About 80 million km2
are covered by protected areas that make up 12.2% of the land surface, and almost one-sixth of the world’s population (1.1 billion) depends on them for livelihood [1
]. Indigenous peoples have inhabited and conserved forest for centuries, and much land is still under community management [2
]. Although members of local communities are not the major cause of climate change, the impact is felt mostly by them [3
]. As cited by Maxime et al. [4
], protected areas have existed in different forms within different cultures as far back as pre-agrarian societies, and sacred forest existed before, in which extractive use of natural resources was prohibited. Royalty sets aside land for game hunting, which acts as a reserve with the exclusion of commoners. Therefore, conservation is an old practice of indigenous people, and local communities should be considered in all forest projects where their rights to ownership are not interfered. Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD+) is based on experiences with Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) and the United Nations forest-related negotiations, which have slowly shifted conservation programmes from local to a more global scale [5
]. Nevertheless, its implementation still requires sub-national projects such as Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDP) and Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) [6
]. However, few studies have examined how REDD+ is being examined at these scales. Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP) REDD+ initiative has an element of ICDP (conservation project), as well as CBNRM (sustainable management of Prunus africana
); therefore, the principles and lessons learned from ICDP and CBNRM are essential tools in designing and implementing MCNP-REDD+ projects.
As reported by Minang and van Noordwijk [7
], REDD+ programs are often implemented through conservation programs, and many REDD+ pilot projects are currently built on ICDPs. The collaborative management approach and the conservation incentives concept of MCNP are considered as implementing strategies for REDD+, which aims at effective management and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity while rendering socio-economic benefits. ICDP is a conservation project with the inclusion of a rural development component [8
] for achieving sustainable development, and this is a widely-applied approach to achieving conservation, which also holds a wealth of experience for REDD+, including lessons on inherent and design challenges. Conservation can be deployed in REDD+ strategies in two ways: when ICDP is used as a platform for launching REDD+ at the landscape/sub-national level; and when conservation is one of several strategies for REDD+ at the national level [7
]. According to Cerbu et al. [9
], integrated conservation and development projects are part of REDD+ strategies, and using REDD+ incentives for forest conservation will only compliment emission reduction management objectives for park conservation. This is because present REDD+ projects follow ICDP concepts, and local knowledge and capacity developed on conservation activities can be used for measurement, report and verification requirements for REDD+. Conservation also emerges from the Cancun agreement making MCNP suitable as REDD+ projects.
CBNRM is a holistic approach that supports participatory, interdisciplinary and multi-level stakeholders networking in addressing complex socio-ecological issues that are geared towards sustainable development. Collaboration of experts, non-experts and members of local communities is instrumental in structuring effective CBNRM initiatives [10
]. However, a lack of recognition of communities’ values, market values and elite capture often contradict the concept [11
]. Therefore, a holistic interdisciplinary approach is necessary to better understand and address these complex socio-environmental issues. Organisational design principles that are frequently associated with successful CBNRM include sensitisation and community engagement, collaborative partnership, resource and equity, effective communication and dissemination of information, research and development, local empowerment, legitimacy and trustworthiness, monitoring and feedback, adaptive leadership and affective co-management, a participatory approach to decision-making, cooperation and conflict resolution [12
]. These principles enhance the effectiveness and efficiency in natural resource management, while supporting communities socially, economically and educationally. CBNRM struggles when it is imposed by external institutions, such as donors and governments. CBNRM, forest certification, market access for Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) and ICDP, which were once hailed in tropical forest conservation, did not meet-up to expectations due to the application of impracticable assumptions by external actors, and there is fear that REDD+ might be next on the list [13
]. Therefore, there is a need to analyse the progress of REDD+ from an early stage and to adapt strategies that are geared toward appropriate satisfactory outcomes, especially for local communities, to prevent the early failure of initiative. This study seeks to examine “what has been done” by local communities in providing practitioners with useful information (state-of-the-art) that needs to be considered in enhancing effectiveness, efficiency and equity in the Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP) REDD+ projects. This study focuses on practical local community engagement within the co-management approach of MCNP.
