The Ngoyla-Mintom forest in Cameroon: The perspective of the Baka

Baka community members documenting where they fish using GPS, to include on map of forest resource use
By
John Nelson

The Ngoyla-Mintom forest in Cameroon: The perspective of the Baka

Ngoyla-Mintom is a forested mountainous region which derives its name from two districts in two regions of Cameroon: Ngoyla in the Eastern Region and Mintom in the Southern Region. This rainforest has gained fame through being targeted for various purposes by different actors, including the Cameroon government, private companies and the international community. In recent months, Ngoyla-Mintom has gained the reputation of being a previously unexploited forest bloc, which has very rapidly aroused the interest of Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry who are interested in selling parts of the forest at auction to private logging companies.

However, this forest has also aroused great hopes for conservation due to its strategic value as a biological corridor for the animals of the TRIDOM (Tri-National of Dja Odzala and Minkebe), a large lowland forest area spanning Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and Gabon. Over the last five years it has also been considered for carbon sequestration projects. 

This forest faces wide-ranging challenges and is a potential source of many conflicts: the indigenous peoples, such as the Baka and other forest communities, have very frequently been left out of discussions relating to the forest, which they have so effectively and sustainably preserved for millennia.

In order to help the Baka and Bantu communities living in this zone, Forest Peoples Programme, OKANI and CED organised a series of consultations on a number of issues, such as on mapping forest resource use within the Ngoyla-Mintom forest.

To this end, two round table events were organised in Mintom and Lomié, to bring together the principal actors with interests in the Ngoyla-Mintom forest.  It should be noted that the local administrative officials were highly appreciative of these opportunities for open exchanges, which attracted a high-level and substantial turn-out at Mintom, where the Sub-Divisional Officer and the Mayor came in person, and in Lomié with the presence of the Deputy District Manager on behalf of the Sub-Divisional Officer who was unable to attend, and the Mayor of Ngoyla.

The perspective of the Baka:

The Baka who attended the two meetings in Mintom and Lomié were appreciative of the authorities’ attentiveness and the quality of their contributions. The Baka sought the administrative officers’ participation in each stage of processes relating to activities taking place in the forest, such as at presentations of their maps and during forest mapping. This would allow the different actors to appreciate the extent to which these people and their living environment, the forest, are connected. As expressed by Ndoyi, a Baka from the village of Lelen: ‘All things should begin at home; if you need healing, start doing it at home. A leader should make himself heard by all the parties involved to find a compromise, give advice, educate and raise awareness’. 

The Baka also requested that the maps they have produced be presented in Yaounde since that is where the important, high-level decisions are taken about the forests.

In addition, they sought the capacity building of their local elected leaders (such as town councillors and députés) on questions affecting the Baka.

Furthermore, the Baka sought the institutionalisation of a mechanism for dialogue between the institutions specific to the issues affecting them, and the relevant local authorities.

Potential next steps for the Baka:

- Inform the administrative offices and local authorities about the REDD process and indigenous peoples, and equip them to deal with these issues

- Disseminate the maps produced

- Map the communities living next to the project zone

- Continue the dialogue about the Ngoyla-Mintom forest with regard to the challenges that it typifies: e.g. mining and the development of transport infrastructures (such as the Mbalam-Kribi railway)

- Make large-scale copies of the local maps that have been produced and give them prominence in the various upcoming discussions about the forest.

 

Baka community members documenting logging concession boundaries
By
John Nelson
The Baka want to protect the Moabi trees in their forests, which are targeted by loggers
By
John Nelson