Ebo forest is at risk, despite being home to more than 40 communities and holding about 35 million tonnes of carbon. In February 2020, Cameroon’s government started the classification process for two long-term logging concessions – a radical change of plan from the national park the government proposed to create there in 2006. In so doing, the government appears to undercut the years-long process of clarifying communities’ legal status.
But a solution could be at hand. In a letter to the Cameroonian Prime Minister more than 60 scientists and conservationists ask the government to suspend its plans and propose to engage all stakeholders, including local communities in developing an inclusive multisectoral land-use plan. This, they argue, would draw assistance and funding from technical and financial partners. Their plan would strengthen the National Investment Plan for sustainable land-use being drafted for discussion with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).
The international donor community cannot merely watch as events unfold. Donors such as the EU, its Member States and CAFI should take action to address the immediate case of Ebo forest and other at-risk areas such as Campo Ma’an National Park, as well as to halt structural patterns of forest conversion. Ebo forest offers the chance to test participative, local land-use planning and mapping methods, that could then be deployed nationally. The EU should engage in a robust dialogue with Cameroon, prioritising support for such methods, and for small-scale farming, community forest management and other sustainable alternatives to industrial logging and agriculture. Such actions should also feature in the next phase of EU-Cameroon development cooperation programme being shaped for the next seven years.