Skip to navigation – Site map

Ecosystemic forest management approach to ensure forest sustainability and socio-economic development of forest dependent communities: Evidence from Southeast Cameroon

J. Mbairamadji

Abstracts

Forests provide a full spectrum of goods and services that contribute to the socio-economic development of forest dependent communities. In tropical countries, the diversity of stakeholders depending on forests with their divergent interests and expectations, make sustainable forest management (SFM) difficult to achieve. Although several studies advocate the decentralization of forest management and public participation as important processes for SFM, little has been done to demonstrate how these processes could contribute to forest sustainability and socioeconomic development of forest dependent communities. Moreover, almost no seminal paper has demonstrated how to integrate the ecological, economical and social issues of forest management, which have nevertheless been recognized as essential for sustainable forest management. This study develops an ecosystemic forest management approach based on “Stakeholder-Resource-Usage-Institution” dynamics as an appropriate framework for ensuring forest sustainability and socio-economic development. This approach is supported with lessons drawn on the limitations and pitfalls of the traditional forest management approach in Southeast Cameroon.

Top of page

Full text

I would like to express my gratitude to the Bantus and Pygmies of Southeast Cameroon who participated to the survey for their patience while answering questions and for the generous sharing of their secular knowledge of forest. I am also grateful to Dr. Madi Ali, former General Secretary of the Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Fauna (MINFOF) for the administrative arrangements he made, which facilitated the processing of the questionnaire and the interviews with the personnel of forest administration services as well as the access to the MINFOF publications. I would like to acknowledge that the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC) partially funded this research through a Doctoral Research Award. Finally, I wish to thank the Ministère de l’éducation du Québec (MEQ) and the Fondation UQAM for the field research funds I received.

Introduction

  • 1  Term used in this paper to refer to resources drawn from forest ecosystem, including timber, non-t (...)
  • 2  The Bantus of Southeast Cameroon include Kunabembe, Bangando, Bakwele and Ndjem.
  • 3  Predominantly of the Baka ethnic group.

1In Cameroon, forests represent the second largest source of domestic exports (MINEF, 2001) with industrial logging holding approximately 20% of its exports and 8% of GNP (Eba’a, 1998). This important role of forests in the economy accounts for the increased rate of deforestation observed in Cameroon (Sunderlin et al., 2000; Mertens et al., 2000). The region of Southeast Cameroon, whose population relies heavily on forest resources1 for its survival and socio-economic development,especially Bantus2 and Pygmies3, is experiencing a dramatic increase in industrial logging (Sunderlin and Pokam, 2002; Mertens et al., 2000). Apart from timber, the non-timber forest products also contribute to Cameroon’s socio-economic development as a source of protein (bush meat), fruits, medicinal plants and as an alternative source of income for forest dependent communities, henceforth referred in this article as local populations or populations. The interactions of local populations of Southeast Cameroon with forest are multifaceted and subject to traditional rules that regulate daily relationships of these populations with forests, namely their access to forest and their uses of forests resources according to either sex or ethnicity.

  • 4  The decentralization of forest management came into effect with the 1994 Forestry Law.

2On a global scale, the increasing pressures on tropical forests over the last decades have led to the loss of 6.1 million hectares of forest from 1981 to 1990 (Singh, 1994) and more than 5.8 million hectares from 1990 to 1997 (Achard et al., 2002). The challenges brought by tropical deforestation, particularly with regards to the integration of forest-based economic development and biodiversity conservation, led to questions of the effectiveness of forest management approaches and policies (Salleh, 1997). The concept of sustainable forest management (SFM) was therefore developed to tackle these challenges, and since its emergence, forest management no longer focuses solely on commercial wood species but also on other forest resources (Bousson, 2003; Berlyn and Ashton, 1996; Barrette et al., 1996; Wiersum, 1995). The concept of sustainable forest management also advocates public participation in decision-making (Buchy and Hoverman, 2000; Guggenhein and Spears, 1998). Participation of the populations into forest management is facilitated by the decentralization of forest management. The process of decentralization4 was made effective in Cameroon with the devolution of the management of community forests and timber royalties to the populations. Since its early beginning in the 1970s, the goals of social forestry and later of community forestry are manifold: contribute to the socio-economic development of forest dependent communities (Gregersen et al., 1989); curve environmental degradation and reduce poverty in developing countries (Guggenheim and Spears, 1998). Therefore, the main constraints in achieving sustainable forest management consist in finding a sound balance between increasing pressures on forest resources by actors with divergent interests and the conservation of forest sustainability. Such a balance requires that an equilibrium be achieved between between stakeholders, the forest ecosystem, uses of forest resources as well as institutional regulations to better take into account ecological and socio-economic constraints. To achieve such goals, systemic methods and approaches are required. Hence the relevance of the ecosystemic forest management approach proposed in this study. Despite garnering relevance among scientists, ecosystemic management is rarely practiced as it still requires a methodology (Yaffee, 1998; Stanley, 1995) and there is a lack of detailed documentation for its implementation (Margerum and Born, 1995).

