Participatory Forest Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods: Banyang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary


Louis N. Nkembi[1]

One of the greatest causes of resource degradation has been the activities of local people living adjacent to protected areas. Many studies have shown that gazetting areas in themselves does not lead to resource conservation. Banyang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary over the last few years has been designing a community-based model based on research, local capacity building, education and generation of appropriate incentives for the adjacent communities. Conservation interest was found to increase when indigenous people were recruited into the project staff, conservation friendly projects initiated, local people trained in income-generation activities, local institutions for forest management formed and trained, and when local people were involved in patrol, land enforcement and monitoring. Conservation was also seen to increase when individual villages were able to control and manage resources within their traditional village territories. The income resulting from this was shared according to Government legislation between village forest management institutions and the Government department in charge of natural resource management.

Those activities that created the greater participation of the adjacent villagers helped increase their conservation awareness and thus their ability to become better community conservation managers.

The project concept of resource management did not limit itself only to resources inside the sanctuary but also included the resources found within the village portion of the sanctuary. This gave the forest management institutions considerable power and incentive to manage their resources.


Interest in common forest resources management systems is growing and expanding as demonstrated by a number of recent studies. The BMWS Project, is thus integrating the local people in conserving the Banyang-Mbo Sanctuary and its resources for the interest of the local communities. As human population increase and the demand for resources grows, the frequency and intensity of conflict between the protected area and local people also increases due to increasing human needs and the overexploitation of resources within the protected area, more approaches to reduce conflict between them will need to be developed to provide tangible benefits to local communities as well as empowerment to manage their natural resources. For this to be effective, the relationship between local people and the protected area must be understood in terms of their livelihoods.

The BMWS started as a native authority forest in 1936 and progressively changed status until 1996 when it was finally gazetted as a Sanctuary with a mandate of protecting specially designated species and empowering the local people to manage the area.

This paper examines the benefits of the local people from this forest, their conservation interests, their attitudes and project actions in reconciling local interest with conservation objectives of the Sanctuary. It concludes that due to the quasi dependence of the local people on this forest, its conservation becomes of prime importance.

2. Methodology

Both the quantitative and qualitative methods were used to assess the involvement and use of the forest by the local people.

Choosing the villages

PRA were conducted in all 54-project villages to select those that used non-timber forest products (NTFP) from the Sanctuary. From these number 6 villages representative of the range of ethnic groups, eco-zones, impact on the sanctuary and dominant economy were selected as sample villages.

Choosing the households

Community meetings were held in each village to identify NTFP collectors. Group meetings were then held with NTFP collectors to select households representative of the range of NTFPs used, volume collected, and the age and sex of collectors. From this exercise, 10-20 households in each village were selected depending on village population size.

Conservation Attitudes of Local People

The attitudes of local people living adjacent to the Banyang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary were assessed using secondary information, key informant, direct observation, and informal discussions. Variables of interest included the attitudes of local people towards the BMWS, the project & technical staff and illegal hunters on one hand, and how resource use patterns and problems and past interactions with the protected area and technical staff influence these attitudes on the other hand.

3. Results


Over 50 different kinds of NTFP were identified in the sample villages. Of these the most important economically were the following: Ivringia spp, Ricinodendron spp, Gnetum spp, Piper guineensis, Eremomospatha and Hacosperma secondiflorum, Garcinia cola, Kola accuminata, Scorodoploeus zenkeri and Afrostyryx cameroonensis, Pandanus spp, Garcinia mannii, and Elaeis guineensis.

Value of forest resources with respect to those who rely on them most: women, youths and landless[2] people

Gathering, processing and trade of forest products was dominated by the women and rural poor as well as the youths. Ricinodendron sp collection is mostly a woman’s activity due to its strenuous nature. Landless peasants were also greatly involved in the collection and processing and trade of forest products.

Gender and income distribution

Women earned a significant amount of income from forest products relative to their other income sources. There is however no significant difference in the amount of income earned by both men and women.

