People exploit the environment to live. When it comes down to the survival/prosperity of humans versus saving the environment, we too often lose sight of the fact that the existing situation ensures current success at the cost of future generations, much less at the cost of the unknowable impacts on the future that loss of species and habitats entails. That is what makes conservation projects that demonstrate a win for the local economy at the same time they protect our natural wealth so inspiring.
The news team at DW offers one such story on "Swapping guns for motorbikes in Cameroon."
The Korup National Park in western Cameroon houses the oldest rainforest in Africa, an important zone for primate protection and home to a wealth of endangered species.
Local human inhabitants have long survived by hunting in this wilderness - but now hunting must be banned. In this budding success story, the authorities responsible for the ban have worked together with tribe leaders to find alternatives to hunting, so that violating the conservation ban does not become a life or death choice.
As part of the deal, hunters who turn in their weapons are compensated with motorcycles. It may sound like a strange trade, but the vehicles offer a source of income as courier or two-wheeled taxi, as well as better access to the world that is 6 hours walk away from the local village. The team also wants local farmers to help others learn how to make a living with crops, but struggle to get people who have immediate needs to invest in the hope for long-term returns from cacao, mangos, and bananas.
It is worth just short of seven minutes to watch the full documentary featured in the Twitter excerpt above; you can find it at DW.com.
Of course, the saga will continue. Now that villagers can navigate the narrow path out of the forest by motorbike, one former farmer worries that their efforts at conservation will be destroyed if that path gets widened into a road allowing illegal loggers to take over the native rainforest.