8. Dynamic Vulnerability

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 16th Aug 2012 | last updated 13th Jan 2020

Vulnerability is a dynamic process, changing on a variety of inter-linked temporal and spatial scales. On the one hand, It is bounded by processes of change that can be slow or abrupt and unexpected in nature. On the other hand, it is a result of the actions and multiple attributes of human actors, and the functioning of multiple ecosystems interacting at different scales. In this regard, broader stresses and forces can influence adaptive capacity at the local level, while forces at the local level can shape various social, cultural, political, ecological and economic forces at broader scales. In order to understand better the current vulnerability of the system, this section explores these dynamics over the past 3 decades bearing in mind the differential exposure captured in the previous section. To do so, it focuses on five key attributes of the system:

1) the production system: to analyze how this has changed over time and what are, or could be, the implications of climate-related disturbances;

2) the interaction with the forest: to understand the use and benefits that human populations in the system obtain from them, how this has changed over time, and the possible implications of climate-related threats in this process;

3) the livelihood diversification: to understand the multiple subsistence and income generation activities in the village, and the possible safety nets;

4) access to markets and the trading system: to explore how dependent are the villages from external capital flows and market price fluctuations;

5) social capital for collective action: to analyze the adaptive capacity of the villages through the interactions between the different actors in the system, the power dynamics, and the ability to act collectively to address common problems and manage common resources for the benefit of the villages.

8.1 The Production System

The production areas are located in the village area and the Community Forests (CFs) in the four sites of the system. The CFs include forest land and production fields, which are distributed among the different families and ethnic groups in the villages. Villagers know well the limits of the village area and the CFs, although there are some border conflicts with Forest Management Units (FMUs) in the case of Mboy II and Mang. According to the villagers, neighbouring FMUs have expanded into the village territories over time, encroaching cacao plantations, primary and secondary forests.

In general, agriculture production fields are located near the villages. Gardens with vegetables, manioc, plantain and corn, as well as coffee plantations extend close to the houses along the rivers and in the borders of secondary forest. Coffee plantations are the oldest among the production fields. When villages expand, they generally do so by encroaching these fields. Cash crop production fields such as cacao plantations are distant from the villages (around 2 to 5 Km) and are located in fallow fields and secondary forests to benefit from the shadow.

According to villagers from Mboy II, Mang and Mendoungue, the agriculture area in the villages has expanded over time. In the 70s, villagers used only a small part of their land for agriculture. Production was mainly allocated to subsistence. During that period, the cultivated area was less than 1 ha per household and only few farmers produced coffee. The expansion of agriculture started in the 90s with the introduction of cacao in the region and growing market prices for this product. Since 2000, the expansion of agriculture accelerated even more, mainly due to population growth. Currently, about 45% of the local population considers agriculture as the main activity of the household3. Figure 13 below illustrates how villagers from Mboy II and Mang perceive the changes or trends in the agriculture area since 1970 (change represented in percentages). In both cases, villagers argue that agriculture will continue expanding over the next decade.

Villagers mentioned population growth as the main reason for agriculture land expansion, particularly after the 2000s. This is reflected in Figure x, which shows a positive relation between population growth and agriculture area in Mboy II and Mang. According to the villagers, population growth accelerated in the 2000s mainly due to migration into the villages, polygamy and a decrease in children mortality thanks to the introduction of vaccinations (against measles, tuberculosis, and tetanus) and better health facilities in general. Participants argue that population will continue growing in the years to come due to rapid development in the East of Cameroon promoted by local elites.

Another reason for agriculture expansion seems to be the need to cultivate more land to compensate for the production loss caused by changing seasons since the 2000s. In order to counteract low productivity and damaged production, and keep producing similar quantities of product, villagers decided to cultivate a larger area of land. In some instances they also developed small associations to coordinate these efforts and improve their agricultural production (see section 8.5).

According to the village farmers, changes in the seasons are also affecting the production calendar, which used to be clearly defined but now needs to be adapted to unpredictable rainfall patterns. Figure 14 illustrates the production calendar as described by the villagers of Mboy II. It also shows the activities that are mainly conducted by men and the ones that are mainly led by women. Most of the agriculture activities take place in the first half of the year, which covers the end of the large dry season, the small rain season and the small dry season. This coincides with the time of the year where villagers have perceived most of the changes in the seasons, hence why they perceive agriculture activities to be highly vulnerable to changing seasons (see Figure 14). This period also coincides with changes identified in the NCEP re-analyses using downscaled climate data (see months of February and April in section 6). Although the NCEP re-analyses data do not confirm all the local perceptions and do not simulate well the bi-modal seasonality, they show important changes such as an increase of rainfall during the long dry period, particularly at the end of February, and a decrease in rainfall during the small rain season.

