Cameroon’s 22 million hectares (ha) of tropical forests are a vital part of the Congo Basin forest ecosystem. These forests provide an important source of revenue, employment, livelihoods, ecosystem services, and habitat for over 9,000 plant species, 910 bird species, and 320 mammal species.
Cameroon’s forests are managed for both production and conservation. Areas under forest management for timber extraction make up 40% of the national forest area, while protected areas including national parks, forests reserves, and hunting zones currently cover 20% of the national forest area. Cameroon’s 1994 forest law was the first in Central Africa to promote community forest management as a strategy for sustainably managing forests and promoting local development. As of 2011, a total of 301 community forests covering over 1 million ha had some form of management agreement in place.
Despite efforts to promote sustainable forest management, 3,300,000 ha of Cameroon’s forests have been cleared since 1990—an area approximately the size of Belgium. Much of this forest loss is due to increasing pressure from other sectors such as commercial and subsistence agriculture, mining, hydropower, and infrastructure. For example, a 73,000 ha oil palm plantation has been allocated in a biodiverse forest area in Southwest Region, and the planned Lom Pangar Dam in the East Region will flood nearly 32,000 ha of forest.
Cameroon is participating in numerous international and national processes aimed at strengthening management of forests and natural resources and tackling existing land use challenges. For example, Cameroon was one of the earliest countries to sign a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) through the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) program that aims to reduce illegal logging both in domestic and international markets.
Furthermore, Cameroon is also participating in international discussions on REDD+, and its Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP)—which provides a roadmap to develop a national program to address drivers of deforestation—was approved for funding by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in January 2013. In addition, Cameroon has launched numerous domestic processes aimed at strengthening land and forest laws and improving coordination of land use across sectors.
GFI in Cameroon
GFI Cameroon advocates for more transparent and accountable decision-making and management of forest lands to improve local livelihoods and reverse the current deforestation trend. GFI Cameroon completed a study of forest governance using the GFI Indicator Framework in 2011-2012. The results have provided an agenda for its subsequent capacity-building, research, and policy reform efforts. Our civil society partners, Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme-Cameroon (BDCPC) and Cameroon Ecology, work with national government, international and domestic civil society, local government, and forest communities to raise awareness of governance weaknesses and build local capacity to address them. Key activities include:
Strengthening Forest Sector Transparency and Participation
The GFI assessment revealed significant gaps in Cameroon’s legal framework for public participation and public access to information. GFI partners have worked to strengthen these issues in both law and in practice. GFI partners are currently working to pass new legislation that would operationalize commitments to public access to information made in Cameroon’s 1996 Framework Law on Environmental Management.
In addition, they have worked to increase the participation of civil society, forest communities, and rural women in processes related to natural resource management. GFI has convened a series of dialogues at both national and local levels that are designed to stimulate dialogue between government, civil society, and forest communities about ways forward to improve natural resource management while respecting community rights.
Supporting More Inclusive and Coordinated Land Use Policies
The GFI Cameroon assessment of Cameroon’s forest zoning processes and legal framework for allocating forest lands revealed significant challenges with respect to the quality of information, level of participation, and coordination across sectors. GFI Cameroon partners are working to ensure that lessons from past processes inform more coordinated approaches to land management during the development of Cameroon’s REDD+ program. As part of this work, GFI is also enhancing the understanding and ability of forest communities to participate in land use decision-making processes by providing information and training.
In addition, GFI Cameroon is developing guidelines and tools aimed at creating more systematic collection and sharing of information on land use activities that can be used by stakeholders at all levels in Cameroon to track what is happening.
Influencing the Design of REDD+ Programs
- GFI Cameroon works closely with the National CSO Platform on REDD and Climate Change in Cameroon to influence Cameroon’s REDD+ strategy development and ensure that it considers the concerns of local communities, indigenous peoples, and rural women. In partnership with GFI, the Platform has convened numerous workshops to build capacity, share knowledge, and identify priority actions to improve governance as part of Cameroon’s REDD+ activities. With the platform, GFI Cameroon has successfully advocated for improvements to the R-PP such as revising REDD+ governance structures to be more inclusive, improving descriptions of forest governance and coordination across sectors, clarifying the structure of proposed REDD+ grievance mechanisms, and securing commitments to using indicators to monitor governance as part of the REDD+ process.
Photo Credit: Cameroon Ecology.