Two new council forests classed in Cameroon.

Yaoundé, September 9, 2010 (D.Stanculescu) - A Prime Ministerial decree issued in June 2010 classed two additional forests as council forests, thus raising the number of council forests in Cameroon from 5 to 7.  By having a forest decreed in its name, the council obtains a new source of revenue to fund local development. In fact, with the decree it is the council that assumes responsibility for timber exploitation in the forest and for managing the revenues this activity generates.

docs/news/July-September2010/foretcommunale.jpgThe councils were guided through the gazettement process by one of the German development cooperation’s key partners in Cameroon: the Technical Center for Council Forestry (CTFC) of the Association of Forest Councils of Cameroon (ACFCAM).  The process, under the direction of the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF), entailed raising awareness among local communities, notifying the public, and preparing a technical dossier showing the boundaries of the forest.  The final stage in the process is the submission of the dossiers by MINFOF to the Prime Minister’s office for signature.

One of the main lessons that local councils and the CTFC learned from this experience is the importance of raising public awareness, and thereby securing popular support for the council forest.  Field visits to inform and get local communities on board are expensive and time-consuming, but are essential in order to avoid the gazettement being challenged at a later date. Moreover, community ownership of the process is also essential to ensuring the long-term transparent management of the forest resources and the financial revenues that they generate.

The process also helped identify aspects of the national regulations that are inappropriate for the municipal level, and which could discourage councils from investing in forestry.  For example, the high costs of obtaining a land title registration for a forest (which are the same per square metre as for any other property) – makes title registration beyond the means of councils; councils therefore do not have a guarantee on their investments. In addition, the required environmental impact assessments and management plans (which are the same for a council forest as for a vast industrial concession) involve significant pre-financing to which many councils do not have access.

By obtaining a forest, the councils have reached an important step in taking local development into their own hands. However, the greatest challenges for local councils are yet to come: they now have to draft and implement management plans to ensure the sustainable logging of their forests, either directly or in collaboration with industrial logging companies. Moreover, when revenue from the forests finally starts flowing into the councils’ coffers, councils need to ensure that this money actually contributes to local development.  The effective planning and transparent implementation of local development activities by councils continues to be the greatest challenge to improving the livelihoods of rural communities in Cameroon.


Further information:
- Brochure d’informations sur les forêts communales au Cameroun :
- Les expériences de classement des forêts communales révélatrices d'une faible maîtrise sectorielle des enjeux fonciers au Cameroun
- Analyse de la procédure de classement et d’immatriculation foncière des forêts communales au Cameroun

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