«Forest Peoples Programme Protecting and encouraging customary use of biological resources by the Baka in the west of the Dja Biosphere Reserve ...»
Protecting and encouraging customary use
of biological resources by the Baka in the
west of the Dja Biosphere Reserve
Contribution to the implementation of Article 10(c) of
the Convention on Biological Diversity
Belmond Tchoumba and John Nelson
with the collaboration of
Georges Thierry Handja, Stephen Nounah, Emmanuel Minsolo
and Bitoto Gilbert Mokomo Dieudonné
Abacha Samuel Djala Luc Movombo Benjamin
Alengue Ndengue Djampene Pierre Ndo Joseph Assing Didier Etong Mustapha Ndolo Samuel Claver Evina Reymondi Nsimba Josue Ati Majinot Mama Jean-Bosco Onanas Thomas Atyi Jean-Marie Megata François Sala Mefe Sylvestre Biango Felix Megolo Ze Thierry Protecting and encouraging customary use of biological resources by the Baka in the west of the Dja Biosphere Reserve Contribution to the implementation of Article 10(c) of the Convention on Biological Diversity Belmond Tchoumba and John Nelson
with the collaboration of:
Georges Thierry Handja, Stephen Nounah, Emmanuel Minsolo and Abacha Samuel Mama Jean-Bosco Alengue Ndengue Megata François Assing Didier Claver Megolo Bonaventure Ati Majinot Mokomo Dieudonné Atyi Jean-Marie Movombo Benjamin Biango Felix Ndo Joseph Bissiang Martin Ndolo Samuel Bitoto Gilbert Nsimba Josue Djala Luc Onanas Thomas Djampene Pierre Sala Mefe Sylvestre Etong Mustapha Ze Thierry Evina Reymondi This project was carried out with the generous support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) and the Novib-Hivos Biodiversity Fund © Forest Peoples Programme & Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement Revised June 2006 Protéger et encourager l’usage coutumier
des ressources biologiques par les Baka à l’ouest de la Réserve de biosphère du Dja Contribution à la mise en oeuvre de l’article 10(c) de la Convention sur la diversité biologique Map of forest resource use by the Baka and
Map on cover:
Bantu communities of Nkolmbembe, Mimbil, Mekas and Nkoungoulou Photographs: CED and FPP Maps: CED and FPP Protecting and encouraging customary use of biological resources by the Baka in the Dja Biosphere Reserve The creation of protected areas for the purpose of conserving nature (such as national parks or nature reserves) may turn out to be more disastrous for an indigenous community than the opening of a logging site, or similar to the construction of a dam.
In fact, a community which had hitherto lived freely on a land from which it drew all its livelihood resources, may suddenly be deprived of the latter, robbed of its land or displaced to unknown lands.
Traditional activities are compatible with the maintenance of the forest cover and a diversity of wildlife: we should not forget that the state of current equatorial ecosystems is the result of human activities. There is no virgin forest in the strict sense of the word.
2 The indigenous peoples of Cameroon
3 The Baka peoples of Canton Dja
3.1 Administrative organisation
3.2 Detailed description of each village
3.3 Socio-cultural organisation
3.4 Beliefs and rites
3.5 Ritual practices
4 Customary use of biological resources
4.1 Baka forest typology
4.2 Weather and the seasons
4.3 Key activities of the Baka in the Canton of Dja
4.4 Community maps by the Baka from Mekas
4.5 Territory, land rights, and right of access to natural resources
5 Conservation policies and practices and indigenous peoples
Acknowledgements This report is the outcome of collaborative work between CED, FPP and indigenous Baka experts and some Baka communities situated in the western part of the Dja Biosphere Reserve in the South of Cameroon. We extend our gratitude to all those who took part in the preparation and publication of this report.
We owe a great deal to all the Baka communities of the research site who shared their traditional knowledge regarding the management of biological diversity in the Dja Reserve. In particular, we thank: Abacha Samuel, Alengue Ndengue, Assing Didier Claver, Ati Majinot, Atyi JeanMarie, Biango Felix, Bissiang Martin, Bitoto Gilbert, Djala Luc, Djampene Pierre, Etong Mustapha, Evina Reymondl, Mama Jean-Bosco, Megata François, Megolo Bonaventure, Mokomo Dieudonné, Movombo Benjamin, Ndo Joseph, Ndolo Samuel, Nsimba Josue, Onanas Thomas, Sala Mefe Sylvestre, and Ze Thierry. We hope that policy-makers and managers of this important protected area shall take into consideration the recommendations of this report when planning or managing this area, which is the very home of these peoples.
We are grateful to CED for making their staff available for the successful implementation and completion of this work. We refer particularly to Belmond Tchoumba, Georges Thierry Handja, Stephen Nounah, Gérôme Tamo and Emmanuel Minsolo. The technical assistance received from FPP through John Nelson was invaluable, and we are very grateful to him.
Above all, our thanks go to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) and the Novib-Hivos Biodiversity Fund for their financial support. Were it not for their support, this work would not have been possible.
Executive Summary This report summarises a case study of community forest use prepared by the Cameroon NGO the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and the UK-based Forest Peoples Programme (FPP). The case study was prepared in collaboration with Baka and Bantu people living and working in and around Mekas, located on the western side of the Dja Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site.
