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Louis Nkembi And the Soaring ERUDEF Initiative
Category :- Interviews Author :- Legideon 
Posted on February 13, 2018, 12:52 pm
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You are the founder of ERUDEF, how did it all start?
Sometime in 1993 after my masters in Financial economics, one of my mentors said to me: “I know you are going to get into public service and be appointed into some position, but I warn you, government service doesn’t pay”. That was how in 1996 I decided to think out of the box. I put together a couple of my friends and we started an agricultural and environmental research group. And the rest is history.
What is ERUDEF about? 
ERUDEF is a species and biodiversity conservation organisation. We move around to conserve every species on the brink of extinction as listed by the international union of conservation and nature. Consequently, we run research to know these species and where they are, so we tell and educate the world. In the communities where these species exist, we engage and let those around know their importance. We are already in six regions of Cameroon. We push all these through with the help of the government and international partners. We also train people to acquire the kind of skills is needed to effectively do what we are doing. 
ERUDEF also introduces livelihood programs and conservation incentives to support agriculture and other forms of income generation to the communities where we operate. In many of these areas, we move forests from traditional systems into state systems, so they can be given long-term protection status either as a national park, community forest, reserve, etc. Our department of forestry also helps to improve the way communities manage the forest resources in every way they find themselves. 
For communication, we produce a number of publications; The Green Vision Newspaper to tell the world of the impacts of our projects on the state and the people, our most recent Cameroon business Biodiversity Newsletter and a couple of online newsletters. This is how we inform the world of what we are doing. Our latest development is the ERUDEF Institute of Biodiversity and Nonprofit service to train and use our own experts for human resource sustainability. 
How do you go about specieis conservation? 
We are in a constant search for species on the brink of extinction, so we work with international experts based within the global umbrella for the international union for the conservation of nature. We look at the ecosystem, look for these species and see how to preserve them. We send our teams to isolated forests to spend time and search what species are there, level of endangerments and any other interesting kinds of stuff. That is how we work in collaboration with other organisations that are active in the field. 
For instance, we are focused on preserving the “Goliath frog” which is very endangered in Africa. In such cases, we write to the government and let them know our intentions because the things we do are not for our interest but of science, development and our country. Our vision is to save species, ecosystems and the world. 
What are the challenges? 
ERUDEF faces a lot of difficulties. we are currently pushing forward with the creation of a wildlife reserve in Lebialem division and some of these communities feel that we do these things as private reserves for ERUDEF and there is so much misinterpretation for land grabbing through conservation. This creates a lot of misconception about what our work is. 
We also have the challenge of funding. The state spends less than 1% of its budgetary support on conservation. This gives us many issues for funding and we turn to foreign help which accounts for over 98%. This is a serious handicap for long-term sustainability for such a program. 
Tell us about the ERUDEF Institute of Biodiversity.
We are building the ERUDEF Institute of Biodiversity as a centre of excellence in nonprofit studies (NGO studies), fundraising and biodiversity management. We want this institute to be the first in terms of fundraising in Africa coming after the South African fundraising Institute and second most important in terms of nonprofit development coming after the West Africa Civil Society Institute. To achieve this, we ideally prefer people to come in with an advanced level certificate or other higher certificates. The months of studies would depend on the certificate the student has when he comes in. We also receive PhD students both nationally and internationally to build their knowledge and transform them into better materials. 
Any Upcoming projects for ERUDEF? 
The Great Apes Initiative for the Lebialem Highlands for conserving gorillas and chimpanzees. The Bambutus initiative that cuts across South West and North West to save the ecosystem. We also the have East regional conservation program for the western lowland gorillas and other species like chimpanzees. And a series of national parks in Cameroon and Nigeria that would serve these countries. The North-West Chimpanzee project for several national parks around the region which we intend to build into a compact system. The “Access and Beauty” initiative project concerns companies from the West that come to explore our natural resources. We make sure people whose resources are exploited are remunerated fairly by the exploiters. 
In communication, we intend to move our magazine to an African audience. We have decided to give exposure to our work to let the world know the kind of job we do. 
So, what are the success stories so far? 
Just the fact that we have been able to carve out these landscapes for conservation is much success. We have set out to save several species which has been successful; the Lebialem Highlands, the creation of Mount Bambutus project which is on the way and our project to plant 15 million trees. All these have gone up to 300% and for an Africa based organization, we are proud to have done this thus far. 
Relations between the government and ERUDEF
The principal role of the state and the civil society sector is not more of funding but to provide arbitration and facilitation. The best thing we want the state to do is to provide the necessary logistics and facilities especially with communities who think we are their enemies. Some see us as land expropriators. We would like them to know that our work is genuine, and we need their support at every point in time. Let them know that we are for them and not against them. We are against land grabbing
We have been able to work with the corresponding Ministries which have assisted us so far. The Territorial administrators themselves have been of great help and so we are bound to say we have a great relationship with them. ERUDEF has a lot to do with the state and we have no choice than to make sure we maintain a good relationship. 
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Tagged Keywords: Nkembi And, Louis
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