Mbangassina is a municipality located in the Central Region of Cameroon. The municipality covers a total surface area of about 815km², containing 19 villages with a population of about 60,000 inhabitants. Cocoa is the main cash crop in the area, accounting for more than 70% of household incomes. It is often cultivated through agroforestry systems, which combine cocoa and shade trees, providing fruits, firewood and timber to cocoa farmers. Cocoa farms have however expanded over the recent years, becoming one of the main drivers of forest degradation in the municipality.
The municipality is located at the frontier of two key ecosystems, a forest ecosystem and a savannah ecosystem, making the region more vulnerable to climate change, which is accelerated by land-use change. Low cocoa productivity, poor farmer organisations, poor market access, little or no options for value addition and weak value chains for food crops all lead to low incomes for the dominant farming population of Mbangassina.
Local authorities, farmer organizations, and civil society representatives recognize the need to maintain forest cover in Mbangassina while ensuring that the growing population of the municipality has stable sources of income through agricultural activities. With the support of IDH and WWF, they’ve embarked on a journey to support community livelihoods, increase the sustainability of cocoa production, while ensuring forests are protected and restored.
On 22 December 2020, 30 stakeholders from the public sector, private sector and civil society signed a letter of intent, through which they agreed to set up a multi-stakeholder coalition and develop a Local Land Use Management and Sustainable Development Plan (PLADDT) for the municipality. This development plan will focus on increasing the sustainability and economic viability of agricultural production, protecting and restoring forests, supporting communities’ land tenure, among other topics. It will be developed with support from the EUREDD Facility-EFI, the Ministry of Decentralisation and Local Development, and the Ministry of Economic and Regional Planning.
Mr. Belinga Belinga, a traditional chief of the Boura village 1 expressed his gratitude for the signing of the Letter of Intent:
© Jean Pierre Kepseu
“We are happy to have been chosen to be part of IDH initiative. We need to change the old way of working and to improve it. We need to have other knowledge that can help us better express ourselves in the field. For example, we should avoid destroying the trees, because it is the trees that improve biodiversity.”
The Letter of Intent was signed by stakeholders from the public sector (Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Subdivisional Officer of Mbangassina), civil society organizations (Women’s Cooperative Network, and National Youth Council), GIZ, EUREDD-Facility EFI, Proforest and the private sector (Barry Callebaut and Telcar-Cargill).
The newly set up local coalition will meet regularly to contribute to the development of the PLADDT, hence strengthening the governance of the municipality. This will create a favourable environment to attract new sources of funding and investments from private and public institutions. To help channel these investments, the IDH and WWF teams commissioned ICRAF to develop projects that can address some of the challenges and needs identified through local stakeholder interviews in 2020. These project plans are now ready to be shared with potential partners and investors interested in supporting project implementation, towards sustainable cocoa production, diversification of farmers’ sources of income, and forest protection in the municipality. These projects are welcomed by local stakeholders like Ms. Manga Manga Martine, a representative of the Mbangassina Women’s Cooperative Network:
© Jean Pierre Kepseu
“As a cocoa producer, we believe that there will be an added value to our lives, as cocoa producers will be able to improve their revenue.”
These activities in Mbangassina are part of the Green Commodity Landscape Program (GCLP), a program jointly facilitated by IDH and WWF. GCLP brings together stakeholders to co-design and jointly implement actions that help protect forests, improve sustainable production of cocoa and enhance livelihoods for farmers and surrounding communities in two selected landscapes in Cameroon: Grand Mbam and Djoum-Mintom. Mbangassina is the first municipality in the Grand Mbam landscape to embark on the program through the signing of a letter of intent. The municipality of Mintom, in the South region of Cameroon is to sign a similar agreement in the first quarter of 2021.
GCLP contributes to the objectives set by the Cameroonian Government, cocoa companies, farmer organizations, NGOs and research institutions through the Roadmap to Deforestation-free Cocoa, a public, private, civil society partnership that aims to end cocoa-related deforestation in Cameroon.