The case study describes the Baka peoples’ customary use of biological diversity and analyses the extent to which conservation policies and practices protect their rights and interests. The report makes recommendations for an improved incorporation of these peoples’ traditional practices in biodiversity conservation strategies, in particular those of the Dja Biosphere Reserve.
At the centre of this case study are four Baka communities who have mapped their use of their forests using Geographical Information Systems. The study also outlines the local administrative and socio-political context as well as Baka beliefs and rituals. It then summarises their principal forest activities. The main activities mentioned in the case study, and recorded in the community forest-use maps presented on pages 27-30, include hunting and trapping, fishing, gathering and agriculture. In particular, the report highlights the tension between communities’ customary forest use and the objectives of conservation. The latter has, to date, been associated by most local people with an increased control of their forests by outsiders, and loss of access to forest resources. Within areas that have been unilaterally declared ‘permanent forest domains’, the exercise of their customary rights has meant, for the Baka, violent repression by conservation organisations and services. The result has been the progressive undermining of their livelihoods as well as the exacerbation of poverty.
The community forest-use maps contained in this case study display very clearly the geographic overlap existing between the activities of local and indigenous communities and the conservation activities of the Dja Biosphere Reserve. In this case, most conflicts between communities and conservation stem in large part from a failure to take account of local communities’ needs and rights with regard to laws, policies and management plans relating to these protected areas. This is despite Cameroon’s ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which, in Article 10(c), states that: ‘Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate... Protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements’.
The case study concludes with practical recommendations to improve the situation in the area around the Dja Reserve in line with Article 10(c), along with other more general recommendations to improve implementation of the CBD in Cameroon.
1 Introduction The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an intergovernmental agreement that has three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, its sustainable use and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources. All States that have ratified this Convention have the legal obligation under international law to implement all of its provisions. Against this backdrop, States that are party to the CBD meet every two years at a Conference of the Parties to evaluate the Parties’ implementation of the Convention’s provisions. Thus, in decisions V/24 and VII/12, the Conference of the Parties ‘requests the Executive Secretary to invite organizations involved in sustainable-use initiatives, and other relevant organizations, to gather, compile and disseminate through the clearing-house mechanism and other means, case-studies on best practices and lessons learned from the use of biological diversity under the thematic areas of the Convention, drawing on the experience of Parties, Governments, relevant organizations, the private sector and indigenous and local communities’. Moreover, according to the Addis-Ababa principles and guidelines, ‘[t]he needs of indigenous and local communities who live with and are affected by the use and conservation of biological diversity, along with their contributions to its conservation and sustainable use, should be reflected in the equitable distribution of the benefits from the use of those resources’.
This is the context in which this report evaluates the Government of Cameroon’s implementation of Article 10(c) of the CBD.
Article 10(c) provides that contracting parties to the Convention shall:
protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation and sustainable use requirements.
The phrase ‘customary use’ echoes the language of ‘practices’ referred to in Article 8(j). The
latter stipulates that each contracting party shall:
subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovation and practices.
In other words, traditional knowledge, innovations and practices proceed directly from customary use of biological resources. This means that Article 10(c) of the CBD ought to be read in conjunction with Article 8(j).1 Notably, however, while States and indigenous peoples themselves have made considerable efforts to develop a guide for the implementation of Article 8(j), this has not been the case for Article 10(c) which has attracted very little attention. Very few resources have thus been allocated to promote the dissemination of Article 10(c) at national level. We hope that this work shall contribute to correcting this imbalance.
The implementation of Article 10(c) of the Convention on Biological Diversity requires that signatory States develop national laws and policies which respect the laws and customs of indigenous peoples, their systems of governance, as well as their land and resources rights.
What are the customary uses of biological resources by indigenous peoples in Cameroon? Are the public authorities and other decision makers aware of them? What measures are being taken by the Government of Cameroon to ‘protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with
requirements for their conservation and sustainable use’? How can traditional practices or customary use of biological diversity by indigenous peoples be mainstreamed into national conservation strategies and policies? These questions are at the heart of this report, which has been prepared on the basis of a case study carried out in a number of indigenous communities of so-called ‘Pygmy’ people located in the western part of the Dja Biosphere Reserve in southern Cameroon.
2 The indigenous peoples of Cameroon The indigenous peoples of Cameroon are many and diverse. They principally comprise Mbororo nomadic pastoralists who live in the Adamawa plateau and in the highlands of the western part of Cameroon, and the forest peoples pejoratively referred to as ‘Pygmies’. The latter are considered to be the first inhabitants of the Cameroon forest, and are divided into three main ethnic groups: the Baka, the Bakola/Bagyeli and the Bedzang. The Baka are the largest group and comprise about 40,000 people2 over an area of approximately 75,000 km2 in the southeastern part of the country, extending across the administrative provinces of the South and the East.
The second group, the Bakola and Bagyeli, numbers about 3,700 people and occupies almost 12,000 km2 in the southern part of the coastal region, and more specifically in the Akom II, Campo, Bipindi, Kribi and Lolodorf sub-divisions.
The third group is the Bedzang, comprising about a thousand people,who live in the northwestern part of the Mbam and Kim Division in the Ngambe-Tikar3 region. Pygmies represent about 0.4% of the total population of Cameroon.