30 May 2006

Cameroon: Capacity, Commitment Needed for Better Landscape Management

Dr. Sunderland was speaking to The Post on Tuesday, May 23, at Camp Saker in Bimbia, Limbe, a few days to the close of a workshop organised by the Missouri Botanical Gardens, USA, the Smithsonian Institution, the Forests Resources and People, FOREP NGO, and coordinated by the Buea-based NGO, People Earth Wide, PEW.

The expert said, "The legal systems in Cameroon are extremely well defined and well advanced; the main problem is the implementation. This is why you have to feel for,

example, the Provincial Delegate of Forest for the Southwest: how many vehicles does he have to manage the Southwest? Two. Everywhere you go, the issue is the same, the lack of capacityâ-oe"

Sunderland responded to the question why there are lots of talks and policies on conservation and sustainable use of forests and their resources, both by the governments and the communities, yet, these very forests keep disappearing on a daily basis at a geometric speed.

It was at this backdrop that some 25 participants from some six African countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Burundi, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon converged in Limbe recently for a workshop.

The three-week training was funded by the Central African Regional Programme for the Environment; a US initiative. The Limbe course was titled, "Applied Research for Landscape Management: An Adaptive Approach."

Talking on the objective of the training, Sunderland said it was essentially to train landscape managers in a wide variety of different techniques needed to manage the complexities of forested landscapes.

As to what landscapes mean, he said "areas with a wide range of land uses such as for protected areas, community forests and forest management units, adding that the focus was teaching the participants a wholistic approach to managing these landscapes and how they interrelate.

Michael Balinga of FOREP on his part, said the exercise was also based on the fact that most of the landscapes or forested areas of the sub-region criss-cross borders like the Cameroon-Equatorial forest, which goes across to Gabon and Congo and the Cameroon-Nigeria Cross River Forest area.

"We are trying to build up capacity and encourage trans-boundary management of these forests," Sunderland emphasised.The training handled issues like primate survey methods with case studies from Gabon and Cameroon; management of protected areas - the case of the Korup Park in Cameroon, Protected Area Creation - Lessons from Madagascar; the bush meat crisis and many others.

Jeannie Raharimampionona, a botanist from the Missouri Botanic Gardens Unit in Madagascar drilled the participants on lessons from her country on Protected Area Creation and Management.

She said although the landscape here is quite different from that in the main land of Africa, they experience the same problems, thus lack of capacity, no finances, laws, rights and so on.

On the issue of conservation and development, she said there was an antagonistic concept between development and conservation and research."Research is the basic thing to use, for conservation is not against development but it helps development," she said.

Despite the fact that conservation is for development, this has not been the case in most African countries. While the governments, at one point preach conservation for development, on the other hand they either by omission or commission, encourage the unsustainable exploitation of the forests for timber for the benefit of a few top government officials.

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