Cameroon: Blog - New, Interactive Forest Atlas Can Improve Forest Management in Cameroon

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Cameroon's forests, which cover about 60 percent of the country, play a vital role for people and the economy. They provide services and sustenance directly and indirectly to local communities and city dwellers alike. Forests account for more than six percent of the GDP, the highest percentage of all countries in the Congo Basin.

Yet, until recently, Cameroon lacked a comprehensive information system to actually monitor and manage its forests. There was no integrated system or entity tracking the various forest uses, like logging concessions, community forests, hunting zones, and more. The information that was available was scattered amongst different institutions, wasn't publicly accessible, or of sufficient quality to support legality claims or effective land use decisions. This situation exacerbated unsustainable use of forest resources and conflicts between competing forest stakeholders, such as loggers and community groups.

That's where the Cameroon Forest Atlas comes in. Since 2002, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) has worked with WRI to improve transparence and governance in the forest sector by publishing and regularly updating the Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon. MINFOF and WRI recently released version 3.0 of the online Atlas, as well as an accompanying report, poster, desktop mapping application and underlying spatial datasets.

The Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon is a constantly updated information system, combining the use of remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and ground-truthing to monitor and manage forests. Through a combination of interactive mapping applications, posters, analytical reports, trainings, and outreach, the Atlas provides users with access to timely, accurate, and harmonized information in the forest sector and beyond. The Atlas brings all the major land use categories--like logging permits, protected areas, hunting zones, mining, and industrial agricultural plantations-- together into one system. Users can get answers to key questions and see where various activities are occurring, as well as where competing interests may overlap.

In addition to updating data on the land uses contained in previous versions of the Atlas, version 3.0 includes information on mining permits and agro-industrial plantations. The expansion and enrichment of the Atlas provides forest stakeholders with a more complete picture of Cameroon's forest sector, which will ultimately foster better management.

A variety of stakeholders utilize the Atlas, including Cameroon's government, the private sector, research institutions, and civil society. Government agencies use the Atlas to monitor and effectively plan on-the-ground control of forest activities. The private sector references the Atlas to decide where to site infrastructure projects.

Research institutions use the Atlas's information to guide research activities or to support findings, while civil society groups utilize the Atlas to resolve conflict between competing interests and raise awareness of local communities' rights to sustainable forest management.