in Cameroon

Two critiques of REDD in Cameroon, from Forest Peoples Programme and CIFOR

Two new reports look at REDD in Cameroon from slightly different perspectives. The first, by the Forest Peoples Programme, focuses on indigenous peoples’ rights in the REDD processes in the country. The second, by CIFOR, looks at context of REDD, including reference scenarios, mechanisms for funding, monitoring, reporting and verification and political reforms.

The report published by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) was written by Emmanuel Freudenthal, Samuel Nnah and Justin Kenrick: “REDD and Rights in Cameroon: A review of the treatment of indigenous peoples and local communities in policies and projects” (pdf file 1.0 MB). CIFOR’s report, “The context of REDD+ in Cameroon: Drivers, agents and institutions” (pdf file 1.5 MB), was written by Guy Patrice Dkamela.

FPP’s report is critical of REDD readiness planning activities in Cameroon, in particular those carried out by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). These activities

lack effective actions to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, miss solid data on the drivers of deforestation and gloss over critical land tenure, carbon rights and benefit sharing issues.

Despite the fact that Cameroon submitted its concept note (the Readiness-Plan Idea Note, or R-PIN) to the FCPF as long ago as 2008, FPP’s report finds that

National REDD readiness planning linked to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in Cameroon has so far not involved the effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities

The R-PIN was written by the Ministry of the Environment and Nature Protection, WWF and ONF International “with very little involvement of national civil society, indigenous peoples or local communities,” states the report.

[I]n the FCPF-related REDD planning process in Cameroon, the World Bank has not followed its own basic safeguard standards on meaningful prior consultation and the involvement of indigenous peoples and forest dwellers.

The R-PIN fails to analyse the causes of deforestation, apart from a misleading claim that slash and burn agriculture “is certainly responsible for the greatest loss of forest cover.” The source for this claim is a 2000 World Bank report that in fact states that slash and burn agriculture and fuelwood demand “are often secondary effects of tropical timber harvesting”. FPP points out that the R-PIN provides a flawed foundation for REDD policy-making:

For example, if the activities of small farmers were blamed for forest loss, REDD policies would attempt to restrict them. This would have a negative impact on the livelihoods of small farmers’, while allowing the real drivers of deforestation to continue unfettered.

While the R-PIN discusses “benefit-sharing mechanisms”, it does not “clarify rights to land, territories and natural resources (including carbon ownership rights)”.

FPP reports that the next stage of the FCPF process, the Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) is still not completed. The delay is due to disagreements between the government and the World Bank, especially over the contracting of consultants. MINEP and the World Bank are currently drafting the R-PP with input from WWF, IUCN, and the German development cooperation agencies Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The government plans to create a “National REDD steering committee” the structure of which is top-down and does not include the involvement of indigenous peoples, local communities or national NGOs.

FPP’s report also looks at the nine sub-national REDD projects that are currently underway in Cameroon. The report finds that the projects “lack transparency, meaningful participation or free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and disregard issues of land tenure, customary rights and benefit sharing.”

CIFOR’s report is more technical, but no less critical. The report focuses on five aspects of REDD in Cameroon.

MRV (Monitoring, reporting and verification):

In the Cameroonian context, MRV systems could be established by drawing on the experience of the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) and through projects such as the ASB initiative on reducing emissions from all land uses (REALU) and the REDD Cameroon Pilot Project. However, these are insufficient as a foundation, considering the enormous requirements of a well-functioning MRV system. The country’s technical capacity needs to be developed, and the forestry sector lacks human resources, in terms of both quantity and quality.

Institutional context and governance:

Forestry sector reforms, started in the 1990s, have enabled Cameroon to create institutions and a legal framework whose performance in sustainable forest management has often been assessed. These institutions, which are generally accountable to MINFOF and the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection (MINEP), can be mobilised and adapted to the REDD+ context. However, the processes of adapting and creating institutions are fraught with challenges: weak enforcement of forest and environmental law, weak capacity, strong dependence on external partners to implement programmes – in other words, insufficient uptake capacity within the country, endemic corruption, conflict between MINFOF and MINEP, conflicting perceptions of land and forest ownership between the state and communities, and so on.


Must be viewed at 3 levels: inter- and intrasectoral coordination; coordination amongst MINFOF and MINEP partners; and coordination of civil society actions. The ways in which institutions function and policies are implemented give an indication of what can rightly be dubbed ‘the coordination tragedy’ of institutions in Cameroon, as illustrated by the following 3 examples: 1) the ministries’ reflex to keep a tight hold over their respective fields, i.e. each seeks full control over its own niche and they seldom work together; 2) the large number of (mostly non-functioning) inter- and intrasectoral coordination committees and services; and 3) the institutional instability characterised by changes in – sometimes even the breakdown – government structure through ministerial reorganisations that very often undermine coordination processes. Furthermore, there is insufficient coordination between sectoral policies on forests, land tenure, environment, infrastructure, mining and agriculture.

Mobilisation and participation:

National REDD+ actors include organisations generally of international stature (large NGO conservation organisations, bilateral and multilateral organisations, research institutes and think tanks), a few Cameroonian civil society organisations and the government represented by the MINEP CMSE (Ecological Monitoring Unit). Thus, the REDD+ process in Cameroon remains externalised and elitist; most of the huge number of relevant actors in the forestry sector have not yet become involved, e.g. the traditional swiddeners, hunter–gatherers, community forest managers, council forest managers, municipal councils, the forestry industry with its national and foreign components, agroindustries, the mining industry, civil society organisations and many other actors. The conclusions of Cameroon’s R-PIN external review, under the auspices of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), clearly reveal insufficient mobilisation and participation in the REDD+ process.


Leads to questions surrounding eligible activities and the potential legal successors to the benefits accruing from carbon emissions reductions and absorption. Activities that are eligible for REDD+ must be clearly defined through international negotiations and, of course, must contribute to identifying which actors, by carrying out these activities, are entitled to benefits. Complicating efforts to identify the potential legal successors are the ‘legal pluralism’ and the ‘conflict of language’ between the state and local and indigenous communities concerning ownership of land and forest resources. The lack of clearly expressed rights connected to a new commodity – carbon – has to be added to the list of complicating factors. Clearly, these questions need to be resolved before Cameroon commits fully to REDD+.

Taken together, these two reports highlight the risks and problems with implementing REDD in Cameroon (and elsewhere) at both the national and the sub-national levels. The World Bank’s FCPF has, at least so far, completely failed to address these problems.

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