At a four-day workshop in Nguti sub-division, Cameroon, representatives from over 50 local communities presented the results of their participation in MappingForRights, RFUK’s community mapping and monitoring initiative.
Funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented in Cameroon with local organisations Ajemalibu Self Help (AJESH) and Forêts et Développment Rural (FODER), MappingForRights supports remote forest communities in developing accurate printed maps of their territories and land use patterns.
This is the first time that all of the communities in a single administrative unit have been supported to map their lands, and marks an important step in Nguti's work to realise a more participatory model of land use and forest management.
Several government administrators and elected officials attended the workshop. Tong George Enoh, Mayor of Nguti Council, said he was confident that the mapping "will be to the advantage of Nguti, as we now know how to go about land use planning."
Community chiefs, traditional elites and youth and women's leaders presented their traditional land tenure systems and land use maps at the workshop. They also discussed the continued challenges they face in using and managing these lands.
One of the challenges that the MappingForRights project helped reveal is that much of Nguti is occupied by protected areas. This means that little space is left for village communities to use for their livelihoods.
Eowh Prosper Mayarh, Chief of the Banyu clan and an active participant in developing his village's maps, pointed out that whatever land is left after the establishment of protected areas is often unusable. All too frequently, communities are consigned to rocky or hilly areas or wetlands. These are areas with poor infrastructure and growing populations, landscapes that have been degraded by the exploitation of natural resources and an ignorance of traditional land tenure laws.
The workshop included an open discussion where participants recommended the discontinuation of protected areas and agro-industries. They argued that local communities should be properly consulted before logging or other industrial concessions were permitted, and that these communities should also be informed of and involved in all follow-up meetings and in the committees set up to monitor agreed development projects.
By 2017, it is expected that more than 700 communities in the Congo Basin will have mapped their lands through the MappingForRights programme, and up to five million hectares of forest community land will be mapped and uploaded to the central database.
"MappingForRights will help fine-tune land use planning so that communities can continue to live in harmony," said Georges Thierry Handja, RFUK Mapping Coordinator.
"The maps will help bring together communities and decision-makers to discuss challenges and to find sustainable solutions."
Read more about Nguti's forest communities and their way of life in our brochure here.