the Impact of Community Forestry on Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihood
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The concept of Community Forestry (CF) was first developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization, (FAO) in 1978. It intimately involves local people in forestry activities. It was established to address deforestation, firewood crisis and the resultant negative impacts on rural livelihoods. In Cameroon, the concept CF was first brought in as part of the country’s new forest policy of 1994. The two main objectives were “to protect the environment and preserve natural resources” and “to involve local peoples in the conservation and management of forest resources with an aim to improve their living standards.” The four community forests found in Fako Division of the South West Region of Cameroon are Bimbia-Bonadikombo, Bakingili, Woteva and Etinde. Two decades and a half after the enactment of the concept of CF, there is still a debate whether or not CF is an ideal strategy for sustainable forest management and poverty reduction in Cameroon and in Fako Division in particular. This study therefore sought to assess the impact of community forestry on Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihood in Woteva, Bakingili and Etinde community forests all in the Mount Cameroon Landscape, Southwest Region of Cameroon. Six communities (Woteva, Bokwaongo, Bwassa, Likombe, Mapanja and Bakingili) were purposively selected from the eleven communities based on their dependence on the forest, proximity to the community and population density. The study made use of questionnaires, semi structured interviews and focus group discussion. Collection of primary data was based on questionnaires administered to members of some randomly selected households based on their longevity of 15yrs and above in the community. Structured interviews and focus group discussions were also conducted with forest management officers, key informants and some members of the Forest Management Group Members. A total of 150 questionnaires were administered, 120 to the general community and 30 to the forest management groups, giving 5 per community, to assess their awareness on the existence of community forests, impact of community forestry on livelihood, impact of community forestry on biodiversity conservation and threats on community forestry management. Based on the community’s perceptions, the results of the study revealed that awareness of the presence of the community forest varied from 82.29% in Etinde to 100% in Woteva. 77.64% of the respondents indicated many tree counts per hectare before the creation of the forest against 76.46% after creation. 50.46% also reported many animal species before the creation of the forest against 60.53% after creation of the community forests. Impact on livelihood varied from 34% for those who have not benefitted from the community forests to 47.71% for those who have benefitted in one way or the other. Among those who benefitted, 37% also said the benefit from the community forest improved on their livelihood temporarily against 50.55% who had no improvement in livelihood. Threats to the community management varied from the different activities carried out in the community forests, from collecting of fuelwood, 19.03% to farming 55.94%. The study concluded that CF has an impact on biodiversity conservation and livelihood in the Mount Cameroon Landscape. The study recommended more sensitization on community forest management by MINFOF, the valorisation of NTFPs by the forest management committees so as to reduce the pressure on timber products, benefits from community forest management should also be geared towards individual livelihood improvement and not only on community development. By so doing the aim for the institution of community forestry would have been achieved, hence improving livelihood by ending hunger and poverty as stipulated by SDGs number 1 and 2.
Forests are one of the most important natural resources for rural people in developing countries and contribute to the livelihoods of about 1.6 billion people worldwide (World Bank, 2004). It provides subsistence food and income from the sales of forest products like timber and Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). In addition, it provides a range of environmental services and are important for cultural and religious heritage (Katila, 2008). Therefore, the future of forests depends very much on the institutional arrangements that regulate land and forest tenure.
The concept of Community Forestry (CF) or Community-Based Forestry (CBF) was first developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization, (FAO) in 1978 which intimately involves local people in forestry activities (Vollmar, 2012). CF he says, was established to address deforestation, firewood crisis and the resultant negative impacts on rural livelihoods. Furthermore, the aim of CF is for the protection of forests by effectively involving rural communities in the management of the forests and forest resources. More so, the initiative strives for social equity while seeking to ensure the durability of forest resources; aiming to empower communities to take the lead in sustainable economic activities in order to reduce poverty, improve living conditions and ensure sustainable local development.
Community Forests emerged in the late 1980s in a growing number of developing countries because of failing centralized forest policy (Newton et al., 2015). Over the past 40 years, considerable attention has been paid to CF and related forest tenure transformations, with the aim of involving communities and smallholders in forest management and governance (FAO, 2016). This is because, this period has witnessed a substantial increase in forest area under various CF regimes and it is estimated that, to date, almost one-third of the world’s forest area is under some form of CF management. CF is gaining momentum as it is being practised in developing countries, (Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Nepal, India, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Cameroon, the Congo region, Tanzania) among others (Gabay and Rekola, 2019). Shahbaz et al., (2012) opine that the paradigm shifts in forest governance, from top-down bureaucratic to participatory approach, in many developing countries became a reality during the nineties in response to the high deforestation and inefficiency of state institutions towards sustainable forest governance. CF was founded as an alternative to state-managed conservation and was assumed that shifting the management of forests from the state to local communities could result in more sustainable management (Maryudi et al., 2012). In this way, communities found it in their interests to conserve them while also contributing to social and economic development. According to Charnley and Poe (2007). CF should have the following characteristics: a) some degree of responsibility and authority for forest management is formally vested by the government in local communities; b) a central objective of forest management is to provide local communities with social and economic benefits from forests; and (c) ecologically, sustainable forest use is a central management goal, with forest communities taking some responsibility for maintaining and restoring forest health. Also, according to Colfer (2005), the goal of CF is to provide incentive for communities to engage in sustainable forest use and management, given their strong vested interests in forest resources. Sikor et al., (2013) advocate that the increased recognition of the importance of forests for rural communities, their record in managing these forests sustainably, especially when compared to state forest management, has resulted in the emergence of CF.