The agriculture production in the villages is mainly located in forests and fallows. About 32% of the surveyed households said to have two production units (i.e. fields) and about 30% indicated three (see Figure 15). In terms of area, most households mentioned that production units have less than 50,000 m2, with a mean of 43,622 m2.

The surface area of the largest production unit by household differs from village the village. In Mboy II, which is the most distant village from Yokadouma, the surface area of largest production unit per household is smaller than in the villages that are closer to Yokadouma (see Figure 16). Both in Djalobekoe and Nampella, most of the surveyed households indicated to have large production units with a surface area between 10 and 40 thousand m2. Based on survey data, the average large production unit in Mboy II is 39,505 m2, while in Nampella is 41,626 m2 and in Djalobekoe is 44,125 m2. Most of these fields are used for cash crops (65%). On the other hand, the average small production unit in Mboy II is 10,847 m2, in Nampella is 20,606 m2 and in Djalobekoe is 23,498 m2. Most of the small production units are used for garden products (88%).

There are also differences in relation to the distances needed to reach the large production unit (see Figure 17). In average, villagers in Mboy II need to walk 2,270 m, while in Nampella people need to walk an average of 3,166 m and in Djalobekoe, which the closest village to Yokadoma, villagers have to walk in average 4,749 m. This shows that distance to the Yokadouma has an effect on the distance between the village and its large production units.

Villagers mentioned that the distance to get to their production fields has increased over time. According to the surveyed households, the main reasons for this are an increase in the area and number of production fields (and farmers) over time, lack of space to establish plantations close to the village, and the system of fallow agriculture which requires a rotation of land to maintain soil fertility.

8.2 Benefits from the Forest

While secondary forests are located close to the villages, primary forests are more spread and are oftentimes located in the borders between the communal areas and with the MFUs or close to Central African Republic (see Figure 18). Primary and secondary forests are used for hunting, fishing and collection of NTFP. Secondary forests are also used for garden agriculture, coffee and cash crop plantations.

All villages in the system have access to forests, although the right of access varies according to the ethnic group, family and clan. In all villages, pygmy groups (Baka) have access to all the forest surrounding the village (this includes close and distant forests, water streams, production fields), while the rest of the ethnic groups and families distribute the forest land according to heritage and marriage. Villagers consider the village land as territory that belongs to the ancestors, a collective property owned by past, present and future generations. Most households have only access to a specific part of the forest. In Mboy II only a total of 17% of surveyed households had access to all the forest in the village land, in Djalobekoe almost 40% and in Nampella about 29%. Households that have access to all forest land seem to belong to families that were part of the first settlers in the villages and could claim use of all the forest land based on the right of ‘discovery’ of unoccupied land, which is applied in the villages.

Despite there is no private ownership of uncultivated forest areas, access to non-timber forest resources is restricted to newcomers that want to collect NFTP. Newcomers will need to ask permission to the entity managing the forest land. For example, if the NFTP will be collected from the village forest land, the newcomer needs to ask authorization to the village chief and his notables, and if the land is controlled by a clan, the newcomer needs to request permission to the head of the clan, and so on. New migrants can also access NTFP, but need an authorization from the village chief first.

Distribution of forested land is oftentimes source of conflict in the villages. Some of the reasons given by surveyed households for factors that limit access forests are: establishment of FMUs in the area (main reason with more than 50% of households indicating this factor), establishment of reserves, land distribution between families, establishment of plantations, mining activities and land set aside for hunting or Safari activities.

All villages considered for the study, expect for Mboy II, have officially established a Community Forest (CF). A CF can cover the whole village territory and it gives the villagers the allowance to harvest and sell timber from their primary and secondary forests with the condition to use the revenues for the social benefit of the village. The extraction of timber is regulated by the Ministry of Forestry (MINFOF), which needs to authorize the logging permit. Mboy II has already prepared the Simple Management Plan that is required to set up a CF, however its approval is pending on the completion of a species inventory. Once legalized, the community can extract and trade timber from the CF. More details on the CFs and their governance are provided in the “Study of REDD+ Feasibility in the TNS Landscape”.

