REDD+ in Cameroon: The national context
Cameroon has embarked on the process of preparing for REDD+ through issuance of its Readiness Plan Idea Note (validated in 2008) and its Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) (2013), with financial assistance channeled through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. The latter document presents the dynamics of deforestation and forest degradation in Cameroon and its MRV system. The net annual deforestation rate in Cameroon was estimated as 0.03% between 2000 and 2005 by Ernst et al. (2013). However, this could increase due to international and national investments in agroindustry and associated expansion of cocoa and oil palm plantations, mining, and infrastructure (Megevand 2013). According to the R-PP, REDD+ should provide Cameroon with a tool for the development of various sectors of the national economy. In June 2014, Cameroon released a three-year plan for the development of the national REDD+ strategy, largely based on the experiences of pilot initiatives.
A steering committee (SC) was set up by order of the prime minister (No. 103/CAB/PM of 13 June 2012) to ensure the coordination and coherence of REDD+ activities in Cameroon. The Ministry of the Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development (MINEPDED) is the focal point for climate change. The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (the body responsible for Cameroon’s forests where REDD+ operations are carried out) is participating in this committee in an auxiliary role. The SC seeks the participation of government, civil society, indigenous peoples, the private sector and local elected officials. While such broad representation could eventually lead to a national consensus, it may have undermined the SC’s ability to make progress in the short term. Many of the stakeholders in the SC working on the design and implementation of the REDD+ strategy are not effectively involved in the process as they lack capacity. Another controversial issue with regard to REDD+ implementation in Cameroon is the absence of regulation on carbon ownership. The implication is that carbon should be under the landowner’s control, but that does not clarify the ownership of carbon and could pose problems for the distribution of carbon credits.
A technical secretariat under MINEPDED has established criteria for REDD+ pilot initiatives1 in Cameroon, calling for them to effectively reduce deforestation and/or forest degradation over a clearly defined land area and to enhance understanding of the direct and indirect causes of deforestation and forest degradation in specific areas of Cameroon, leading to suggestions for ways and means to slow down or reverse the tendency. Many REDD+ initiatives have been proposed for the various agro-ecological zones of Cameroon (Bourges et al. 2014) but they focus mainly on capacity-building, research and information exchange (Alemagi et al. 2014). Thus, the proposed initiatives generally do not fulfil the criteria laid down by the SC and therefore do not yet qualify as ‘pilots’ (Bourges et al. 2014).
The expected outcomes of REDD+ include the dissemination of sustainable agricultural practices and rewards for landholders adopting such practices, financed by carbon markets or dedicated international funds. Effective evaluation tools will be needed to ensure conditionality and payments proportionate to accomplishments. Because of the importance of verifying performance, MRV systems have attracted international funding. However, Cameroon still has to establish an REL as set out in the R-PP recommendations. Each subnational initiative will have to introduce its own system for assessing the impacts of its activities on reducing emissions and advancing local development.
To increase the participation of civil society in Cameroon’s REDD+ process, a REDD+ experts working group has been established to provide assistance to local communities and NGOs in formulating, monitoring, implementing and evaluating pilot initiatives. Cameroon’s early initiatives were established when the national policy related to REDD+ was just being formulated. It is important to harvest lessons from these early initiatives in order to improve the design and implementation of REDD+.
1 According to the R-PP approved by Cameroon, a REDD+ pilot project must be devoted to (i) avoided deforestation, (ii) avoided degradation, (iii) conservation, (iv) sustainable forest management and (v) increases in carbon stocks.