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COVID-19 and indigenous and tribal peoples:

The impacts and underlying inequalities (2020)

The pandemic is exacerbating inequalities for indigenous and tribal peoples.


Indigenous and tribal peoples, including the communities who live within and around tropical forests, hold collective rights to the governance and management of their lands, territories and resources. They have a strong connection to, and dependency on, their traditional territories. Poverty often impedes their access to basic necessities such as health care, water, sanitation and food—all essential for minimising the risks and impacts of COVID-19.


But beyond poverty, indigenous and tribal peoples’ resilience to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic is determined by the extent to which their collective rights to lands and self-determination are respected and protected. These rights are the foundation of their livelihoods, their culture, their survival.

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Cameroon case study: Indigenous peoples draw on spirit of solidarity to cope with COVID-19 and the measures to contain it (2020)

Okani, a community-based indigenous peoples’ organisation in east Cameroon, conducted COVID-19 information sharing and awareness raising with 50 members of the Baka and Bagyeli communities on 8–22 June 2020. The activity also served as a space for the communities to share how their daily lives were being affected by government measures imposed to contain the spread of the virus.

The Baka community in the village of Moangue Le Bosquet in the East Region of Cameroon has experienced a real slowdown in the movements of populations in neighbouring villages and in the forest. They have been restricted in organising their traditional activities that involve public gathering, such as the mythical dance known as edjengui.

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Community Forestry in Cameroon: An overview of the community perspective (2019)

The concept of community forestry was first developed by the FAO in 1978 and defined as any situation which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity. The initiative strives for social equity while seeking to ensure the durability of forest resources; it aims to empower communities to take the lead in sustainable economic activities in order to reduce poverty, improve living conditions and ensure sustainable local development. In Cameroon, the concept was first brought in as part of the country’s new forest policy of 1992, whose two main objectives were “to protect the environment and preserve natural resources” and “to involve [local] peoples in the conservation and management of forest resources with an aim to improve their living standards”.


The overall aim of this note is to gather perceptions held by local and indigenous communities currently managing, or setting up, community forests in Cameroon. The note aims to highlight issues regarding the process of establishing community forests and how much control communities have in the forests’ management and governance. Recommendations, as proposed by said communities, are also presented. More specific aims include:


  1. To provide a situational analysis of the FC process (the creation phase, exploitation, investment, etc.) in order to identify the positive aspects and the constraints as seen by forest peoples;

  2. To compile a list of recommendations based on forest peoples’ wishes, reflecting the role they would like CFs to play for them;


To make their voices heard by policy-makers and other development partners in future advocacy work.

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In and Around Cameroon’s Protected Areas: A rights-based analysis of access and resource use agreements between Indigenous Peoples and the State (2019)

In recent years, the Government of Cameroon has negotiated access agreements (memoranda of understanding, MoUs) with Baka communities affected by a number of protected areas. These agreements seek to ensure that indigenous communities maintain or regain access to their lands and resources within protected areas for the purposes of their traditional activities and customary sustainable use.


This report analyses the effectiveness in practice of MoUs in improving indigenous communities’ access to their lands and resources, through two case studies. The case studies assess two MoU processes covering four protected areas in South and East Cameroon: the Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve, and the Lobeke, Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks.

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Briefing: There’s a long, long way to go: the story of FPIC in Cameroon’s Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve (2019)

WWF, the World Bank and the Government of Cameroon have hailed the Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve in Cameroon as a success for conservation. However, the Reserve was created on the customary lands of local communities including the indigenous Baka, who depend on forest resources for food, medicine and shelter, as well as for maintaining their cultural and spiritual traditions.


With the gazetting of the reserve, the forests that the Baka have used sustainably for millennia have been taken from them, and they are no longer able to pursue their traditional activities.


Forest Peoples Programme and Okani accompanied local communities affected by the Ngoyla Reserve for more than three years.


Our work with the communities, presented in this briefing, revealed that the Government and WWF – who played a key role in creating the Reserve – did not follow a proper process of free, prior and informed consent for the creation of the Reserve and that “benefits” for communities have been inadequate or ineffective.


This has resulted in impoverishment, social hardship and cultural loss for the communities, who have received no compensation for the loss of their lands.


This briefing presents a summary of our findings from these three years of engagement with affected communities.

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In and Around Cameroon’s Protected Areas: A rights-based analysis of access and resource use agreements between Indigenous Peoples and the State (2019) - French only

For almost three years, FPP and Okani have accompanied nine Baka and Bantu communities in the Ngoyla-Mintom forest massif, a cross-cutting area that encompasses the districts of Ngoyla in the east and Mintom in the south of Cameroon. This accompaniment has been close and regular. It began after an assessment visit by FPP and Okani in 2015, which aimed to examine the involvement of Baka populations in some REDD+ pilot projects in the area, including a WWF-led project to support the Government of Cameroon in the process of land allocation in the Ngoyla-Mintom forest massif (which involved the creation of a wildlife reserve).

This initial assessment raised a number of concerns, and led to the Baka communities visited requesting support from FPP and Okani from. As FPP and Okani were already involved in other projects in the area, they decided to regularly and closely monitor the progress of two projects in the area: the WWF project and a complementary project run by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) and the World Bank. The accompaniment was conducted mainly in the form of parallel consultations in order to facilitate access to information as well as to provide a different and independent perspective (FPP and Okani having no vested interest in the project objectives) on the proposals made to the communities, and the activities carried out by the two projects.


