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Bertoua, Cameroon; 19 September 2023: The Baka - indigenous forest people - in southeast Cameroon today renewed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they signed with the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) in February 2019, permitting them to exercise their traditional rights in accessing natural resources zones in the Lobeke, Nki and Boumba Bek National Parks.
Bertoua, Cameroon; 19 September 2023:
The Baka - indigenous forest people - in southeast Cameroon today renewed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they signed with the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) in February 2019, permitting them to exercise their traditional rights in accessing natural resources zones in the Lobeke, Nki and Boumba Bek National Parks.
The Accord was signed in Bertoua, East Region, between the Baka group; Association Sanguia Baka Buma’a Kpodé- ASBABUK, and the Minister of Forests and Wildlife, Jules Doret Ndongo, in the presence of the representative of Cameroon’s Social Affairs Ministry, Baka leaders, RACOPY- a Baka umbrella association and a consortium of NGOs working to promote the rights of Indigenous People in southeast Cameroon.
During the signing ceremony, Minister Doret Ndongo said: “This is another milestone moment in our efforts to promote the rights of Indigenous People and Local Communities in the preservation of biodiversity in southeast Cameroon. This new commitment will not just promote Baka rights, but will also foster participatory natural resources management and the wellbeing of communities around protected areas”.
For the Baka, this renewed MoU is a mark of recognition of their rights to access and also obligations to participate in the sustainable management of natural resources. “We look forward to better days after the signing of this MoU. We were largely consulted before the signing of this MoU and our views integrated in the final version we just signed,” says ASBABUK President BiBI Joseph Johnson
MoU Renewal Process
The MoU renewal process follows an evaluation of the implementation of the first three-year MoU conducted by a mixed team set up by MINFOF. The team identified weaknesses in the MoU and made proposals for a much improved version.
A vast consultation was carried out involving all Baka communities around the concerned national parks and the Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve that was not covered by the first MoU. In all, 88 Baka communities were consulted and their views integrated in the formulation of the new MoU. RACOPY, a consortium of NGOs led the consultation of the Baka and the revision of the MoU.
The revised MoU was presented to Baka leaders for review and following its adoption by the IPs, it was also presented to key actors outside the parks (conservators, safaris, logging companies) for their views. All the key stakeholders and a representative of the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, later met and made a final review in plenary and unanimously adopted the new draft MoU as good for signing.
The Baka have lived in the forests of Southeast Cameroon from time immemorial and are known to be the first custodians of the forest. The life and livelihood of this semi-nomadic people depend essentially on the forest. The creation of protected areas restricted movement and exploitation of natural resources, thereby limiting the freedom of the Baka who hitherto had not known any such restrictions.
“WWF hails the concerted efforts made by all the stakeholders involved in the renewal process. As a key technical and financial partner to the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife in the sustainable management of the country’s biodiversity, WWF will work with all partners to ensure an effective implementation of the MoU for the benefit of the Baka and nature,” the WWF Country Director adds.