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Education Programmes at Limbe Botanic Garden, Cameroon - Model solutions

In the early days the Limbe Botanic Garden was primarily an agricultural research and training centre. Today, with the numerous agricultural and forestry schools and research centres, its role has shifted to conservation, amenity, recreation, tourism, science and education. Several education and outreach programmes have been developed.

The Limbe area is faced with limits on available land, with restrictions placed on the community by plantations and reserves. Farmers must be aware of and use intensive production techniques. We came up with the model food crop farm as a way to inform the public about some of these techniques.

The Model Chop-Farm is located on land rising from a narrow plain along the banks of River Limbe on to a steep slope on the eastern hill in the garden. On the plain we grow plantain/cocoyams. The aim is to initiate a dry season vegetable garden. Next to this, on the lower part of the adjacent slope, we grow maize, pulses, sweet potatoes, cassava and yams. Here we have constructed contour bonds and practise flat cultivation. Hedges are planted in the area, while nitrogen-fixing trees are grown on the bonds. Higher up we grow pineapples. Because they form a cover crop, the danger of erosion is reduced. Towards the uppermost part of the slope the gradient forbids cultivation. Here we have established an orchard. We believe that this is a proper model for the locality because most farms around Limbe are on slopes.

Fertility maintenance practices are demonstrated, including return of crop residue, crop rotation, intercropping, organic manuring (farmyard manure, compost, mulch), green manuring, fertilizers, minimum tillage and agroforestry.

These practices provide a great diversity of produce for farmers, ensuring some security against crop failure, whilst helping dampen the "peaks and troughs" in the labour cycle, as well as increasing profits.

The School Environmental Programme

This was established in 1991 as an outreach programme. The aim of the programme is to carry an environmental conservation message to a greater number of school children than are able to actually visit the Garden. It involves five schools, both primary and secondary, which have been involved in activities with a conservation theme. Activites include school landscape planning competitions, the formation of a nature club, the planting of a school orchard and a school nursery, and the organisation of various slide and video shows.

The Musa Genetic History Collection

This is aimed at educating the public about the history of the Musa species and their evolution. Bananas and plantains constitute one of the principal food crops of the tropical world. They are so common in our society that it is difficult to convince people that they are exotics. In the display, various levels of evolution have been arranged in a pattern to radiate from the parent stock in a sort of tree diagram. An information board with a planting map is provided.

O.T. Bannavti, Education officer, Limbe Botanic Garden and Rainforest Genetic Conservation, P.O. 437, Limbe, CAMEROON