Forests play a key role in the system as they provide villagers with the resources and services for their subsistence and economic activities. They also represent a very important safety net, as villagers use timber and NTFP to diversify their economy and livelihood base (see section 8.3). According to villagers, several activities depend on primary and secondary forests, such as hunting, collection of NTFP, fishing, timber harvesting, water harvesting, construction, and health care. Figure 19 below illustrates how men and women groups in Mboy II use forest resources to fulfill their needs.

The graphs above show how forest resources are mainly used for nutrition and income generation, but also for other subsistence aspects like construction, health care, and protection. While women emphasized that several forest resources can be used as medicine (e.g. for stomach problems among children), men added other uses such as construction and physical protection against extreme weather events. When villagers were asked to consider the forest as a whole (i.e. as one ecosystem), they indicated a series of perceived benefits as illustrated in Figure 20. Both men and women shared similar views.

Villagers in MboyII highlighted that forests provide large benefits in terms of food security and income generation through trade of forest products, but they also recognized other benefits in terms of traditional medicine, special locations where to perform cultural rituals, physical protection against strong winds and storms, and material for construction of housing and social infrastructure. While most of these benefits were already captured at the moment of discussing specific forest resources, the cultural benefits seem to be more evident only when considering the forest as a whole.

Over the past decades, villagers in Mboy II, Mang and Mendoungue have noticed a change in forest cover and the availability of NTFP. Figure 21 below shows the trends since the 1970s as perceived by groups of men and women in these villages. In all the cases, villagers witnessed deforestation of both primary and secondary forests, as well as a decrease in the availability of bushmeat and fish to catch and an increased difficulty to find NTFP.

From the graph above it is possible to see that forest area and availability of bushmeat decrease while population in the villages grows over time. According to the villagers, deforestation started when forest concessions arrived between the 1970s and 1980s. Since 1980, deforestation has continued due to an expansion in the agriculture area driven mainly by population growth, competition for natural resources, and low agricultural production (see previous section). This has recently been exacerbated by the immigration of a large number of paid workers that came to work in the forest concessions in the 90s. This corresponds to results obtained from the surveys. Table 8 below shows the rhythm of deforestation as perceived by surveyed households in Djalobekoe, Mboy II and Nampella.

More than half of the surveyed households stated that deforestation was slow before 1990 but it accelerated since then. According to the respondents, before 1990 the forest concessions were only very few and there were less plantations. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of forest concessions, mainly of European and Asian origin, multiplied and the combination of weak institutional arrangements, corruption and the recent reformulation of the Forest Law No 94 resulted in non-sustainable exploitation practices (including logging and hunting) and negative impacts on the forests. According to the respondents, the main drivers accelerating deforestation since 2000 have been population increase, over-exploitation of forest resources by FMUs and new mining concessions. Following national decentralization policies, the East of Cameroon faced a wave of migrations from other regions of the country as well as from neighbouring countries. According to 43% of surveyed households in Mboy II, population growth is the main reason for accelerated rhythm of forest destruction. In Nampella and Djalobekoe, half of the respondents in each village indicated that the accelerated deforestation was mainly due to exploitation practices conducted by forest concessions and establishment of new mining concessions in the area. About 30% in each of these two villages also pointed population increase and competition for agriculture land as important deforestation drivers since 2000.

Furthermore, villagers mentioned declining quantities of wildlife and NTFP over the past decades. This can be considered a symptom of forest degradation. Villagers claim that in the 70s there used to be primary forest around the villages, now it is necessary to walk at least 5 km to access primary forest for hunting and collection of NTFPs. For some NTFP, particularly the ones that have been harvested for over 3 decades like wild mango, it is necessary to walk even longer distances from 15 km to 30 km (approx. 2 walking days). Hunting has also become more competitive and time consuming. According to village hunters, in the 70s it was possible to catch around 10 wild animals during one day. Currently, hunters leave for 2 days and catch about 5 wild animals during the trip. Fish catch from rivers is facing a similar situation. According to the villagers, the main reasons for this decline is over –hunting and –fishing related to human population growth and non-sustainable extractive activities practiced mainly by forest concession workers and new groups settling in the region.

