Open Journal of Forestry
2012. Vol.2, No.4, 240-251
Published Online October 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Power, the Hidden Factor in Development Cooperation. An
Example of Community Forestry in Cameroon
Mbolo C. Yufanyi Movuh, Carsten Schusser
Forest and Nature Conservation Policy, Georg August University Goettingen,
Goettingen, Germany
Received July 23rd, 2012; Revised August 26th, 2012; Accepted September 15th, 2012
This paper is concomitant with our comparative study analysis of the interests and power of the stake-
holders involved in Community Forestry (CF) in six countries. The study hypothesises that, “governance
processes and outcomes in CF depend mostly on interests of the powerful external stakeholders”. For this
paper which is on CF in Cameroon, the study hypothesizes that, “Power is a hidden factor in Develop-
ment cooperation”. Based on political theories, the paper uses the “actor-centered power” (ACP) concept
of the Community Forestry Working Group (CFWG) in Göttingen, Germany, the post-development the-
ory and empirical findings, to back up the assertations made in the study through the analysis of thirteen
different CFs in the South West region (SWR) of Cameroon. It analyzes the empirically applicable ACP
concept, that consists of three elements: trust, incentives and coercion and at the same time connects these
elements with the post-development theory. The elements were derived from the basic assumptions on
power made by Max Weber in political sciences and Max Krott in forest policy. The study confirms the
existence of powerful internal and external stakeholders that influence CF in Cameroon and aims to em-
power important but marginalised communities. It concludes that, CF as a development instrument to al-
leviate poverty and increase livelihood while sustainably managing the forest has actually not brought
significant or meaningful development to the targeted sector of the society.
Keywords: Community Forestry; Devolution; Power; Development; Post-Development; Theory; Trust;
Incentive; Coercion
As community forestry (CF) is being recognized as a para-
digm shift (La Viña, 1997; Rebugio, 1998; Devkota, 2010) of
forest policy in the so-called developing countries,1 it is essen-
tial to understand the power processes and its distribution be-
hind it. This makes it easier to understand the way power is
wielded among stakeholders (Devkota, 2010: p. 6), hence,
identifying the different interests and influence. Furthermore,
many global funding agencies have bought into the idea of CF
and feel that it is a far more ethical way of donating money for
the protection of forest and at the same time fulfilling their
development agenda. Millions of Euros are being invested in
CF programs all over the world with very little success in their
implementation, management and monitoring, not achieving the
goals of biodiversity protection and increased human well-
being as always proclaimed in discourse and rhetoric, in the
name of Development. In Cameroon for instance, most of the
community forests were established through projects imple-
mented by NGOs and drawing on donor support (Mandondo,
2003: p. 17).
In implementing CF, the forest condition (sustainable man-
agement) is often referred to as a precondition for positive so-
cial and economic outcomes. Nonetheless, in many cases, for-
ests are devolved to local arenas after they have been severely
exploited and are in a degraded condition (Mandondo, 2003: p.
15), while states appear to have initiated the devolution concept
to restore degraded forest lands by taking advantage of cheap
and voluntary labour (Shackleton et al., 2002; Sarin et al., 2003;
Colfer, 2005; Larson, 2005; Contreras, 2003; Edmunds & Wol-
lenberg, 2001; Thoms, 2006; Devkota, 2010). Furthermore, in
the devolution of some usufruct and to a limited extend partici-
pation rights to local communities, institutional arrangements
had not been followed by the establishment of more effective
institutions (Poffenberger, 2006; Yufanyi Movuh & Krott,
2011). Larson (2005) and Devkota (2010) mention that at times
after locals have invested in the protection of these resources
and improved their status, the state often re-appropriates these
forest resources. For Larson and Ribot (2007: p. 3), forest pol-
icy and the implementation “—systematically exclude various
groups from forest benefits—and often impoverish and main-
tain the poverty of these groups”. Also, the concept of CF in
Cameroon has been attributed to colonial heritage and post-
colonial entanglement to the former colonial masters (Yufanyi
Movuh & Krott, 2011: p. 77), with power and interests of sta-
keholders being seen to influence outcomes of CF. With such
critical findings, it is but adequate to question the concept of
CF (as a pro community policy implementation instrument) and
further examine the factors contributing to it not achieving its
proclaimed objectives (Devkota, 2010: p. 2).
Most often than not, power comes in many forms and is
concealed where it is strongest and therefore resists scientific
analyses (Krott, 2005: p. 14). Consequently, CF analysis through
1This is regarded as a new forestry paradigm favouring a people-oriented
approach generally termed “community forestry” or “participatory for-
estry,” rather than the previous top-down forest policies of these countries.
the power spectrum require a logically and theoretically based
concept of power based on social relationships. As an important
phenomenon in social relation, power analysis is very necessary
in forest policy as well as in other domains. By referring to the
classic sociological definition of power by Max Weber (1947: p.
152), Krott (2005: p. 14) relates the issue in forest policy as,
“those who utilize or protect forests are forced to subordinate
their interests to politically determined programs in the face of
conflict”. This, he explains, results from “stakeholders and
political players availing themselves of power” (Krott, 2005: p.
14; Devkota, 2010: p. 6), leading to criticism of development as
a whole and the CF programs in particular. In criticizing the
development theory as a whole2, I chose CF as a case study and
show how power and the interest, characteristics and circum-
stances (Mayers, 2005) of the powerful stakeholders are exhib-
ited in the era of post-development theory. This could be well
ostracised in a situation where conservationism, sustainable and
participatory forest management for economic benefits are
notably tied with the politics of funding, conditioned upon the
adoption and mainstreaming of such viewpoints in national
policy arenas (Mandondo, 2003: p. 23). The study also sheds
light on how and why countries with rich forests, especially
African countries like Cameroon, are generally marginalized in
international forestry think-tank, decision-making and trend-
setting institutions3.