3The purpose of this paper is to develop and apply an ecosystemic forest management approach based on “Stakeholder-Resource-Usage-Institution” dynamics in order to foster both socio-economic development of forest dependent communities and forest sustainability. From this perspective, ecosystemic forest management is considered dynamic system formed by four subsystems (Stakeholder, Resource, Usage, Institution) differing from the traditional approach of forest management in its systemic approach and its flexibility to integrate ecological, economical and social constraints of forest management.

Methodology

  • 5  Bintom, Gribé, Massea, Ntiou and Zokadiba.
  • 6  On average, 10 to 12 persons live in each household.

4The study, conducted in Southeast Cameroon (Figure 1), was based not only on findings from field implementation of the sustainable forest management concept in this area but also on evidence from five villages5 that experienced the management of community forests and forest royalties. The study refers to a multidisciplinary methodology including systems analysis, strategic analysis, institutional analysis and environmental modelling described with more details in Mbairamadji (2006). In order to collect data on the local uses of forest resources, a questionnaire was used and 213 households6 from the villages mentioned above were chosen randomly. In addition, 48 interviews were conducted with representatives of forest administration, political authorities, forest companies and non-governmental organizations/local researchers. The interviews explored constraints faced by the populations with regards to the implementation of sustainable forest management concept and their inquiries on forest sustainability. Finally, 10 focus groups were organized among Pygmies, Bantus, immigrants and women groups to examine forest management issues important to each group and constraints faced in gaining access to forest resources.

Figure 1. Location of study site

5

6Study site

Results

Decentralization of forest management and public participation

7Various institutional changes were made to Cameroon’s forest law to increase the participation of local populations in forest management and to contribute to socio-economic development. These institutional changes aimed at helping local populations to take part in decision-making on forest management. In fact, with the decentralization of forest management, the management of community forests/communal forests as well as timber royalties were transferred from the central government to the populations and municipalities. By doing so, the central government decided not to control the management of forest units which where henceforth devolved to local populations. In Southeast Cameroon, these institutional changes led to the capture of forest benefits by a few individuals and to the marginalization of the local populations from decision-making on community forests and timber royalties (Mbairamadji, 2006). The poor participation of the populations observed in community forest and the increasing uses of the forest resources reported in Southeast Cameroon might stem from these perverse effects of decentralization. The marginalization of the populations from forest management decision-making and the capture of forest benefits by a few stakeholders are found to be the factors that compromise the socio-economic development and the participation of stakeholders in forest management in Southeast Cameroon.

Forest perception and traditional uses of forest resources

8The main uses of forest by the populations of Southeast Cameroon include: agriculture, hunting/fishing, harvesting of timber/non-timber forest products (wood, fruit, medicinal plants), wildlife resources and the practice of traditional rites involving the forest. These uses of the forest and its resources are essential for the socio-economic development of forest dependent communities and they are affected by a number of factors such as forest perception (Table 1).

