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Why We Must Protect Bivalves

Bivalves, also known as Bisonda, are a marine species that has always been an important source of nutrition not only for man but for fish as well. Their principal poles of production are distributed as follows: North America (41% of the global production), Asia (32%), Europe (16%), South America (9%), Oceania (0,84%) and Africa (0,07%) (FAO, 2012). The production of this specie is dominated by China which represents 98% of the global market followed by Italy and Korea (IFREMER,2009). The exploitation of this specie is not commonly known in Africa and very insignificant in Cameroon. The main zone where it is found in Cameroon, is in the Sanaga Maritime (Ajonina et al, 2005).

Bivalves are very important Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) supporting rural deltaic communities in the tropics (Ajonina et al, 2005) that serve as a tool for water filtration and carbon sequestration. No group of aquatic invertebrates has greater economic importance than bivalves (Encyclopedia, 1978). The flesh and shell of bivalves are nutritious; while the former is rich is protein, the latter is rich in calcium. Its calcium rich nature has made it beneficial is the feeding of fowls in order to harden their eggshells; their shells have also been used in ceramic industries, tile industries, construction sites to lay foundation, ornaments in the cities of Douala, Edea, Kribi and even in foreign countries such as Nigeria.

Over the years, the exploitation of natural water resources has been a central activity in the community of Mouanko. This dates to ancient times when a group of people called the Malimba community established themselves in a village called Mouanko later followed by the Yakalag and Pongo-Songo people. All these communities are bordered by the River Sanaga and thus called peuple de la rive. Bivalves that were Initially exploited for consumption became the main source of revenue to the locality. It spiraled from a subsistent to a commercial activity. While fishing has always been an activity that has accompanied the exploitation of bivalves in this community, it is practiced at a small scale by the indigenes. On the other hand, it is practiced on a large scale by expatriates mainly from countries such as; Nigeria and Ghana occupying borders Yoyo, Youme and Mbiako (all found in the Malimba community).

The practice of bivalve exploitation is tied to the cultural beliefs. The indigenes of the Mouanko community consider this specie as a gift from the gods. Hence, giving them a sense of entitlement restricting foreigners from the same right to exploit. The myth of abundance and blessings tied to the presence of bivalves is acknowledged when cultural rites are being performed to the mermaids of the River Sanaga.

As the quotes goes, when ignorance gets started, it knows of bounds. Hence, due to the spirit of entitlement coupled with the uncensored exploitation habits; these bivalves are slowly dissipating in the eyes of the people. Yet, it is being tied to the wrath of the gods. Despite the libations and rites being performed, efforts seem futile. They ignore the response of biodiversity to climate perturbations.

In the case of Mouanko, cultural framing switching is not a dilemmatic choice as they seem to refrain from such option. In the strive to save the environment while maintaining cultural value, the ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development is implementing measures to curb bad exploitation practice. These measures seem to sprout ambivalent reactions amongst the people. This leads us to question the fate of our biodiversity and bivalves in particular. How do we change the mentality of humans towards sustainable thinking? Are we ready for the increased consequences of climate change which is about to befall us? What actions are we putting in place?

The awakening step of consciousness is the next evolutionary step for mankind.

- Anne Tansi
YFOP Communications Team