Wetenschap - 14 maart 1996

Forest management marriage contracts

Forest management marriage contracts

In order for a marriage to work, both parties must have something to offer," argues Augustin Chi, a government official from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Cameroon. Chi is studying for his PhD at the Maastricht school of management. His research focuses on the compatibility of government policy with indigenous culture in forest management.

On March 5th he presented his research outline at a well attended colloquium at the Department of Forestry in Wageningen. Chi, a lawyer by training, stresses that the rate of deforestation increases largely because the government does not take indigenous forest management systems into consideration. He advocates that the government and local communities should enter into formalized contracts to achieve sustainable forest management. According to Chi, these contracts have to be based, like a marriage, on equal terms.

In order to assess compatibility Chi explains that he will begin by mapping what indigenous systems have to offer in the field of forest management. He hopes to look into local systems of regeneration and forest maintenance and equitable distribution of forest products, using an actor oriented approach.

One of the criticisms raised in the discussion that followed his presentation was that indigenous cultures are not homogeneous. One suggested that since the ministry will have to marry all the different sub-groups at a local level, the government will be entering into polygamous relationships.

Chi commented later, his main reason for coming to Wageningen was to get reactions on the forestry aspect of his research rather than the sociological side.

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