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There Is Inertia In Process Of Amending 1994 Forestry Law – Prof. Roger Ngoufo 

Interviewed By Yerima Kini Nsom

Civil Society activist and Executive Director of the Cameroon Environmental Watch, CEW, Prof. Roger Ngoufo, says the process of the amendment of certain provisions of the 1994 forestry law is being stalled by inertia and the unclear management of information by the authorities. The Varsity don, whose organisation submitted proposals for the amendment of the law, told The Post in this interview that they have been waiting in vain to have feedback on their proposals.  Excerpts:

Last year, you submitted proposed amendments to Government on certain provisions of the forestry law that you think are obsolete to the sustainable exploitation of wildlife and other resources. What is the response of Government?
 

When we made our proposals concerning the revision of the law, we tried as much as possible to make it very public. We also organised some workshops to make our position known very clearly. We received a letter from the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife informing us that his department will consider our proposals and include them in the planning of their work.
 

But what bothers us now is the situation of the process. It seems as if there is a kind of impasse or inertia in the process of amending the law. It is almost one year and a half ago that things started. We think this process is very important and we need regular official information on what is going on, but we don’t think this is the case.
 

What are the shortcomings you have identified in the forestry law?

The points we are raising concern firstly, traditional hunting. It is done by tools which are made of wood material. We think it is not feasible now. The law also prohibits local people from selling their bush meat acquired from traditional hunting. This is not also feasible and these are things we want to be changed.

We also talked of the necessity of compensating local people whose property is being damaged by wildlife such as elephants and monkeys. We have even gone so far to explore whether the civil code can address this aspect but the civil code limits itself just to domestic animals. There is one decree that exists but is geared towards compensating people for what they called "cause d’utilite public" which cannot work for wildlife. So we need a clear provision for wildlife in the law.
 

What are your proposals to the portion of the law that provides that hunters should use only wooden tools and they should not sell bush meat acquired from traditional hunting?
 

They should be authorised to use modern hunting materials to facilitate their task. For compensating we have said we have to asses the situation, make a report and try to see how compensation for those whose crops have been destroyed by elephants and other wildlife can be done. Because in the Ministry, they usually say that if we authorise for compensation, there will be exaggerations of commissions which are in charge of evaluating the situation but we don’t think it is a good argument because it is confusing.

If the commission fails to do its work properly, it is a different problem that must be sanctioned. We are also worried about the Ministry of forestry and Wildlife’s intention to recruit a consultancy firm that would be hired to do the study and put down a synthesis of all the proposals. There is a risk that foreigners are selected and national human resources are not used properly and we are going to come back to the situation which was criticised for the 1994 wildlife law where we realised that the World Bank intervened too much.
 

What do you mean?

Yes, it is publicly said this law was the law of the World Bank because consultants of the Bank were those who did most of the work.
 

Are you proposing that hunters should sell the bush meat that they catch from traditional hunting?

We are proposing that within the village or traditional hunting, people are authorised to sell their products. In the village, some local people usually sell their products in order to have some money to buy basic commodities. We consider that this is completely different from commercial hunting. This is not commercial hunting because this can be limited to the village and this should be authorised.
 

What is blocking your draft law from having headway?
 

We have a working document; it is not a draft law. You know many actors are involved in the process. Some are involved in non-timber production. We selected wildlife because we know that wildlife is often neglected and so we have made our proposals on wildlife. It’s just a matter of trying to put together all the proposals.
 

There seem to be some kind of impasse. What is the way forward?
 

We are appealing to the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to make sure that things are clear. The time-table for the process should be made clear so that every actor willing to contribute can know exactly where to do what and when to do what.
 

Who are those who make up the commission that is examining your proposals?

We have a working group which is in charge of coordinating the process of the revision of the law. People have been grouped; we have officials of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. There are also main organisations like WWF and parliamentarians in what we call Parliamentary Network for Environmental Protection, REPAR, and the civil society has representatives in the working group. But they don’t participate in the process. You know that at times it is in the interest of the Government to make sure that the civil society participates clearly in the process.

We think that the Government must make sure that the civil society fully participates in the process. As a civil society organisation, we have always complained that funds from some funding organisations are not known to us. This is money which normally, the civil society should have had a stake on, to be able to also contribute to some key activities concerning the forest sector.
 

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