Contribution of environmental products to the household economy in Cameroon: essential, complementary or trivial?

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The role of environmental products, especially of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) in the livelihoods of rural people has been underlined by many scholars though their actual contribution to household income remains debated. To some, this contribution is essential while for others it is only complementary or even trivial. In order to contribute to this debate, we analyzed the data collected through 474 household interviews and focus group discussions held in 13 villages in the humid forest zone of Cameroon. The results show that environmental products in general were collected by 96% (East) 76% (South) and 58% (Southwest) of the households interviewed. Though non-negligible in the first two regions, the financial contribution of environmental products to the household economy remains relatively low. However, many households remain attached to NTFPs because they reflect their way of life and food security aspirations. The highest relative contribution of NTFPs (16%) to households’ income was obtained from villages in the East populated by Baka pygmies while the highest absolute household income value emerged from villages in the South (XAF 600,000/USD 1,091) where the performance was associated with both forest availability and the willingness of Bantu households to invest their time and knowhow in valuing environmental goods. On the other hand, agriculture was dominant in the three regions with an average annual income of 70%, 46% and 38% respectively for villages in the South, Southwest and East regions.

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