Association OKANI

Association OKANI

OKANI is a community-based indigenous NGO located in the East Region of Cameroon in Africa, staffed by a small team and governed by a committee of Baka peoples composed of: a chairperson, treasurer, project managers and secretary elected from member communities during the general assembly. OKANI works to secure the rights and promote sustainable livelihoods of indigenous communities in Cameroon’s forests and works in support of their collective bodies known as the Council of Elders. This indigenous peoples NGO is directly connected to community governance structures. According to its mandate, feeding-back to all the community is the organisation’s first obligation.

Date of creation: 2004

OKANI has extensive experience in the following: advocating indigenous peoples’ rights, managing community-based projects, including income generation, self-determined development and land use mapping, participatory video. OKANI has two finance officers who receive training in accounting and project finance from FPP. The finance team has a proven capacity to manage funds in a responsible manner and report back to beneficiary communities. Grants and funding from Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the Waterloo Foundation, UNDP and Plan Cameroon have all been handled responsibly by the organisation.

OKANI has several outstanding and gifted community activists as well as a team of young women and men who are gaining experience in community work. They are fully practicing their own cultures as well as doing work for the communities; the men and women are good hunters and farmers.The team is fully indigenous and all are dedicated, committed and fully respectful of local values and community governance structures.

Partners and donors:
-    Forest Peoples Programme
-    Plan Cameroon
-    Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI)
-    UNDP

Areas of work, vision and priorities:
OKANI is working on several main issues in Cameroon: protected areas, food security at the local level, access to land and education. OKANI’s vision is to support the Baka people and to be sure that they can work for their personal interest.

OKANI has just successfully supported the communities to develop, agree and adopt their own map of their territory to provide the basis of their advocacy for the return of their land. They have also supported the communities to address the issue of land use in Cameroon and the new extension of agro-industry as well as creating a short video to address the problem of Baka children’s education.

54 communities are now working with OKANI on the following actions: mapping, participatory video and agriculture.

This work will include vital components and further initiatives to continue to secure title to their lands alongside the work on traditional knowledge and sustainable livelihoods, including thorough dialogue with government agencies.

Substantial and sustained funding for OKANI and the collective community representative bodies it serves is needed to keep up momentum in their push for their land rights through mapping and elaboration of a common global vision by the Baka themselves.

FPP considers that OKANI now has the capacity to receive funding direct. FPP will continue to work with OKANI and Communities in a technical advisory role for the coming few years, but envisage that the organisation will become increasingly independent in the future.

Baka document their land use inside Nki Forest, which has become Nki National Park, south-east Cameroon, April 2006
Baka document their land use inside Nki Forest, which has become Nki National Park, south-east Cameroon, April 2006
Baka men in Cameroon reviewing their mapping data and preparing for meetings with conservation authorities over land overlapped by Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks, June 2008

Meetings discussed land overlapped by Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks

John Nelson