Plans have been underway since 1994 to increase the participation of local communities in the management of Cameroon's forest resources through a community forestry programme. This paper critically examines the legal and institutional foundations of the programme and finds it to be greatly deficient. Among the problems found are that the programme: (1) does not relinquish control over land including forest land; (2) retains unilateral decision making power over the use of forest resources; (3) imposes high financial costs for community participation; (4) is characterised by contradictions; (5) does not sufficiently divulge basic information about community forestry as a legal option; and (6) introduces management entities which are not adapted to local conditions. This paper argues that the entrenchment and perpetuation of State supremacy over land and forest resources, by successive land tenure and forestry sector reforms, constitutes a formidable obstacle to participatory management of forest resources. It recommends that, through a system of institution specific design, the land laws should be reformed in the direction of recognition of indigenous land rights and local communities given a real stake in the resources of community forests and recognised as fully-fledged partners in their management.
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)