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REDD+ Proponents Want Laws On Benefits Sharing Reviewed 

 By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

Stakeholders working under the banner of the REDD+ process and the VPAs-FLEGT mechanism, have expressed the need for a revision of the current laws on access to benefits sharing from the exploitation of natural resources in Cameroon.
The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forest, REDD+ process are efforts aimed at conserving the forests within the framework of the Climate Change Convention. 
On the other hand, the European Union initiated Voluntary Partnership Agreements, VPAs, of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, FLEGT mechanism, are geared at ensuring that only timber from legal sources enters the European markets. 
Some 13 areas of synergy grouped into three between the two programmes have been identified, reason why the stakeholders are working together in order to mutually benefit from each other. 
Meanwhile, the issue of benefits sharing came up at a REDD+/VPAs-FLEGT capacity building training workshop in Mbalmayo, Nyong and So’o Division of the Centre Region on September 18 and 19. 
It was triggered following a presentation by Dr. Haman Unusa of the National Coordination of REDD+ in the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, MINEPDED. The presentation was captioned: “Access to Natural Resources through Benefits Sharing Options in Cameroon.”
Dr. Haman revisited the various laws on access to benefits sharing from exploitation of natural resources in the country such as forest, mining and land royalties, remarking that the issue is rather complicated because there is no regulation to ensure that the provisions of the laws are implemented to the letter.
He, however, mentioned a joint decision of June 26, 2012, by the Ministries of Territorial Administration, Finance and Forestry, fixing modalities on the collection and redistribution of royalties emanating from the exploitation of forest and wildlife resources.
Haman remarked, for example, that going by the regulation, 20 percent of annual forest royalties is allocated to local councils where the activity is taking place, while 20 percent goes to FEICOM. Ten percent is meant for the local population. 
For revenue from communal (council) forests, 30 percent is set aside for the realisation of local infrastructure while 70 percent goes to the local council to whom the forest was attributed. In regards to community forests, 10 percent is allocated for the daily running operations and 90 percent is invested in local projects. Concerning benefits accruing from hunting activities, 40 percent is meant for the local council in the area while 10 percent goes to local communities
Citing Article 137 of the Mining Code, Dr. Haman said revenue gotten from the Value Added Tax, VAT, on the exploitation of the precious metals, previews that 50 percent goes into the State treasury, 25 percent to the Department of Mining, 15 percent to the local council in the area and 10 percent to the local population.
According to Haman, and going by the 1974 land law and its 1976 text of application, 40 percent of revenue accruing from land taxes goes into the State treasury, 40 percent to the local councils and 20 percent to the local population.
“These are the provisions of the texts but I don’t know whether, in reality, it is what is being practised,” Dr. Haman stated while opening the floor for debates that ware moderated by Dr. Therese Fouda of the University of Dschang.  
Most participants held that if the benefits were proportionately shared and its use strictly monitored, the local councils and the local population would have been better off than what is observed today. They called for a participatory revision of the regulations, especially the one concerning the forestry sector as prescribed by the national REDD+ strategy on access to benefits sharing.
They believe that for benefits sharing to have an impact on the lives of local councils and the population, a higher percentage should rather be allocated to these entities. It was noted that what is being paid for the exploitation of forest and hunting areas in Cameroon is very insignificant as compared to what obtains in other countries. It was also said that in some countries, the State has nothing to do with revenue accruing from the REDD+ process.
Other papers presented bordered on: “The valorisation of achievements of the VPAs/FLEGT; forest governance and communication; forest regulation: aspects relating to REDD+; REDD+ forest potentials in Cameroon; among others. Participants were drawn from Government institutions, NGOs, civil society organisations, research institutions and development partners.

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