Collaborative Management in the Region of Lobeke, Cameroon: The Potentials and Constraints in Involving the Local Population in Protected Area Management

Article excerpt

Introduction

The region of Lac Lobeke is situated in the Congo Basin, in southeastern Cameroon. The Baka pygmies and several Bantu-speaking groups have lived here for centuries by agriculture, and hunting, fishing and collecting a great variety of forest products. The degradation and threat to biodiversity started with the arrival of German colonialists at the end of the nineteenth century. The colonisers provided incentives for the commercialisation of ivory, wood and non-timber forest products (NTFP), such as gum and strophantus. In the 1960s, international logging companies acquired concessions for logging, initiating an even more rapid process of environmental degradation and destruction. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), about 60 percent of the timber exported by Cameroon comes from illegal logging (Usongo June 2000). Additionally, easier access to the deeper forests and better transport conditions led to an increase in poaching of wildlife to such an extent that nowadays the biodiversity of the region is in very great danger.

After the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 the World Bank created several conservation projects in the Congo Basin that prioritise global preservation in this region, since it represents the second largest area of tropical forest in the world. One of these projects was the `Project for Protection and Management of the Biodiversity of Southeast Cameroon'. This is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), coordinated by the Ministry of Forestry of Cameroon, with technical support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and the WWF. The aims of the project are the establishment of a regional development plan, including the Protected Areas (PAs), community hunting zones and other multiple zones. The WWF is committed to elaborating management plans for two future Protected Areas. One of the concepts envisaged for the management of the PAs is collaborative management. The aim is to involve the local population in decision making, monitoring and benefit sharing, in order to ensure an efficient protection of biodiversity and sustainable local development.

In the following paragraphs we describe the relationship of the local population to their habitat. The agriculture, fishing, collecting and income needs in general are focused upon. Then the informal and formal property rights, such as the stakeholders involved in the collaborative management, are analysed. Finally, we discuss the potentials and constraints of a collaborative approach for the management of the National Park Lac Lobeke. (1)

The Concept of Co-management

Defining collaborative management

Collaborative management--or, in short, co-management--consists, according to Townsend and Pooley (1995), of any set of institutional arrangements between relevant stakeholders that structure an external relationship for resource governance. As such, it has to be distinguished from an internal structure which is, for instance, found in a `pure' common property regime. Borrini-Feyerabend (1996: 17) has pointed out that collaborative management is not a tightly defined concept and that the term is used for a variety of institutional arrangements, ranging between mere consultation and the transfer of decision-making authority. Borrini-Feyerabend et al. (2000) define co-management as a situation in which two or more social actors negotiate, define and guarantee amongst themselves a fair sharing of the management functions, entitlements and responsibilities for a given territory, area or set of natural resources. The social actors, or stakeholders, primarily include the agency in charge (usually a state agency) and various associations of local residents and resource users. However, co-management can also involve non-governmental organisations, local administrations, traditional authorities, research institutions, business and others.

Meinzen-Dick and Knox (1999) place co-management in the context of devolution, and distinguish collaborative management, wherein the state retains a role in resource management, from community-based resource management, wherein control over resources is transferred more or less completely to local user groups. …