This research paper by Aurelian Mbzibain (University of Wolverhampton) and Symphorien Ongolo (University of Göttingen) takes Cameroon as a case study of the nature of independent forest monitoring (IFM) networks, the impact they have and the challenges they face. In this context, self-guided NGOs forge relationships with the authorities and expose unlawful activity under the pressures of funding uncertainties and unmet training needs.
The article is published in the journal ‘Forest Policy and Economics’, Volume 109, December 2019. Its full title is Complementarity, rivalry and substitution in the governance of forests: Learning from independent forest monitoring system in Cameroon.
Results of this research have already stimulated national discussions in the sustainable management of forests in Gabon with the EU Ambassador to Gabon, Rosario Bento Pais, who stressed the need for understanding between actors and the stronger role of civil society in monitoring forest law enforcement and governance.
Aurelian Mbzibain commented,
“Forest management is a very important issue for the European Union. The aim here is to encourage good coordination and smooth communication between the administration, civil society and economic operators in the context of independent monitoring of the management of natural resources, in order to achieve the objectives of good governance and sustainable forest management.”
The paper highlights a few key points around independent forest monitoring in Cameroon, remarking that:
- IFM governance networks in Cameroon contribute to improving transparency and forest governance.
- IFM linkages with state agencies are fluid ranging from complementarity to rivalry.
- Network alliances with agencies beyond forestry enhance forest law enforcement
- Inadequate funding and weak capabilities amongst network actors constrain effectiveness.
The consequence of state-controlled forestry in Cameroon has been the overexploitation of forest resources often in conflict with local forest-dependent communities and state conservation objectives. The failure of state-controlled forestry to achieve sustainable forest management has led to the emergence of new network like arrangements amongst which is independent forest monitoring (IFM) by civil society. The aim of this paper is to scrutinize the factors which affect the effectiveness of IFM governance network in Cameroon. Our research focused on a case study of Cameroon, employing a governance network perspective. The main findings are that national civil society in Cameroon is playing a significant role in improving transparency in the forest sector and holding decision makers to account. The paper finds a shift from technical areas of forest monitoring to the monitoring of social obligations and the respect of community rights by private companies. An analysis of actors highlights a strong network of national NGOs with self-defined goals and strategies engaged in very fluid relationships with law enforcement agencies beyond traditional ministries of forests and wildlife characterised by a spectrum ranging from complementarity, substitution and rivalry. The lack of sustainable funding and weak capabilities of national NGOs to navigate these fluid relationships emerges as core constraints for network effectiveness. Accordingly, recommendations for effectiveness entail strategies for sustainable funding, capacity strengthening and network coordination to address current weaknesses but also to build trust and credibility of the governance network.
Photo: SNOIE Forest Monitors in Cameroon. Credit: FODER.