Tropical forests cover about 11 percent of the Earth’s surface and provide habitation for a large number of plants and animals [1
]. These forests also provide ecosystem services, which can be broadly grouped into; provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services to more than 110 million people who depend on them for their daily livelihood [2
]. Human activities such as deforestation affect the physical state of these forests, and thus their ability to provide these services.
Over the years, conservation groups have adopted several approaches; from the development of “hard-park” (parks with strict policies to prevent human encroachment) conservation policies ([6
]; p. 783) to people-oriented park designs, to curb the adverse effects of humans on the environment. Currently, there are more than 100,000 protected areas in the world, covering about 14.6% of the Earth’s total land surface ([7
]; p. 220). The increase in the number of parks around the world has also witnessed an increase in the number of conflicts between park management and traditional people seeking to make a livelihood. Local people around parks have been known to trespass park boundaries to hunt, fish, harvest non-timber forests products, and, in some cases, harvest timber for their livelihood [8
Land change science (LCS) and political ecology (PE) are subfields in geography that attempt to explain the interactions between humans and their immediate environments. Although the definitions of both fields have changed over time [9
], LCS has been defined as involving the type, location, and intensity of human-environmental change [10
]. PE on the other hand, “is the study of the constantly shifting dialectic between society and land based resources, and also within classes and groups within society itself” ([11
]; p. 17).
Land change scientists and political ecologists both focus on human-environment relationships, but differ in the way they structure their research questions and the methods they use in answering these questions [12
]. Turner and Robbins [12
], however, argue that land change scientists and political ecologists arrive at similar conclusions on land use issues such as vulnerability and forest transitions. They also argue that LCS and PE can benefit from each other on topics in which they individually fall short. For example, ecological issues in PE can be addressed through LCS, while PE can strengthen LCS by explaining power dynamics inherent in social relationships [13
] first used the term “hybrid ecologies”, but it was in response to Turner II and Robbins’ challenge that Brannstrom and Vadjunec [9
] put together the first edited volume on hybrid ecologies. Hybrid ecologies illustrate the importance of LCS and PE in the understanding of human environment interactions. Hybrid ecologies emphasize similarities (areas of “convergence”) between LCS and PE, while acknowledging their differences in “problem framing” ([12
]; pp. 295, 299) and methods of analysis.
Arguments in favor of a combined LCS-PE approach go beyond the fact that their intellectual history overlaps [12
], to aspects of their methodology. In their explanation of some of the challenges in LCS, Rindfuss and colleagues [15
] highlighted shortcomings in LCS’s ability to provide feedback regarding the different factors that affect land-cover change. For example, LCS techniques such as remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can only provide a snap shot of the landscape or the environment. Furthermore, these snap shots only provide limited explanations for different land-use changes. If we combine LCS methods and results with PE discourse and interpretive analyses that question choices and decisions that affect the landscape, we acquire a better and a more complete understanding of environmental change [12
]. Brannstrom and Vadjunec’s [9
] text on “hybrid ecology” advances the need for the combined approach, calling “it a pragmatic and problem-driven enterprise”, important in achieving a balance in sustainability science ([9
]; p. 11).
In this paper, we use a hybrid ecology approach to examine the effects of conservation policies on the environment and livelihood of the people of the Korup National park (KNP). We examine the politics of conservation in the KNP, and combine/compare our findings to the findings of other studies in the KNP. We combine the results from LCS analysis (Landsat imagery, GIS data, and remote sensing analysis), with data from household surveys, key informant interviews, participant observation, historical narrative, and coding techniques. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive explanation to the changing environment in the KNP; to contribute/support hybrid ecologies, and to improve our understanding of the factors that drive the land-use change in the KNP.
This paper is divided into three parts. Part one examines LCS and PE as individual fields of study, as well as a combined approach to understanding human environment interactions. Part two reviews the origins of parks, and examines the evolution of parks in Cameroon. The methods used in data collection, remote sensing and data analysis are discussed in part two. Part three examines the policies that promoted the creation of parks in Cameroon, and the KNP in particular. In part three, we also discuss the effects of these policies on the land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) in the park and then summarize our findings in a conclusion that highlights the importance of hybrid ecologies.