The management systems

Two traditional management systems were identified: the private and/or individual tenure and the communal tenure management systems. Greater control of highly valued NTFP on individual lands and usury rights were widely spread. Villages tended to control their customary land resources from external incursions. Due to the high value of many forest products, many farmers are today protecting all NTFP they meet on their land. Some of them even planted.

Estimation of the financial value to households

The financial value of a resource cannot just be determined on its net return for labour per unit. There is variation in the quantities used and an NTFP, which is frequently collected, will obviously represent a higher value to the household overall, regardless of the net return on labour.

From a sample of 83 households over US $ 5736 was generated by these families and extrapolated to the whole community a total of over US $ 23000 for only these priority NTFP during the period of collection. If the other non-market NTFPs is valued then the total value of the forest NTFP is going to be much higher. This thus provides some kind of safety nets and incentives for the rational management of the forest resources. A comparative analysis with cash crops’ income from the area for the same period showed that the value of the forest products was significantly higher than for these cash crops (cocoa and coffee) due to their fluctuating prices. For instance a 100kg bag of Ivringia had an average value of 80000CFAF (US $ 110) while a similar weight for cocoa had an average value of 30000CFAF (US $ 41) and much more lower for coffee.

Attitudes towards the protected area:

- Blocks construction of roads

- Local people living along the road tend to think positively towards conservation than those in the enclave areas. The enclave people feel that conservation blocks development.

- The forest is the main source of income

- To some of them, conservation has no economic value that can be measured directly. Hence it is not meant for them.

- Some of them argue that conservation means protection of Wildlife and that future generations would not be able to see wildlife if adjacent protected area is not there. Many more feel that they are deprived from using their resources which are free goods.

Their most frequent complaints are access to additional land and elimination of problems of wildlife like crop destruction by animals, giving the difficult living conditions of many living adjacent to the conserved area.

Attitude towards project staff.

- Local people hold less positive attitudes towards the project staff than the protected area itself. Most hold either negative or neutral views towards them. Staffs from within the project villages are given greater cooperation than those from without the project villages.

- Although some support them and testify that, they protect wildlife and keep it away from farms, and help them generate revenue through income generating activities other than hunting, others do not.

- Those who oppose them do not associate what they regard as positive attributes of the Sanctuary as being derived from the management activities of the technical staff.

Attitude towards illegal hunting by the enclave communities:

- As far as hunting is concerned, most hostile people are those in the hinterland. These people do not accept that, there is illegal hunting because they depend for their most part on bushmeat as a source of income and protein.

- Also, the absence of roads and good markets and the remoteness of their communities gives them no or limited alternatives except hunting.

- Although bushmeat consumption is like a culture or trade to local people in some of the accessible villages condemn excessive hunting because they feel they must not rely solely on bushmeat as the only source of income and protein. This is due to the fact that they can easily purchase or carry out other activities than those without such benefits

- Moreover, unlike local people in the hinterland those along the road can be involved in rearing domestic animals like goats and pigs since they have easy access to markets to sell them.

Factors influencing conservation attitudes:

These include access road, income sources, livelihood strategies and education


In general, those who experience or perceive a resource shortage or problem are more likely to be against the adjacent conservation area.

Given that over 91% of the local people raise crops in areas close to the Sanctuary and that most are subsistence farmers, the loss of a small proportion of their crops to wildlife can represent severe economic hardship.

Local people believe that forest resources can never get finish no matter to what extent they are extracted, considering the fact that, it existed before they were born and they still met it, it will always be there for future generations. Also to them, the forest is a free gift owned by nobody, thus everybody has the right to do whatever he/she likes without any disturbance.

Long-term residents i.e. local people who have lived adjacent to the sanctuary for a long time are against conservation than short-term residents probably because they must have been adversely affected by other conservation projects over time.

