Forest Voices – Promoting the respect of indigenous forest people’s rights in the TRIDOM (South East Cameroon)

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FCTV’s Forest Voices project in the Dja Biosphere Reserve Cameroon, specifically Lomie (East of the Dja), aims to enhance respect for the human rights of marginalised groups in Cameroon.  It is a twenty one month project (January 2011 – September 2012) part funded by the European Union.  Full co-funding is currently being sought.

Project aim:

The project seeks to build the capacity of civil society organisations to be able to raise awareness and advocate for the human rights of the indigenous forest communities. It seeks to achieve its objective through a number of activities, including the production of a collaborative music CD that will act as part of a participatory awareness raising campaign.
The action will take a multi-stakeholder approach, working with communities, Civil Society organisations, NGOs, and all levels of government (national ministries, local authorities and forest game guards).  By brokering partnerships between different stakeholders, the action seeks to create an enabling environment for developing appropriate and collaborative solutions to ensuring that the rights of indigenous forest communities are respected.

Project Background:

Cameroon is a State Party to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, UN Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, all of which guarantee equal rights to all citizens. However despite these legal guarantees Cameroon’s indigenous forest people, comprised of Baka, Bakoli, Baygeli and Bedzang peoples, face discrimination in a number of domains. Discrimination includes unequal access to education, discriminatory land tenure policies often involving eviction from traditional lands, unequal participation in decision-making processes and discriminatory practice within the justice system.

The action will specifically address the problems of the marginalisation of Baka people, as well as the following interrelated causal problems:

  • Lack of capacity of civil society representing indigenous forest communities to hold government to account and to advocate for their rights.
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding amongst local government officials of current policy and the rights of forest-based communities.
  • Lack of political will and national capacity to enforce Human Rights legislation.
  • Wider societal discrimination against the Baka communities.

LEF and FCTV therefore seek to work with Baka communities to develop a collaborative awareness-raising and advocacy tool that will address these issues.

One important element of this project will be the production of the music CD. Music is central to the Baka’s way of life; in addition to marking key ceremonies (births, deaths, marriages, celebrations of forest life), music provides a constant soundtrack to the Baka’s daily activities and is a common means of passing stories and information between communities.   By using music as a tool for advocacy and awareness-raising the project seeks to ensure that communities are able to feel an ownership of the materials produced, empowering them and increasing their confidence in presenting their culture and vocalising the challenges that face to the outside world.

Expected Results:

  • Increased awareness amongst wider public in Cameroon about the rights of indigenous forest people.
  • Enhanced capacity of the community-based organisations representing indigenous forest people’s to engage with government and to advocate for indigenous people’s rights at the regional and national levels
  • Increased capacity of local government to understand the rights of indigenous forest communities and to communicate effectively with these communities.
  • Increased engagement of forest-based communities in local, regional and national decision-making processes and policy formulation.

Project activities:

  • Production of participative music CD focusing on Baka rights
  • National promotion of CD
  • Educational roadshow
  • Rights based information workshops for civil society organisations
  • Advocacy training
  • Support for advocacy actions
  • Information sessions for game guards and government officials
  • Linking community groups to local, regional and national networks