If the current trend continues, particularly if human population growth continues, villagers forecast forests will become even more fragmented and degraded in the future. According to them, in the future people will not only migrate to the region for its forest resources, but also for mining opportunities that are emerging. If this is the case, hunting will become even more difficult and the collection of NTFP more time consuming due to competition. Walking distances to find these resources will increase and some will probably require some sort of domestication to become more accessible. Most of the surveyed households indicated that in the future forests risk disappearing and transforming into a different land cover. The word cloud below (Figure 22) shows the words that appeared more frequently when households were asked about their predictions for the forest in 10 years’ time.

Although not all NTFP seem to be close and easy to access, many of them are still abundant and can still be found in the village forests. In some instances, harvest of some NTFP has only started recently and these can still be found close to the villages. For example, villagers of Mboy II mentioned that they started trading NTFP only since 2009, and they only started collecting and processing Djanssang in 2010. Table 9 describes the abundance and seasonality of the main NTFP as perceived by the locals in MboyII, Mang and Mendoungue. According to the villagers, these NTFP are easy to sell in the market, but their trade is still highly informal and not well organized.

Although NTFPs are seasonal, villagers state that they have not been seriously affected yet by the recent changes in the seasons, with the only exception of mushrooms. On the contrary, rain during the small dry season seems to have benefited some of the NTFPs that support the livelihood base of farmers. The next section will discuss this in more detail.

8.3 Livelihood diversification

The livelihood and economic base in the villages does not only depend on one main product; instead it is diversified and includes several subsistence and economic activities such as agriculture, animal breeding, hunting, fishing, and collection of NTFP. Some of the products generated from these activities, such as garden products, fish and bushmeat, are mainly used for subsistence, while products such as cacao, pepper, coffee, and some NTFP are traded for revenue generation. Some villagers are also engaged in paid labour, for example working in forest concessions and/or mining activities. Nonetheless, the majority of the villagers are farmers who base their livelihood on the production of cash crops, garden products and the collection and trade of NFTP.

Based on surveyed households in Mboy II, Djalobekoe and Nampella, the main activity in the villages is agriculture (almost 45% of the responses, see Figure 23). Agriculture is followed by collection of NTFP (14% of the responses) and hunting (13%). In terms of source of revenue, products that are important source of revenues and generate the highest income for the households is cacao (mean 560,500 cfa), followed by manioc (89,520 cfa) and plantain (49,690 cfa). Products that generate high income but have been mentioned by fewer households are coffee (75,000 cfa) and bushmeat (173,200 cfa) (see Figure 24). Corn and fish seem to generate high income but have even fewer responses and therefore have less importance as source of revenue. Other sources of revenue such as NTFPs and livestock play a less important role for the economic base of the villages, although they are part of the portfolio of economic activities. Figure 24 shows the annual revenues gained from different products in Mboy II, Djalobekoe and Nampella.

The livelihoods and economic base is somewhat different between groups of men and women in the villages, as indicated by villagers of Mboy II when working in separate focus groups. For women, the most important products in terms of revenue generation are: garden products (represent around 25% of the total revenue) like manioc, plantain and corn; cash crops (around 10%) like coffee, cacao and pepper; NFTPs (15%) such as Njembe, Djanssang, Mpeke, Igname; and fish (20%), which includes river shrimp. Women also indicated that Arki, the local alcohol produced from corn, is an important product for income generation. It represents about 25% of the total revenues and can be used as a safety net in case cash crops do not bring enough revenues. Arki can be commercialized legally in Cameroon since 1982. Products that generate higher revenue for women seem to be also products where women invest more of their labour time. This is particularly the case for garden products, as women use them for their subsistence, cash revenues and the production of Arki. In addition, wildlife hunting and animal breeding seem to demand an important part of their labour time, despite they do not seem to provide important monetary revenues. This seems to indicate that these activities mainly serve for domestic consumption.

Men on the other hand, indicated that the most important products for them, in terms of revenue generation are: cash crops (about 30% of their total revenue) like cacao, coffee and palm oil; garden products (about 30%) such as manioc, peanut, plantain, corn, igname and macabo; and animal breeding (around 15%) such as sheep, goat, chicken, pigs, duck and pigeon. Most of the men’s labour time is invested in cash crop and garden production.

In addition, women invest about 10% of their labour time and men about 3% of their time in collecting NTFPs. Although NTFPs contribute to cash revenue, they are seasonal, knowledge is required to find them, and their commercialization is not well organized. Improving ways of increasing their availability and formalizing their commerce could be interesting exploring, particularly given that NTFPs and forests in general seem to show less vulnerability to changes in the seasons as compared to agriculture activities, as indicated by the villagers.

