CIFOR- Comparative assessment of forest revenue redistribution mechanisms in Cameroon : Lessons for REDD+ benefit sharing
Cameroon has long established legal mechanisms for the redistribution of forest and wildlife revenues by which economic operations are to pay royalties that are transferred to local forest communities. An analysis of forest and wildlife royalties in Cameroon offers several lessons for the future design and implementation of REDD+ benefit sharing. This paper draws on a legal review and field data to assess the implementation processes and outcomes of forest and wildlife revenues in Cameroon, with an emphasis on the socio-distributional aspects.
Central to this analysis are four types of revenue redistribution mechanisms, created by the government with the aim of enabling local councils and local communities to receive some portion of the forest and wildlife revenues and be involved in forest resource management. The key objective of the revenue redistribution policy is to support poverty reduction and local development. Each of these four revenue sharing mechanisms involves specific governance and institutional arrangements: Annual Forest Fees, Council Forest Revenues, Wildlife Royalties, and Community Forest Revenue. This study focuses on implementation processes and outcomes of these mechanisms in 15 villages in four council areas, namely Yokadouma (Boumba and Ngoko division, East region), and Nieté, Lokoundje and Akom 2 (Ocean division, South region). We conducted 15 focus group discussions and 72 household questionnaires and interviews with key experts and authorities. We assessed these mechanisms using a 3E (effectiveness, efficiency and equity) lens to draw lessons for designing REDD+ benefit sharing.
The findings indicate that the forestry and wildlife revenue redistribution mechanisms in Cameroon do not entirely fulfill the 3E criteria, and that the trade-offs between the effectiveness, efficiency and equity criteria are not always clear or transparent. Specifically, the study results reveal that the institutionalized forest and wildlife revenue sharing models have not adequately achieved the policy objectives of reducing rural poverty and promoting local development. The poor outcomes are illustrated by the low development condition of local communities in all four council areas that are our study sites (effectiveness criterion). There is also evidence that suggests that all the revenue redistribution mechanisms have high transaction costs, which hinders local communities from taking advantage of the presented opportunities (efficiency criterion). Lastly, the procedural and contextual dimensions of social justice underlying all environmental policies are poor (equity criterion), notably for women and marginalized groups such as the Pygmy minority. Despite the well-intentioned objectives behind Cameroon’s forest and wildlife revenue redistribution models, the weak governance prevalent in the country’s sociopolitical institutions at both national and local levels, and poor institutional processes have meant that the models do not manage to adequately achieve their goals.
For the current models of forest and wildlife revenue redistribution to be relevant for REDD+, our assessment highlighted the following shortcomings: (i) the political economy of Cameroon’s forestry sector has colored the design of the revenue sharing mechanisms and exacerbated shortcomings and malpractices of the prevailing system; (ii) the central administration and authorities are highly present throughout the redistribution process and this has overridden the powers devolved to local authorities, and led to recentralization characterized by unstable framework regulations and benefitsharing grids; (iii) the bureaucracy of the current mechanisms has caused high transaction costs for local participants and enabled related rent capture by some forest and political elites; (iv) the current models have contributed to and reinforced the political and socioeconomic marginalization of forest minorities such as Pygmies (Baka and Bagyeli) and women; and (v) local actors have weak capacity for influencing local forest governance. Possible solutions include distributing forest revenues from companies or councils directly to communities, and designing a revenue redistribution system that is based on egalitarian theory – whereby the prevailing understanding is that equal distribution is equitable/ fair – and which minimizes opportunities for corruption and malpractice.
There is potential to address the shortcomings of Cameroon’s current revenue redistribution mechanisms through institutional reform of forest finance committees and financial flows, improvement of governance practices through the establishment of a participative financial monitoring, reporting and verification system, and distributing benefits in a more productive form (i.e. non-cash) that can contribute more effectively to sustained local development. Any future mechanism for benefit sharing within the framework of REDD+ in Cameroon should avoid duplicating or reinforcing the systemic regulatory, procedural and governance flaws inherent in the current forest and wildlife revenue-redistribution models. In this respect, the national REDD+ program could begin to prepare and adopt, in a participatory manner, a series of socio-environmental safeguards based on the principles adopted at the Conference of the Parties in Warsaw and Cancun, and concluded at 2015 Bonn Climate Change conference, and on lessons from the country’s own experience in the sharing of revenues from forest, wildlife, land and related sectors.
A multi-stakeholder approach to identifying the actual and potential risks of a REDD+ benefitsharing mechanism will be critical to the legitimacy of the process. It will also be important to clarify Cameroon’s specific objectives for REDD+, to identify beneficiaries and comparatively assess the pros and cons of particular instruments, institutions, rules, procedures, modes of local community representation, modes of access to information and styles of governance in the design of the benefit sharing mechanism. Finally, the identification of criteria and indicators for the evaluation of safeguards in both forest and wildlife revenue-redistribution mechanisms and REDD+ benefit sharing will be important to ensure socio-environmental sustainability in the long term.
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