Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

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

15 April, 2011

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.

First, the report makes it clear that REDD plans in Cameroon are developing in a top-down manner with little or no participation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities:

  • There are no plans for the participation of local people in the national “REDD readiness” process linked to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Local involvement is also weak in the sub-national projects that were reviewed. In fact, in all the projects that were visited, local people were not even aware “REDD” existed. These practices are contrary to Cameroon’s Forestry Law and to the public position of several organizations involved.
  • There are no plans to seek the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples in any of the projects or in the national readiness process, despite Cameroon being a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • There is a strong involvement of large conservation organizations and others who might see this as an opportunity to capture funds for existing projects. Many of these organizations are involved in writing the national framework and devising safeguards - or lack thereof - that will govern their own activities, which could constitute a serious conflict of interest.

In the rush to develop REDD projects, many organisations have forgotten to talk to the people who live in the forest where the precious carbon is ‘stored’. In fact, in one case, the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund, whose offices are next door to each other, were each developing a carbon project in the same place without being aware of each other’s plans! This would be material for a good joke if it wasn’t for the local communities that could be affected by these rushed REDD plans, said Emmanuel Freudenthal, Project Officer for Forest Peoples Programme.

Secondly, the report highlights how - despite the widely used mantra that REDD projects will benefit local communities – REDD projects could in fact marginalise and impoverish Indigenous Peoples and local communities because:

  • There are still no clear plans for benefit-sharing mechanisms in either the sub-national projects that were reviewed or in the national readiness framework.
  • The national “REDD readiness” process is based on weak evidence and lacks understanding of the true drivers of deforestation. If local livelihoods are mistakenly identified as drivers of deforestation, they could be restricted, impoverishing forest people and allowing the real drivers to continue unimpeded. Many of the sub-national REDD projects suffer from the same lack of evidence and insight 
  • Nearly all of the sub-national projects are planned around existing national parks. It seems that REDD funds could finance the expansion of these parks (often based on an outdated “fortress” model of conservation) and further exclude local people from access to their resources and livelihoods.

“We will only receive benefit if our rights are recognised. Rights not only to the land where we are living, but also to the forest that we have customary use of,” said a Baka representative in the report.

REDD and Rights In Cameroon: A review of the treatment of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in policies and projects is available in French and English for free download at:

For further information please contact:

Emmanuel Freudenthal, Forest Peoples Programme – Email:

Samuel Nnah, Centre for Environment and Development (CED) – Email: 

Justin Kenrick, Forest Peoples Programme – Email: