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Why WWF is helping train government rangers in Human Rights, Social Safeguards in Southeast Cameroon

The work of government rangers has been vital in preserving the rich forest resources of the Southeast of Cameroon. Over the years, wildlife populations such as those of great apes have thrived but we have also witnessed fault lines when it comes to working with local and indigenous communities, living in these areas for generations.

The work of government rangers has been vital in preserving the rich forest resources of the Southeast of Cameroon. Over the years, wildlife populations such as those of great apes have thrived but we have also witnessed fault lines when it comes to working with local and indigenous communities, living in these areas for generations.

In its efforts to ensure that initiatives against poaching and illegal wildlife trade do not, in any way, infringe on the rights of communities around protected areas, WWF has been supporting the regular training of rangers on the respect of human rights during anti-poaching activities. In November 2020, WWF Cameroon conducted a training needs assessment survey among rangers, the police, customs and gendarmerie officials, with results showing training on human rights topping the list of capacity needs.

Based on this assessment, Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) in collaboration with WWF recently organized a series of training sessions for rangers, law enforcement officials, CSOs, representatives of community-based associations and members of indigenous peoples and local communities around the Lobéké, Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks, and the Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve.

In all, 86 rangers spread over four protected areas, 12 forces of law and order, 7 judicial authorities and 25 indigenous and local community members took part in the training.

Training modules were developed and delivered by a team of experts from the General Delegation of National Security (GDNS), National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF), The Justice department, MINFOF, WWF, Gendarmerie, the Cameroon Bar Association. The curriculum included the National Strategy for the fight against wildlife crime, techniques of identifying wildlife products, investigation and interrogation techniques, writing complaint reports, the international and national legal framework on the respect of human rights, WWF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards and its importance in conservation work.

While chairing the training sessions in Yokadouma and Mambele, the MINFOF Delegate for the Boumba and Ngoko Division, Bekono Nka André, said MINFOF is committed to ensuring that the rights of communities are respected in anti-poaching activities. “This training will contribute a lot in upholding the rights of communities by equipping rangers with the necessary legal and human rights tools.”

For Carine Kouebou, government eco-guard working in Lobéké National Park, the capacity building was an important opportunity for eco-guards. “This was a great opportunity for us as it adds something extra to what we know. It will also guide us in our work and, increasingly, we will continue to respect human rights.”

The training was also a unique moment for the Baka to have face-to-face exchanges with local authorities. “As a Baka woman, I was delighted that, in this training targeting rangers, issues relating to the rights of the Baka were integrated. It has been an opportunity where government officials and community members have exchanged ideas freely. Each of us were reminded of our rights and obligations,” states Yvette Mongondji, WWF Community Facilitator.

Key guiding documents including the Manual on Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and Good Practices applicable during anti-poaching activities were given to participants to promote best practices. Existing institutional instruments both at MINFOF central services and at the level of parks such as the Code of Conduct for eco-guards of the Lobeke national park, when applied effectively and consistently, will help promote greater respect for human rights by rangers.

WWF is committed to help promote the rights of indigenous and local communities in Cameroon. Since 2015, we have partnered with local CSO CEFAID in initiating and implementing a Baka Complaint Mechanism; facilitated the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Baka and MINFOF, and helped establish a Human Rights Centre near Lobéké National Park. However, much stills to be done on the ground to entrench a stronger human rights culture, build confidence and greater collaboration between local communities and law enforcement working on conservation, and we are determined to play our part.
Cross section of eco-guards at training

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