Empowering Women and Ethnic Minority Groups to Collectively Market non Timber Forest Products from Community Forests in Cameroon

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Community forestry (CF) was introduced in Cameroon in 1994 as a way to reduce poverty and enhance sustainable forest management. CF activities have primarily focused on timber exploitation rather than non-timber forest product (NTFP) collection, processing or marketing. The study reports on a two year participatory action research project that aimed to test ways of increasing access to income from NTFPs for women and people of the Baka ethnic group in nine CFs around Lomié, East Cameroon. After a participatory diagnosis of problems and stakeholders harvesting NTFPs, approaches to enhance processing, packaging, marketing, monitoring and data collection were evaluated. This led to the development of a market information system that aimed to balance supply and demandby providing information lines on market prices between buyers and sellers. Training support was provided for sustainable harvesting, and to aid harvesters to negotiate prices. This led to 100% price increase in group sales; an increase in selling prices by 39% and an increased sales volume of six NTFPs: Irvingia gabonensis, Ricinodendron heudelotii, Pentacletra macrophylla, Baillonela toxisperma, Tetrapleura tetraptera, Pleurotus tuber-regiumresulting in a sales revenue increaseof 210% (to €72,500) between 2010 and 2012. In a context where logging is restricted to men, supporting access to NTFP markets has led to increased income for women and Baka. These results suggest that support to sustainably harvest and market NTFPs can aid development and access to markets for women and minority ethnic groups. The implications for the revision of the law on small scale commercialization, and the ability of the CFs to continue this system without support from development NGOs are discussed.

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