Background of MCNP Conservation Projects
MCNP was created in December 2009 and launched in February 2010, to support the conservation of biodiversity, reduce deforestation and land degradation and improve the livelihoods of forest dwellers [14
]. The implementation partners include the German International Cooperation Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Ministry of Forestry and Fauna (MINFOF), the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development (MINEPDED) and local communities. Frank Stenmanns, leader of the Programme Consulting Group (GFA Envest), disclosed a programme to help divert villagers from encroaching into the park through the provision of small income-generating projects, such as improved cocoa and oil palm, domestication of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP), improved palm oil and cassava processing and establishment of a community forest. Projects designed for village development plans included pipe-borne water, farm-to-market roads and crop preservation facilities. A financial agreement was signed between Cameroon (Ministry of Finance and MINFOF) and Germany (GIZ) as a development aid for sustainable management of natural resources within the South West Region (SWR), and €7,000,000 was disbursed [15
]. The aim was to sustainably manage forest, promote community participation and alleviate poverty, but this has also increased the grip of MINFOF over local communities. MINFOF depends on GIZ and other Western donors for financing the programme, and this has strengthened their influence in national forest policy and implementation strategies.
The MCNP management involves 41 peripheral villages, which are divided into four geographical clusters (Buea, Bomboko, Muyuka and West-Cost) based on natural boundaries, culture and livelihood differences to facilitate collaborative management activities (Figure 1
). A cluster platform is then established to coordinate all activities and entails a constant flow of information between the park managers and park villages. The MCNP REDD+ project is a humid forest zone, which registered the highest deforestation rate (46.2%) between 1987 and 2010 in Cameroon and has clear site boundaries of project intervention [16
The Mount Cameroon Prunus
(MOCAP) common initiative group is a local CBNRM initiative responsible for the organisation and monitoring of sustainable exploitation and management of Prunus
since its establishment in 2005 [17
]. Prunus africana
is an Afro-montane light-demanding hardwood tree attaining more than 30 m in height with a rough and dark bark whose thickness varies with age, ecology and size. It is commonly known as Pygeum
, a medicinal plant used as a health supplement and for the treatment of prostate cancer, and is a major source of income for forest dwellers and enterprises. It provides about 1320 million FCFA ($2,686,000) export revenue to Cameroon with an annual 2000 tonnes exportation permit [18
]. Together with the MCNP management unit, they train villagers on sustainable harvesting techniques; establish inventories of Prunus
together with local communities and the National Forest Development Agency (ANAFOR); distribute Prunus
seedlings to farmers to be planted into the agro-forestry systems; establish a village development fund in park villages; and reduce illegal exploitation of Prunus
]. The Ministry of Forestry and Fauna (MINFOF), through the MCNP management unit, is responsible for the sustainable management of Prunus africana.
In 2011, the government reviewed its methods of attributing special permits, took an inventory of existing stock, prescribed new sustainable exploitation methods satisfactory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) [19
] and established the Prunus
Allocation Units (PAU). The PAU grants exploitation rights within a specified unit or territory based on the inventory and management plan for that unit.
The PAU is made up of the MCNP and its support zone. MCNP contains about 90% of exploitable Prunus africana
within the PAU, which is divided into five management clusters (3691 ha, 3939 ha, 6291 ha, 12,248 ha and 6699 ha) totalling 32,868 ha [17
] (Table 1
; Figure 2
). Only one cluster is harvested each year with a five-year rotation (quota) Prunus
harvesting plan. Healthy trees are harvested, while wilted trees are left untouched, and felling of trees is restricted within the national park. The management plan for Prunus
is fully integrated into the park management plan, which is co-managed between park managers and local communities, and its exploitation is in conformity with conservation objectives. The park is aimed at linking conservation, community development, poverty alleviation and improving livelihood. Participation of local communities is an integral part of the Prunus
management plan, whereby each village signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the park management services. The MoU contains stated roles and responsibilities of the villages and benefit sharing, mechanisms for poverty alleviation that are geared toward sustainable development. Harvesting, trade and management are also done following specified Prunus africana
norms. Villagers are also encouraged to regenerate Prunus
plantation and integrate Prunus
into agro-forestry. Only trained and certified harvesters are allowed to harvest under strict supervision. It is believed that through this management plan, the resources are able to regenerate and increase both qualitatively and quantitatively.