Men and women have different ways to allocate revenues generated from their economic activities. From discussions with women and men groups in Mboy II, it seems that most of the revenues generated by women are assigned to education (about 30%), food and health (15% and 12% respectively) and home utensils (10%). In the case of men, most of the revenue is allocated to investment in the production system (20%), education (15%), and construction (10%). Figure 25 below shows these revenue distributions. Please note that revenues spent on debts or taxes are not accounted for.

Villagers also allocate the revenues from diverse activities in different ways. While revenues from forest resources are mainly used for nutrition and education, agriculture revenues seem to be allocated mainly to health, leisure and debt payment. According to villagers in Mendoungue, forest resources provide a safety net to fulfill household needs. On the other hand, when revenues from agriculture are good households consent to spend money on health problems. A large part of the agriculture revenues (almost 50%) is also used to pay debts from micro-credits. Agriculture revenues are also assigned, although to less extent, to cover dowry, nutrition, construction, education and clothing. Interestingly, investment in social infrastructure or communal areas was never mentioned in any of the revenue allocation discussions with villagers.

8.4 Access to Market and the Trading System

While migration waves during the 1920s resulted in the development of villages round Yokadouma, the 50s and 60s witnessed the beginning of commerce and trade from and to the villages. The flow diagram below (Figure 26) illustrates the flows of people and resources as perceived by villagers in Mboy II. As this village is located at border with Central Africa Republic, there will be also an exchange of products with this country.

Flows from CAR to the village:

  • People from CAR have been migrating to the village of Mboy II since the 2000s due to the political instability and war in CAR. The other reason mentioned by the participants is poverty and the motivation of people in CAR to find new life opportunities in Cameroon.
  • Mining products have been entering the village from CAR since the 1990s, but this activity is not official, so quantities are low.
  • Different agricultural products coming from CAR are sold in the village since the 2000s, as MboyII has a large frontier market that opens on Saturdays. The list of products are indicated in the diagram

Flows from other parts of Cameroon to the village:

  • Since the 1920s, people from other parts of Cameroon have migrated to the village. The first settlers were the Mpiemon, who are currently the largest ethnic group in the village.
  • Products such as petrol, clothing and kitchen utensils come from other regions of Cameroon and the village has been importing them since the 1960s.

Flows from the village to CAR:

  • Mainly through marriages, some people of the village have migrated to CAR since the 1970s.
  • The village has been exporting agricultural products to CAR since the 1990s, mainly palm oil, plantains, avocados, pine apples, potatoes, and sugar cane.

Flows from the village to other parts of Cameroon:

  • Since the 1950s many agricultural products have been exported from the village to other parts in Cameroon.
  • Only since 2009, Mboy II has been selling NFTPs to other parts of Cameroon (such as Tondo, Djansang, Tallala, Mempa)
  • Pepper has been also produced and exported since 2010s in large quantities.
  • Mining products (i.e. diamond, gold) has been exploited in artisanal ways and sold in other parts of the country since 1980s.
  • Very recently, MboyII has started to exploit gold, diamond and other mining products at industrial scale, and sold this in other parts of Cameroon.

Product prices vary depending of where products are commercialized. Generally, products traded within the villages have lower prices than when products are traded in Yokadouma or Bertoua. In general, villagers gather their production together when they trade in these two locations. They either trade through intermediaries that collect the product in the village and transport it to Yokadouma or Bertoua, or they take it themselves using small cars. The road that connects the villages with Yokadouma is however not always in good conditions to drive small loaded vehicles, particularly during rainy seasons. Also, although prices are higher in Yokadouma and Bertoua, villagers need to cover transportation costs if mobilizing the products. Nevertheless, villagers mentioned that it is necessary to travel to these two locations to buy manufactured products for the households. Table 10 below shows the different product prices when traded in the markets of Mboy II, Yokadouma and Bertoua.

8.5 Social Capital for Collective Action

The capacity of the system to adapt to current and future changes is continually reshaped through social relationships. Social capital, that is the “networks, norms and trust that enable individuals and organisations to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives” (Putman, 1995, pp.664-665), offers a lens through which to study the role of social networks and norms in the development of adaptive capacity among collectives (Pelling and High 2005). Social capital and the social dynamics of adaptive capacity are defined by the ability to act collectively, which involves the interdependence of actors through their relationships with each other, with the institutions in which they reside, and with the resource base on which they depend (Adger 2003, Crona and Bodin 2009). This involves the analysis of both formal and informal organisations that interact with each other across different scales of space and time.

