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The Role of Cocoa Agroforests in Rural and Community Forestry in Southern Cameroon

Research report

Research report

Over 70 years of familiarity with cocoa agroforests enables the farmers of southern Cameroon to obtain food, medicinal plants and income from this ecosystem. Since 1994, social forestry activities in Cameroon have focussed primarily on the idea of community forests, despite the fact that this approach is likely to encounter problems inherent in the way that the Administration works and in the structure of the communities concerned. In addition, the ban on individuals exploiting non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and timber from community forests for profit increases the appeal of ëprivateí land (such as cocoa agroforests). Such land is also the ideal place for forestry activities, in a context where community spirit is not strong enough to encourage general participation in group initiatives. This paper argues that the objectives of the community forestry programme could partially be met through the good management of cocoa agroforests.There could be complementarity, in ecological, economic and social terms, between farmer management of agroforests and community forestry if the latter were designed to take into account the general management of the land area in question. Unfortunately, cocoa farmers receive no help from either the agriculture or forestry departments, and 85% of them have no contact whatsoever with extension services. This paper therefore recommends that: (1) community forestry projects be designed to form part of a general land management concept which includes cocoa agroforests; (2) NTFPs be domesticated in cocoa agroforests to reduce pressure on the forest; and (3) that domestication projects take account of the intra- and inter-specific diversity of forests in the zone.

A. A. Adesina, J. Gockowski, B. A. Nkongmeneck, O Ndoye, D J Sonwa, M Tchatat, S. F. Weise