By Elizabeth Kahurani
For any country, developing an institutional framework on forest governance that incorporates and seamlessly coordinates activities between various sectors and stakeholders with varying interests and ideas can be quite a challenge. In most developing countries like Cameroon, this challenge seems to be compounded by other factors such as dependency on international actors and power concentration at the national level.
According to a new study looking at institutional dimensions of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in Cameroon, ‘external organizations appear to play a dominant role in the implementation of REDD+ demonstration activities.’ In addition, international consultants and organizations seem to lead discussions in climate change forums, a situation that has resulted in “ambiguity of the REDD+ development process in Cameroon, particularly with regard to institutionalized patterns of action,” says Serge Ngendakumana, lead author of the study. He points out that this may not be unique to Cameroon but a challenge in other developing countries as well, and seems to be a scenario played out at the UN climate talks debate on the REDD+ process where developing countries viewpoints are not fully incorporated. “While collaboration with international bodies is key especially in developing capacity, national actors need to set up clear and transparent country-specific norms and rules to ensure sustainability,” says Serge.
The study was conducted through interviews and is framed around a REDD+ nested policy structure with four principles of -Institutions, Interests, Ideas, and Information. “Using this 4I’s framework, there is strong potential to build strong interplays for actors’ flexibility in current discourses,” explains Serge. The structure comes with recommendations for implementing social safeguards to avoid negative impacts on the local community.
With regard to power relations and participation, the study found that in comparison to other actors, responsibilities are vested on state agents to the extent that these institutions will be both the regulators and managers of forest carbon, raising concerns of effectiveness and transparency in the process. “As this and other studies recommend, there is need for co-management in the process especially with the local communities,” recommends Dr Peter Minang, who is also an author in the study. In addition, the private sector including the agribusiness and logging companies need to be part of the process as they present both threats and opportunities. “Some of them can be funding sources for payment for ecosystem services initiatives,” says Dr Minang.
To promote an even distribution of power relations and inclusiveness, the study developed a governance framework that stands on key institutional sectors acting together with stakeholders at a landscape level to empower communities to implement REDD+ activities. Communities can be empowered through actions such as secure land and tree tenure, agroforestry and other climate smart agricultural techniques for increased production.
“The model we propose in this study if applied can build capacity for the local communities thus reducing their vulnerability, ensure fair compensation, and promote institutional coordination,” says Serge.
The REDD initiative presents an opportunity for Cameroon to benefit from efforts to keep the country’s forest standing. To realize benefits, forest governance structures need to be assessed and changes made to ensure a fair transparent, and coordinated process.
Institutional Dimensions of the Developing REDD+ Process in Cameroon study is part of a journal special issue Climate Policy vol.14, no. 6 focusing on The Political Economy of Readiness for REDD+. All articles in this issue are open access.
Citation: Ngendakumana, S. Minang, P.A. Feudjio, M. Speelman, S. Van Damme, P. Tchoundjeu, Z. 2014 Institutional dimensions of the developing REDD+ process in Cameroon Climate Policy 14 (6) 769-787