30 March 2005

Cameroon: Instilling Order in Forest Management

Stakeholders meet in Lomie to fine-tune procedure on making Dja and Mpomo Reserve a model forest.

Lomie, Ngoyla, Messok, Mindourou. Do these names mean anything to you ? Well, these are the four Sub-Divisions of the Upper Nyong Division in the East Province, that want order in the management of the natural resources in and around them. The zeal to instil a coordinated management system could be clearly seen last Tuesday March 22, in Lomie where stakeholders in forest management met to clearly define the modus operandi of a new management system, code name, model forest. The interests of 73 villages were represented at that meeting; 28 from Lomie, 15 from Ngoyla and 15 from Mindourou.

But what was certainly not new at the Lomie confab, was that it was not the first time the local population was meeting to discuss forest management. Their memories were still fresh on the community forestry management system which they hitherto believe so much in. However, there was something new, and like many other preceding new things about forest management, they wanted to have it clear in their minds. What difference will it make, what benefit will be derived from it and what advantage will it have over preceding methods of management.

Model forest is the new management concept, inbtroduced in the country by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) with the aim of getting Cameroon into the mainstream of the International Model Forest Network. The Lomie meeting as stated inter alia, by the Mayor of Lomie Rural Council who doubles as president of the Steering Committee for the establishment of a model forest in the Dja and Mpomo Reserve, is an important point of departure and a logical follow up of the series of meetings so far organised to set up the process. Mr Célestin Assama Mbongo is especially pleased to have the Dja and Mpomo reserve amongst the three sites selected from the initial 10 earmarked for the process. In the mean time, the steering committee has constituted a solid file which reflects confidence and which is presently under the microscopic analysis of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. Pending authorization, it became necessary to clearly explain things to the population to be sure that they have effectively understood the new concept. The Lomie meeting therefore provided occasion for representatives of various groups to air their views on the concept. These included: mayors of the four councils, national and international NGOs, community forestry, rural women, Baka pygmies, traditional chiefs and religious groups. All declared their adherence to the concept.

Dr. Chimere Diaw, the programme coordinator for forest and governance, CIFOR, Central and West Africa sub-regions, made things clearer. The model forest, he said, is neither a project nor a physical forest. It is a process that sets out to get the population manage its resources in a sustainable manner. But this must be done in partnership.

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