23. Natural resource management in partnership with indigenous people

1. Approach’s Outline and Features

This approach involves studying the use of wildlife and forest resources by local people, including indigenous hunter-gatherers and developing and implementing a model to manage tropical forests sustainably.

Long-term interrelationships among humans, wildlife and plants have shaped the local natural environment, as local peoples’ activities in the forest have helped regenerate the diversified forest. With this in mind, an approach that respects and utilizes the traditional knowledge and practices of local people, rather than enclosing forests through zoning, would contribute toward managing forest resources sustainably.

Sustainable forest resource management, Indigenous people, Hunter-gatherer, Wildlife, NTFPs

2. Description of the project from which the approach is derived

2-1. Introduction

Although around 40% of Cameroon’s land area is forested, recent years have seen severe deterioration and loss, mainly due to timber harvesting and the expansion of farmlands and plantations, particularly since the mid-1990s. Since 1994, the government of Cameroon has been managing the forests with a zoning system and restricting their usage based on the land classification. As a land classification, forests are broadly divided into Permanent and non-Permanent forests. Permanent forests include State forests and Council forests. State forests are further subdivided into Protected areas and Forest reserves, including production forests. Non-permanent forests include Unclassified State forests, Community forests and Private forests. However, some local people have lived in protected areas before land classification and routinely used non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for food, fuel and medicine, among others. There are also concerns that strict government land use restrictions are interfering with their livelihoods. All this underlines the need for measures to manage forest resources more sustainably via collaboration among government, local people and other stakeholders.

2-2. Details of the measures taken

  • A study of the potential of NTFPs, including wildlife and their use by local people in a village in southeast Cameroon was conducted and revealed the following:
    • Local people (agricultural people and hunter-gatherers) depend on NTFPs for most of their food, tools and medicine.
    • The share of NTFPs as a proportion of hunter-gatherer cash income is about 90%. NTFPs vary widely by the year, season and species and access to wide-ranging forests (Approx. 400 km2, including adjacent logging and protected areas) must be guaranteed to obtain NTFPs in sufficient quantity while avoiding over-extraction of the resource.
    • The highest tree diversity indexes are found in non-permanent forests used by local people. Interventions in forests do not necessarily imply a loss of biodiversity – on the contrary, they may contribute to its maintenance. A striking example is how tree species distributed as NTFPs often germinate and grow on camp sites in forests.
    • The use of vegetative NTFPs only covers a small percentage of potential production in the forest. The risk of depletion due to utilization is low with vegetative NTFPs, but high with animal NTFPs like Red duikers or Blue duikers, for example,
Baka people squeezing oil out of Baillonella toxisperma seeds at their camping site and Baillonella toxisperma seedling (photo :JICA)

Based on the above results, the following measures are in place:

  • To devise a sustainable wildlife use model, animal ecological surveys mainly using the camera trapping method, observation of the hunting activities of local peoples and devised indicators for community-based monitoring are being conducted.
  • To devise a production and processing model to improve cash income from vegetable NTFPs, surveys on the distribution of vegetable NTFPs in domestic and international markets as well as work to investigate the potential of promising vegetable NTFPs and standardizing production and processing technologies.

To propose the implementation of a sustainable forest resource management model including the above model to the Cameroonian government, a survey of existing community organizations, developing human resources to coordinate the interests of the various managerial actors and examining and piloting an appropriate platform are all being conducted.

Holding a workshop at the village (photo :JICA)

(Perspectives on sustainability)

  • It is important to incorporate forest management practices developed through this approach into community forest management plans.
  • When using NTFPs in protected areas like national parks, it is important that both community organizations and neighboring national park authorities agree on their use. If this approach is successful, it is expected to be reflected in the national park management plan. Also crucial for locals is earning the trust of private forest owners like logging companies or travel agencies, so that they can use NTFPs unhindered. 

3. Analysis of the approach

3-1. Impact

  • The items, volumes, prices and regional differences in vegetable NTFPs traded in markets in Cameroon and abroad were determined. The products were further sub-classified into three groups:
    • Species Group I, which is seasonal and provides considerable cash income, particularly during good harvests
    • Species Group II, which is perennial and has stable prices
    • Species Group III, which compensates for losses during bad harvests in Species Group I or provides an occasional source of cash income when the product value suddenly increases
  • The study also revealed the existence of several vegetable NTFPs with high commodity value that were consumed mainly within the households of local people but which are expected to generate fresh cash income.

3-2. Lessons learned

  • In a workshop in which diverse stakeholders involved in forest resource management participate, clashes of opinion are likely depending on the participants’ positions and perspectives. A common shared vision is imperative when it comes to building collaborative relationships and this is why facilitators adopting a neutral position are needed.

4. Relevant information

NbS Approach Category3-6. 23
Title of the project from which the approach is derivedCo-creation of innovative forest resource management by integrating indigenous knowledge and ecological methods
CountryRepublic of Cameroon
République du Cameroun
Implementing term2018/7/15 – 2023/7/4
Implementing organizationsMinistry of Scientific Research and Innovation (MINRESI), Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), University of Dschang, University of Douala, University of Yaounde
Supporting organizationsJapan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Center for Africa Area Studies of Kyoto University
Contributors to this articleJunichiro Matsumoto/Japan Forest Technology Association (JAFTA)