The main hypothesis of the interest and power analysis is
that, “governance processes and outcomes in CF depend mostly
on interests of the powerful external stakeholders”. To test the
hypothesis, a comparative research study was carried out on
“Stakeholders” Interests and Power as Drivers of Community
Forestry”. The comparative research project is conducted in
Albania, Cameroon, Germany, Indonesia, Namibia and Nepal,
in three different continents. Pertaining to CF in Cameroon, the
study hypothesizes that, “Power is a hidden factor in develop-
ment assistance”. It uses a simple concept of power suggested
by the Community Forestry Working Group (CFWG), the
post-development theory and empirical findings, to back up the
assertations made in the study, and is strictly reduced to the
basics of social interaction. This approach helps understanding
the present CF model in Cameroon, by identifying the key ac-
tors or stakeholders in the system, and assessing their respective
interests in, or influence on, that system (Mayers, 2005: p. 3).
CF and its Rationale in Cameroon
In the last 3 decades, CF4 has been hailed by researchers,
policy makers, governments and Organisations alike (Brown et
al., 2007: p. 136; Pulhin & Dressler, 2009) as a successful con-
temporary paradigm and implementation mechanism for sus-
tainable forest resources management, decentralization and
devolution (Ezzine de Blas et al., 2009; Larson & Ribot, 2004;
World Bank, 2004; World Bank, 2005; WRI, 2005). Based on
its theoretical decentralization and devolution characteristics, it
has been promoted by international bi- and multilateral green
Organizations, development agencies (Agrawal & Redford,
2006) and western governments, becoming one of the most
practiced participatory models5 of forest management as an
alternative to previous models (Barry et al., 2003; Sikor, 2006:
p. 339), promising and aiming at alleviating poverty of many
forest dependent communities while at the same time sustaina-
bly managing their forest (Maryudi et al., 2011; Yufanyi
Movuh & Krott, 2011; Maryudi, 2011).
But the common reality across the globe and Cameroon in
particular is that, the governance process of CF has not yet
produced expected outcomes (Yufanyi Movuh & Krott, 2011;
MINEP, 2004; Devkota, 2010). While McDermott and Schrec-
kenberg (2009: p. 158) have elaborated CF as the exercise by
local people of power to inuence decisions regarding man-
agement of forests, including the rules of access and the dispo-
sition of products; in Cameroon, the “power shift” rhetoric from
the state to the local communities through CF opens a question
of power sharing, when these management objectives would
really be put into practice. In Cameroon since 1995, a new for-
est policy act was enacted (proclaimed in 1994) to accommo-
date two approaches: CF and sustainable forest management.
Conserving and enhancing biodiversity through rural peoples’
involvement was one of the components of the new forest pol-
icy act of 1995 (Sobze, 2003; Yufanyi Movuh, 2007: p. 1). This
law lays emphasis on increasing the participation of the local
populations in forest conservation and management in order to
contribute to raising their living standards6. For the first time in
Cameroon’s history, the 1994 forest law and its 1995 decrees of
application, provided for a legal instrument for community
involvement in forest management (Yufanyi Movuh & Krott,
2011; Oyono, 2005a, 2005b; Mandondo, 2003).
Although the implementation of CF differs in different coun-
tries7, its concept and formulation goes far back to colonial
times (Larson & Ribot, 2007; Oyono, 2004b). Presently, it is
being incentivised with development assistance in many, if not
all of these formerly colonised countries, from a variety of dif-
ferent western or western-backed agencies and organisations,
like the World Bank, KfW (German development bank) and
GIZ for Cameroon8. After more than 14 years of CF imple-
mentation with financial support from international donors, the
central government of Cameroon is gaining more control and
influence of the forest resources than before, strengthening the
top-down approach of forest policy implementation with strong
tendencies towards re-centralization, dictated by the practices
of bureaucrats and state representatives (Oyono, 2004b), con-
trary to the CF aim. This confirms the growing concerns that
CF practice in many regions of the world is not attaining its
intended objectives (Yufanyi Movuh & Krott, 2011; Oyono,
5Although “Traditional Community Forestry” models have existed long in
the local communities before the present introduced models by Western
GOs and agencies (Yufanyi Movuh & Krott, 2011; Larson & Ribot, 2007;
Sunderlin, 2004: 3; Oyono, 2005b).
6The Forestry Law No 94/01 of 20th January 1994 and its decrees of appli-
cation No 95/531/PM du 23 August 1995.
7Cameroon forestry law definition of community forestry: A community
forest is “a forest forming part of the non-
ermanent forest estate, which is
covered by a management agreement between a village community and the
Forestry Administration. Management of such forest—which should not
exceed 5000 ha—is the responsibility of the village community concerned,
with the help or technical assistance of the Forestry Administration.”
Source: Article 3(11) of Decree 95/531/PM of 23 August 1995.
8GTZ (German technical service) and DED (German development service)
have now merged with InWEnt, to be called GIZ (German Organisation fo
international cooperation).
2Development theory is a combination of theories about how desirable
change in the so-called third world societies can be best obtained, by fol-
lowing the examples of the development processes of the so-called first
world societies. These theories are based on a variety of social scientific
disciplines and approaches.
4We define “Community Forestry” as “forestry which directly involves
local forest users in the common decision making and implementation o
forestry activities” (CFWG in Göttingen).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 241
2004b). In Cameroon, CF has been proven to be a leverage for
colonial legacy and entanglement (Yufanyi Movuh & Krott,
2011) and an instrument of power against a backdrop of devel-
opment assistance reminiscent to colonial times. Just like the
1974 land tenure law that followed the French colonial concep-
tion and which is still in place today in Cameroon9, the 1994
forestry law reinforced the colonial conception of the state as
the ultimate owner of the national forest domain although it
established for the first time in Cameroon the possibility for
rural people to gain usufruct rights in the exploitation of forest
resources in their neighbourhood.
