The project - Step 4
A very strong tourist potential
WWF is playing a key role in building capacity of its partners on the ground, especially local NGOs involved in community development aid. WWF's support aims to:
- Put in place mechanisms to manage joint revenues, and equitably share profits;
- Help fishing communities purchase their fishing gear, and manage the preserving and marketing of their products:
- Provide expertise to local NGOs and community groups on how to develop small-scale projects, with a special focus on sustainable use of forest products;
- Provide financial and technical support to specific rural projects such as beekeeping, oil palm nurseries, and aquaculture; and
- Develop a specific approach to ensure the integration of marginalized groups in all initiatives aiming to boost local development and sustainable management of natural resources.
This is extremely important as local communities and several other forest people have for years been excluded from all decision channels. WWF is convinced that the management of a protected area will ultimately fail if it leads to restriction to, or suppression of, the communities' traditional right to use forests resources without offering a viable alternative. The approach adopted for Campo-Ma'an encourages a participatory method, where all stakeholders are involved.
In the Campo-Ma'an area there is an additional need - and challenge - to find a very specific approach when focusing on Bagyéli pygmies. Bagyeli suffer from both their isolation and precarious situation, which result mainly from rapid changes affecting their traditional forest life. For example, the intrusion of immigrants in the forest area, and the replacement of the local barter economy by money-based trade have contributed to the Bagyeli's current state of distress.
WWF's project is focusing on a series of measures that seek to reassure the Bagyeli of their inclusion in the park's management, including: permanent consultation; participation with other stakeholders in the national park's joint management committee; access to the park for traditional rites and harvesting of non-timber products, such as plants and fruits; access to education for their children; and land rights. WWF is also calling on other ethnic groups to better accept the Bagyeli.
The development of community forests, focusing on those which have the best potential for community management, is another key activity of WWF's Campo-Ma'an Project. It has just produced - jointly with the Network of partnerships for sustainable forest management in Central Africa, another WWF project - a status report on planned community forests in the Campo Ma'an buffer zone. The project will also launch a planning process involving all concerned parties.
People living around the park depend on food and other products and materials that can be found in community forests. Community forests are situated in forested zones that are not in the park, nor in a logging concession. According to Cameroonian legislation, they belong to non-permanent national forests, which can be converted for other uses if needed. To the contrary, permanent national forests include protected areas and forest reserve, which can not be converted.
WWF's survey shows that 28 initiatives have been launched to create community forests around Campo-Ma'an National Park. However, most of them are either stalled or still at a very initial stage because of insufficient resources, lack of expertise at the community level, slowness of the administration, or even external pressure to withdraw some of the projects. In addition, funds previously allocated by SNV have not resulted in any concrete achievement, due to unsystematic monitoring of progress.
WWF's project will provide technical assistance to local NGOs and MINEF representatives through mapping, use of GPS technology, organization of administrative documents, and development of simple forests management plans. WWF will also look for committed partners to help with the implementation phase of community forests.
Community hunting grounds
The Campo-Ma'an management plan clearly mentions that local community has the right to use community hunting grounds. One of the project's ideas is to develop exclusive hunting grounds in the forests of the buffer zone. Such zones could be created within logging concessions and community forests. They would be managed by communities according to an agreement signed by all stakeholders.
The agreement would clearly stipulate limits, restrictions, and conditions applicable to the hunting zones, as well as potential sanctions if the rules are not respected. Some of the hunting zones could be leased by the State to sports hunting companies, which would pay a fee to local communities. However, faunal resources are not abundant enough in the park's buffer zone to justify a similar scheme as in WWF's Jengi project in south-eastern Cameroon, where there are many community and sports hunting grounds.
Development of ecotourism is another central idea of the Campo-Ma'an project. WWF is convinced that the region has a very strong tourist potential. There are rainforests with a high diversity of plants and animals, including mega fauna such as buffaloes, elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, and hippopotamus.
The area also hosts a scenic shoreline with beautiful beaches where turtles come to nest, the Ntem River with its rapids, other river suitable for dugout excursions, the Memve'ele and Lobe waterfalls, archaeological sites, and a large cultural diversity with coastal communities, forest dwellers, hunters and gatherers. In addition, the seaside resort of Kribi - with 40 hotels and more than 700 rooms - is nearby, and the international airports of Douala and Yaounde close by.
However, the area's high tourist value remains unexploited and does not contribute enough to the local economy or improvement of residents' livelihoods. Outside Kribi, tourist infrastructures are almost inexistent, and potential tourist sites are not advertised or difficult to access. The park's conservation office does not have a tourist information centre, and most of the local communities have no idea of how to manage ecotourism.
This is why WWF's project is currently actively working to describe all potential tourist sites of the park and buffer zone, and identify feasible tours. At the same time, the project provides some support to the development of community-based tourist infrastructures, and improvement of accommodation in some villages. For example, WWF works with the coastal village of Ebodje.
The village has a tourist committee, and the community participates in decisions related to tourism. Several villagers have added guest rooms in their home to lodge tourists. Small restaurants have opened.
Guided forest excursions, dugout rides on river or on sea, and a visit to the marine turtle "museum" - created with WWF's help - are some of the activities proposed to ecotourists visiting Ebodje. Each year, from November to January, four marine turtle species (loggerhead, olive ridley, green, and hawksbill) come to lay their eggs on the nearby beach, or are looking for food on the coast's many foraging sites.
WWF also supports communities who want to develop dugout canoeing. Several areas of the park can be explored with canoe, and some rivers offer spectacular view points on rapids and waterfalls, as well as excellent sites for recreational fishing.
In addition, WWF plans to build "miradors" - observation towers - to watch wildlife, and is considering building canopy walks. A survey carried out in the framework of the partnership with the Great Apes Project showed that there are good conditions in the park for gorilla watching. With approximately four animals per square kilometre, the population is dense enough. Depending on funds available on the long term, the project could start a programme to familiarize a group of gorillas with the presence of tourists on their territory. A site has already been identified.On the coast, WWF is collaborating with mayors who are aware of the threat of land speculation and potential destructive coastal development. They are willing to ensure that forested areas located on their territory are not sold off.