Table 1. Forest perception and uses of forest resources in Southeast Cameroon

Table 1. Forest perception and uses of forest resources in Southeast Cameroon

9In Southeast Cameroon, the uses of forest resources at a local scale are mainly governed by social norms derived from traditional customs that set models of behaviour which populations have to abide by according to sex or ethnicity. These social norms shape the way the populations perceive forest and the types of uses they make of forest resources. In fact, the stakeholders who perceive forest as a source of wealth—mainly the Bantus (51.4%)—favour the uses of forest resources that generate income (timber trading, trade of non-timber forest products and wildlife resources). While the stakeholders who perceive forest as a living environment, like the Pygmies (73.4%), or forest as a source of food, like women (57.1%), are rather interested in the uses of forest resources insofar as these uses guarantee their survival (food, pharmacopoeia, rites). These findings suggest that approaches towards sustainable forest management should consider not only the diversity of local uses of forest ecosystems and resources that are taking place but also the variety of the perceptions assigned locally to forest. Taking these considerations into account will help to avoid conflicts among stakeholders with respect to the access to and the use of forest resources and also served as a guide for a better allocation of forest space among stakeholders for various purposes (community forests, communal forests, industrial forest concessions, parks). Moreover, the results from Southeast Cameroon revealed a marginal use of timber resources by local populations as building materials or source of domestic energy, uses which do not compromise forest sustainability. However, the sustainability of the local uses of non-timber forest products (NTFP) and wildlife resources by these local populations is uncertain and several factors contributed to this situation: the increased number of stakeholders involved in the extraction of the NTFP/wildlife resources and the frequency of their extraction. The forest resources widely used locally are listed in Table 2.

  • 7  Percentage of respondents who mentioned these forest resources as those they use regularly.

Table 2. Forest resources most widely used by the populations (n7 20)

Table 2. Forest resources most widely used by the populations (n7 20)
  • 8  It includes tools used to extract forest resources as well as the frequency of extraction.

10The forest resources reported by more than 35% of local stakeholders as most widely used include wildlife resources and non-timber forest products. As for the moabi (Baillonella toxisperma) and the sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum), these two species are not sought by the populations solely for their high commercial timber value. Actually, they are subject to multiple uses (roots, wood, bark, leaves). In sum, the level of the populations’ dependence on forest either for food or as a source of income, their perception of forest and the systems8 of appropriation used to extract forest resources are the main factors that affect the sustainability of the local uses of forest resources. This is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Factors affecting the sustainability of the uses of non-timber forest products (NTFP) and wildlife resources in Southeast Cameroon.

Figure 2 Factors affecting the sustainability of the uses of non-timber forest products (NTFP) and wildlife resources in Southeast Cameroon.

Discussion : The ecosystemic forest management approach and its application to tropical rainforests of Southeast Cameroon.

11The lessons drawn from the implementation of SFM concept in Southeast Cameroon combined with key findings on sustainable forest management and environmental modeling led to the development of a conceptual model of ecosystemic forest management (Mbairamadji, 2006). The approach described below is an extension of this conceptual model and encompasses the following steps: justification, specification, subsystems, integration and evaluation.

Figure 3 Ecosystemic forest management approach

Figure 3 Ecosystemic forest management approach

Justification and specification

  • 9  It includes everything that is external to the system and not affected by it, but which, in part, (...)

12The justification stage, also referred to as the problem setting stage (Deaton and Winebrake, 2000), consists in clarifying the objectives or goals of forest management considered as a system and in identifying and specifying critical issues faced by this system (participation, access to forest resources, benefit sharing, biodiversity conservation, captures of forest benefits). Subsequently, at the specification stage, setting the system’s boundaries (local, regional, national scale, spatial and temporal extension) is required as well as fixing its constraints (administrative, ecological and economic). At this stage, a good understanding and description of the system’s external environment9 (Churman, 1974) is also needed. The findings from Southeast Cameroon indicate that the local forest management boundaries do not allow an appropriate handling of issues such as the capture of forest benefits and the marginalization of the populations from decision-making on community forests and timber royalties. In response to this, the flexibility of the proposed approach and its ability to easily adapt to evolving institutional challenges of SFM represent assets for the sound integration of innovative solutions to tackle problems of marginalisation and captures of forest benefits. This integration is facilitated in the proposed approach by its potential to allow continuous reviewing of the system boundaries and constraints in response to forest management issues at stake.

Subsystems

13The proposed approach considers forest management as a system made up of four sub-systems which are presented in Table 3.

