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The indigenous peoples of Cameroon: from Ngoyla-Mintom to national recognition

In dialogue with parliament and the government

Compared to the 1990s and the start of the 21st century, the question of giving recognition to the indigenous peoples of Cameroon has, in recent years, become a central issue, if still in a somewhat tentative way.

Indeed, on the 1st and 2nd of September 2011 in Yaounde, Cameroon, parliament and the government held a dialogue on indigenous peoples. The meeting brought together members of the National Assembly (under the umbrella of the Parliamentarians’ Network, REPAR), representatives of ministries with projects affecting indigenous peoples, development partners, UN special representatives and a substantial delegation of indigenous peoples: Baka, Bakola, Bagyeli and Bororo. A new phenomenon was the willingness to consider what is involved in giving recognition to indigenous communities, as was demonstrated by the extensive question and answer sessions between the members of the National Assembly and the indigenous peoples.

BioPalm plantation will lead to destruction of Bagyeli communities in Cameroon

The government of Cameroon has signed a MoU for the creation of a 200,000 ha palm oil plantation by BioPalm Energy Ltd (a subsidiary of the Singapore-based SIVA Group) in Ocean province, Cameroon. This project was launched on Wednesday 24th August 2011 – despite the indigenous Bagyeli people opposing the decision to allocate their customary lands to the BioPalm plantation.

Recent fieldwork by Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) has found that neither the project nor the state has secured the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Bagyeli, as required by the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights, which Cameroon has ratified.

Could land reform succeed where conservation has failed?

Conservation organisations have been making great strides towards recognising that protected areas must respect the rights of indigenous peoples as enshrined in international law, including the right to give or withhold their free prior and informed consent to the establishment of new protected areas in their customary territories. Yet in practice conservation organisations often continue to exclude local people from using forest and other resources, and only consult them after they have drawn up management plans rather than jointly writing them.

Advocacy efforts lead to African Commission’s increased consideration of indigenous women’s rights

The recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights is a recent development on the African continent. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has, over the last decade, given heightened attention to indigenous peoples’ rights, notably through the creation of its Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (WGIP) in 2000. This is mostly due to the efforts of civil society organisations which have documented the obstacles faced by indigenous peoples in the enjoyment of their individual and collective rights, and which have brought the many instances where these rights have been violated to the attention of the Commission.

Press Release: New study shows REDD may marginalize Indigenous Peoples and local communities in Cameroon

A new report by Forest Peoples Programme gives a critical and in-depth overview of the social aspects of projects intended to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in Cameroon. REDD and Rights In Cameroon: A review of the treatment of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in policies and projects shows that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are unlikely to gain from REDD as it stands and they might even be harmed by it.

Even though Cameroon’s national “REDD readiness” process is only in its first stages, so-called “pilot” or sub-national REDD projects are proliferating all over the country, potentially affecting 30% of forested land. Many organisations are jumping into REDD projects without necessarily thinking about the people who live in, and have been caring for, these forests.

REDD and Rights In Cameroon: A review of the treatment of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in policies and projects

In this report, it is argued that national REDD readiness planning activities in Cameroon, including activities involving the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), lack effective actions to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, miss solid data on the drivers of deforestation and gloss over critical land tenure, carbon rights and benefit sharing issues.

The nine sub-national REDD projects currently underway lack transparency, meaningful participation or free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and disregard issues of land tenure, customary rights and benefit sharing.

This document has ‘open access’, you are free to print a copy from our website.You may also reproduce the text with appropriate acknowledgements to FPP.