Community Forestry in Cameroon
Located in west-central Africa along the Gulf of Guinea, Cameroon is bordered by six countries, and its forests represent the northern limit of the Congo Basin's forests, the second largest contiguous rainforest in the world, after the Amazon. Forestland covers almost half of the country's total land area, some 51.8 million acres (21 million hectares), and Cameroon ranks among the top-six African countries for its total numbers of mammals, birds and flora -- housing over half of the continent's bird and mammal species and at least 8,000 plant species. Four major ecosystems are represented including dense forest, humid savannas, altitude forests and grasslands and northern savannas. Over the past few decades, deforestation has increasingly threatened Cameroon's biodiversity, and the country's deforestation rate -- some 543,000 acres (220,000 hectares) per year -- is the second highest in the Congo Basin.
The main drivers of deforestation in Cameroon are forest conversion for agriculture, which accounts for 80 percent of forest cover loss, followed by fuelwood harvesting and illegal logging. With increasing intensity, logging activities are opening up access to the country's remaining intact primary forests. Less than 20 percent of Cameroon's forest outside protected areas remains free from past or planned logging activity.
Though the logging industry generates significant revenue for the national economy and thousands of jobs -- timber represents over 25 percent of non-petroleum export revenues -- it also facilitates the depletion of key forest species. Logging roads provide bushmeat hunters with access to previously inaccessible forest areas and transportation routes back to local markets. Unfortunately, bushmeat is the forest resource that generates the greatest economic return and is a source of food and income for local households. The revenue from other non-timber forest products, such as nuts and medicinal plants, provides income for women, who represent the majority of poor forest dwellers and are often denied land ownership.
Up until the early 1990s, there was no legal basis to develop community-based efforts to manage local forests, but in 1994, the country enacted a new forestry law that introduced the category of "community forestry," leading to a spate of new activity. Building on this favorable framework for the community management of forests, the Rainforest Alliance's Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES) program and its local partners have been working with 12 communities in Cameroon to help them develop sustainably managed community forest enterprises that promote conservation and are able to compete effectively in the marketplace.
For more information, please contact your regional TREES representative.
For information on the project Achieving Conservation and Improving Livelihoods through the Sustainable Management of Community-based Forest Operations in Cameroon click here.