Before, but especially since the inception of a different ap-
proach in forest policy in Cameroon through the new forestry
law, European development agencies like GTZ, DED (now
GIZ), KfW, AFD, (Agence Française de Développement), SNV,
etc. have become more influential than ever in controlling the
policies of natural resource management in Cameroon. They
have become a sine qua non for the formulation and imple-
mentation of CF in tandem with their political ideologies of
westernisation (Oyono et al., 2005: p. 364; Mbile et al., 2009;
Oyono, 2009; Yufanyi Movuh & Krott, 2011). Also, in the last
3 decades, we have experienced a wave of criticism of the un-
critical acceptance of development in the form of post-modern
critiques against western development schemas (Ahorro n.p.;
Matthews, 2004, 2006). These criticisms have been literally
boosted or elaborated by contemporary theories like the post-
colonial and post-development theories.
This paper will proceed by analysing the CF stakeholders’
power network in Cameroon using conceptualisation, theory
and empirical data from the research collected from field work
in Cameroon.
Materials and Methods
The CFWG10 definition of CF, includes community based
natural resource management through programs emphasizing
biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management
involving the local communities. Here, the practice of Council
forestry in Cameroon is included as part of the CF. Thirteen
communities (see Figure 1, map) were explored in the South
West Region (SWR) of Cameroon and the history, status and
stakeholders of the CFs were analyzed11. Stakeholders here,
refer to those who have interests in and the potential to influ-
ence the CF processes. We classify them into two main groups:
state and non-state stakeholders. The main state stakeholders
relevant for CF are the central Ministry for Forestry and Wild-
life (MINFOF) and the regional and local forest administrations.
The non-state stakeholders include forest users, forest users’
groups and their federations; donors, forest-based enterprises;
environmental and user associations and political parties; uni-
versity and research institutions; media and consultants. Such
stakeholders may belong to local/regional, national and interna-
tional levels, all of which may be of worth in CF processes. For
Cameroon and for this study, our identified non-state stake-
holders are: GTZ, DED (now GIZ), KfW/GFA, WWF, WCS12,
the Common Initiative Groups (CIG) and Village Forest Man-
agement Committees (VFMC) of the different communities
with community and council forests respectively.
Quantitative and qualitative interviews were carried out with
CF managers and forestry officers and at times with members
of the CIG and VFMC, responsible for the management of
these forests; with representatives of MINFOF-SWR, KfW/
GFA representing the main Program (PSMNR-SWR)13, for the
facilitation of the implementation of the forestry law, hence CF.
Structured questionnaires were used with closed and opened-
ended questions. More than seventy interviews were conducted
and observations noted, in the course of the research that lasted
three years. Documents like the logframe (logical framework)
of the PSMNR-SWR, Management Plans (MP) and Technical
Notes (NT) of the CFs were also part of the materials collected
and analyzed.
The selections of the community and council forestry sam-
ples were done the map of the PSMNR-SWR (Figure 1) and
based on information on recent activities of the communities in
the CF process. It is also an area where the researcher has a
good existing knowledge. From this population, a simple ran-
dom selection was made. Interviews carried out with different
stakeholders were in relation to the information given by other
stakeholders in their networking (Schnell et al., 2005) and in-
terest representation in CF14. All the interviews were recorded
for transcription and further analyses. The quantitative network
analysis uses the knowledge of the stakeholders to identify the
partners of the network while the qualitative analysis goes
deeper to describe and evaluate the powerful stakeholders,
identified through the quantitative network analysis(see Schu-
sser et al., 2012: p. 6). More the qualitative and less the quanti-
tative analysis will be used to test our actor-centered power
(ACP) and post-development theories through the concept and
practice of CF in Cameroon.
In employing a critical realistic sequence of quantitative and
qualitative research design approach, Schusser et al. (2012)
identify stakeholders and their respective influence, providing
explanations of activities and power in CF settings.
9In the colonial times, lands were considered “vacant” and without “master”
and as such defined as state land.
10The Community Forestry Working Group (CFWG) in Germany, within
the Chair for Forest and Nature Conservation Policy of the University in
11The statistical population of the CFs was drawn from the number o
Community and Council forest applications received by the Ministry
of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) until 2009 in Yaoundé-Cameroon
as a whole. This sums up to 451 Community forest and 28 Council
Forest applications with a total of 479 CFs, spread out in all the ten
Regions of Cameroon.
12MINFOF (national and Regional-SWR), GTZ, DED (now GIZ),
KfW/GFA, WWF , WCS are all representing the main Program,
13Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the
South West Region.
14This was done through the snowball method. It is a typical way to
analyse networks.
Definitions and Theoretical Roots
Actor-Centered Power (ACP)
Despite being the crucial question of political science, the
concept of power played an increasingly minor role in the last
decades’ forest policy analysis. All the credit for the reintro-
duction of a power concept is due to Bas Arts and Jan van
Tatenhove who published a conceptual framework on power in
2004 (Schusser, 2012: p. 2; Krott et al., in review). Although we
think that powerful actors influence the policy outcomes heavily,
we still need to understand the social phenomenon called
“power” in the given context of forest policy issues.15 Many
political scientists including Weber offered explanations and
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 243
Source PSMNR 2010
Figure 1.
Community and Council Forestry regions in the PSMNR-SWR: Areas visited are encircled.
definitions of power but there has been little reference directly
linking forest policy analysis and development. To analyze
power in forest policy analysis, we need to focus on single ac-
tors and their interaction in detail and therefore, the theory
should focus on that substance of social behaviour.
This paper aims to analyze the empirically applicable con-
cept of an ACP that consists of the following power sources
(see Box 1): Trust, Incentives and Coercion and at the same-
time connect these elements with the post-development theory.
