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26 September 2016

Enhancing Local Stakeholders’ Participation in the Implementation of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade – Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) in Western Cameroon

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High demand for cheap timber and growing pressure on forests for conversion to agricultural use, amidst weak legislations, has led to illegal practices within the forest sector. Faced with these, the European Union (EU) embarked on the FLEGT process in 2007. In 2012, Cameroon government finalised negotiations for a VPA with the EU, demonstrating her willingness to trade in legal timber both at the domestic and international markets. The negotiations of the FLEGT/VPA process also took into account, community forests. Therefore, timber and other derived products coming from community forests must show proof of its legal origin. Hence local stakeholders need to collaborate and actively participate in the implementation process of the VPA, by ensuring compliance with policies and legal frameworks.

However, a number of constraints which are crucial to the smooth and effective implementation of the agreement are being faced by local communities. ERuDeF’s findings show that the challenges are more intense in the Western part of Cameroon. These challenges include, amongst others, the lack of required information about FLEGT-VPA process, lack of technical skills, knowledge and finance for the implementation of the process. Also, lack of appropriate grounds to discuss sustainable forest management issues, take concrete decisions and implement agreements still poses a problem in the successful implementation of the FLEGT-VPA process. Moreover, lack of qualitative communication strategies which can help local stakeholders with potentials to enhance the implementation process is a big challenge.

The global objectives of the project is therefore, to enhance local stakeholders’ participation in the implementation process through sensitization, establishment of successful dialogue platforms and strengthening of communication systems and modalities.

In order to achieve the overall objective, the project seeks to:

- organise 4 sensitisation and awareness workshops at the level of local communities on the implication and exigencies of FLEGT-VPA;

- establish and facilitate 4 dialogue platforms at local levels, each made up of 25 participants who shall be transparently selected, to foster information sharing and decision making;

- organise 4 capacity building workshops to train platform participants on key topics in order to facilitate their involvement;

- produce and distribute brochures, roll-ups, posters, calendars and T-shirts carrying key issues concerning FLEGT-VPA, policies and legal frameworks, aimed at strengthening communication;

- produce and implant 60 sign boards carrying key information about users’ rights and land tenure, at the level of local communities, so as to increase awareness;

- publish and distribute monthly community newsletters (4 pages each) targeting issues about FLEGT/VPA, sustainable forest management and illegalities, in order to increase transparency and accountability.

It is expected that with all these put in place, about 70 % of the local stakeholders are actively involved in the implementation process, level of transparency in the sector and accountability have increased to appreciable levels, illegal practices and conflicts are reduced to near zero, and there is good coordination in the sector.

The project shall cost the sum of US$110 000, broken down into the following main headings:

- Sensitization campaigns – 16 000 US$

- Establishment and facilitation of platforms - 38 000 US$

- Capacity building workshop for platform participants - 24 000 US$

- Production of brochures, roll ups, posters, calendars and T-shirts - 13 000 US$

- Production of monthly community newsletters - 10 000 US$

- Production and implantation of awareness boards - 9 000 US$

The project which shall last for a period of 15 months shall be executed by a team of experts within ERuDeF and co-partners. With ERuDeF’s long term commitment in the project area, it will continue to work with its partners to ensure sustainability of the project. ERuDeF is currently embarking on the DRYAD project with support from DFID UK, to provide training, technical and financial assistance to sustainable community forest enterprises in South West Cameroon. This proves the organisation’s commitment in community forestry in the area.

More information can be gotten on the ERuDeF’s website at www.erudef.org