Evolution of community forestry in Cameroon: an innovation ecosystems perspective
Cameroon introduced community forestry (CF) in 1994 as a means of improving community engagement in forest management, enhancing forest conservation, and reducing poverty for forest-dependent people. More than 20 years on, reflection on uptake, conceptual evolution, and innovation is necessary to understand how best community forests can contribute to Cameroon’s post-2015 sustainable development goals. We investigate, review, and reflect on how community forestry has evolved from an innovation ecosystem perspective, with a view to enhancing innovations and performance. Interest and momentum in community forestry remains strong in Cameroon, with the number of community forests growing, reaching 430 and covering 1.7 million ha (7% of total forest area). Major innovations identified are the introduction of pre-emption rights and steps toward sustainable forest management (ban on industrial logging, development of certification standards, and the introduction of the environmental notice in lieu of a full environmental impact assessment for CF activities). Little or no innovation is registered in areas related to forest enterprise (i.e., products and services value chains) and in terms of practicing sustainable forest management. Evidence suggests that knowledge generated directly feeds innovation. Coincidentally, areas for which little progress was made (enterprise and sustainable practices) also recorded few publications, suggesting that partnerships aimed at improving knowledge generation and sharing could help catalyze innovation. Other options for unlocking innovations within community forestry discussed include: enhancing intercommunity forest and private sector community forests partnerships and collaboration, increased capacity development and capital investments, and deploying incentives (financial and nonfinancial). Together these options can potentially transform community forestry in Cameroon.