The elements were derived from basic assumptions on power
made by Weber (1947) and Krott (1990). The elements are
clearly defined and described with instruments and empirical
findings. To analyze the social relations of forest policy actors
in Cameroon, a simple concept that is strictly reduced to the
basics of social interaction was suggested. For clarity’s sake, in
this text an actor exercising power is called A and an actor re-
ceiving power B. Our ACP concept defines power as follows:
Power is a social relationship, where an actor A alternates
the behavior of actor B without recognizing Bs will.
For Weber (1947: p. 152), power is, “the probability that one
actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry
out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on
which this probability rests”. That is, the chance of a person or
of a number of persons to realize their own will in a communal
action even against the resistance of others who are participat-
ing in the action (Schusser, 2012: p. 2; Krott et al., in review).
Power can only be verified at the presence of resistance and the use of
coercionto break thisresistance (Weber,1972). But even Weber
mentionedthe possibility to exercise power as an equivalent to power,
with thehelp of the threat of power.
This behavioral conceptof power has some inherent weaknesses, as
Offe points out: Here, influence cannot be verified. The better power
‘works’ineveryday life as hestates, thefewer powerwould be
verifiable (Offe, 1977).
Etzioni(1975:333) proposes toexaminethe actor’sresources and
Historicexperiences of a useof these resources andinstruments would
allowfor a foresight.B could estimate,on what the threatis basedon.
Thus, power potential becomes verifiable beyond its simple exercise
which was first mentioned byKrott (1990). On the otherhand, power
can be verified also on the behavior of "B". His change in behavior can
be verified empirically at his deciding orfailing to decide and the
Box 1.
ACP concept consists of three elements: Trust, Incentives, and Coer-
We define trust as a power element when one stakeholder B,
changes behaviour by accepting for example, stakeholder A’s
information without check. A might typically achieve this
situation by persuasion, prestige and reputation or by with-
holding information from B. Trust can be assumed through
furnishing or provision of information, checks or a high fre-
quency of interaction with a stakeholder. It is B’s confidence to
A’s goodwill that makes B behave accordingly. It happens
when B has the reasonable expectation that following the guid-
ance of A will be beneficial.
The second element, incentives, are financial or non-finan-
cial factors that alters B’s behaviour by motivation from A, 16
which is most likely to be done by money, luxuries or any other
kind of benefit. Here, transfers are likely to occur. In this case,
it exists for B when B delegates to A control over good C in
which B has an interest. To B, a behaviour according to A’s
incentives produces more benefits than a pursuit of A’s former
strategy to fulfil B’s objectives. It is important to note, that B’s
inherent interests stay the same—just the behaviour changes.
And this change was triggered by the benefits.
The third element, coercion, on the other hand is the practice
of A forcing B to behave in an involuntary manner which can
be done by violence or threat of violence. Coercion is force and
control. If one cannot control other stakeholders, then there is a
coercion problem or there is no coercion. Coercion can go with
threat or action as a means of control. It is the application of
pressure and that is why it is a top-down approach. As coercion
builds resentment and resistance from B, it tends to be the most
obvious but least effective form of power because it demands a
lot of control. When coercion comes to play, B can do little or
nothing about it.
Although at times the complex theoretical analysis of the
APC only generates face validity and lacks content validity (i.e.,
not being able to analyze a meaningful range of power) we are
going to contentiously and empirically analyse it, pertaining to
CF as a development tool in Cameroon.
In the last three decades, critical political and social scientists
alike have grown interest in analysing the global society, espe-
cially areas of the world with weak economies that strive for
better social and economic developments. They use critical
theories to deconstruct the Development Theory that emerged
in the period after World War II (late 1940s). These researchers
and theorists have been interested in the role of development in
poverty alleviation and stability, in the social systems where
development has become the status quo and the notion of pov-
erty alleviation obsolete. This interest has grown significantly
since the early 1980s, from works of scholars like Sachs ed.
(1992), Escobar (1995) and Rahnema & Bawtree (1997), in the
field of post-structuralism and post-development. This has been
characterized by the continuing changes in the society, trig-
gered by the unsatisfactory manifestation of the power relations
between stakeholders of development. On the other hand, less
has been invested in the role of power in the development and
poverty alleviation process of the concerned societies. It is also
the objective of this paper to use the post-development theory
to explain this role.
Post-Development Theory and the Policy Discourse
Post-development theory argues that the whole concept of
16As far as technical support changes the behaviour of B (through motiva-
tion) it is part of a power process.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
development and practice is influence by Western-Northern
hegemonies, with blueprints of their values over the rest of the
world. Its theorists call for the rejection of the development
concept (Rahnema & Bawtree, 1997; Sachs Ed., 1992; Escobar,
1995), looking beyond it. It began during the 1980s following
criticisms of development projects and the development theory
justifying them (Matthews, 2004). It hitherto ostracises devel-
opment as a tool used by western societies in the post-world
war II era, to define development concerns, dominating the
power relations arena, with the interests of the so-called devel-
opment experts (the World Bank, IMF and other western de-
velopment agencies) defining the development priorities, ex-
cluding the voices of the people they are supposed to develop,
with intrinsically negative consequences. The post-development
theory argue that to attempt to overcome this inequality and
negative consequences, the stage should be taken over by
non-western, non-northern peoples, to represent their priorities
and concerns. It differs from other critical approaches to de-
velopment (like dependency theory, alternative development
theory and human development) in that it hitherto rejects de-
velopment in its present form and calls for an alternative to
development (Sachs ed., 1992; Escobar, 1995; Rahnema, 1997;
Matthews, 2004, 2006), thus, moving beyond development.