1.1. Land Change Science and Environmental Change
Land cover generally refers to the physical attributes of land (e.g., desert, forest, etc.), while land use refers to the conversion of land cover for and by humans ([10
]; p. 2). Land change science (LCS) research seeks to understand how humans and biophysical forces affect the environment. According to Turner II and Robbins ([12
]; p. 299), LCS “devotes attention to human environment dynamics on the surface of the earth, seeking to uncover attributes about land-uses and covers and the processes of their change to inform global environmental change and sustainability
”. LCS investigates how individuals and societies contribute to land-use and land-cover change (LULCC), and how they are in turn influenced by and respond to these changes [16
]. Simply put, LCS involves the type, location, and intensity of human environmental change, asking questions such as what factors lead to changes in the environment [10
LCS has distant ties to environmental anthropology, human and cultural ecology, and risk hazard studies [12
]. LCS developed in the late 1980s, when natural and remote sensing scientists in the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) recognized the importance of a coupled natural and social science approach to understanding land-use and land-cover dynamics [9
]. The reason for this appeal to merge both sciences was to help natural and remote sensing scientists improve their understanding of land-use patterns and dynamics. LCS was therefore born as a research project [9
] to improve understanding of the different land-use and land-cover patterns affecting Earth systems and to promote research at various spatial and temporal scales. According to Rindfuss and colleagues [15
], three main reasons account for these variations in temporal and spatial scales in LCS. First, to monitor the different changes in land cover; second, to explain the coupled human and environment interactions that bring about these changes; and third, to use the understanding of these changes to develop and improve on spatially explicit models ([15
]; p. 13977). LCS therefore seeks to improve our understanding of the environment by modeling/combining the different variables (actors) involved in this relationship.
Like LCS, political ecology (PE) has roots in geography, anthropology, environmental sociology, environmental history, and cultural landscape studies, as well as human and cultural ecology [12
]. Political ecology, like LCS, is also multi-scalar in its analysis, ranging from local to global scales, crossing international boundaries and social structures. Political ecologists often answer conservation questions related to natural resource management [19
], land-use and land-cover changes [11
], revealing its close similarities with land change science [9
]. PE explores these themes by exposing the relationship between societies and the biologically, culturally, and politically complex worlds, filling gaps in LCS analysis [9
Political Ecology of Environmental Change
The increase in the number of parks and protected areas around the world has gained the attention of scholars who are interested in a deeper understanding of conservation policies, and the tools of conservation (e.g., parks) [22
]. This growing literature examines the origins of global environmental discourses such as conservation, deforestation, desertification, etc., and their link to poverty and other social implications via tools of implementation like parks [25
]. Political ecology often uses a bottom-top approach to understanding the relationship between politics, the political economy, and ecology [11
]. Over the years however, political ecology has morphed into different things to different people, thus making it difficult to agree on one specific definition. In this paper, political ecology evaluates environmental issues, by analyzing the:
political dimensions of the interaction between the state, and other actors, and the places where they live. It sees politics as the competition between humans over the division of resources, and looks at the means by which different actors deploy whatever power they have to achieve their ends.
In their different approaches to understanding human-environment relationships, political ecologists [18
] and other social scientists [32
] deviate from deterministic/common explanations to environmental change. They show that our comprehension of environmental issues requires an understanding of the politics of resource use, and the role of power in influencing environmental discourses, access, and the relationship between actors [25
For example, political ecologists who study conservation often combine politics, history, and discourse analysis to show that nature (parks and wildernesses) results from the interaction of actors with unequal power relation that leads to the marginalization of the weaker actor(s) [18
]. It is with this understanding that Robbins ([18
]; p. 147) discusses his “conservation and control thesis”, in which he argues that conservation has often served as a tool for powerful groups to control indigenous people and their resources. Over the years, political ecologists have documented several examples of this unequal power relation and their effect on the environment and traditional people.
Power does not only determine who makes the rules and who gains access to resources, it also determines/affects the reaction of other environmental stakeholders to these policies [29
]. In Madagascar for example, after the state ban of the use of fire for subsistence agriculture, the Malagasy people responded by occasionally setting the forests on fire [36
], exacerbating the environmental situation. McGregor [37
] illustrates these same power dynamics and their negative outcomes in her examination of colonial conservation policies in Zimbabwe and their effect on ecological change. She explains that discrimination, coercion, and punitive restrictions on indigenous people’s use of resources accompanied the implementation of colonial ideologies of conservation in Zimbabwe ([37
]; p. 257), and led to the loss of top soil and the creation of new gullies. Otutei’s [29
] work on the political ecology of forest management in the Assin North Municipality in Ghana shows that forest policies have led to unequal power distribution and the marginalization of some indigenous people. The result of this marginalization has been indigenous resistance in the form of the destruction of trees and arson, which has retarded forest management efforts ([29
]; p. 108). Extreme indigenous responses to hardline conservation policies are also discussed by Tchamie [38
], who describes the gruesome destruction (uncontrolled felling, illicit clearing, illegal returns to vacated villages, and massive destruction of wildlife) ([38
]; p. 58) of protected areas by indigenous people in Togo who believed that parks were the source of all their problems. Robbins [18
] describes these after-and-unpredicted effects of conservation policies as “unintended consequences” of conservation policies ([18
]; p. 170). To understand the KNP management policies and its accompanying effects on the environment and people in the KNP, we start by examining the evolution of parks in Cameroon.
