Leading grassroots action to support biodiversity conservation

Orume Robinson is responding to the Cameroonian government’s mandate to promote the involvement of rural populations in biodiversity conservation. This mandate, articulated in Cameroon’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, demonstrates the recognition of the country’s rich biodiversity as an invaluable natural asset for the well-being and development of its people. Orume not only leads grassroots action to support biodiversity conservation but he also contributes to improving the livelihoods of local communities in Mundemba, in the southwest region of Cameroon, through a local NGO.

Orume completed his Environment and Conservation Science Masters, with a focus on protected area management, at James Cook University, in 2016. He is the founder and program advisor of Korup Rainforest Conservation Society (KRCS). Through the NGO, he mobilises local people to contribute their expertise and skills to sustaining the integrity of the tropical biodiversity of Korup Park’s surrounding forest and mangrove eco-systems, from which they derive their livelihood.

KRCS is lead by a team of 15 individuals and community volunteers, who role model the economic opportunities relating to biodiversity conservation. The organisation supports more than 140 local community members, who are trained on conservation related skills and provided job opportunities, when they are available. At least 20 of the members have been able to secure short to medium term jobs whilst 15 are permanently employed in field research and education activities. The direct beneficiaries of KRCS have been empowered to support their families and resist hunting wildlife in the area, as a means of survival.

A significant role that Orume plays is inspiring youth to consider nature conservation and sustainable livelihoods through education and skills development. Educational scholarships, targeted at ten youth (five boys and five girls) from remote and underprivileged communities in and around the area. Beneficiaries are provided with financial and institutional support to attend a government secondary school in Mundemba.

Upon his return from Australia, Orume identified the impact that facilitating scholarships would have as an innovative conservation strategy. His Reintegration Action Plan aimed to enhance the capacity of his organisation and develop strategies and mechanisms for conservation, benefit sharing and awareness that addressed the needs of local communities. He has mobilised local and national funding to commence the scholarships in October 2016 to benefit local community members and create positive long-term conservation outcomes.. Other stakeholders include community members, who participate in the inclusive scholarship selection process, and parents and guardians who have signed their commitment to support the program.

On the importance of the program, Orume states that supporting “underprivileged kids who will never have a chance of secondary education, due to poverty, remoteness of their villages, distance and the gender bias against girls” benefits the overall community. The increased levels of literacy, in the area, will improve the reception of conservation messages and contribute to the development of local communities in future.

The skills and knowledge that he gained through Australia Awards – Africa have played a pivotal role in his development activities. His qualification broadened his scope of understanding conservation issues, particularly those related to poor tropical areas, as we could recognise the vital role that local communities play and the opportunities for them to participate in and benefit from the management of natural resource. He has a deeper understanding of the rights of indigenous forest communities whose livelihoods are linked to biodiversity. In addition, Orume was exposed to leadership and group dynamics skills that have contributed to his ability to galvanise the efforts and activities of his team and engage various stakeholders.

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