Positioning institutions for forest governance in Cameroon

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.

Meeting with community cocoa field farmers in Cameroon. Institutions need to empower communities for effective implementation of REDD+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. Proposed governance framework for forest governance at landscape level

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

Is Cameroon REDD+ Ready? Stakeholders weigh in

By Elizabeth Kahurani

Cameroon is endowed with a dense tropical rainforest part of the Congo Basin. This natural resource is estimated to cover about 42% of the country’s total land area and bodes environmental, as well as socio-economic benefits for the country, particularly for indigenous forest-dependent communities.  But the forest is threatened by high rates of deforestation,  and degradation.

Field practicals during ASB Partnership training on Estimating Opportunity Costs for REDD+ in CameroonAction taken by the government to curb this trend include being part of the global mechanism REDD+ -(Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks).

REDD+ is meant to support voluntary efforts to mitigate climate change by developing countries and provides financial value on carbon sequestered through the initiative. To actively participate in REDD+, a country has to go through various levels of preparation in a process called REDD Readiness.

To determine how far Cameroon is in this process, a recent study employed a framework with a set of universal applicable criteria developed by scientists at the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins. The criteria consists of six main functions, several sub-functions and indicators for successful implementation of REDD+. The six main functions are: Planning and Coordination; Policies, Laws and Institutions; Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) and Audit; Benefit Sharing; Financing; Demonstration and Pilots. The framework has a standard application and countries can use this framework to evaluate their REDD+ performance against other participating countries.

Cameroon’s score on the functions and indicators provided by the framework was determined through interviews with key REDD+ stakeholders at various levels of government, civil society, development partners, academic, and media. An extensive literature review was also conducted.

Overall, the country seems to do well on planning and coordination, political will and commitment through action taken with regard to institutional aspects; and in demonstration and pilots projects.  Functions that got low ratings were on legal, benefit sharing, MRV and Audit, and financing.

The study proposes a number of recommendations for Cameroon to fast track their readiness process. These include the need to complete the country REDD+ Strategy in order to enhance coordination between government ministries, establishing the National Observatory on Climate Change as an independent body with budget and mandate to implement activities, strengthening enforcement of government legislation within the forest sector, and providing clear channels for conflict resolution and addressing rights issues.

“To draw in the private sector, the idea of a carbon concession in which forest blocks are allocated to companies that can manage and sell carbon and proceeds shared between the government and communities is advanced,” says Dr Dieudonne Alemagi, lead author of the Cameroon study.

“Challenges to do with MRV can be tackled through engagement with regional and international initiatives with developed tools and methodologies that can be modified for local application,” he adds.

Developing a devolved mechanism through existing structures such as the annual forestry fess, Land fees, REDD+ performance-based payments is further explained as a way to improve benefit sharing and financing for REDD+ in Cameroon.

Being a rich forest country, Cameroon could take advantage of ongoing initiatives and opportunities to strengthen its forest sector. This study contributes practical steps for the country in this journey.

Source: REDD+ readiness process in Cameroon: an analysis of multi-stakeholder perspectives? 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: Alemagi, D. Minang, P. A. Feudjio, M. Duguma, L.A. 2014 REDD+ readiness process in Cameroon: an analysis of multi-stakeholder perspectives? Climate Policy 14 (6) 709-733

Complex political and economic realities of being REDD ready

Scientists with the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forests Margins at the World Agroforestry Centre have published a special  issue in Climate Policy vol.14, no. 6, that focuses on the Political Economy of Readiness for REDD+, guest edited by Dr Peter Minang and Dr Meine van Noordwijk.  All articles in this special issue are available for free as “open access” publications.

According to the special issue, the process of REDD+ readiness is shaped by a host of complex political and economic factors largely influenced by the national environment, history and circumstances specific to each country.

“The game changes at country level, and the process has to account for complex political and economic realities involving multiple actors, institutions, political and sectoral ideologies that require an iterative, rather than a simple linear, global process,” says Dr Peter Minang, one of the special issue editors.

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