Community forestry in Cameroon: opportunity or constraint for REDD+?

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This study aims to identify opportunities and constraints of community forestry in the context of forest decentralization in Cameroon and what can be capitalized on for sound REDD+ design and implementation. A qualitative approach to data collection was used through content analysis of 1994 forestry law, reports and publications related to decentralized forest management, community forestry and REDD+ in Cameroon. Principles that govern community forest and REDD+ were highlighted and opportunities and constraints of community forestry for REDD+ projects were discussed. Community forestry was developed principally to protect forests in order to support the subsistence and income-generating extractive activities of forest-dependent communities. Community forestry governance arrangements were not designed with the objective of achieving verifiable emissions reductions or carbon stock values. Hence, existing community forestry institutions may not address all the specific demands of REDD+ programs. However, existing community institutions and practices can be strengthened or modified to align better with climate change mitigation goals and to achieve REDD+ objectives in community forestry sites. On the other hand, REDD+ was developed principally to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation principally within developing countries where the livelihoods of forest-dependent people are a central component of all forest management policies. However, despite fundamental differences between community forestry and REDD+, there is substantial synergy between their objectives, and the dual forest conservation and livelihood development focus of both programs means that policies that strengthen and support existing community forestry institutions and sites will advance REDD+ objectives. As such, REDD+ will likely to be more successful if it builds on lessons learned from community forestry. This paper demonstrates how REDD+ is more likely to succeed if it builds on the lessons learned from community forestry over the past 20-plus years in Cameroon. It also discusses how REDD+ can benefit from community forestry and how some of the many challenges related to community forestry can be directly addressed by the REDD+ mechanism. Further, this paper also argues how the congruence between community forestry and REDD+ can effectively facilitate the direct use of community forestry as a tool to achieve REDD+ goals.

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