Table 3 Ecosystemic forest management subsystems

Table 3 Ecosystemic forest management subsystems

14The stakeholders and usage’ characterization consists in identifying the stakeholders involved in forest management, the types of forest resources they extract and use, the value they place on forests ecosystem and their perception of forest. As for the characterization of resources, it consists in making an inventory of forest resources used and comparing this with the stock of forest resources available. When doing so, the endangered forest resources or those extinct should be included. This helps to generate statistics on forest resources availability, the rate and frequency of forest resources extraction and to identify the tools used locally to extract these resources. Finally, the characterization of the Institution consists in examining factors that affect forest policies and forest laws as well as constraints of their implementation. This characterization permits the establishment of a connection between the elaboration of forest laws and policies developed on a national scale and the extraction of forest resources carried out locally.

Implementation

15The implementation of the proposed approach becomes more practical during the integration and evaluation stages. This implementation requires an effective integration of the four subsystems of forest management mentioned above. Such integration is necessary, for the harvesting of forest resources by a user for a given purpose will necessarily involve the Resource subsystem (A), the Stakeholder subsystem (B) and the Usage subsystem (C). Moreover, since the users have access to forest according to rules set up by the Institution subsystem (D), this subsystem is also included. Therefore, an action initiated from one of the four subsystems affects the others. For a sound integration of the four subsystems, answers to the following questions are needed:

  • Which impacts do the uses of forest resources have on forest sustainability and biodiversity conservation? Which actions are taken or should be taken to tackle these impacts?

  • Do the stakeholders involved into forest management respect forest law (norms, taxes)? If not, why and which decisions should be taken to tackle such a problem?

  • Are there known conflicts among the stakeholders with respect to the access or the uses of forest resources? If so, do these conflicts compromise the sustainability of forest ecosystem and what strategies or actions should be taken to address these conflicts?

  • Does the extraction rate of forest resources exceed the growth rate?

  • Which concrete actions are taken or should be taken to provide for a sound balance between the uses of forest resources and ecological constraints of forest sustainability?

  • Do the decisions on forest management take into account the divergent interests of stakeholders and issues of forest sustainability?

  • Do the populations participate in the decision-making process on forest? If not, why and what should be done to change this situation?

16These questions should be examined from a holistic perspective and the answers integrated at the appropriate stage of the proposed approach.

17Based on the findings from Southeast Cameroon, the integration of the stakeholders involved into forest management requires taking in consideration their interests in and expectations of forests as well as their uses of forest resources. These findings also reveal that, despite the opportunity offered by the Cameroon’s forest law to enhance the participation of the populations into forest management through decentralization, the populations of Southeast are still excluded from decision-making on community forests and timber royalties.This brings to light the limitations of the traditional forest management model based on linear processes. Therefore, in order to integrate the interests and expectations of the stakeholders, it is important to set up an integrative approach that considers the diversity of actors involved in forest management, their uses of forest resources and the ecological factors affecting forest sustainability. In this regard, the findings from Southeast Cameroon suggest three factors to consider: the degree of the dependence of the populations on forest resources, their perception of forests and the forest resources appropriation system used. Finally, these findings recommend considering the Institution subsystem as the core component of forest management system for a sound integration of the four subsystems. Indeed, the administrative and regulatory provisions (policies, laws) of the Institution subsystem help mitigate negative effects brought by the decentralization of forest management as reported in Southeast Cameroon (conflicts among forest resources users, marginalization of the population, captures of forest benefits). Moreover, the flexibility of the Institution subsystem enables upward integration (e.g. constraints observed on local scale) and downward integration (e.g. macroeconomic constraints observed at national or international scale). These upward and downward integrations of institutional changes are essential to improve ecosystemic forest management and socioeconomic development. In the proposed approach they can easily be introduced at any stage of forest management process. The dynamic integration of the four subsystems is illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Dynamic integration of ecosystemic forest management subsystems

Figure 4. Dynamic integration of ecosystemic forest management subsystems

18While implementing the ecosystemic forest management approach, the key issues of forest management at stake must be addressed, both biophysical and socioeconomic aspects. This requires that the needs of forest dependent populations, their perception of forest, the tools and means they use to appropriate forest resources, the dynamic of the forest ecosystem and forest resources used as well as institutional dynamics of regulatory and economic instruments set up for forest management be taken into account. In addition, the participation of stakeholders and balance between forest resources availability and extraction are required. As for evaluation, its purpose is to examine the contribution of the subsystems either individually or globally in ensuring forest sustainability and socio-economic development. The evaluation stage provides information whether goals of SFM are achieved in order to make specific recommendations for a particular subsystem or even the whole system. Hence, the evaluation stage contributes to continuously improve the performance of the proposed approach to ensure forest sustainability and socio-economic development.