At the same time, we were able to undertake an in-depth analysis of the respect for indigenous peoples' rights, particularly the application of the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) - a principle to which the WWF project referred, and which was enshrined in its own policies, as well as the World Bank's safeguarding policies.

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The right to citizenship: Challenges for forest indigenous peoples in Cameroon (2018)

Documented citizenship – a key element of the human right to a nationality – is not only a right in itself, but a cornerstone to the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. In Cameroon for example, one or more key citizenship documents – such as a birth certificate, national identity card, or electoral card – are necessary to be able to enrol children in school, move freely around the country, vote, initiate legal procedures, apply for jobs, and perform many other essential life activities. However, for the indigenous communities of Cameroon’s forests, it has long been known that a significant number lack citizenship documents, and have therefore been disproportionately excluded from the enjoyment of other legal rights.

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Alternative report to the Pre-Sessional Working Group of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) (2018)

Alternative report submitted by Association Okani and FPP to the Pre-Sessional Working Group of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), 3-16 April 2018, to assist with the preparation of the list issues to consider in the forthcoming examination of the State Report of the Republic of Cameroon.

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Community forestry in Cameroon: a diagnostic analysis of laws, institutions, actors and opportunities (2017)

This brief study has been produced by the partners of the CoNGOs consortium to share our different knowledge and experience, and to set out a joint understanding of the current state of play in relation to community forestry in Cameroon.


The study aims to:

  • consider existing institutional and legal frameworks in Cameroon (and their strengths and limitations);

  • set out demographic, cultural and socio-economic factors affecting community forestry;

  • identify key actors and institutions (which will include a focus on cooperatives and other producer groups which reflect community utilisation of natural resources (including land for agriculture) in forested areas;

  • analyse the constraints – legal and practical – to effective community forestry in Cameroon; and

  • consider options and strategies which can be adopted (principally within the framework of the CoNGOs project) to enhance the effectiveness and viability of community-based forest management within Cameroon, and the benefits received by communities from it.


CED, Fern, FPP, IIED, Okani

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Behind the Veil: Transparency, Access to Information and Community Rights in Cameroon's Forestry Sector (2016)

In 2010, Cameroon and the European Union signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products. One apparently positive element highlighted by the European Union and civil society organisations has been the inclusion of a 'transparency annex' in the document, which aimed to "make information available for public scrutiny to improve transparency and accountability".

This report describes work undertaken by Forest Peoples Programme and Association Okani, in the department of Océan in the southern region of Cameroon, principally over a period of 18 months between October 2014 and April 2016. As this account illustrates, transparency and access to information remain key challenges for communities in Cameroon.

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The rights of Baka communities in the REDD+ Ngoyla-Mintom project in Cameroon (2016)

Cameroon is signatory to a number of international declarations which give explicit emphasis to the rights of indigenous peoples. One fundamental precondition to any REDD+ intervention is the inclusion of communities’ customary rights.


Whether it be a REDD+ project, a conservation project, sales of standing volume or concessions, the project promoters and/or investors have to comply with the relevant international legal instruments applicable to Cameroon, particularly since Cameroon’s constitution states that the international laws to which Cameroon is party supersede domestic law, even when the rights they grant are different or in addition to those under domestic law.

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Request for Consideration of the implications for the Indigenous Forest Peoples of Cameroon from the imminent adoption of a racially discriminatory new Forest Law, under the UN CERD's Urgent Action and Early Warning Procedures

The purpose of this request is to bring to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD)'s attention the imminent enactment of a new Forest Law in Cameroon. The submitting organisations (Okani, CED and Forest Peoples Programme) highlight that both the process of reform and the contents of the proposed new law are racially discriminatory towards indigenous peoples.

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Conflict or Consent: The oil palm sector at a crossroads (2013)

Chapter 14: The BioPalm oil palm project: a case study in the Département of Océan, Cameroon


FPP, Sawit Watch and TUK INDONESIA

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Synthesis Paper - Customary sustainable use of biodiversity by indigenous peoples and local communities: Examples, challenges, community initiatives and recommendations relating to CBD Article 10(c) (2011)

A synthesis paper based on case studies from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Guyana, Suriname, and Thailand

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Protecting and encouraging customary use of biological resources by the Baka in the west of the Dja Biosphere Reserve - Cameroon 10(c) Case Study (2006)

Contribution to the implementation of Article 10(c) of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Four Baka communities mapped their use of their forests using GIS. These maps, together with an outline of the local administrative and socio-political structures and a record of Baka beliefs and rituals, identify the tension between communities’ customary forest use and conservation objectives.


This report aims to help improve implementation of the CBD in Cameroon.

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The rights of indigenous peoples in Cameroon: Supplementary report submitted further to Cameroon’s third periodic report 54th ordinary session, October 2013, Banjul, Gambia

Presented to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), jointly submitted by CED, Okani, RACOPY, MBOSCUDA, IWGIA & FPP

Concluding Observations on the 3rd Periodic Report of the Republic of Cameroon

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