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In a bid to boost indigenous people and local communities’ (IPLC) engagement in wildlife protection around Lobéké National Park in Southeast Cameroon, Lobéké Management has signed social pacts with 34 Bantu and Baka communities in the Park. Thirty-four social pacts were signed between the communities and the Lobeke Management in December 2022, with each pact corresponding to a community project worth FCFA 300,000.
Through the social pacts, Lobéké Management provides funds for community micro-projects or needs, which it has christened Conservation Bonuses, while the communities commit to participate in collaborative management activities (monitoring forest clearings, park meetings, joint patrols, etc) of the park and to protect their vital zones from being used by poachers to decimate wildlife. The process for allocating the conservation bonuses follows prior concertation, sensitisation and definition of eligibility criteria. Beneficiary communities include six Baka hamlets, 10 Baka/bantu camps and 18 bantu/Baka villages.
The funds were handed to representatives of the recipient communities during an official ceremony organized in the presence of local administrative and traditional authorities of Moloundou and Salapoumbe districts. Representatives of the 34 communities received FCFA 10,200,000 in total.
The immediate outcomes of these funds are already perceptible in the communities. In Kika, Jerusalem-Baka, Socambo and Djombi villages, situated in the south of Lobéké, solar panels have been erected, while electrical generators, chairs and musical set bought. With basic facilities for electricity, Baka and Bantu community members are able to watch TV to be informed about current events in the country and get animation in their villages.
Gath-Attasso Baudouin, President of COVAREF No. 3 Kika, is a happy man. “For me and my community, we are very satisfied. With the money we received, we were able to install solar panels, buy chairs for community meetings and television and musical sets for the entertainment of the communities. Imagine a small village like Djombi, Baka of Kika Jerusalem can watch TV. This is wonderful. We appreciate the conservation bonus very much and hope it continues this year,” states the COVAREF President.
“We are happy to see that the conservation bonuses are helping the communities to meet some of their needs. This is strengthening collaboration between the park and communities. Through such initiatives, we hope to further build synergies with communities in order to preserve the rich biodiversity of the zone,” says Jean-Paul Kelvin Mbamba, Conservator of Lobéké National Park.
For Romanus Ikfuingei, Programme Manager of WWF Jengi TNS, the conservation bonuses will be given annually, to encourage indigenous people and the local population to continue to participate and support conservation of the rich biodiversity of Lobeke national park and its periphery zone. “Communities can only continue to receive the funds if they honour their commitment. This will be assessed following modalities jointly agreed by the park and the communities,” Ikfuingei says.
Since the creation of Lobéké National Park in March 2001, successive management teams have worked with local people to ensure sustainable management of natural resources. Community entities like local wildlife management committees (COVAREFs) manage community hunting zones and use money accruing from them for community development. With income generated from community hunting zones, COVAREFs have, in the past, built classrooms and employed teachers, constructed boreholes and purchased didactic material for school-going children.
To promote participatory and effective wildlife protection, Lobéké management (MINFOF and WWF) has been working with local civil society organisations to strengthen community entities like COVAREFs. In 2022, in collaboration with local CSO CIFED, Lobeke management facilitated the renewal and training of the executive bureaus of COVAREFs and provided revolving funds for community micro-projects.
Some 24,000 inhabitants live adjacent Lobéké National Park spread over 23 villages, comprising indigenous Baka and Bantu tribes. Besides the conservation bonuses, communities are also being supported in NTFPs value chains and sustainable cocoa production. They are also managing money generated from community forests, obtained thanks to financial and technical support provided by WWF and partners.