Conclusion

19The tropical rainforests of Southeast Cameroon are subject to tremendous pressures from stakeholders who have different interests and expectations. In this region, non-timber forest products and wildlife resources are those most widely used by the populations and the increasing pressures on these forest resources is due to three factors: the perception of forest by the populations, their dependence on forest resources either for income or food, and the means locally used to appropriate forest resources. To ensure forest sustainability and socioeconomic development of forest dependent communities, the diversity of the uses of forest resources taking place locally as well as ecological factors affecting forest sustainability should be integrated within an integrative forest management approach such as the ecosystemic forest management approach proposed. While the traditional forest management approach deals with forest management issues from a linear perspective, the proposed approach is integrative and adaptive, therefore allowing continuous adjustments and institutional changes to be introduced in the system at appropriate stages of forest management process. This approach considers forest management as a system where issues of forest management are analysed, taking into account both their socio-economical aspects (social factors, regulatory and economic instruments) and their biophysical aspects (factors affecting growth and renewal of forest resources). Hence, the implementation of the proposed approach suggests that one consider the “Stakeholder-Resource-Usage-Institution” dynamics. These findings have brought to light the challenges related to the integration of ecological and socioeconomic constraints involved in forest management in order to ensure socioeconomic development and forest sustainability. This study's emphasis is solely on the uses of forest resources by forest dependent communities. I including others users of forest resources, such as the industrial forest dwellers operating in Southeast Cameroon, would introduce more constraints worth considering.

Top of page

Bibliography

Achard, F., Eva, H.D., Stibig, H.J, Mayaux, P., Gallego, J., Richards, T. et Malingreau, J.P. 2002.Determination of deforestation rates of the world’s humid tropical forests. Science, vol. 297: 999-1002.

Barrette, Y., Gauthier, G., Paquette, A. 1996. Aménagement de la forêt pour des fins de production ligneuse. In Manuel de foresterie, Les Presses de l’Université Laval, p. 648-671.

Berlyn, G.P. and Ashton, P. M. S. 1996. Sustainability of forests, Journal of Sustainable Forestry, vol.3, no 3/4, p. 77-89.

Bousson, E. 2003. Gestion forestière intégrée : approche basée sur l’analyse multicritère. Presses agronomiques de Gembloux, 303p.

Buchy, M. and Hoverman, S. 2000. Understanding public participation in forest planning: a review. Forest Policy and Economics, 1, p.15-25.

Churchman, C.W. 1974. Qu’est-ce que l’analyse par les systèmes? Bordas. 216p.

Deaton, M.L. and Winebrake, J.J. 2000. Dynamic modeling of environmental systems. Springer, New York, 194 p.

Eba’a Atyi, R. 1998. Cameroon’s logging industry: structure, economic importance and effects of devaluation. Center for International Forestry Research, 40p.

Gregersen, H., Draper, S. and Elz, D. 1989. People and trees: the role of social forestry in sustainable development. World Bank, Washington.

Guggenheim, S. and Spears, J. 1998. Les dimensions sociologiques et environnementales des projets de foresterie sociale. In Cernea. M, ed.La dimension humaine dans les projets de développement, les variables sociologiques et culturelles. Paris, Editions Karthala, p. 325-361.

Margerum, R. D. et Born, S.M. 1995. Integrated Environmental Management: Moving from theory to practice, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol. 38, no. 3, p. 371-390.

Mbairamadji, J. 2006. Gestion écosystémique des forêts basée sur la dynamique «acteurs-usages-ressources» : Application aux forêts tropicales humides du Cameroun. Thèse de doctorat en sciences de l’environnement, Université du Québec à Montréal, 199p.

