The 1994 Forest Law only grants some usage rights to local communities and stipulates that: "usufruct rights (or customary rights) are those recognised to local populations to exploit all forest, wildlife and fish products, with the exception of protected species, for their personal use. They may be temporarily or permanently suspended when the need arises for reasons of public interest". The terms for exercise of these rights should have been established by decree, but unfortunately it has never been developed. Therefore, there are no coherent standards or procedures to institute customary law in practice. The interpretation of the right to use therefore differs from one forest stakeholder to another, and this often leads to disputes between communities and titleholders of logging activities, because the communities consider themselves the customary owners of the land and its resources.
Given that according to law forest resources and land belong to the State, and it wants to maximise profits and revenues, the State has not risked granting extensive recognition of customary rights in forest sector activities because this could prevent it from achieving its objectives. Nonetheless, within the framework of the review of the forest law, civil society organised around the forest platform and the European Union have made proposals for better recognition and protection of the customary rights of local and indigenous communities (1).
(1) CED (2012) What law for the forest? Proposals by civil society organisations for the reform of the Forest Law in Cameroon. Available at http://www.transparenceforestiere.info/report-card/updates/600/Cameroon-proposition-de-la-soci-t-civile-sur-la-r-forme-de-la-loi-foresti-re/
|Law no.94/01 of 20 January 1994 on the regime for forests, wildlife and fisheries (Articles 8, 26, 29, 30, 36 and 38)