Knowledge inspires land reform process in Cameroon
Government representatives, Members of Parliament, Mayors, Traditional Authorities, experts and development actors shared experiences at the Parliament-Government experience-sharing forum on land management at the National Assembly in Yaoundé on 7-8 December 2017.
LandCam, a multi-stakeholder project organised the forum, attended by over 70 delegates in collaboration with the Parliamentary Network for the Management of Forest Ecosystems of Central Africa (REPAR) and the National Engagement Strategy (NES) Cameroon.
Launched in March 2017, the LandCam project aims to secure land and resource rights of communities and improve the management of Cameroon's forest areas.
Supported by two ILC members, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Centre for Environment and Development (CED), LandCam helps the reform process by piloting approaches in the country and encouraging citizen participation in the process. Other supporters of LandCam include Le Réseau de lutte contre la faim (RELUFA), implementing partner; and the European Union, main donor to the project.
The forum also invited another ILC member in Burkina Faso, GRAF and other experts from Mali who shared best practice knowledge from their own country reform processes with Cameroonian policy makers.
“We presented a number of tools and processes that participants considered important to take and adapt to the local context as they see fit,”
said Mr Saydou Koudougou, Executive Secretary, Groupe de Recherche et d'Action sur le Foncier (GRAF).
Mr Koudougou shared tools and resources they introduced during the reform process in Burkina Faso with participants. Among his experiences, a key tool thrilled participants, the land charter. According to Mr Koudougou it helps to improve on the capacity of local actors to, better manage land and natural resources.
GRAF was actively involved in the land reform process in Burkina Faso. The reform often described as ambitious, progressive and participatory, offers to among others, formalise people’s rights to common property and decentralise land management authority to local governments.
ILC’s National Engagement Strategy (NES) in Cameroon co-supporting the forum brought key land experts like Mr Koudougou and three others from Mali, Cameroon and Kenya to the event.
“We think the best practices the experts shared here will inspire Cameroonian leaders to actually push ahead with the Cameroon land reform, taking into cognisance the different experiences”, said Mr Musa Ndamba, NES Cameroon member and first national vice president of the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA).
An old legislation
“Our children are suffering. All the small lands we had the road project has taken out everything”, laments Mr Seraphin, 55, inhabitant of Lobo village, 30.5 kilometres from Yaoundé, Cameroon. Mr Seraphin and close to 200 others claim they were cheated in the compensation process of the lands the government is expropriating for the construction of the Douala-Yaoundé highway.
Enacted in 1974, the legislation governing land and natural resources are too old to efficiently protect Mr Seraphin and friends.
Land disputes continue to hinder progress in the country. Farmers and pastoralists are at each other’s neck. Discussed during the forum, delegates recognised the effects of such conflicts on social and economic prosperity and believe a national dialogue platform for grazers and farmers could ease up tensions.
Reforming to fight poverty
In 2008, the Cameroon government started a process, revising land and natural resource legislations. Improving business climate and fight against poverty are practical principles of the land reform process.
In 2017, Cameroon ranked 163 out of 200 in the World Bank ease to doing business report. Mme Jacqueline Koung à Bessike, Minister of State Property and Land Tenure (MINDCAF) in Cameroon told participants,
“ my ministry is engaged to ensuring that the institutional framework and legislation (coming from the land reform) favours economic progress and improve the business climate and the fight against poverty. “
While at the forum, Minister Koung à Bessike is happy with the outcomes. Her closing remarks were clear:
“Seeing the contributions and recommendations tabled by participants of this forum, it is undisputable that this forum will contribute not only to inspire the decision making process on the on-going land reform process in Cameroon, but to build the capacity of key actors.”
Locally managed land conventions, local conciliation forums and inclusive national policy and dialogue are some important tools participants recommended. Such systems could potentially diffuse land related conflicts in the country.
Cameroon launched an ambitious economic emergence vision for 2035. Relaying hugely on agriculture and industrialisation, the projects around the vision exert huge pressures on lands, exposing communities to risks of land dispossession. Participants said recognising and securing the rights of marginalised groups (women, youth and semi-nomadic communities) is crucial for the land reform.
Having just a draft reform with laws and frameworks is not enough for participants. They trust setting up a roadmap with clear deadlines, creating an “all actors” process and capacity building of communities and land stakeholders is the right approach to take for sustainability.