National deforestation workshop in Cameroon looks beyond the forest
While it is clear that deforestation is an important source of global carbon emissions, the potential role that agricultural mosaics at the forest margin could play, to help reduce pressure on the forest, store carbon and create benefits for local people is gaining evidence Scientists and forest stakeholders in Cameroon met in Yaoundé on 6-7 May, to share and validate new research on the potential for Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses (REALU) in the country.
The two-day workshop was organized by the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins and co-hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and IRAD, the Cameroonian Agricultural Research Institute, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).
For two days, over forty participants brainstormed on how to incorporate both indigenous and scientific knowledge into current climate discussions on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD-plus) and move forward towards a REALU approach in Cameroon. The workshop provided a forum for REDD-plus stakeholders, including government, researchers and NGOs, to reflect and collaborate on solutions under the more comprehensive Reduced Emissions from All Land Uses (REALU) approach.
The Congo basin forest is highly at risk. “Between 1995-2000 Cameroon lost more than 13% of its forests, and the entire Congo basin has an annual rate of deforestation of 0.42%, about 1.49million hectares lost per year” said Zac Tchoundjeu, regional coordinator of the World Agroforestry, West and Central Africa, at the opening ceremony.
Despite the rich carbon stocks and big potential for the implementation of REDD-plus, Peter Minang, Global Coordinator of the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins, claimed that not enough is being done to get ready for REDD and explore possible set up of REDD projects in Cameroon. “Indonesia has 5% more REDD projects than all of the Congo Basin. We have more work to do.” Peter told the workshop participants.
The government has a big role to play in supporting and leading national implementation of international REDD policies. Cameroon’s Minister of Environment and Nature Protection (who was represented by the permanent secretary, Patrick Akwa) emphasized, “the government is resolutely committed to international engagements to cut green house emissions through responsible agricultural and forestry practices”.
Results of the analysis of deforestation and degradation, presented by Valentina Robiglio (IITA), showed there are some challenges to developing an accurate understanding of how land cover is changing. Most of these challenges are due to technological limits but also complicated by an unclear definition of what legally qualifies as “forest”. Deforestation and forest degradation in Cameroon are caused by a combination of drivers, including land conversion for small-scale subsistence and market-based agriculture, conversion for agro-industry and plantations (oil palm, banana, rubber), mining, infrastructure development and all types of logging schemes (industrial, artisanal, legal and illegal). More research is needed to understand the spatial and temporal patterns and the synergies among the various drivers.
To set up efficient emission reduction strategies, REDD+ stakeholders need to develop strong cross-sector collaboration and look for solutions outside the forest, in particular within the agricultural sector, which is one of the key sectors in driving land use change at the tropical forest margin. One of the options for reducing forest degradation is how on-farm trees can provide farmers with a sustainable source of timber, therefore reducing their need to harvest from the forest. The researchers are exploring how this strategy could improve farmers’ livelihoods while also increasing the amount of carbon stored in the agricultural mosaic areas.
Concrete measures for enhancing sustainable biodiversity and carbon stock management at the landscape level are urgently needed. Serge Ngendakumana, a World Agroforestry Centre scientist working on land use and climate change concluded that an effective strategy would require “a more comprehensive and rights-based approach.”
The actors in REDD sector jointly produced a number of recommendations on possibilities for collaboration between members of National REDD Network on key issues for Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses. Some of the priority actions proposed include holding a national workshop for communities on REDD-plus terminologies and concepts, developing a communication plan to market REALU, publishing science-based results to nourish ongoing national and international REDD debate, and integrating REDD and REALU in University curricula.
This article was written by Julius Iseli Atia (ICRAF) and Vanessa Meadu (ASB) with input from Serge Ngendakumana (ICRAF) and Valentina Robiglio (IITA).