Post-development theorists do not reject development17 per
se but the development that has been a response to the prob-
lematization of poverty that occurred in the years following
World War II (Klipper, 2010; Matthews, 2004), and label this
type of development as being “an historical construct that pro-
vides a space in which poor countries are known, specified and
intervened upon” (Escobar, 1995: p. 45). Hobley (2007: p. 4)
rhetorically asks, “why, if this was so clearly the case thirty
years ago, we are still repeating the same mistakes with the
same consequences”, echoing poverty alleviation also as being
a rationale for the international funding of CF. Foucault de-
scribed this as a form of power which, “makes individuals sub-
jects; categorises the individual, marks him by his own indi-
viduality, attaches him to his own identity, imposes a law of
truth on him which he must recognise and which others have to
recognise in him” (Foucault, 1983: p. 212), with individual and
collective effects. With its roots in post-modern critiques of
modernity, one of the main arguments by theorists of post-
development against development practices is the well-estab-
lished modernist powerful economic, socio-political and eco-
logical interests in the pursuit of development. By deconstruct-
ing the development practice and theory, they reveal the opera-
tions of power and knowledge in development discourse and
practices (Kippler, 2010: p. 2).
Why the Analysis of ACP and Post-Development in
Power, although being a core element of social and political
sciences, has nevertheless played a less important role in forest
policy (Krott et al., in review) and post-development theory
analysis. It is understood from many scholars in the field of
post-structuralism and post-development studies (Sachs, 1992;
Rahnema & Bawtree, 1997; Little & Painter, 1995; Berger,
1995; Escobar, 1995; Crew & Harrison, 1998; Pieterse, 1998;
Blaike, 1998; Kiely, 1999; Storey, 2000; Babbington, 2000)
that power is neglected in the post-developmentists’ decon-
struction of development. Escobar (2000) points out that it
might even be suggested that post-development theorists do not
understand power since power lies in the material and with the
people, not in discourse, stressing livelihood and people’s
needs and not theoretical analyses to be of more importance.
On the other hand, Rossi (2004: p. 2) argues that, “discourse is
a form of power, producing reality, domains of objects and
rituals of truth”.
We argue that it is not the one or the other. We believe that
using the power processes in our concept, we can easily deci-
pher and confirm the arguments of the post-development theo-
rists in analyzing our hypothesis that power is a hidden factor in
development assistance. And because it is hidden and resists
scientific analysis, it plays a major role (Offe, 1977; Krott,
2005: p. 14). Furthermore, we do not want to assume that the
contact with development and the commodity is to be inter-
preted as a desire for development and the commodity on the
part of those affected, arguing that such contacts are made pos-
sible through the enactment of a cultural politics by develop-
ment advocates, in which development and the commodity are
prioritized and bestowed upon the subaltern (Escobar, 2000).
The only way to explain this is by analyzing the visible and
invisible power processes behind these political enactments
upon subaltern groups. They willingly or otherwise become
actors of a cultural if not hegemonial politics bestowed on them
as they struggle to defend their places, existence, ecologies, and
Until recently, only a few African scholars have had some-
thing to say about post-development theory although it goes
without doubt that the critique of development offered by
post-development theory is very important to Africa18. Rela-
tively little attempt has been made to relate the post-develop-
ment perspective to the continent (Matthews, 2004: p. 374).
The fusion of theory with empirical case studies gives the pos-
sibility for a better understanding of both our ACP concept and
the post-development theory, countering the criticism of
post-development theory as being able to offer a critique of
development but lacking instrumentality in relation to practice
(Kippler, 2010), the same critique that is levied on many theo-
ries on power. As Matthews (2004: p. 377) explains further,
even those few African scholars who have published work on
development, have not taken into account the post-development
perspective, be it from anything similar to a post-development
perspective or discussions and literature focusing on the ques-
tion of development in Africa. The present CF model in Cam-
eroon is a practical example in natural resource management
where powerful international actors propose, formulate, impose
and implement forest policies through development aid or as-
sistance. Larson and Ribot (2007: p. 190) point out that forest
policy and the implementation“systematically exclude vari-
ous groups from forest benefitsand often impoverish and
maintain the poverty of these groups”. Eighteen years after the
new forestry law in Cameroon was proclaimed, the present CF
model is still to achieve its objective of sustainable forest man-
agement and poverty alleviation through the communities by
acquiring benefits from CF.
Evaluation o f Pow er in C om m unity Forestry
In all thirteen CFs visited between 2009 and 2011, ten CFs
18it recognises the failure of the post-World War II (also post-colonial)
development project which is illustrated by the African experience.
17Development being an improvement or progress in life standards in time.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 245
had some form of regulated activities perceived to conform
with the definition of our CFWG and also MINFOF classifica-
tion as a CF. Table 1 shows the different cases of CF analysed,
indicating the presence or not, of donor involvement in the
form of development assistance to the GoC through MINFOF
and the PSMNR-SWR to the CF.
Empirical Finding—Resources
Through our critical realistic sequence of quantitative and
qualitative research design approach (Schusser et al., 2012),
two stakeholder blocks were identified from the state and
non-state groups as being the most influential. MINFOF [state]
and the GDC,19 German Development Cooperation [non-state]
were identified as being more powerful than others in all the
cases studied, determining most of the outcomes of CF in the
region. This is the reason why they are always mentioned in the
empirical findings.
In 2004, a financial agreement (themed: German Financial
Cooperation with Cameroon; Program for the Sustainable Man-
agement of Natural Resources in Cameroon South West Region)
was signed between the GoC (represented by MINEFI—Min-
istry of Economy and Finance, MINFOF and the Autonomous
Sinking Fund) and the government of the federal republic of
Germany (represent by KfW, GTZ and DED). This financial
agreement was a form of development aid from Germany to
Cameroon to assist in the sustainable management of the natu-
ral resources of the SWR through the PSMNR-SWR and con-
tinues until date. In the same year, the sum of seven million
EURO under the supervision of the Federal Ministry for Eco-
nomic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), with document
No.: 2004 65 252, was disbursed after a separate Agreement
(by all actors concerned) to the financing Agreement dated
December 29, 2004 was signed. Since then, the promotion and
support of CF to enhance community participation was a main
objective in the PSMNR, against the backdrop of sustainable
forest management and poverty alleviation. Notwithstanding
this flow of financial, technical and material assistance in CF,
results gathered from the field research show less progress in
CF being an income generator for the local community who are
custodians of the forest.
