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Sustainable Livelihoods in Cameroon

A person's livelihood refers to their "means of securing the necessities of life". Livelihood is defined as a set of economic activities, involving self-employment, and or wage employment by using one’s endowments (both human and material) to generate adequate resources for meeting the requirements of the self and household on a sustainable basis with dignity (“Definition of Livelihood”).  A fisherman's livelihood for example, depends on the availability and accessibility of fish. The concept of livelihood is used in the fields such as political ecology in research that focuses on sustainability and human rights.
The term 'sustainable livelihood' was first used as a development concept in the early 1990s. Chambers and Conway (1991) defined a sustainable livelihood as follows: "A livelihood comprises people, their capabilities and their means of living, including food, income and assets. A livelihood is environmentally sustainable when it maintains or enhances the local and global assets in which livelihoods depend, and has net beneficial effects on other livelihoods.
A livelihood is socially sustainable which can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, and provide for future generations."

Some branches of sustainable livelihood in Cameroon could possibly include: sustainable farming or agriculture, sustainable fisheries, sustainable forestry, and the exploitation of NTFPs (Non-Timber Forest Products).
Sustainable Fisheries

An example of sustain able fisheries is an Aquarium fish breeding program. Kate Thomas | Dakar 31 March 2010 – “A sustainable aquarium fish-breeding program backed by the World Bank and World Fish Center is improving living conditions for villagers in Cameroon. Hundreds of thousands of Americans collect exotic aquarium fish and the global ornamental fish industry is believed to be worth around $570 million. Many species of popular aquarium fish come from West Africa, specifically the Lower Guinean rain-forest in Cameroon’(“Aquarium Fish Breeding Program Improves Livelihoods in Cameroon”).
Sustainable Agriculture
Agriculture is the backbone of the Cameroonian economy. About 75% of the active population is involved in agricultural production, which accounts for 50% of total exports. Sustainable agriculture has been defined by the FAO as: “… the management and conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of humans needs for the present and future generations.
Such sustainable development (agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.”
The following measures could be taken to re-enforce sustainable agriculture in Cameroon:
-Provision of counsel in sustainable agriculture, encouraging farmers to accept ecologically sound farming systems such as the Permanent Farming System (PFS).
-Exploitation of the potentials of agro-forestry in enhancing sustainable use of natural resources in agricultural watershed management and environmental protection should be made available to both urban and rural populations.
-Processing and marketing in the areas of agriculture and animal husbandry should be carried out, i.e. in the following domains: agro-marketing, food processing, micro, small, and cottage enterprises.
-Participatory land use planning should be implemented.
-Sustainable pastoral grazing systems should be introduced in order to increase the quantity and quality of animal products with household livestock farmers.
-Assistance should be granted to livestock farmers in developing appropriate techniques for all year-round on-farm feed production and farm management so as to reduce the current high livestock mortality rate.
-Finally, bio-diversity and participatory management of protected areas should be fully adopted.
Sustainable Forestry
Sustainable forest management gives the opportunity to better integrate the way local populations use their customary “village terroirs” in the logging activities. This requirement is explicitly stated in all forest laws of the Congo Basin countries but its implementation on the field remains under documented. “In Cameroon, 30 forest management plans (FMP) for logging concessions have been reviewed to assess how they effectively include customary use rights. The integration of use rights into the FMPs is heterogeneous but always with very low enforcement (Lescuyer et al.).”
The weak influence of the FMP application on local practices is confirmed with an empirical survey that shows that natural, financial, and physical capitals in two villages of the eastern region of Cameroon have been little affected by the adjoining logging concession over the latest 13 years. The real drivers of socio-economic change are policies such as agriculture, road infrastructure, techniques, and land tenure at the local scale. Their impacts are facilitated by the presence of the logging concessions, which can contribute indirectly to improve local livelihoods.
Exploitation of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs)
In Central Africa, the role of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) in combating poverty, providing food safety in rural environments and meeting the Millennium Development Goals has been widely documented over the last decade. With the aim of consolidating the contribution of such enterprises, the `Mobilization and capacity building of the Small and Medium-Size Enterprises in the Non Timber Forest Product sector in Central Africa Project’ was initiated. In Cameroon, the selected NTFPs were bush mango (Irvingia species), honey and apiculture products, eru (Gnetum species), gum arabic (Acacia species) and pygeum (Prunus africana).
“The value of just these five major NTFPs from the major production areas of in Cameroon is approximately $US 28 million annually, providing livelihoods for nearly 30,000 people directly involved in the market chains and over 250,000 people indirectly. On average 68% of these NTFPs harvested are sold, with 19% consumed by the harvesters, 10% given as gifts and 3% perish. These products are very important to the livelihoods of harvesters, contributing on average up to 49% of their household incomes” (Awono et al.).  These findings were derived after studies were conducted on the markets and chains, processing technologies, and domestication of resources by a consortium comprised of the Centre for International Forestry Research, The Netherlands Development Organization, the UNO, FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), and the World Agroforestry Centre.
In order to encourage sustainable NTFP use and businesses, the following measures could be taken as suggested by Awono et al. in the document entitled “Small and medium-size enterprises in the Non-Timber Forest Sector in Cameroon”.
-         The model used for certified concessions should be adopted for all timber concessions, with access to NTFPs for local use and trade compulsorily integrated in forest management plans; such that collaborative, multiple use management by the State, private sector and bordering communities all benefit.
-         Resource inventories should be a prerequisite to obtaining approvals for certain, high volume and vulnerable species, and not just those listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, such as Prunus africana.
-         The development and implement the creation and rehabilitate of multi-purpose agro-forests which include key NTFPs.
Although Cameroon has done a lot to promote sustainable livelihoods, extensive efforts and resources (human) still have to be put in place in order to ensure livelihood sustainability.
“Aquarium Fish Breeding Program Improves Livelihoods in Cameroon.” 5 Apr. 2010. Web. 7 May 2013.
Awono, Abdon et al. “Mobilization and Capacity Building of Small and Medium Enterprises in Non-Wood Forest Products Value Chains in Central Africa.” Apr. 2010.
“Definition of Livelihood.” Oxford Dictionary of English 2010 : n. pag. Print.


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