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Cameroon Overview

Surface Area: 475,440 km2

Forest Cover estimates: 15,500,000 - 20,600,000 hectares 

Population: 18.5 million

Capital: Yaoundé

A country of significant cultural and environmental diversity, Cameroon contains six ecosystems of particular importance: marine and coastal; semi-arid; tropical, humid, dense forest; mountain; tropical wooded savannah and freshwater. With the southern one-third of its half million square kilometres covered by tropical moist forests, Cameroon is second in Africa only to DRC in the diversity of its forest-dwelling primates, including great apes and contains some of the most concentrated populations of forest elephants. Certain humid forests and mountains rank among the world's top 100 areas for endemic bird species, with many species of amphibians, reptiles, and plants also only specific to this region.

There are as many as 75,000 indigenous Baka, Bagyeli, Bedzang and Bakola (BBBB or 4B) peoples or so-called "Pygmies" in the rainforest areas of Cameroon. As with other countries in the region, there is no disaggregated data or accurate statistical evidence on their situation or even basic demographic information. For a number of historical (mainly colonial) reasons, compounded by flawed national forest laws and forest zoning plans which were developed with no consultation with communities, many BBBB people, who are traditionally nomadic forest dwelling peoples, have been forced out of the forest and on to the edges of the Bantu farmers villages where they are likely to face loss of livelihood and culture, exploitation and stigmatisation. Despite this discrimination, and being amongst the poorest of communities in Cameroon, the BBBBs have become increasingly vocal in demanding their rights from government and denouncing their exclusion from all forms of decision-making.

Land and Resource Rights

The 1994 Cameroon Forest Code laid the foundation for a model of forest management based on industrial logging and strict nature conservation - and provided a blue print for a series of subsequent forest laws that were passed after 2002 as part of a World Bank backed major overhaul of the forest sector in the Congo Basin region. The value of this model of forest management to local communities or indeed wider national economies to date has been unclear. Land and resource related conflicts are commonplace throughout the region and wealth redistribution, whether through tax receipts or as direct development assistance to communities, has been piecemeal. The lack of social benefits generated has been a recurring theme in recent evaluations of forest sector development programmes over the past decade. 

The concept of community forests was first introduced in the Congo Basin in the 1994 Cameroon Forest Code, providing a legal basis for communities to manage their local forests. However communities’ ability to apply for and manage their customary lands for their own wellbeing has been severely limited. The 1995 forest zoning plan designated most of the forest for industrial logging and strict conservation purposes, leaving only (mostly degraded) roadside areas up to a maximum of 5,000 hectares available for community forests for a limited period of 25 years. The process of obtaining a Community Forest is very onerous and expensive, and can usually be managed only with external assistance or involvement of a member of the ‘elite’.  As a consequence, many of the 200 or so community forests today resemble miniature logging concessions and are ill-adapted to existing customary systems of forest management and local governance – a problem particularly acute for BBBB people.

Recently, the Government has committed to a number of policy processes in the forest, mining and land management sectors that are expected to reform a system that has largely failed to bring significant development to the rural population and has severely eroded community rights and livelihoods. Meanwhile, the forest area is now coming under intense pressure from new foreign investment in mining, agriculture and associated infrastructure development. In 2010, the government signed a VPA with the European Union, which is currently being implemented.

Partners and Approach

Cameroon has a vibrant civil society and the Rainforest Foundation UK's work with Cameroonian NGOs dates back 15 years. The Centre pour l'Environnement et le Développement (CED) is a national NGO with significant experience and expertise in of defending the rights of the Baka Bagyeli, Bedzang and Bakola communities. CED was one of first Congo Basin NGOs to have a ‘master-mapper’ and a mapping laboratory, and has been instrumental in training other NGOs and communities in the region.

So far, participatory maps have been used for a number of groundbreaking advances, notably their inclusion in the management plan of the Campo Ma'an National Park, the creation of community forests, and in the official recognition of the community tenure and indigenous lands (notably in the Haut-Nyong and Océan divisions).

Other NGOs that have supported participatory mapping in Cameroon include AAFEBEN, CADDAP, CADER, CEFAID, FODER, ORADER and PERAD. Several Baka and Bagyeli associations such as the Association des Baka de Lomié (ASBAK), Association des Bagyeli de l'Océan (ADEBAGO) and Association des Baka (ADEBAKA) have contributed increasingly to projects and community outreach. These associations are part of the Réseau Recherche Actions Concertées Pygmée (RACOPy), a multi-stakeholder platform that serves as a broad coalition to defend 4B rights and liaise with the government on indigenous forest peoples’ issues. For more information, please contact Centre pour l'Environnement et le Développement:


Centre pour l'Environnement et le Développement
B.P 3430 Yaoundé
Tél : +237 222 38 57 / Fax : +237 222 38 59

Email: infos(at)cedcameroun.org
Web: www.cedcameroun.org


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