CF, which was supposed to be a form of decentralization of
forest resource management and a form of devolution of power
to the local communities has instead strengthen the grip of cen-
tral MINFOF over the communities with CF. Furthermore, the
dependency of the GoC (MINFOF) on financial assistance from
Germany and other western countries to run the PSMNR has
also increased the influence of these actors over policy and
implementation of CF. Without these funds, activities in CF
will be almost impossible since certain technical documents and
related services have to be paid for by communities who are
themselves financially not viable. Empirically, the three ele-
ments of power are used to confirm the existence and strong
influence of powerful international actors in CF. These ele-
ments also confirm the arguments of the post-development
theorists, that development, in this case through CF in Camer-
oon should be rejected since it is a project premised upon a set
of values that are not found or regarded strange in the society in
which it is implemented and in the long run cannot succeed and
will be reason for its demise.
The Power Element Trust
Trust as defined in the ACP concept is where an actor B
complies without a check of information given by another actor
A. As Fisher et al. (2010) put it, trust arises from a judgement
of whether to place oneself in a position of potential vulnerabil-
ity by granting others discretionary power over one’s interests.
At a certain stage, A is trustworthy just to the extent that he
attends to B’s interests, values, and collective identities. Seen
from B’s point of view, trust suspends the need of control over
A (Möllerring, 2005: p. 299).
CF in Cameroon came with the objective of enhanced par-
ticipation of the communities concerned in managing their for-
est resources sustainably and at the same time benefit finan-
cially from it, hence, attaining a progressive development. But
in most cases that concerns trust in the powerful actors that
govern CF (be it to MINFOF or international organisations), a
thorough check by the local stakeholders concerned is just too
complex, time-consuming and expensive and therefore ineffi-
cient for them, so they rely on the unchecked information given
to them by the powerful actors.
In all the case studies mentioned in Table 1, it was observed
that trust was granted to MINFOF and the international organi-
sations representing the GDC. While the local actors like the
CIGs and VFMCs trust MINFOF and the other government
ministries concerned with CF, when they comply without any
check of alternatives, MINFOF also trusts the GDC by accept-
ing the conditions in the way the PSMNR is going to be man-
aged, also without any check of alternatives. It could be ob-
served in the field that staff of the GDC were very much trusted
by the MINFOF staff without check of Information. It could
also be observed that the CIGs, VFMCs and MINFOF respec-
tively do not check or are not able to check information from
the GDC but use it as a basis for orientation. If they would have
the means to check or double-check the information and would
hence be able to agree to it voluntarily, there would no power
process because here, both parties would have the same inter-
ests, but this is not the case.
Also, in the past, the GDC has always been supporting as a
development goal, the green sector in Cameroon and this is also
a reason for trust without checks. In the above mentioned 2004
separate (bilateral) contract between the German Cooperation
and the GoC, the GoC accepted the GFA/DFS20, (a decision
from KfW) without checking, as the main consultancy partner
to manage the PSMNR-SWR with MINFOF. Here, the accep-
tance of MINFOF could be interpreted as change of behaviour
due to motivations from the GDC but this could not be con-
firmed in the research. Officially, the GFA and DFS were se-
lected as program consultants (supposedly through an interna-
tional bidding process) to assist the program implementation
agency, MINFOF, in the coordination of the PSMNR-SWR.
However unofficially, they act as a watchdog to MINFOF and
monitor the interests of the KfW (personal interview with some
PSMNR staff). This again shows that while MINFOF trusts the
German partners, it is not reciprocal or mutual, tilting the power
element more to the GDC. Nevertheless, there is a fine line
between trust to a specific actor and change of behaviour due to
motivations initiated by that same actor. This is categorized
under incentives.
The Power Element Incentives
n an actor-centered perspective, it is the expectation of
19(GIZ, GFA/KfW)
20GFA is an international consultancy firm based in Hamburg, Germany/
DFS-Deutsche Forstservice GmbH.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 247
Table 1.
General information of the selected community forests (CFs) in the SWR of Cameroon.
Communit(y)ies Forest status Name of management institution Resource
involvement Visited
1 Mundemba Council forest, Reserved Mundemba rural council (Ndian) Rich Yes, GIZ (GTZ) 2009/2011
2 Ikondo Kondo Community forest (not
exsting anymore) Mundemba rural council (Ndian) Rich Not anymore but
previously GTZ 2009/2011
3 Mosongiseli Community forest,
Mosongiseli Balondo Badiko CIG
(MBABCIG) (Ndian) Rich Yes, GIZ (DED) 2009/2011
4 Toko Council forest, (not exsting
anymore) Toko rural council (Ndian) Poor Not anymore but
previously GTZ 2009/2011
5 Itali Community forest
Christian philanthropic Farms and
Missions (CPFAM) CIG (Ndian)
Rich but no
access No 2009/2011
6 Konye Council forest, (not exsting
anymore) Konye rural Council (Meme) Poor Not anymore but
previously GTZ 2009/2011
7 Nguti Council forest, Reserved Nguti rural council
(Kupe-Muanengouba) Rich Yes, GIZ (DED) 2009/2011
8 Manyemen Community forest,
Operational REPA-CIG (Kupe-Muanengouba)Rich
Not anymore, but
previously CA-
9 Akwen Community forest Akwen CF (Manyu) Rich Yes, GIZ (DED) 2009/2011
10 Bakingili Community forest,
Bakingili CF management CIG
(Fako) Poor Yes, GIZ (DED) 2009/2011
11 MBACOF Community forest,
MBAAH community forest CIG
(Kupe-Muanengouba) nd No 2011
12 Woteva Village Community forest,
Woteva village development CIG
(WODCIG) (Fako) nd Yes, GIZ (DED) 2011
13 Bimbia-Bonadikombo Community forest,
Operational CF management CIG (Fako) Poor Not anymore but
previously MCP 2009/2011
Source: From Author (nd = no data).
benefits that encourages actor B to change behaviour through
motivation from actor A.
