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Forest management planning in Congo Basin rainforests

Forest management planning in Congo Basin rainforests
Sicco Dany Dogmo Pokem


Institute of Forestry Economics, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, 79098 Freiburg, GERMANY.


Tropical forests are part of the world’s ecosystems and a significant reservoir of biodiversity. The Central African (or Congo Basin) region contains the second largest and still uninterrupted tracts of contiguous dense tropical rainforest area in the world, second in size only to the Amazon rainforest. However, their progressive disappearance constitutes one of the major environmental problems (deforestation and forest degradation) nowadays. Efforts around the world are focused on achieving sustainable forest management since the United Nations summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), an approach that balances social, economic and environmental objectives. Within this framework, the aim of this thesis was to critically analyse the forest management planning situation in Cameroon, as well as to propose a new planning system.

The methodology applied consisted first of all of literature analyses to gain an overview and identify factors limiting the sustainable use of rainforests (with emphasis on forest planning) in the Congo Basin resulting from an inadequate institutional frame and ineffective forest management planning systems and practices. These secondary data analyses also demonstrated that forest management planning is currently in transition in most parts of the world. The need for the development of a new approach in planning arose due to the fact that the rainforests are common pool resources. Additionally, based on this analysis, a new definition of forest management planning was proposed and a new planning system called combined planning system (CPS) was then designed after its improvement through discussions with experts, mostly academics.

In a next step the theoretical CPS model served as a basis for deducing criteria for an empirical and explorative study aimed at critically analysing of the forest management planning situation in Cameroon. The result of the analysis confirmed the theoretical setting of the CPS model concerning the forest management planning actor groups that need to be involved in forest management planning processes. Six actor groups were adopted as CPS working groups (CPSWG) to be equally integrated as “institutions” jointly performing each step of the planning and implementation process. The forest management plan is referred to as a “social contract” between actors in this thesis which clearly diverges from the classical top down and bottom up approach. In individual interviews group members provided valuable information. The contributions made by respondents when grouped together are as follows: the government group contributed 22% of the information, the forest enterprise group 19%, the local actor group 19%, the forest planners group the 10%, the conservationists group 15%, and the forest donors group 8%. The explorative study results show that the majority (60%) of the respondents define forest management planning by focusing on the technical or tactical aspects which is labelled as tactical planning subsystem in this study. This finding underlines the need for integrating aspects related to values and strategies, as well as institutional governance into the CPS model. Additionally, this explorative study provides a comprehensive understanding of the specific forest management planning problems in Cameroon and explains how the CPS model can address these problems. Results show that 39% of the forest management planning problems are related to institutional and governance subsystem problems. Then, problems associated with the value and strategic subsystem follows with 38%. In contrast, only 16% of the problems of forest management planning result from the technical or tactical planning subsystem. Nonetheless it is mostly the latter which is mostly addressed in forest management planning research.

Lastly, the combined planning system as a contribution to address shortcomings in forest management planning is described. The CPS model is divided into the already mentioned subsystems, namely the value and strategic subsystem, the institutional governance subsystem, and the tactical planning subsystem. This model identifies important social, economic and environmental factors which could improve the effectiveness of the planning outcome implementation, simplify the planning process, and facilitate active participation of relevant actors, as well as conflict management in a dynamic process. The CPS model is an innovative conceptual and methodological approach in forest management planning for the Congo Basin region which contributes to achieving sustainable use of the rainforests resources. However, there are also limits to the CPS model, which remain to be challenged. Therefore recommendations in form of guidelines for the CPS implementation are made making it possible to fine-tune the model to the demands of forest planners and other forest management planning actors. At the same time, there are recommendations for further research, to continue developing the CPS model designed and presented in this thesis and to test the application of the CPS model in the real world.