Mertens, B.; Sunderlin, W. D.; Ndoye, O. and Lambin, E.F. 2000. Impact of macroeconomic change on deforestation in South Cameroon: integration of household survey and remotely-sensed data. 2000. World Development, vol. 28, no 6: 983-999.

MINEF, 2001. Présentation du secteur forestier camerounais. Ministère de l’environnement et des forêts, 80p.

Oyono, P.R., 2004. Institutional deficit, representation and decentralized forest management in Cameroon. Elements of natural resource sociology for social theory and public policy. World Resources Institute, 56p.

Salleh, M. 1997. Sustainability: The panacea for our forestry ills?, Journal of Sustainable Forestry, vol.4, no 3/4, 33-43.

Singh, K.D. 1994. Tropical forest resources. An analysis of the 1990 assessment. Journal of forestry, vol. 92, no 2, 27-31.

Stanley, T.R. 1995. Ecosystem management and the arrogance of humanism. Conservation Biology, Vol. 9, no. 2: 255-262.

Sunderlin, W.; Ndoye, O.; Bikié, H.; Laporte, N.; Mertens, B. and Pokam, J. 2000. Economic crisis, small-scale agriculture, and forest cover change in southern Cameroon. Environmental Conservation, 27 (3): 284-290.

Sunderlin, W., D. and Pokam, J. 2002. Economic crisis and forest cover change in Cameroon: the roles of migration, crop diversification, and gender division of labor. Economic Development and Cultural Change, vol. 50, no 3, pp: 581-606.

Wiersum, K.,F.1995. 200 years of sustainability in forestry: lessons from history, Environmental management, vol.19, no 3, p. 321-329.

Yaffee, S. L. 1998. Three faces of ecosystem management. Conservation Biology, Vol. 13, no. 4: 713-725.

Top of page

Notes

1  Term used in this paper to refer to resources drawn from forest ecosystem, including timber, non-timber forest products and wildlife .

2  The Bantus of Southeast Cameroon include Kunabembe, Bangando, Bakwele and Ndjem.

3  Predominantly of the Baka ethnic group.

4  The decentralization of forest management came into effect with the 1994 Forestry Law.

5  Bintom, Gribé, Massea, Ntiou and Zokadiba.

6  On average, 10 to 12 persons live in each household.

7  Percentage of respondents who mentioned these forest resources as those they use regularly.

8  It includes tools used to extract forest resources as well as the frequency of extraction.

9  It includes everything that is external to the system and not affected by it, but which, in part, determines its performance.

Top of page

List of illustrations

URL http://factsreports.revues.org/docannexe/image/282/img-1.png
File image/png, 15k
Title Table 1. Forest perception and uses of forest resources in Southeast Cameroon
URL http://factsreports.revues.org/docannexe/image/282/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 40k
Title Table 2. Forest resources most widely used by the populations (n7 20)
URL http://factsreports.revues.org/docannexe/image/282/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 44k
Title Figure 2 Factors affecting the sustainability of the uses of non-timber forest products (NTFP) and wildlife resources in Southeast Cameroon.
URL http://factsreports.revues.org/docannexe/image/282/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 172k
Title Figure 3 Ecosystemic forest management approach
URL http://factsreports.revues.org/docannexe/image/282/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 280k
Title Table 3 Ecosystemic forest management subsystems
URL http://factsreports.revues.org/docannexe/image/282/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 100k
Title Figure 4. Dynamic integration of ecosystemic forest management subsystems
URL http://factsreports.revues.org/docannexe/image/282/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 173k
Top of page

References

Electronic reference

J. Mbairamadji, « Ecosystemic forest management approach to ensure forest sustainability and socio-economic development of forest dependent communities: Evidence from Southeast Cameroon », Field Actions Science Reports [Online], Vol. 3 | 2009, Online since 24 September 2010, connection on 21 October 2017. URL : http://factsreports.revues.org/282

Top of page

About the author

J. Mbairamadji

Institut des sciences de l’environnement, Université du Québec à Montréal, Succ. Centre Ville, CP 8888, Montréal, CanadaE-mail: mbairamadji.jeremie@uqam.ca

Top of page

Copyright

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Top of page
  • Les cahiers de Revues.org