Due to incentives from international organisations and agen-
cies like the Bretton Woods institution, World bank, and KfW,
the GoC was encouraged or otherwise motivated to make
changes in its forest policy to suit the goal of these institutions
and the 1994 Forestry Law No. 94/01 of 20th January 1994 and
its decrees of application No. 95/531/PM of 23 August 1995
were some of the outcomes of this changed behaviour (Mbile et
al., 2009; Yufanyi Movuh & Krott, 2011; Bigombé, 2003;
Oyono, 2005a: p. 318). Also, the seven million EURO budget
made available to the GoC as development assistance for the
first phase (2006-2010) of the PSMNR-SWR was identified as
motivation or incentive enough to change the behaviour of its
ministries like MINFOF.
On the other hand, a very good field example is the case of
the Community of Ikondo Kondo in the Mundemba municipal-
ity. They were resettled from the Korup National Park and
promised a CF by the authorities that be. As years went by and
although they still had the interest of acquiring a CF which they
could manage by themselves, they were lured or otherwise
motivated to join the Mundemba CF instead. Here it should
also be mentioned that there is also a form of negative incen-
tives (disincentives) at play in this case. They accepted to
change their behaviour, in accordance with the offer of MIN-
FOF, GTZ and DED, else they would have lost everything that
would have given them future benefits. Their estimation was
that the price they will have to pay for their resistance may be
higher than their chance of obtaining a positive outcome, or
than the benefit they may gain (Sadan, 1997: p. 48). The Ikondo
Kondo case shows that although the chief of the community
(who works with MINFOF) was well informed about CF and
tried to follow up the process for almost ten years, facing a
strong incentive (disincentive) structure like MINFOF and the
GDC, the Community was driven towards the goals of the pre-
sent day GIZ.
Motivation in form of financial or non-financial incentives
(technical and material) or de-motivation in the form of loss, by
MINFOF or the GDC was observed in all the field studies per-
formed. 100 per cent of the cases displayed disincentives in
form of fear of losing the communal land (e.g. Ikondo Kondo,
Mosongiseli, Bakingili, Woteva, Akwen) to GoC, which would
then be used for other natural resource management (NRM)
purposes. Sometimes it might not be easy to distinguish be-
tween disincentive and threat, which we categorized under
The Power Element Coercion
In an actor centered perspective, coercion is the practice of
forcing actor B to behave in an involuntary manner which can
be done by threat of violence or violence from A.
In the case of CF in Cameroon, the pre-requisite of a forest
inventory and a management plan for the gazettment of CF
from MINFOF is a sort of control which can be linked to coer-
cion; other stakeholders have to follow them. Some coercive
power features for CF are that only MINFOF can decide which
CIG or VFMC has fulfilled all the conditions for the gazettment
of a particular CF. It also has the physical ability to keep other
stakeholders out of the CF management process by using ad-
ministrative and implementation limitations, such as signing of
legal documents, monopoly of control of the whole CF process,
with information and interpretation of legal issues. It also con-
trols the administrative procedures required in the process
(consultation meetings, forest inventory, boundary demarcation,
management plan, management conventions, annual cutting
area, quantity and quality of exploitation (in m3 and minimum
diameters, respectively), carrying out actions that other stake-
holders or actors cannot stop. There are other tenural character-
istics and territorial restrictions (the state is the owner of the
land) like e.g.: no CF can exceed 5000 ha and CF being just a
landlease (for 25 years) issue and bi-product of protected areas
and national parks policies, although with Council Forests, a
different procedure holds.
The coercive power is crowned with the fact that MINFOF
staff are also part of the armed forces in Cameroon. MINFOF
has its own armed officers and where possible, they could be
supported by the police, the para-military or the military offi-
cers (in patrols in the forest or on missions).
Empirically, there is a fine line when analysing disincentives
and the threat of force e.g.: the threat of losing your CF to an-
other community if there is no joint management with another
community to manage the CF which was previously yours is at
the same time an incentive (a disincentive) knowing that if a
community does not accept the offer, MINFOF will go ahead
and recognise only the other community as the legal custodian
for the CF (Ikondo Kondo and Akwen CFs).
Important to note is the fact that the state through MINFOF
has the overall control of definition and decision making in the
process of establishing and management of CFs, while interna-
tional organisations like GDC and the World Bank use incen-
tives on the one hand and pressure on the other hand, to influ-
ence forest policies of the GoC, especially with regard to CF in
the name of development. Quoting Mbile et al. (2009: p. 3), “by
the mid 1980s, the world economy was in decline, as was
Cameroon's and under pressure from the Bretton Woods insti-
tutions of the World Bank, the GoC introduced a Structural
Adjustment Program (SAP) in 1988 to reduce its debts and to
lay the ground for the recovery. From 1988 to 2005, the policy
landscape of Cameroon took on a new direction impacting in
important ways on forest livelihoods”. Mandondo (2003: p. 9)
pointed out that 1994 forest law was, to a significant extent,
imposed on the GoC as a condition for financial support under
structural reforms funded by the Bretton Woods institutions,
particularly the World Bank. Although there was some resis-
tance from some politicians, this was overridden by a compliant
so-called executive branch of the GoC.
