Community forestry as a green economy pathway in Cameroon

Highlights:
  • Community Forestry (CF) was introduced in Cameroon through an extensive forestry reform process in the early 1990s
  • The objectives at the time were three-fold: to grant communities rights to surrounding forests, enable them to improve their livelihoods, and to promote sustainable forest management
  • Twenty years on, about 450 CFs exist in the country, 285 of which have final management agreements, showing success in the first objective of granting community rights to forests
  • Results on the livelihood and sustainable forest management objectives have been mixed • New initiatives are needed to make community forestry an engine for a viable green economy
Introduction:

According to the 1994 Cameroonian Forest Law, community forests refers to “…part of nonpermanent forest estate (not more than 5000ha) that is the object of an agreement between government and a community in which communities undertake sustainable forest management for a period of 25 years renewable”2. In order for a community forest to be granted communities have to fulfil the following obligations:

  • Constitute a legal entity (a Common Initiative Group (CIG), an Economic Interest Group, an Association or a Cooperative) and appoint a community forest manager who shall represent them in negotiations with government in matters of community forestry;
  • Delineate and map the intended community forest area prior to approval;
  • Present a management plan as part of the conditions for approval. The simple management plan has to be reviewed every 5 years;
  • A manual of procedures details out rules and procedures for community forestry from creation through to management, including conditions for annual exploitation in the case of timber.

Since the inception of community forestry a number of major reviews have taken stock: one in 2003 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests; another by Tropenbos International in 20064, and subsequently by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF). This chapter takes a systems perspective and lays emphasis on the role of community forestry in a viable green economy, one in which community forest enterprise is the primary vehicle for taking rural poor people out of poverty while enhancing ecosystem service benefits from community forests. It is based on a review of more than 100 publications both peer reviewed (55%) and grey literature in the form of reports, monographs etc (45%). Methods such as content analysis, systematic reviews and historical timelines are employed in the analysis.

 

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