ROC-Cameroon-Gabon: TRIDOM

Excerpt from "The Global Environment Facility in Central Africa" by Emily Caruso, Forest Peoples Programme, March 2005: "..The Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Mikébé project is a protected area project to be implemented in the area ... shared by Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. It has been selected as one of the eleven priority areas of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP). The specific objective of the project is “to maintain the ecological functions and connectivity of TRIDOM, and ensure long-term conservation of its protected area system through integrated, sustainable and participatory management in the interzone between the protected areas”...Similar to the majority of GEF projects in Central Africa, the project’s rationale is still based on the premise that people are the problem, and the provision of “alternative livelihoods initiatives to ease the
pressure on natural resources”..is, as ever, the golden solution. One of the main thrusts of the project is the “enforcement” of legislation concerning hunting and resource use. The project will even support mobile teams to carry out law enforcement throughout protected areas and forest concessions. This carries serious risks for indigenous peoples who rely on forest resources for their subsistence, and who have in the past been victims of repressive and violent law enforcement at the hands of protected area and forest concession staff. This is especially true for Pygmy communities, whose cultural attachment to their forests and their dependence on subsistence hunting and gathering makes them
extremely vulnerable to the enforcement of hunting control measures established to target commercial operators.

Another important element of this project..is that of promoting ecotourism as a financing mechanism for protected areas. This, despite the complete failure of other conservation and GEF projects to deliver the results expected from the key assumption that ecotourism will help protect biodiversity...This, alongside the use of carbon forestry..shows an increasing interest by policymakers and project
managers in the financial value of ‘ecosystem services’, and how to capitalise on them. These commercial components of the project have not been agreed by communities who will be directly affected by them in Cameroon, Gabon or the Republic of Congo. This push for privatising or commercialising natural processes and areas thus threatens to exacerbate further the marginalisation
of indigenous and forest-dependent peoples, since their territories and resources will be put on a market where actors are much more powerful than them, and even less accountable to them than their own government.

The project document notes that TRIDOM will seek to address the needs of indigenous peoples in particular by 1) encouraging increased participation of pygmies in the decision-making process regarding natural resources, in particular during land-use planning exercise and (2) ensuring the
recognition and protection of their rights, systems and knowledge, especially in terms of natural resource management. This is one of the few available GEF project documents which refers to the rights of indigenous peoples. The project documents state that activities relating to indigenous peoples will build upon “the successful experiences catalyzed by WWF in implementing a collaborative
management agreement on control of hunting with the Association of Baka pygmies of Minvoul...which aims at strengthening the legal and social status of
the Baka and promoting benefit sharing from their ecological knowledge.” It is now clear, however, that WWF’s success at involving Baka Pygmies in their work has been grossly exaggerated – in most cases Pygmies are not involved in project activities, this has resulted in increased threats to their livelihoods..."

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