Power and Development
Forest policy throughout Africa originates from European
scientific forestry traditions exported during the colonial period
(Larson & Ribot, 2007; Yufanyi Movuh & Krott, 2011). The
natural resource policy in Cameroon is as old as Cameroon
itself, but before the arrival of the first colonial administrators
in the late 19th century, natural resources were managed ac-
cording to the people’s law or customary law; the village chiefs
were the main administrators of resource management (Men-
gang Mewondo, 1998; Bigombé, 2003). In the past decades,
Cameroon’s rainforests and its conservation for global posterity
has attracted much concern among northern “Green” NGOs like
WWF, WCS, the international scientific community, the World
Bank and bilateral aid agencies like SNV, DFID, GIZ or GDC
(just to name a few), and other institutions with an interest in
biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. These
Organisations and institutions have inherited a rich heritage of
colonial expertise and policies which they continue to imple-
ment till date. This could be confirmed also by the researcher.
Apparently, numerous efforts at rain-forest conservation in
Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa, by western development
aid agencies and NGOs alike are being made so as to link them
with benefits to the rural poor, the custodians of the majority of
these forest areas. Today’s, protected areas are being created
with the rationale of conservation or premise of mitigating un-
sustainable management of forest resources or unsustainable
farm practices. The question here is if this is what will lead to
sustainability and reduction in poverty. Moreover, the 1994
Forestry law is being implemented in a way which is not bene-
fiting the local communities. The current forestry policies and
the ways they are selectively implemented continue to repro-
duce the double standards and conditions that disadvantage,
create and maintain the rural poor (Larson & Ribot, 2007: p.
190). Can a law to foster sustainable forest management, devo-
lution of forest resource management to local communities and
conservation, externally defined and executed in project modes,
be linked to communal approaches? Poverty alleviation, liveli-
hood enhancement and economic development; all issues at-
tracting contemporary donor funding were components or ob-
jectives of the present CF model accrued in the law and at the
same time linked to conservation objectives21. One might argue
21The concept of post-development theories can also be used to analyse the
intention behind such policies.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
that communities draw economic benefit from the CF, but the
state retains de jure ultimate control over the forests and the
land on which they grow (Egbe, 1998). For us, the question is
also, who are those who benefit economically. Is it the state, the
international organisations, the external and internal elites or
the rural forest user? Is it the chief and his henchmen who are
compliant to the state or the local individual who lives from
that forest? The answer through this study is definitely, not
positive for the local forest user.
Today’s forest policy in Cameroon is still shaped by colonial
tradition and dominated by a scientific-cum-bureaucratic para-
digm which is deterministic, reductionist, authoritarian and
coercive (Murphree, 2004) and bears blueprint of decades of
declared colonial heritage, upholding to the underlying concept
or principle of colonial land tenure. There are still unresolved
land tenure contestations in Cameroon and tenure issues have
increasingly stifled the present CF model in achieving its objec-
tives. Although the Cameroon Land Ordinance No. 74-1 of July
6, 1974 maintains that the State is the guardian of all lands,
traditional authorities continue to exercise de facto rights over
land. The resurgence of unresolved historical claims over
boundaries and land including the natural resources which are
embedded in them has been a stumbling block for CF (e.g.: Itali
-CPFAM, Akwen, Ikondo Kondo). The uncertain and colo-
nial-like land tenure situation makes the local stakeholders
unable to fully embrace participatory forestry. Also, the colo-
nial logic of resource accumulation, including building finan-
cial capital on forest exploitation (Oyono, 2005b: p. 124), has
been replicated, with some modifications by the Cameroonian
post-colonial state and propagated by the development aid
agencies. This could also be confirmed in all the case studies.
The main message here is that the GoC, with financial and
technical support from their development cooperation stake-
holders like GIZ and KfW, is using their decentralization
propaganda to re-centralize power in the forestry sector; i.e.,
recentralization through decentralization (Ferguson, 1994: 180;
Rossi, 2004: p. 3; Devkota, 2010: p. 78). Because the power
exerted by the western hegemonies is less visible, it is stronger.
The aim at this stage is not to totally reject CF but the present
model has failed to produce benefits that can be equated to
development after eighteen years. Hence, this model should be
reconsidered by policy makers, to suit the needs and demands
of the communities concerned. All the areas visited in the re-
search displayed rich natural forests but the adjacent communi-
ties tend to have high poverty rates. These communities are
dependent on their forest resources for a portion of their liveli-
hood and none could boost of poverty alleviation through CF or
even after acquiring a CF. Instead, they have fallen under the
control of the state and its development partners. This study, is
to empower these important but marginalised communities, and
to improve policies and institutions (Mayers, 2005) in the for-
estry sector.
From our concept of the ACP, this study has proven that in
Cameroon, the state and its international agents use the three
elements of power described above to influence and defend
their interests in CF. In the study, it was found that at a given
situation, all three elements could overlap each other while
distinctive processes could be used to analyse each power
source separately. Furthermore, testing the post-development
theory, it could also be proven that CF, as a development in-
strument to alleviate poverty and improve livelihood while
sustainably managing the forest has actually not brought sig-
nificant or meaningful development to the targeted sector of the
Millions of Euro or billions of FCFA from international do-
nors (with strings attached to them) have been used to steer the
popularity and subsequent tradeoffs for programs promoting
community participation, especially in CF. Through documents
like forest inventories, management plans and conventions
between the State and the communities, they keep the commu-
nities abbey, exercising far more authority than even before the
implementation of the Forestry Law of 1994. With the present
CF model, the influence and power of MINFOF and their in-
ternational collaborators go up, while the power of the commu-
nities to control their forest activities is reduced. Thus, the dif-
ferent village committees (CIGs or VFMCs), lacking effective
power and sometimes totally cut off from local communities
they represent, have become captive to motivations other than
the good of the community or the individual forest user.
This research was partly funded by the German Research
Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft/DFG) and Georg-
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