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Youth - the next frontier in forest management

Youths display their gnetum harvest in central Cameroon. A recent study of community forest management committees in Cameroon found only one person under 30 years of age among their members. Ollivier Girard/CIFOR photoBOGOR, Indonesia — Despite sustained interest in agriculture- and forest-based livelihoods among young people in tropical regions, their voice has yet to be heard in land management structures, scientists and youth representatives say.

“The development agenda of African countries is to put youth at the center, including in agriculture,” said Denis Sonwa, a senior scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

Yet a recent study of community forest management committees in six villages of southeastern Cameroon found only one person under 30 years of age among their members.

This contrasts sharply with opinions expressed by the local youth surveyed in the study, who all said they engaged in agriculture and forest activities such as the collection of firewood or non-timber products for food or income. “Close to 90 percent of … male and female respondents believed that youth should be included in decision-making positions in the communities,” noted a paper based on the research and published in FAO West Africa’s Nature & Faune journal.

The findings are striking, because an objective of Cameroon’s 1994 legislation establishing community forests was intended precisely to offer young people forest-based livelihoods. “An important aspect of the forest law in Cameroon was to alleviate poverty and stymie rural migration,” said Carolyn Peach Brown, director of environmental studies at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada and co-author of the study.

Click here to read the full original article written by Thomas Hubert on CIFOR's website.