Building a mapping alliance for inclusive and transparent land-use planning in Cameroon

Stakeholders in Cameroon are developing the mapping tools they need to make informed and participatory land-use planning decisions through a collaborative project called the Common Mapping Platform.

In the southwestern municipality of Nguti, new palm oil plantations have triggered conflict between local communities and an international agricultural company that wants to expand its business in the area. Limited experience in drafting land-use plans and lack of dedicated tools have impeded fair and inclusive decision-making on land allocation among different stakeholder groups.

Cameroonian stakeholders at the Common Mapping Platform Meeting, November 2015

To help improve land-use governance and facilitate implementation of Cameroon’s 2011 land-use planning law, the EU REDD Facility supported a coalition of partners to develop the Common Mapping Platform. The idea was to provide information that stakeholders need to make land-use planning decisions. The Platform makes this information accessible by presenting it all in one place, instead of being stored by different agencies and actors where it can be incomplete or out of date. World Resources Institute (WRI) and other partners are providing technical support to the online version of the Platform. Still under development, the Platform will be hosted by the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development (MINEPAT).

Maps are a powerful tool in land-use planning because they can present large amounts of social, economic and geographical information together in an understandable and visual way. Traditional chiefs and representatives of the municipal council, regional government, NGOs and private sector came together in 2015 to explain what information they wanted to be included in the platform.

Traditional chiefs asked for the map to show the time taken and cost of transportation of agricultural commodities, such as cocoa, between agricultural areas and the main market. The project partners then created accessibility maps from the South West Region to the major port city of Douala. With the cooperation of civil society organisations, the Common Mapping Platform also provides spatial information on how land is used by communities for traditional purposes such as hunting, fishing, worship, and customary tenure boundaries.

The project partners also sought to determine the suitability of cocoa and palm oil to help guide sustainable investment in the area. Based on best available scientific information and local knowledge, the mapping exercise demonstrated that much of the land in Nguti was only marginally suitable for palm oil, and therefore not ideal for large scale agricultural expansion of these crops. Mapping experts from partner research institutions in the region also estimated the suitability of cocoa in different terrains in the future, taking into consideration predictions for warmer temperatures due to climate change.

Cameroon forest

In addition, the Platform provides information on types of land cover, carbon stocks and biodiversity. The mapping exercise has highlighted previously unrecognised biodiversity hotspots of high conservation value.

Gathering information to inform land-use planning is no easy task, and requires coordination among many different organisations and institutions that have the data. To bring all the information together, the voluntary project partners built an alliance of government ministries, international and national NGOs, research institutions and project implementers in Cameroon.

The project has brought together different stakeholder groups through the process of building the technical mapping tool. This has enabled constructive and non-adversarial discussions on land-use planning at the local level. It has also broken new ground on a number of fronts. For the first time, the government is involved in a process that takes into account customary rights in land-use planning. In another first, the government has agreed with local stakeholders to move ahead with a formal participatory local land-use planning process in 2016.  The Common Mapping Platform project is also enabling the government to develop experience and capacity in administering land-use planning laws that reconcile the various interests in a balanced, informed and participatory way.

If successful, the Platform will be fully developed and the model could then be expanded to other municipalities that face difficulties in reconciling different land-use projects. The partners are keen to build upon and expand the work, and have drafted plans on how to enhance land-use planning capacity and methodologies and forge new partnerships at different governance scales across Cameroon.

This story has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

Author: EU REDD Facility

Date: 3 June 2016