1.2. Evolution of Parks in Cameroon
In 2000, the government of Cameroon (GoC) and its conservation partners successfully and “completely” removed the village of Ikondo-Kondo 1 from the Korup National Park (KNP), to another location outside the park’s boundary [39
]. This “voluntary” resettlement was orchestrated by the GoC, with the support of donor organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the UK Department of International Development (DFID), Wildlife Conservation International (now WCS), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the European Commission, the US Department of Defense, and the German Development Service (DED) [41
]. The resettlement project was the first step towards making the KNP a park free from humans, and a smaller step towards curbing the destructive activities of the indigenous people that lived within and around the park boundaries. This displacement of the people of Ikondo-Kondo 1 from their ancestral homeland is one of many resettlement cases in Africa [42
]. The native Mursi, Suri, Nyangatom, Dizi, and Me’en people, who live around the Omo National Park in Ethiopia, and the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari game reserve in Botswana are other examples [33
]. The proffered reason for the resettlement of these people is the same: to protect biodiversity from humans [3
Western concepts, which separated nature from human societies, led to the creation of parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, which directly influenced the creation of parks in Cameroon and other African countries [33
]. Political ecologists have argued that creating and understanding nature has deep political significance because in the creation of these areas, the organization in charge generally also has the power to determine who can use nature, when, where and how [11
]. In Cameroon, the process of creating parks started in 1896, when the German colonial administrators declared all “unoccupied” land to be crown land ([44
]; p. 15). The British and French colonial administrations subsequently copied this land tenure tradition, which has survived until the present day [44
Through colonial conservation policies, large tracts of unoccupied lands were set aside for logging, agricultural, and watershed protection purposes [46
]. However, as the practice of conservation spread throughout the country and continent, indigenous lands were quickly converted and designated as protected areas, free from human interference. This strategy of creating parks did not consider indigenous livelihoods, nor did it compensate them for the expropriation of their lands [47
]. The establishment of parks in the colonial era therefore had a negative impact on the local population, whose reaction to the creation of these parks ranged from indifference to hostility [43
After Cameroon gained independence in 1960, it continued to follow the colonial framework for protected areas. The GoC created new protected areas and changed the status of others from national reserves to national parks. Decree No. 81-13 in 1981 stated that not less than 20% of the country should be put under the total protection of national parks and/or reserves. Chapter 1 article 3 of Decree 83/170 defined national parks and prohibited livelihood activities in these parks. Nevertheless, the decree did not prohibit human settlements within these parks [43
]. An economic crisis that started in 1985, coupled with the World Bank’s structural adjustment plans and growing international concern over environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity led the GoC to develop a tropical forest action plan. This plan supported the sustainable management of forests in 1988 (with the support of the World Bank) [43
Changes in the economic and political atmosphere (products of the structural adjustments plan) forced the government to create more national parks (e.g., KNP), and institute stringent laws through different ministries to govern them [43
]. In addition to the national forestry laws, the country became a signatory to several international, regional, and sub-regional conventions and conservation organizations. These commitments further opened the country to the ideas of environmental protectionists who encouraged the government to set aside more land for the purpose of conservation.
Protected areas in Cameroon today cover 18.75% of the national territory (an area of about 8,900,000 ha) and can be broken down into several categories: national parks (16), wildlife sanctuaries (4), wildlife reserves (6), zoological gardens (3), hunting zones (46), and community hunting zones (22) ([45
]; p. 19). Creating parks for generating income was the first sign of neoliberal conservation tactics in Cameroon. The commercialization of nature became prevalent and over the years, the revenue generated from safari hunting and park entrance fees increased (in 2007 alone, park entry and hunting fees generated about $415 (USD) [45
Scientific literature has documented the role of European conservationists in the creation of parks in Africa and around the world [43
]. In the case of Cameroon, Steve Gartlan, who was the WWF country director, drafted the country’s first forest laws in the early 1990s [51
]. Gartlan, who lobbied the government for the creation of the KNP, saw his role in the development of national conservation policies as well justified. He argued, “It is unrealistic and irresponsible to hand over the duty of protecting these unique ecosystems to the local communities who have neither the resources nor the biological education necessary to manage them” ([52
]; p. 223).
Gartlan is not unique in his view of local indigenous people as incapable of effectively managing their resources. Similar perspectives have been the driving force behind the creation of national parks, and shed light on two important issues about the conservation of natural resources in Cameroon and other African countries. First, Africa’s people are often referenced in a negative light (destroyers of nature), while much of their environment is framed positively (rich in biodiversity). Africa’s nature is “nature as it should be,” “un-spoilt,” and “pure,” while its people are “warring,” poverty stricken, and the main cause for the dwindling biodiversity on the continent ([42
]; p. 84).
