene, was very elated to have been the Fondom to host the first project on the ABS principle adding it is a clear sign of "developmental activities" coming to their area.

The President/CEO of ERuDeF, Loius Nkembi, on his part said it was a great honour that his organization is the one to start a pioneer project on the ABS focused on the Echinops giganteus plant. He divulged that the project will greatly contribute toward the sustainable management of the Mount Bamboutus Landscape, which falls within the goal of ERuDeF and to contribute to the ABS policy of Cameroon.

By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh