Bamenda Highlands Forest Project, Cameroon
The Bamenda Highlands Forest Project works with forest adjacent communities throughout the Bamenda Highlands in North West Province of Cameroon. Except for the Kilum-Ijim Forest at 20,000ha, which covers the slopes of Mount Oku and the adjacent Ijim Ridge, most of the remaining patches of montane forest in the Bamenda Highlands are quite small (under 500ha). Nevertheless, they are biologically very important and support viable populations of both rare and endangered species, with some plant species being restricted to one or two patches of forest. They are also important culturally and economically providing not only water but other resources, such as building materials.
The Bamenda Highlands Forest Project works with communities and supporting agencies in the Bamenda Highlands region to assist them to manage their natural forests.
- By the end of the five-year project period (2000 - 2004), we expect at least eight communities to be managing their forests for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. An additional 10 communities will have started putting in place a management system
- By providing opportunities for "learning-by-doing", the project contributes to developing the capacity of communities, local NGOs and government services so that other communities may undertake conservation initiatives in the future, without external assistance
- The project also works with people throughout the Bamenda Highlands region to develop a constituency that supports nature conservation.
Communities in Cameroon have only recently had the opportunity to gain legal entitlement to forest resources - since the passing of a new Forestry Law in 1994. Although traditional institutions have been involved in forest management and control in the past, many of the institutions have been weakened, and today's social and economic setting presents new challenges.
The project is helping communities to establish community-based institutions for forest management, and to build their capacity for forest management. It is also helping with the legal attribution of community forests - a complex legal process, and is supporting the production of management plans that will generate a sustainable stream of benefits to local people, whilst conserving the important biodiversity of the forests.
Work with NGOs and government services is building the capacity of these agencies to support communities in the process of community forestry in the long term. The project works alongside local staff of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry when working with communities whilst capacity in NGOs is being developed both by working with them in the field and through internships and seminars.
Communities who have been involved in putting in place a system for forest management will have the skills to repeat the process. NGO and government staff who have worked alongside project staff to help these communities will be able to help other communities in the future.
Environmental education is the means by which the Bamenda Highlands Forest Project is developing a constituency for nature conservation. A range of media is used to inform people about the importance of the forests of the region, such as radio, newspaper, posters and leaflets, displays and public talks, as well as workshops with key target audiences such as teachers.
Field visits to forests to provide hands-on experience are also an important component of the programme.
- The Bamenda Highlands Forest Project was officially launched in June 2000. During its first year of operation much effort has been devoted to ensuring that all communities who have forests have heard about the project. To date over 50 communities have applied to the project for assistance with management of their forests. This is much higher than the number originally anticipated.
- The project has begun working with all of these communities and progress varies from community to community. One group, the Kumbo Urban Council, has already produced a management plan for their forest and has started to implement it. Others are at the point of physically demarcating the limits of their forest. Many others are at the beginning of the process and are engaged in developing a consensus within the community for forest conservation.
- The work of the project with NGOs and government staff has also produced concrete results in terms of enhanced capacity. Directly as a result of this work an umbrella network of 20 local NGOs and CBOs working in the Community Forestry Sector in the North West Province has been established in order to better co-ordinate civil society support to communities.
Other agencies involved
The Bamenda Highlands Forest Project is being carried out by BirdLife International in collaboration with the Cameroon Ministry of the Environment and Forestry as well as with local NGOs and the communities themselves.
The Bamenda Highlands Forest Project is funded by the U.K. Community Fund and the Global Environment Facility (GEF)/UNDP.
For further details contact:
The Bamenda Highlands Forest Project
P.O. Box 275, Bamenda,
North West Province,
Tel: (237) 336 21 93