Implementing Cameroon’s strategic vision creates disharmony in the forest ecosystem
Fostering development is an important function for most governments as it feeds into the country’s growth agenda. As the Cameroon government plays this crucial role, some of its strategic decisions to meet its vision of 2035 conflict with the rights and wellbeing of the indigenous communities living in the Campo forest. Broke Akane, a project officer with Green Development Advocates (GDA), shares the effects of multinational company encroachment into the campo forest and its impact on indigenous communities living there.
Cameroon’s vision is to become an emerging nation by 2035. Its Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (GESP) gives the rural sector an important opportunity to contribute to the attainment of this vision. Many activities are implemented to support this vision including agro- industrial projects, mining and infrastructure projects, and forestry concessions, and signing agreements with various companies such as SOCAPALM, HEVECAM, AZUR, Mbalam-Kribi railway, deep water ports, etc. These mega projects require much land which the government has decided to take from the forest. This is leading to the over-exploitation of the natural resources, increasing the vulnerability of local and indigenous communities dependent on these areas.
These communities are being pushed out of the forest, their home for many years and the source of their livelihoods, increasing conflict with wildlife, which too is being pushed out of the forest. Many communities, like the Bagyeli communities of Bivouba, Mintende and Kague in the Lokoundje sub-division are hunter-gatherers. They are dependent on the forest and its natural resources. These multinational projects are being implemented on their customary lands and significantly affecting their lifestyle as their territories are being reduced without alternatives, nor fair and equitable compensations by the government.
“The areas we used to farm have been reduced since the oil industries have taken it over. Elephants now come to eat the food we grow on the small parcels of land we are able to farm. Wild animals eat our animals. Our situation is worsening each day,” adds Mungo Thomas of Kague community.
Regular accompaniment of the Bagyele communities could improve their livelihood, confidence and increase restoration of bio-cultural diversity
Green Development Advocates (GDA) has been accompanying these communities to strengthen their resilience to climate change through the development of ecological activities to mitigate effects of climate change. With financial support from various partners, GDA is pushing for the recognition of the traditional/ancestral lands of the Bagyeli populations so that their rights are respected along with their culture. The work contributes to the mitigation of the negative effects of climate change through reforestation and promoting the use of sustainable practices by the Bagyeli communities for food sovereignty.
Through participatory mapping with Bagyeli villages members, GDA managed to locate the villages and understand their households, distribution of families/groups, buildings, geographical and physical aspects (such as roads, rivers), learning about the history of each village, the origin of its inhabitants, how long they have been there, exploring historical development events and the change in local livelihoods over time. Through the resource mapping approach, GDA now understands the resources of the village, for example who has access to these resources, the use of these resources and the change in use. By livelihoods ranking approach, the villages sources of livelihoods and income is understood. The aim was to understand the magnitude of the challenges the Bagyeli populations are facing in light of the Government’s strategic approach to attain vision 2035.
Lissota Mado of the Bivouba community nostalgically laments, ”Our livelihoods have been affected. We no longer hunt and gather wild food in the forest as was our culture. The government has pushed us out of the forest and companies are now putting up industries where we used to live. We are homeless in our original habitat.”
GDA and her partners have been creating awareness campaigns about these challenges of the Bagyeli communities and have so far reached more than 500 people. Work has been done to build the capacity of the communities on sustainable agriculture and promoting alternative income generating activities to hunting and gathering such as cultivation of cocoa, vegetables, groundnuts and plantain-banana. This is contributing to the improved health of soil and food intake of the Bagyeli population amongst which many children suffer from malnutrition.
With the new partnership with the African Biodiversity Network, GDA is optimistic about increasing support for the Bagyeli population. GDA want to build the capacity of the Bagyeli population to speak up for themselves; to increase the adoption of agroecological farming approaches as well as bio-cultural diversity conservation. These activities are new to them since they have been hunter-gatherers. The aim is to support the formation of associations through which they channel their complaints to the government and lobby the government to give them fair compensation after eviction.
It is now more urgent than ever to put national policies in place for the socio-professional integration of the Bagyeli population without altering their culture and tradition. Regular accompaniment of the Bagyeli communities is essential to help them to continue the inter-community dialogues to find definitive and consensual solutions to the Bagyeli’s land issue in the Ocean division of Cameroon,
Green Development Advocates is among the new partners who joined the ABN from Cameroon in September 2021.