Tropical forests cover about 40% of Cameroon and provide an estimated eight million rural people with traditional staples including food, medicines, fuel, and construction material. They are essential for the well-being of some of the most vulnerable indigenous people and local communities, whose livelihoods and cultural integrity are threatened by forest loss. Forests also play an important role in supporting Cameroon’s national economy, generating rainfall and regulating surface water flows important for agricultural production, hydroelectric power generation and municipal water supplies [1].

Cameroon has the second largest forest area in the Congo Basin [2], [3]. Known as the “lungs of Africa”, the Congo Basin is the largest carbon sink in the world, absorbing more carbon than the Amazon [4], with average emissions at around 500 million tons and average absorption of 1.1 billion tons of CO2. However, two decades of data has revealed worrisome deforestation in the Congo Basin. In Cameroon, tree cover trends reveal a loss of roughly 1.53 million ha between 2001 and 2020, of which 47% was in primary forests [1]. Preserving the Congo Basin forests is vital not just for the future of Africa, but for the world. Global efforts to tackle the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss will depend on preserving this rich ecosystem [4]

In recent years, Cameroon has seen an upward trend in deforestation and degradation [5]. The rate of deforestation rose from 0.94% for the 1990–2000 period to 1.04% for the following decade [6]. In 2021, Cameroon took seventh place on the list of the world’s top deforesters (89,000 ha) [1]. This deforestation and degradation threatens the existence of the country’s vast and extensive forests, and subsequently the survival of various natural ecosystems and the preservation of natural livelihoods [7].


The main direct cause of forest loss in Cameroon is the expansion of commercial agriculture, augmented by clearing for small-scale agriculture, extractive activities, and roads and other infrastructure, with complex linkages among them. In Ebo, the change is dominated by palm oil and maize production. In Campo, the picture is one of urban expansion, infrastructure, as well as palm; while in the Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Minkebe (TRIDOM) landscape, it is mining, road/rail infrastructure and wood. In Grand Mbam, it is timber and cocoa. And in the North, it is cotton, food crops, fuelwood, and transhumance. An especially worrisome signal in recent data is that forest loss is also increasingly driven by climate change through increased exposure to droughts, fires, storms, and pest outbreaks [1].


Key policies and governance approach

The Ministry of Forests and Fauna (MINFOF) is the authority responsible for all forestry resources in Cameroon, which are governed in accordance with the 1994 Forest Law. Cameroon’s forest areas are divided into the permanent forest estate and the non-permanent forest estate. The permanent forest estate relates to areas that have been allocated to remain permanently as forested areas. Under the 1994 Forest Law, the State is obliged to maintain at least 30% of its total lands within the permanent forest estate [8]. Most of Cameroon’s forest areas have been permanently designated for long-term forest production or conservation, while the rest is intended for community forestry, a concept initially introduced in the 1994 Forest Law allowing forests outside the permanent estate to be divided and managed by communities or villages [9]. The dispositions of the 1994 Forestry Law were rendered operational through Decree No. 95/531/PM of 23 August 1995, setting the terms and conditions of application of the forest regime amended by Decree No. 2000/092/PM of March 27, 2000 [10], [11]. The increasing threats to forest resources and evolving trends in Cameroon have led to on-going forest law reforms and land tenure reforms [10]. The country is in the process of revising the 1994 Forest Law, which started in 2008 [9].

Various other laws and decrees govern land and forest management in Cameroon, such as the Orientation Law on Land Use Planning and Sustainable Development adopted as Law No. 2011/008 of 6 May 2011; the Environmental Management Framework Law adopted as Law No. 96/12 of 5 August 1996; and the Land Tenure Ordinances No. 74-1 and No. 74 -2 of 6 July 1974. In addition to these laws, there are several relevant policies and strategies, including the National Forestry Policy (1993), the National REDD+ Strategy (2018), and the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) [11].

Illegal logging and forest conversion are significant issues in Cameroon. As such, Cameroon has also signed a wide-ranging agreement on tackling illegal logging with the European Union (EU). Cameroon and the EU entered into a Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in 2011 to promote trade in legal timber products and to improve forest governance and law enforcement [9], [12].

Successes and remaining challenges

Cameroon’s forestry sector is competing with other sectors of the country’s economy [13]. There are major inconsistencies between formalized forestry laws and regulations and other laws and regulations affecting the forest sector (e.g., mining, petroleum and land laws). For instance, the forestry legislation describes a zoning plan and prescribes strict respect of the zoning plan especially by forbidding conversion of portions of the permanent forest estate. However, the land law contains no indication of restrictions based on location in the process of concessions allocation. While the former Mining Code stated that the entire territory was available for allocation of mining concessions, the new Mining Code (Law No 2016-017 of 14 December 2016) now provides (Art 8) for the possibility of excluding certain areas from mining prospection or operation in the interests of the state. However, an implementing text is still to be passed to define the scope and, in particular, decide on whether deforestation or forest conservation are part of the state’s interests. These conflicting provisions and uncertainty open room for conflicting rights on the same forest land [14]. In 2011, WWF produced a National Protected Area Map at the request of MINFOF, which found that 30 existing mining exploration permits were overlapping 12 protected areas, and dozens more were in the immediate vicinity of protected areas, with a high potential for conflicting with the Government’s conservation objectives [15]. As such, sustainable forest management in Cameroon is threatened by the absence of national land use planning and the undervaluation of the contribution of forests to the national economy [13].

