Cameroon’s forests, which cover about 60 percent of the country, play a vital role for people and the economy. They account for more than six percent of the nation’s GDP, the highest percentage of all countries in the Congo Basin. Cameroon’s forests provide services and sustenance directly and indirectly to local communities and city dwellers alike.
Yet, until recently, Cameroon lacked a comprehensive information system to actually monitor and manage its forests. There was no integrated system or entity tracking the various forest uses, like logging concessions, community forests, hunting zones, and more. The information that was available was scattered amongst different institutions, wasn’t publicly accessible, or was of a quality insufficient to support legality claims and effective land use decisions. This lack of information exacerbated the unsustainable use of forest resources and sparked conflicts between competing forest stakeholders, such as loggers and community groups.
That’s where the Cameroon Forest Atlas comes in. Since 2002, Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) has worked with WRI to improve transparence and governance in the forest sector by publishing and regularly updating the Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon. MINFOF and WRI recently released version 3.0 of the online Atlas, as well as an accompanying report, poster, desktop mapping application, and underlying spatial datasets.
What’s New? A Look Inside the Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon, Version 3.0
The Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon is a constantly updated information system, combining the use of remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and ground-truthing to monitor and manage forests. Through a combination of interactive mapping applications, posters, analytical reports, trainings, and outreach, the Atlas provides users with access to timely, accurate, and harmonized information in the forest sector and beyond. The Atlas brings all the major land use categories—like logging permits, protected areas, hunting zones, etc.— together into one system. Users can get answers to key questions and see where various activities are occurring, as well as areas where competing interests may overlap.
For the first time, version 3.0 also includes information on mining permits and agro-industrial plantations. The expansion and enrichment of the Atlas provides forest stakeholders with a more complete picture of Cameroon’s forest sector, which will ultimately foster better management.
How Stakeholders Use the Cameroon Forest Atlas
A variety of stakeholders utilize the Atlas, including Cameroon’s government, the private sector, research institutions, and civil society. Government agencies use the Atlas to monitor and effectively plan on-the-ground control of forest activities. The private sector references the Atlas to decide where to site infrastructure projects. Research institutions use the Atlas’s information to guide research activities or to support findings, while civil society groups utilize the Atlas to resolve conflict between competing interests and raise awareness of local communities’ rights to sustainable forest management.
Some specific cases where stakeholders referenced the Cameroon Forest Atlas include:
- MINFOF used the Cameroon Atlas to identify and resolve competing claims between the GIC Foconyamzom community forest (Community Forest 803-115) and the Société Industrielle de Mbang forest concession (FMU 08-005);
- MINFOF also used the Atlas to determine which land use categories (e.g., protected areas) could be impacted by the proposed Lom Pangar dam construction project;
- CETELCAF (the technical unit of MINFOF in charge of producing forest titles maps) uses the Atlas’s data and derived products to access accurate information and plan and support field missions;
- Conservation International, an NGO, used the Atlas in a research study that aimed to understand the correlation between spatial distribution of deforestation and biophysical variables;
- The Central Africa Regional Center for Specialized Studies in Forest and Wood (CRESA –Forêt-Bois) has used the Atlas as course material in classes, such as the course, ”Application of GIS in Ecosystems & Protected Areas Management.”
Future Cameroon Forest Atlases
Going forward, WRI and MINFOF will continue to improve and expand both the function and content of the Interactive Cameroon Forest Atlas. In addition to regularly updating Atlas information, we will incorporate emerging themes, such as mapping carbon stock in order to provide a logical base for managing REDD+ and tracking ecosystem services indicators. By consistently updating data as well as strengthening institutional coordination and capacity-building on the ground, WRI and MINFOF are laying the foundation for transparent and informed forest management.