In Cameroon, the concept of CF was first brought in as part of the country’s new forest policy of 1994 (Tieguhong, 2016). The two main objectives were “to protect the environment and preserve natural resources” and “to involve local peoples in the conservation and management of forest resources with an aim to improve their living standards.” The participation of local communities in forest resource management was at the center of this reform via the introduction of decentralized forest management concepts. In its approach, CFs encompass (i) Communal forests; (ii) Community forests; (iii) the annual forest royalties; (iv) Community managed hunting zones (Oyono et al., 2015). Community forestry emerged as part of a policy reform process aimed at enabling better participation of local people in forest management, enhancing the contribution of forests to livelihoods, economy and sustainable forest management (Piabuo, 2018). In Cameroon like other countries, the explicit aim of community forestry was to involve rural communities in the sustainable management of their own forest, while providing them with income-generating mechanisms for equitable and socio-economic local development (Akoa, 2007). There are about 430 community forests in Cameroon covering 1.7 million hectares which is 7% of the total forest area (Minang et al., 2019). Like in most localities in Cameroon, the excitement and confidence generated by the prospects of improved community livelihood through increased local control over substantial proportion of forests prompted the creation, at different periods, of four community forests in Fako Division of the South West Region of Cameroon. These include Bimbia-Bonadikombo, Bakingili, Woteva and Etinde community forests, (Ngang et al., 2018).
The forest in the Mount Cameroon landscape (MCL) is covered with montane, sub montane, lowland and mangrove forest cover of about 47.5% (96.764 hectares) of the total surface area (Carodenuto et al., 2015). It provides immense socio-economic and cultural benefit to the forest fringe communities with the rich flora and fauna and high level of endemism, making it one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Deforestation caused by natural and anthropogenic activities such as rapid volcanic eruptions, urbanization, agriculture, construction of residential areas, industrialization is reducing the services we benefit from this forest. Unfortunately, these high rates of deforestation, estimated at 0.51% annually, has contributed in undermining the socio-economic, cultural and ecological functions of the forests in the landscape (Oyono et al., (2012).
The concept of CF was therefore adopted in Cameroon during the enactment of the 1994 forestry law to address the issue of deforestation and the resultant negative impacts on the population. Despite the widespread adoption of CF as a major forest management modality, several authors in Cameroon have noted that CF outcomes remain inadequately documented, which makes it difficult to evaluate their performance in improving the condition of the forests or providing benefits to local people (Charnley and Poe, 2007). Tieguhong (2016), also reported that in Cameroon, two decades and a half after the enactment of the concept of CF, there is still a debate whether or not CF is an ideal strategy for sustainable forest management and poverty reduction.
In the Mount Cameroon Landscape (MCL), many forest entities have been gazetted including the Mount Cameroon Forest Reserve (now a National Park), Mokoko Forest Reserve and Remnants of Bomboko Forest Reserve. With the gazettement of Mount Cameroon National Park, a management plan was elaborated for management of the Park and its peripheral zone with active involvement of the local communities. To ensure the sustainable management of peripheral zone, community forests (Bakingili, Etinde and Woteva) were created to facilitate local resource use for improvement of livelihoods and wildlife connectivity for biodiversity conservation. The community forests were created with different objectives including; conservation of biodiversity, community involvement in natural resources management, improvement of livelihood of communities involved and regeneration. Those at the peripheral zone of MCNP were to serve as buffer zone for the park with forest entities providing wildlife corridors and connectivity, thus, contributing to biodiversity conservation on one hand, and also access to resources for diversification of income sources and improvement of local livelihoods on the other hand. From reconnaissance survey, the community forests at peripheral zone of MCNP (Woteva, Etinde and Bakingili) seem to have little or no impact on biodiversity conservation and livelihood improvement contrary to the objective of the creation. The communities involved seem to have different perceptions on the presence of the community forests and inadequate knowledge on the management of the community forests in which they are supposed to be veritable partners. From the different management issues carried out in and around the forest due to the increasing rate of poverty observed by these communities, there is doubt if the objectives in the SMP are met by the communities involved.
Current literatures by Beauchamp and Ingram (2011) reported some CF groups in Cameroon obtained revenue from forest harvesting activities. This was used to support community projects such as improving inhabitants’ dwellings, constructing a health centre and communal market. Cuny et al., (2006), also reported that in the Kongo CF in eastern Cameroon, within five years of implementation of the SMP, the community and its inhabitants received a lump sum of about US$87,000 (43,500,000 CFAF). 27% was spent on community development initiatives and 73% comprised direct revenue to community members in the form of wages to families through employment. This has contributed to the socio-economic development of the community (with improvement of the habitat). However, documents containing answers to how much CF contribute to biodiversity conservation and on livelihood are not found in the community forests in the MCL, (Bakingili, Woteva and Etinde). Therefore, this study sought to answer the following questions.
Does Community Forestry have an impact on biodiversity conservation and livelihood in Woteva, Bakingili and Etinde community forests in the Mount Cameroon Landscape?
1.3.2 Sub Research Questions
What is the impact of community forestry on biodiversity conservation?
What is the impact of community forestry on livelihood?
To what extent are the communities aware of the presence of the community forests?
4.What are the threats faced by community forests management?
Ho: Community Forestry has significant impact on biodiversity Conservation and Livelihood in Woteva, Bakingili and Etinde community forests within the MCL.
Ha: Community Forestry has no significant impact on biodiversity conservation and livelihood in Woteva, Bakingili and Etinde community forests within the MCL.
To assess the impact of community forestry on biodiversity conservation and livelihood in Woteva, Etinde and Bakingili community forests, in the Mount Cameroon Landscape.
- To assess the impact of Community Forestry on biodiversity conservation,
- To assess the impact of Community Forestry on the livelihood,
- To investigate the extent of community awareness of the presence of Community Forests
- To assess threats faced by the management of community forests