One step forward, two steps back?: paradoxes of natural resources management decentralisation in Cameroon

One step forward, two steps back?: paradoxes of natural resources management decentralisation in Cameroon

Theory informs us that decentralisation, a process through which powers,
responsibilities and resources are devolved by the central state to lower territorial
entities and regionally/locally elected bodies, increases efficiency, participation, equity,
and environmental sustainability. Many types and forms of decentralisation have been
implemented in Africa since the colonial period, with varying degrees of success. This
paper explores the process of forest management decentralisation conducted in
Cameroon since the mid-1990s, highlighting its foundations and characterising its
initial assets. Through the transfer of powers to peripheral actors for the management of
forestry fees, Council Forests and Community [or Village] Forests, this policy
innovation could be empowering and productive. However, careful observation and
analysis of relationships between the central state and regional/local-level
decentralised bodies, on the one hand, and of the circulation of powers, on the other,
show – after a decade of implementation – that the experiment is increasingly governed
by strong tendencies towards ‘re-centralisation’, dictated by the practices of
bureaucrats and state representatives. The paper also confirms recent empirical
studies of ‘the capture of decentralised actors’. It finally shows how bureaucrats and
state authorities are haunted by the Frankenstein’s monster syndrome, concerning
state–local relationships in decentralised forest management.

Authors: Oyono, P.R.

Topic: decentralization,local government,forest management,natural resources,resource management,central government,relationships

Geographic: Cameroon

Publication Year: 2004

Source: Journal of Modern African Studies 42(1): 91-111


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