Community forests in Central Africa: Present hurdles and prospective evolutions


Published on

Karsenty A.,
Lescuyer G.,
Ezzine de Blas L.,
Sembres T.,
Vermeulen C.

Presentation for the conference on
Taking stock of smallholders and community forestry
Montpellier France
March 24-26, 2010

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Community forests in Central Africa: Present hurdles and prospective evolutions

  1. 1. Community forests in Central Africa: present hurdles and prospective evolutions Karsenty A., Lescuyer G., Ezzine de Blas L., Sembres T., Vermeulen C.
  2. 2. <ul><li>“… a word like ‘community’, as presently used in notions of ‘traditional’ or ‘indigenous’ communities or ‘community-based conservation’ or ‘community forest management’ serves a myth-like legitimating function in constructing idealised (and often idealistic), de-historicised scenarios that underpin policy conceptions and discourses. </li></ul><ul><li>Embodied in these notions of “community” is an image of small-scale, culturally uniform community, governed by an integrated code of customs or traditions which provides effective mechanisms of sustainable resource allocation and dispute regulation. Absent from this conceptualisation are all the elements of cultural or class difference, of legal pluralism, of articulations with the state that would call into question the putative autonomy of this idealised ‘community’ (…)” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Philip Burnham, “Whose Forest? Whose Myth? Conceptualisation of Community Forest in Cameroon.” In Mythical Land, Legal Boundaries, ed. A. Abramson and D. Theodossopoulos . London: Pluto Press, 2000 </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. An institutionalisation more difficult than expected <ul><li>CFY encompasses a dual reality: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A customary reality (called sometimes « finages ») with various appropriation patterns (families, villages…) and not always precise boundaries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A juridical category named “Community Forest”, instituted by the State and which should be given a “juridical personality” to allow for devolution as an “association” or as a “concession” (as in DRC) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At stake: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How to manage this dual reality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Overlapping rights (finages) with other land status vs. exclusive rights (community concession) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Traditional (Customary Chief) or elected representative? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How to avoid “privatization” ? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Customary chiefs selling out extraction rights (“path dependence” of decades of patronage system, as in DRC) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Association” based on voluntary adhesion “privatized” by an elite or a prominent family (e.g. Cameroon) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Collective action and low population density <ul><li>Various situations regarding boundaries of common land tenure (“finages”): history and demographic patterns matter </li></ul><ul><li>In dense forest and low density population, uncertain boundaries are frequent (“ confins ” rather than “ limites ”) </li></ul><ul><li>Within the finage : nested property rights between families and “community” (which can spread over several places and villages) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sustainable use” of resources not an objective: social reproduction of the group comes first </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can coincide or not… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Desaccumulation” strategies well-known (witchcraft as a political tool) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The common view : “previous sustainable CBNRM rules in use but broken down by colonial era and current patronage system” is simply inadequate </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Viable community enterprises? <ul><li>Difficulties of collective action and limited internal accountability can be serious impediments </li></ul><ul><li>Likeliness of self-managed CFs (i.e. community enterprises) in Cameroon decreases with distance to markets </li></ul><ul><li>In Gabon, labour shortages are frequent </li></ul><ul><li>Initial and recurrent investments can be significant if infrastructures and other public goods are weak </li></ul><ul><li>Competition of the informal sector (chainsaw loggers), much more profitable </li></ul><ul><li>In Cameroon, CFs are often means to launder illegally sourced timber </li></ul><ul><li>Balanced partnership with timber industries can prove to be a better solution in many cases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But such partnership has been broken in Cameroon due to FSC/legality requirements regarding timber sourcing! </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. A better land tenure model? <ul><li>Acknowledging the dual dimension of the CF: overlapping should be recognised, mapped and managed for benefit-sharing (e.g. Gabon, DRC) </li></ul><ul><li>Gazetting of the various land tenure status is key: abolishing the “domaniality presumption”, establishing rule of law, refraining State pretentions (local negotiations of State’s claims over the forest as private property) </li></ul>Exclusive tenure rights (limited by neighbors’ status) Overlapping rights (unlimited) Boundaries subject to be moved with gazetting B A Industrial concession
  7. 7. Decentralisation vs. devolution <ul><li>Local councils and community forests </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Two parallel processes, but not integrated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Local council forests as an emerging forest land status </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Citizenship or kinship? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The language of “ethnicity” associated with CF can lead to serious troubles </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>On the other hand, democracy and accountability are features hardly found in local councils… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A modern survival of French commons : the “sections de communes” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inhabitants of those “sections” have a legal representation and their goods - common property of the inhabitants of the section - are recognised as distinct from those of the local council </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can be formula for CF representation and voice at local council’s board </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Could Payments for Environmental Services rescue community forests? <ul><li>Deforestation in Cameroon is concentrated on the non-permanent domain, where CFs are allowed to be created </li></ul><ul><li>No more room for protected areas in those lands under demographic pressure </li></ul><ul><li>REDD/PES schemes highly additional for CF: enabling stakeholders to choose sustainable forestry over land conversion, to invest to set up a viable business model </li></ul>
  9. 9. Political economy matters… <ul><li>Making CF profitable would need a wide, multidimensional strategy, encompassing a reversal of the informalisation trend in the timber sector, something that has to do with public policies. </li></ul><ul><li>Why informalisation? </li></ul><ul><li>The “predatory” behaviour of the various administrative authorities vis-à-vis the small-scale enterprises, resulting in various more or less legitimate “taxes” collection, tend to dissuade small entrepreneurs, who prefer going informal, when large companies have the political and financial capacity to cope with these practices </li></ul><ul><li>More stringent regulations without specific supportive structures to small forest enterprises act as a disincentive for entering the formal economy. Fragmentation at the bottom vs. concentration at the top. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Beyond small-scale enterprise… <ul><li>CFY is not only about small-scale autonomous timber enterprises. </li></ul><ul><li>CFY, as a de facto collective privatisation process, is one way of modifying the legal relationship between rural populations and their land, and of preparing land tenure evolutions that would see the emergence of family-based tenure rights behind the so-called “community forests” </li></ul>