One step forward, two steps back?: paradoxes of natural resources management decentralisation in Cameroon uri icon

abstract

  • Theory informs us that decentralisation, a process through which powers,responsibilities and resources are devolved by the central state to lower territorialentities and regionally/locally elected bodies, increases efficiency, participation, equity,and environmental sustainability. Many types and forms of decentralisation have beenimplemented in Africa since the colonial period, with varying degrees of success. Thispaper explores the process of forest management decentralisation conducted inCameroon since the mid-1990s, highlighting its foundations and characterising itsinitial assets. Through the transfer of powers to peripheral actors for the management offorestry fees, Council Forests and Community (or Village) Forests, this policyinnovation could be empowering and productive. However, careful observation andanalysis of relationships between the central state and regional/local-leveldecentralised bodies, on the one hand, and of the circulation of powers, on the other,show – after a decade of implementation – that the experiment is increasingly governedby strong tendencies towards ‘re-centralisation’, dictated by the practices ofbureaucrats and state representatives. The paper also confirms recent empiricalstudies of ‘the capture of decentralised actors’. It finally shows how bureaucrats andstate authorities are haunted by the Frankenstein’s monster syndrome, concerningstate–local relationships in decentralised forest management

publication date

  • 2004
  • 2004