In the context of climate change adaptation, social capital can be used to generate interventions that respond either specifically to climate change or to a broader set of pressures. In addition, social capital can be used to analyze institutional change that responds to multiple disturbances or to climate change in particular. In all cases, exploring socio-institutional relationships can help understand how individuals and collectives change when faced by climate change or other external pressures (Rayner and Malone 2001). Power dynamics can also be considered through the lens of social capital, as power relations are held and felt in interactions between individuals and organisations (Fox 2000).

Most of the vulnerability studies in climate adaptation that use social capital have focused on assessing the formal organisations in a community or nation (Pelling and High 2005). In a similar way, the analysis hereafter has captured formal organisations and social infrastructure, mainly because these are more visible and easy to assess through the participatory methods applied in the baseline assessment. This analysis uses a historical perspective to understand the dynamic of social capital as individuals and communities change and create new local institutions or associations. The analysis also looks at how villages maintain their social infrastructure as a way to assess their capacity to act collectively for the common good. In order to complement the analysis, relationships between formal and informal organisations were also explored using social network mapping to provide a broad understanding of relationships between key actors and processes that could be strengthen to enhance adaptive capacity to future stressors. Principles of adaptive capacity (Barnett 2001, Pelling 2003) and collective action for the governance of the commons (Ostrom 1990) are applied throughout the analysis.

8.5.1 Formal institutions and social infrastructure as outcomes of social capital

Social capital varies across the system, but in general terms there is a lack of collective action to take care of social infrastructure. The main concern of villagers seems to be the level of maintenance that is allocated to different social infrastructure like health centres, markets and schools if investment is actually made. For example, the police station, storage areas and the market hall in Mboy II are in a state of disrepair. Other services such as the
local hospital and the secondary school suffer from a lack of trained staff. There is wide ranging variance in the socio-institutional capital in the villages considered in the baseline assessment, but on the whole there is a lack of investment in new skills, training and infrastructure, and there is little maintenance and upkeep of those projects that are started to benefit the villages as a whole (See Table 11, bad conditions showed in red).

Many of the local associations (GICs) in the villages focus on improving agriculture, reducing the costs of production or managing community forests (see Table 12 below). Most are created to support agriculture, with the aim of making communal fields or alternative production systems such as fish farming. Others aim to facilitate intensive production, livestock breeding, joint purchasing of inputs or joint production. Not all GICs are limited to production though, some are focused on education and capacity building, and these have generally existed for longer periods of time. Nevertheless, most GICs have been formed recently. A number of GICs do not seem to have done any activities in 2010, showing that probably they are not very active or circumstances like illnesses have delayed the implementation of work. Most of the GICs are small with around 20 members in average, although there are some exceptions. The largest benefit to date is from the GIC UFOR, which has produced a chilli crop with a 2 million CFA profit in 2010, though benefit sharing at the local community level has not been evident yet.

The main external investors in villages are the elites, the state, NGOs and foreign companies (i.e. logging and mining companies). NGOs like SNV, PADER, WWF, OPADE, Edjengui, CIFAD and RICG have worked in the villages that are closer to Yokadouma such as Djalobekue, Mang, Massiembo and Bompelo. On the contrary, villages that are more distant like Mboy II have not benefited from NGOs. In general, the support provided by NGOs is directed to GICs in order to improve agricultural production and promote sustainable management of forests and in the villages. Villages with NGO presence generally appreciated the support received from NGOs. In addition to NGOs, villages also mentioned external interventions lead by elites and foreign companies. External companies provide employment for local people, increase revenues and help keep a good atmosphere in the village, but overall there is little improvement in social welfare due to a lack of maintenance of services. For example, the logging company SEBAC opened the road between Libongo and Mboy II, which allowed villagers to sell part of their production. However, a lack of maintenance of the road has now restricted marketing products to Libongo and this is a significant barrier to the maintenance of local livelihoods. Furthermore, employment tends to favour migrants from surrounding areas instead of local communities.

