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Assessing the effectiveness of reciprocal environmental agreements for sustainable wildlife management and poverty alleviation in the northern sector of the Dja Landscape, Cameroon
The world natural capital is being depleted at an unprecedented rate, thus calling for effective strategies to be put in place for the sustainable management of natural resources. In a context of increasing demand for limited resources, developing suitable approaches to sustainable natural resource management can be challenging, yet result in economic opportunities, ecological integrity, and human wellbeing. If this challenge is to be met, the necessity for paradigm shifts that promote sustainability cannot be overstated. A common livelihood paradigm in the northern periphery of the Dja Reserve (Cameroon) and other rural areas within the Congo basin forests is hunting by men and bushmeat trading by women. Although this model of management and use of natural resource can provide income-generating opportunities and protein sources to the rural poor, it is often plagued with overexploitation and illegal hunting, which incur unsustainable harvest rates and erode ecological integrity and food security. As positive returns generated by hunting and bushmeat trading in increasingly depleted landscapes decrease over time, rural living people are more likely to consider alternative paradigms. Within the framework of a Darwin-funded initiative, reciprocal Environmental Agreements (REAs) between local communities of the northern buffer zone of the Dja Reserve, the Conservation Service of the Dja Reserve (Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife), and conservation NGOs have recently emerged as a potential alternative to hunting and bushmeat trading. Through these REAs, a number of economic incentives are being provided to rural poor populations. Empirical studies of the impacts of such REAs are long overdue and considered essential for guiding efforts towards sustainability. Hence this PhD project aims at analysing how REAs contribute to ecological integrity, household income and food security, and cultural change in poor rural communities of the northern buffer zone of the Dja Reserve. In addition, these REAs will be compared to other incentive programmes aiming at preserving wildlife and improving livelihoods in rural-living communities. This project will use the abundance and functional diversity of forest wildlife (large vertebrates) as key indicators of ecological integrity. The project will also examine whether the target population is able to generate better income and access more protein by adopting new activities; this evaluation will therefore help to assess shifts in livelihood paradigms. Finally, the project will evaluate the extent to which a traditionally hunter-gatherer society can shift to systematic skilled-based production activities as main source of income and protein, thus allowing for the test of cultural change.
Date:1 Jan 2019 → Today