The state of community forest governance, a significant determinant of community forestry success, was examined in Cameroon by applying a set of good governance principles to 36 case studies. Key good governance principles applied included accountability, equity, participation, representation, direction, and performance. The results revealed that the state of community forest governance in Cameroon was relatively poor, with 78% of case studies not meeting standards for all principles [16]. This was mostly because there wasn’t enough money coming in or because committee members lacked management, entrepreneurial skills, managed the forest in their own interest or had disagreements between them which prevented forest management from being effective [17]. The study further examined the drivers of positive community forestry outcomes. The presence of economic activities that generate direct benefits, the extent of technical support, and influential and supportive elites emerged as key drivers of positive outcomes. These suggest that deploying incentives targeted at catalyzing enterprise development such as favorable loans, tax and financial support conditions, reinforced focused technical and institutional support including capacity building, and awards for supportive and innovative elites could go a long way to improve community forest governance in Cameroon [16].

The FLEGT VPA has been ratified by Cameroon and has been in force since December 2011. Despite some progress, the implementation of the VPA has been faced with challenges and the issuance of FLEGT licenses is yet to be achieved. Law enforcement and legality assurance have remained weak overall. In the field, law enforcement is still hampered by the low level of resources allocated and the widespread use of amicable settlements instead of fines and prosecutions [14]. Further, while significant efforts have gone into increasing transparency, corruption remains a concern in Cameroon. Reports suggest that bribery takes place among senior officials, civil servants and companies in return for logging permits which fuels illegal logging [9].

Initiatives and Development Plans

Cameroon’s National Plantation Forests Development Programme (NPFDP) 2020 - 2045, validated in 2019 by the forest administration and development partners, could be the basis for the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes and forests in Cameroon [18]. The NPFDP aims to contribute to increasing the national forest potential and developing a plantation forest economy that should serve as a sustainable alternative to a forest economy based almost solely on natural forests by 2045. Thus, the programme envisages creating plantations that from 2045 will provide the bulk of the 2.5 million m³ of wood marketed by the country [19]. Even though financial support is not yet available, this programme offers the opportunity to reconcile restoration actions using a landscape approach, with the involvement of local populations via decentralized local authorities. Under this programme, the main objective of the National Forestry Development Agency (ANAFOR) is to facilitate the planning, establishment and development of private and community forest plantations, the development of value chains and the creation of a sustainable forestry economy which generates jobs and growth [18].

Cameroon has also been undertaking reforestation activities. In 2021, as part of the cooperation between MINFOF and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), reforestation campaigns took place. According to the country’s Voluntary National Review, as of 2022, 47,903 species have been reforested, with 21,050 species of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and fast-growing trees, and 26,853 species of fruit trees (avocado, guava, lemon, orange, mandarin, soursop) [20].

In addition, the country is committed to the REDD+ process and benefits from financial support from various sources. In the forest and wildlife sub-sector, the volume of financing mobilized from partners amounted to 32.1 billion FCFA in 2019; 22.6 billion FCFA in 2020 and 35.7 billion FCFA in 2021 [20].

Goals and Ambitions

Within the framework of the Bonn Challenge and the African Forest Landscapes Restoration Initiative (AFR100), Cameroon is committed to restoring 12,062,768 hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes by 2030, pursuant to the commitment made in February 2017 by the Forestry and Environment Ministries [19].

Tropical deforestation is high on the international agenda, and Cameroon is also a signatory to the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use (November 12, 2021) [1].

