Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Analyzing the Establishment of Community Forestry (CF) and Its Processes Examples from the South West Region of Cameroon

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Analyzing the Establishment of Community Forestry (CF) and Its Processes Examples from the South West Region of Cameroon

Article excerpt


This paper reconstructs and analyzes the establishment of the Community Forestry (CF) processes in Cameroon, questioning the extent to which the CF models can act as a decentralization and devolution tool. It includes community based natural resource management through programs/projects emphasizing biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management directly involving the local communities. Thirteen communities were explored in the South West Region (SWR) of Cameroon. Samples selection was based on information about recent activities of the communities in the CF process. From this population, a simple random selection and later quantitative and qualitative interviews were carried out with more than 70 different stakeholders through their networking and interest representation in CF. Analysis show that the CF process is centralized, slow, long, complex and expensive, making it difficult for local communities to be an active part in policy implementation. Results also confirm that decentralization and devolution for sustainable local forest governance could offer the communities an opportunity to derive livelihoods from their forests, but the models and processes have also inhibited them through centralized control of the state and its development partners. Furthermore, it shows that CF as a decentralization tool has not really functioned.

Keywords: community forest, council forest, decentralization, devolution, Cameroon

1. Introduction

Forests are natural resources as well as public goods that need to be managed in the interests of local, regional and global posterity. Effective governance of forest resources involves difficult choices and reforms. Decentralization aproaches in forest governance seem to be the right answer to tackle forest protection issues involving local people (Glück et al., 2005; Devkota, 2010). Oyono (2004b) defines decentralization as, "a process through which powers, responsibilities and resources are devolved by the central state to lower territorial entities and regionally/locally elected bodies, increasing efficiency, participation, equity, and enviromnental sustainability". Likewise, Ribot (2004) sees decentralization and devolution as, "any act by which central government formally cedes powers to actors and institutions at lower levels in a political-administrative and territorial hierarchy". Nevertheless, a number of researchers (Ribot, 2004; Ribot, 2009; Larson, 2005; Blaikie, 2006; Dahal & Capistrano, 2006) have analyzed the common practice and have shown that the decentralization policy in forest resources is seldom followed by genuine power devolution to the local users.

Following the above mentioned definitions of Oyono and Ribot, importance is placed on the role of the central government in achieving increased efficiency, participation, equity, and enviromnental sustainability. To contribute to the discourse, this article will analyze the establishment of CF in Cameroon to investigate if it has functioned as a tool for decentralization. It uses the CF models in Cameroon through its establishment and processes to analytically test the decentralization paradigm with empirical data. It does not want to explain CF using theory but test if the theoretical framework has been or is being successful implemented in CF. The main question is, "if CF lias been successful as a tool for forest management decentralization?", a paradigm which has found place on paper and the rhetoric of the Cameroonian government and bi/multilateral organizations. It is not in the scope of this paper to address "common pool resources" or "communal land management", which is a broad field with many alternative institutional features in "governing the commons" (Ostrom, 1990). The scope of this paper is limited to reconstruction of CF establishments and processes as perceived by the main stakeholders in CF.

1.1 Community Forestry and Its Establishment in Cameroon

Community forestry (CF) came into prominence in the 1970s, when the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1978 initiated activities and programs related to rural communities and their forest-related activities. …

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