Biodiversity: Cameroon’s Lake Ossa Choking With Salvinia Molesta

Lake Ossa, one Cameroon’s tourism destinations and wildlife reserves in the Dizanguè Subdivision, Littoral Region is under severe threat of an invasive plant known as Salvinia Molesta. Discarded fishing nets and Indian Bamboos used by local community based fishermen in the Lake also make life a living hell for aquatic species, experts say

“The Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve was created in 1948 by the Colonial administration. It covers a total surface area of 4000 hectares” says Sylvain Hector EBOG, Conservator of the Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve. The Lake Habours biodiversity and protected species and some are under the threat of extinction. “Inside the Lake we have the African Manatee, dwarf crocodiles, turtles and lots more” says Christian Kongte, Impact Management Officer of the Zoological Society of London, ZSL.
For close to a decade now, Lake Ossa has been grappling with an invasive plant that conservation officials say as of today is already occupying slightly over 30% of the water body with the potential of expanding if something is not done.
90% of the populations living around Lake Ossa depend on fishing. The growth of the herb known as Salvinia Molesta in the Lake has tremendously affected the fishing activity. “This invasive grass reduces the navigation route used by fishermen. In certain areas within the Lake, it is practically impossible for fishermen to have access. Secondly, it reduces light penetration into the Lake given that some aquatic species like plankton on which fish feed, need sunlight to feed through the process of photosynthesis”, buttressed Christian KONGTE.

The local population also bears a huge bulk of responsibility. “They discard fishing nets which are out of use in and around the Lake. They fish using a technique which involves the use of Indian bamboos planted in the Lake and when they are done fishing, they also abandon the bamboos in water. This impacts aquatic life” Adds Sylvain Hector EBOG.
In the meantime, there exists a regulatory framework for fishing within the water body elaborated by the conservation services of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with the local population. This document is commonly referred to as the Fishing Code. It regulates the activity in order that the available water resources been managed in a sustainable manner. Unfortunately, the local population still does fishing that contravenes the code in question.

Operation Keep Lake Ossa Clean

Since 2014, the Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve’s Conservation Services in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London have waged a war to rid the lake off Salvinia Molesta and other fishing debris like discarded nets and rotten Indian bamboos. These technical services have mobilized communities residing around the Lake to make it a weekly duty to clean the Lake so that their economic activity can survive. In one of the operations carried out on Thursday July 29, 2021 over 20 youths were mobilized. The Zoological Society of London placed the cleanup campaign operation under the theme “Our Lake, Our Life”. The youths who are more affected showed determination to make this operation successful
“We have organized ourselves to carry out the cleanup exercise twice a week. We have a group of about 40 members all of them fishermen. We meet every Sunday to plan on how we will clean the Lake on Mondays and Thursdays” says Daniel Moukoko, one of the fishermen of Lake Ossa.
“Our Lake is really dirty and this has rendered life difficult for us and our families who depend on fishing as a source of livelihood” adds Richard Ngolle, fisherman of the Lake.

Salvinia Molesta could be recycled for use

On an edge in one of the banks of Lake Ossa lies a pile of the invasive Salvinia Molesta off rooted from the Lake by the fishermen. While people wonder what could be done with this grass that is unsafe for life within the lake, experts hold that it could be used for other ends. “After weeding this herb mechanically, it can be used to produce biogas, ecological charcoal and compost manure that can be used for agricultural purposes” highlights Christian Kongte.

Plans in retrospect and Prospect to intensify the battle

According to the Conservation Officer of the Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife of Cameroon has given an authorisation to a partner structure to carry out a study on the possibility of fighting this invasive herb biologically. Currently, there is a project which is being done in a semi open manner to check whether the growth and spread of the herb could be reversed biologically. “If the results of this experimentation phase are positive, we will expand it to the entire lake. Beyond this, existing literature makes us to understand that the grass could be dealt with mechanically; using machines. We are also reflecting on this to see in what way we can rid the Lake off this enemy herb” concludes the conservation officer, Sylvain Hector EBOG

Alphonse Abongwa Achu

Elvis Teke

Journalist, Online Reporter, News Presenter, Programme Anchor, Peace Advocate, Geo-strategist,

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