8.5.2 Social network interactions as the drivers of social capital

The participatory social network mapping (see Box below) involved Community Forest Managers from different villages in the area (including the Mboy II, Mang, Djalobekoe, and Mendoungue), as well as village representatives and local NGOs working in the same area. The types of relationships between the actors are analyzed in relation to the collective management of forests in the villages with the aim to facilitate vulnerability reduction and poverty reduction, while simultaneously conserving the forests. Different relationships were considered: information flow, capacity support, finance flows, emergency support, and power dynamics. Social network maps were also developed at the village-level for MboyII, Mang and Mendoungue, although in less detail.

The Community Forest Managers (REGEFOC) in the administrative unit Boumba and Ngoko are at the centre of the network. Despite being the centre, there are other actors that seem to be better connected than REGEFOC, for example the Committee of Wildlife Management (COVAREF), the Ministry of Forestry (MINFOF), and the Council. The actors in the network below (Figure 27) were suggested by a group of participants that included local NGOs, community forest managers and village representatives. They are all connected and the ones with stronger connections are closer to each other. REGEFOC interacts directly with the villages in the area, the Council, as well as with the local and international NGOs. It should probably interact more closely with the Judicial Entities, but not all members of the latter are part of REGEFOC, which has created some distance between these two actors. The Judicial Entities and the villages work closely together, and MINFOF interacts with the Judicial Entities instead of REGEFOC. The Council also interacts with the villages, but also with the government and the forest concessions. The forest concessions interact mainly with COVAREF and MINFOF.

In terms of information on forest management, the network shows that all actors have some information to share (see Figure 28). According to the participants, the main information receivers and providers are the Council (including the Riverine Committee and the Development Committee), international NGOs, ROSE (network of local NGOs) and MINFOF. REGEFOC seems to be an important information provider, and could probably improve the ways to receive more information. Participants claim that MINFOF, on the other hand, could explore possibilities of sharing more of the information it receives. For example, the Village Forest Committee (CPF) provides information to MINFOF, but MINFOF does not always send information back. They also indicate that information shared by MINFOF oftentimes uses ‘intermediaries’. For example, NGOs such as WWF, ROSE and SNV have been an important bridge to pass the information provided by MINFOF to the villages.

Regarding capacity building and support for the management of forests, the network shows that international NGOs and ROSE play an important role as support providers and facilitators in the process. The Judicial Entities seem to receive support from different organizations, including the MINFOF. REGEFOC receives support mainly from international NGOs and ROSE. Similarly, ROSE receives support from international NGOs, while it supports the villages, COVAREF, the forest concessions and the Judicial Entities.

Financial flows were also analyzed although not in detail because it seemed to be a sensitive issue to discuss among the participants. MINFOF provides financial support to COVAREF using the quota of logging taxes paid by SAFARI. This support is for COVAREF to develop social infrastructure in the villages. Revenues from community forests are also used to finance social work in the village, but a lack of trust among the villagers on the management boards, disagreements and fear of low investment return have resulted in a general lack of funding in the community forest schemes. In principle, the Judicial Entities should finance REGEFOC, but because of lack of funds most of the REGEFOC members try to finance themselves. Sometimes REGEFOC receives financial support from WWF through ROSE.

Finally, the network was also analyzed in terms of power dynamics. Participants identified the actors in the network that have the power to influence decisions and actors that are very important because of the knowledge and guidance they can provide on the collective management of forests. An actor with high influence in the decision-making is MINFOF, followed by the Council and MINEP. Although MINEP does not seem to play a strong role in the network, it has influence. One of the problems with this is that oftentimes the mandates of MINFOF and MINEP overlap and cause confusion in the way decisions are taken for the management of natural resources. According to some the participants, the villages also have some power to influence decisions. For example, if village members do not agree with the content of the Simple Management Plan for the Community Forest, the plan is not approved by the MINFOF. Other participants think that the villages do not have power to influence, but they have knowledge on how to manage forests that can be used to better inform decision-making. According to the participants, local NGOs have also important knowledge that is used by different actors in the network, however they do not have influence in the forest management decisions.

Links that can be strengthened in this network are between REGEFOC/Judicial Entities and the Council/MINFOF, because of three reasons: 1) the role the four actors play in community-based forest management, 2) the close interaction of REGEFOC/Judicial Entities with the villages and the NGOs, and 3) the financial support, capacity and influence of the Council/MINFOF. Although this network provides only a snapshot of the interactions between actors from the point of view of 3 stakeholder groups, it is a useful way to understand the actor landscape and the possible socio-institutional barriers and opportunities to enhance the adaptive capacity based on collective forest management.