Second, since the 1980s, conservation in Cameroon (and Africa in general) has focused on different ways in which wildlife and nature can pay for themselves, so that the world can benefit from their conservation [42
]. This has led to the framing of Africa’s natural resources as “inverted commons,” a special type of resource that belongs to the whole world, but for which only Africans pay the real price ([42
]; p. 87). The idea of the “inverted commons” can be used to explain power dynamics between stakeholders in conservation negotiations. Power dynamics that determine the system of rule/control over resources are usually dependent on market structure and purchasing power [42
]. This idea raises questions such as; who really owns and controls Africa’s resources? Conservationists like Gartlan along with conservation Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) have framed Africa’s natural resources as some global commons, which must be jointly protected for the benefit of all, though often at the expense of the local indigenous people. This reflects inequalities in resource use and access that can be easily recognized (and reproduced) in conservation policies. These inequalities are evident in the creation of the KNP.
Creation of the Korup National Park: Background and History
The Korup National Park is located in the Southwest region of Cameroon (Figure 1
). Five villages (Erat, Bera, Esukutan, Ikenge, Bareka Batanga) reside within the park boundaries and depend completely on the resources in the park for their livelihood. Livelihood activities in the park include subsistence agriculture, fishing, hunting, cash cropping, and the harvesting of non-timber forest products [41
Discussions on the creation of the Korup National Park started in the 1970s, when the rare Preuss’ Red Colobus Monkey attracted conservationists Gartlan and T. Truthsaker to the Korup area [41
]. As a result of their visit to the area the two wrote a letter to the GoC informing them of Korup’s uniqueness and ecological importance [43
]. The letter resulted in no immediate reaction, but in the years that followed, the Korup area witnessed rapid exposure and interest from the conservation world [41
]. They portrayed the Korup area as an “Eden,” untouched and void of human interference in a film produced by Phil Agland to raise funds for its protection, perpetuating the wilderness myth of the area. At the turn of the century, the KNP became the only protected area in the humid forest region of Central Africa with an active resettlement compensation program [40
Some of the early research done in the Korup region identified hunting as the main source of income for the local people. This led conservation officials to conclude that relocating the people of the region was the only way to protect the biodiversity of the region [40
]. Indigenous people were forced to surrender their lands to the GoC and its partners in exchange for housing, financial support, material support, and the appeal of being close to civilization (other roadside communities) [40
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the GoC and its partners (WWF, GIZ, etc.) sponsored three main socio-economic studies in the KNP region to collect data needed to inform the resettlement plans. Infield [57
], whose report identified hunting as the most important activity in the park area and noted an increasing level of negative attitudes from hunters, warned the government against making inflexible hunting laws, and admonished them to make treaties with local hunters [41
]. In his cost benefit analysis, Ruitenbeek [59
] argued that forced removal of the people was not optimal and that voluntary compensated migration would be necessary, but only if conservationists found the effect of the indigenous activities to be irreversible. Because there was no significant data to support the latter condition, he concluded that the best option was for the GoC and its counterparts to wait for the people to migrate voluntarily to another part of the forest, without any form of compensation [27
Devitt’s 1988 report had the most in-depth recommendations about the resettlement of the Korup area [41
]. Devitt made recommendations on the location of roads, development, conservation, and resettlement of the Korup area. He suggested that resettlement efforts start in the northeast corner of the park, with the smallest and almost deserted village of the park, and then progressively move southwards, resettling the rest of the villages based on tribal groups. He also suggested that the GoC should redraw the boundary of the park to avoid the relocation/resettlement of the largest village in the park (Erat).
Despite these recommendations, the master plan of 1989 identified resettlement as a very important step toward preserving the biodiversity of the KNP. In 2000, against all the recommendations from socio-economic and environmental impact studies, the GoC and its partners resettled the village of Ikondo-Kondo 1 to a new location outside the park boundary. Plans to resettle the other villages in the region failed because of the “stubborn nature” of the people ([41
]; p. 45); see also [43
]. These plans also failed because contrary to Devitt’s recommendations, the park authorities were more concerned with relocating the large villages of the park area than they were of the small villages such as Bareka Batanga [41
The creation of the park in 1986 meant that indigenous communities inside the KNP had lost their rights to use the resources within the park boundary for their livelihoods [40
]. The failure to resettle the villages left within the park boundary made the situation worse, as the park management was determined to reduce the impact of indigenous land-use activities on the environment. The number of game control posts and game guards were increased and the people were continuously discouraged from cultivating permanent crops. The following section discusses the methods used to collect and analyze the data for this study.