Personal familiarity with the project staff appears to be an important factor influencing attitudes. Exchange visits by project staff, informal contact breakdown, mistrust and level of effectiveness in controlling wildlife tend to influence the attitudes of local people either negatively or positively towards conservation.

Affluence is also an important determinant of attitudes, since some local people argue that, the staff is only out to accumulate wealth from their forest for their personal interest and not for the interest of the local people.

Carefully designed conservation incentives needed to protect these resources are required in direct impact villages as they depend more on them for their livelihoods.

A marketing information system should be put in place that will serve as stimulus for greater marketing efficiency and would thus help to improve the incomes of the households. This would thus provide the necessary conservation incentives to the local communities for conserving the forest biodiversity.

The issue of resource tenure needs to be properly addressed as it serves as an extra conservation incentive for the proper and rational management of the resources.

Due to both the high levels and socio-economic homogeneity of forest dependence, management interventions should clearly target at reducing pressure on the activities that have been deemed unsustainable at current levels (e.g. eru and cane harvesting).

Those villages with direct dependence on NTFP give greater priority on tenure and strict protection of these resources through the enforcement of rules and regulations governing their use. Through the enforcement of these rules on single sector resources e.g. NTFP they indirectly regulate the use and management of other forest resources including wildlife harvesting. Consequently management plans should be more holistic in nature rather tackling individual resources.

Women incur more costs than men but in return receive less proportionate income from these NTFP. This further endangers the economic situation of women as the men also dominate the cash crop sector and earn most income. Interventions should be directed at designing an equitable benefit sharing system in order to ensure that women also get appropriate incentives to permit them rationally manage these forest resources.

Promoting the economic species for income generation among the poorer households could lead to the effective conservation of these resources since this study has proven that they depend largely on them for survival. Management systems that are controlled by the local people seem to be more effective and could lead to effective forest conservation. Finally ensuring that these products compete fairly well in terms of reproductive biology, production and income with traditional cash crops is the best way of ensuring sustainable forest conservation.


Results indicates that local people living adjacent to the Banyang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary to an extent support conservation, do not view hunters as law-breakers, and hold less positive attitudes towards BMWS staff.

1. It therefore suggests that principal focus of extension programmes by protected areas should be to break down mistrust of it’s project staff by local people.

2. Extension programmes should be designed which not only establish permanent lines of dialogue with staff, but also provide direct and tangible benefits to local people.

3. Programmes that provide direct and tangible benefits to local people should be combined with those that are designed to educate villagers as to the role of management in providing the broader, but less direct benefits of generating revenue, and protecting wildlife.

4. Secondly focus of programmes should be on the conflict between local people and wildlife.

5. Results finally suggest that as affluence and resource problems strongly influence attitudes towards conservation, major donors are encouraged to target rural development programmes at communities living adjacent to protected areas. Such programmes should be linked to the protected area by either integrating them into existing wildlife programmes.

6. If any lasting pattern of forest conservation or sustainable management is to be achieved, then mis-match of costs & benefits between exploiters & conservers will have to be addressed through both national & international action.

7. The fact that most resource management problems are fundamentally institutional problems then institutional solutions in relation to the patterns of NGOs, laws, policies & practices in any given culture at any given time, specific institutional mechanism will therefore need to be develop to pay local communities, while restricting the activities of local people need to be carefully considered to avoid un intended social consequences.

8. While the men carryout forest activities like hunting, trapping, fishing and palmnuts harvesting, the women are mostly involved in collection of wildlife NTFP crops for their livelihood.

9. Women like men play a vital role as far as natural resource use and management is concerned, since their activities also extend into the sanctuary.


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[1] Social Scientist/Senior Community-based Conservation Officer, Wildlife Conservation Society/ Cameroon Biodiversity Programme, Banyang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary Project; P.O. Box 20 Nguti,
South West Cameroon. Tel: +237 220 26 45; +237 794 85 25; Email:
[2] Return migrants from cities and unemployed youths living in the villages