  • Forests are an opportunity that Cameroon should not miss to remove human-caused emissions from the atmosphere, and be rewarded for it, using innovative carbon pricing and market instruments [1].
  • Urgent and coordinated actions that Cameroon and Congo Basin partners must consider include: combatting deforestation and forest degradation and restoring forest landscapes; enabling rights-based land use and unlocking forest benefits; support to regional and national forest inventory, analysis, and carbon science; support to the design and deployment of carbon pricing and market instruments to facilitate reduction of emissions; use of fiscal reforms to influence forest conservation and ecosystem health; revision (an update) of the 1993 Forest Policy and the 1994 Forest Law; implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan and implementation of the EU VPA; and support to deforestation-free cocoa and other commodities (rubber, palm oil). These efforts in the Congo Basin would require specific action at the regional, national, and local levels [1].
  • Initiatives like the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, African Palm Oil Initiative, CAFI, and the National REDD+ Strategy provide platforms to drive private sector involvement in eliminating deforestation for selected commodities [11].
  • Objectives of REDD+ should be integrated in the broader national agenda for development. This is a necessary condition to ensure wide implementation and acceptance at all levels of society [21].
  • The coherence of different operations, policies and regulations (e.g., in agriculture, forestry, mining and planning sectors) needs to be addressed [11].
  • There must be better coordination of forestry and land issues at the highest level, through meetings and inter-departmental dialogue [6].
  • Forestry authorities must make local communities, and especially women, a priority as they are the stakeholders most affected by the decisions made [6].
  • The government must clarify the arrangements for participation by all stakeholders, to ensure that CSOs and local communities, especially women, understand how they can be involved effectively. This includes implementing the principle of free, prior and informed consent [6].
  • Deploying incentives targeted at catalyzing enterprise development such as favorable loans, tax and financial support conditions, reinforced focused technical and institutional support including capacity building, and awards for supportive and innovative elites could go a long way to improve community forest governance in Cameroon [16].
  • The government must increase transparency at the planning, management and monitoring stages for decisions relating to forest resource management [6].
  • The government must also ensure transparency in the process for granting forestry concessions, especially sales of standing volume and small permits, and for farming and mining concessions [6].
  • The government should build its own capacity, and that of the legal authorities, to monitor application of the Forest Law (increased sanctions in cases of illegal logging and illegal forest conversion) [6].
  • The government must take appropriate measures to effectively address corruption in the forestry sector, including the reasons it persists [6].
  • Provide capacity-building for stakeholders in statistical data collection, independent forest observation and supervision methods, to develop a culture of accountability in forest resource management [6].
  • Support efforts to establish a reliable statistical database on illegal logging and use of forest resources [6].

[1] World Bank Group. 2022. Cameroon Country Climate and Development Report; Cameroun - Rapport National sur le Climat et le Développement. CCDR Series;. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY-NC-ND.

[2] BIODEV2030 (2022). CAMEROON. [Online]. Available:

[3] CBFP (2020). CAMEROON: Africa’s 4th largest biodiversity reserve called to eco-citizenship - Afrique Environnement Plus. [Online]. Available:

[4] The World Bank Group (2022). Journey into the Congo Basin – The Lungs of Africa and Beating Heart of the World. [Online]. Available:

[5] International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2017). Cameroon to restore 12 million hectares of forest in species-rich Congo Basin. [Online]. Available:

[6] Fern, Climate Analytics (2018). What role do forests and governance play in countries’ nationally determined contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement? – Case study from Cameroon.


[8] CED, Fern, FPP, IIED, Okani (2017) Community forestry in Cameroon: a diagnostic analysis of laws, institutions, actors and opportunities. IIED, London.

[9] Forest Trends (2021). Timber Legality Risk Dashboard: Cameroon.

[10] Republic of Cameroon (2012). National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan – Version II – MINEPDED.

[11] Proforest (2019). Overview and Analyses of Key National Policies, Strategies and Action Plans Relevant to Deforestation, Child and Forced Labour, and Smallholder Inclusion in Cameroon.


[13] Kengoum Djiegni, F., Assembe-Mvondo, S., Eba'a Atyi, R., Levanga, P. and Fomété, T., (2016). Cameroon's forest policy within the overall national land use framework: from sectorial approaches to global coherence? International Forestry Review, 18(1), pp.4.

[14] Hoare, A, (Ed.) (2020), ‘Chatham House Forest Policy Assessment, Cameroon’, available at:

[15] WWF Cameroon, CED Cameroon, RELUFA (2012). Emerging trends in land-use conflits in Cameroon: Overlapping natural resource permits threaten protected areas and foreign direct investment.

[16] Piabuo, S.M., Foundjem-Tita, D. and Minang, P.A., (2018). Community forest governance in Cameroon. Ecology and Society23(3).

[17] The Conversation Trust (UK) Limited (2019). What Cameroon can teach others about managing community forests. [Online]. Available:

[18] Guizol, P., Diakhite, M., Seka, J., Bring, C., Mbonayem, L., Awono, A., Oyono, P.R., Mokpidie, D., Ndikumagenge, C., Sonwa, D.J., Ndabirorere, S., Waitkuwait, W.E., Ngobieng, M.A., Tabi, P., Essamba, L. (2022). Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) in Central Africa. In: The Forests of the Congo Basin: State of the Forests 2021, 317-338. Bogor, Indonesia. CIFOR.



[21] United Nations Development Programme (2019). A spotlight can help save the Cameroon Forest. [Online]. Available: