The APFT Briefing notes, relevant information about the situation of the rainforest peoples

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1 Rainforests: What's the future?
2 Trinational Sangha River Conference-Yale University, 25-29 sept. 1997
3 Institutional Links to Harmonize Development and Conservation Strategies in the Congo Basin
4 Fire, forest, people and the southeast Asian smog
5 The New Millennium, the European Monetary Union and the Pope
6 Drought in PNG
7 Health and sexually transmitted diseases in forest environment - southern Cameroon

8 Bushmeat and street food in Yaoundé, Cameroon
9 Cocoa and the antelope: or why chocolate should not be mafe with vegetable oil... (case of Cameroon)
10 Can rattan help save wildlife?

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1. Rainforests: What’s the future ?

The special General Assembly of the United Nations, which met at the end of June, was forced to address bitter revelations. Five years after the first Earth Summit, the hope created by the incredible mobilisation has faded. Certainly awareness of the ecological danger has greatly spread, but this has not brought about much action. The grand idea of durable development may well be forgotten, just one more beautiful utopia.

The lure of wages for the poor and the egotism of short term interests combine in the north as well as the south to render the application of a global strategy to this threat more illusory than ever. Everyone agrees on the diagnostic, more or less, however the differences between the American and European solutions to the problem illustrate the difficulties - difficulties which do not bode well for the future. While the Europeans argue a volontarist position, the Americans have not yet wanted to ratify restrictive measures.
The assessment of the results of « Rio+5 » is disturbing. Regarding progress on desertifi-cation, threats to ecosystems and global warming, all indicators remain alarming. The only glimmer of hope, it seems, is a slight improvement concerning tropical rainforests. However this may be a false hope. If the rate of destruction has slowed, this is certainly linked to the fact that most easily exploitable rainforests have already disappeared. Between 1960 and 1990, 1/5 of the world’s rainforests were destroyed. In Central America as well as in West Africa they have been virtually eliminated. What remains is seriously threatened. Paradoxically the Amazonian rainforest, which represents the rainforest « par excellence », and which pays the heaviest price in absolute terms to deforestation, is proportionally less threatened than the forests of Central Africa or the Asian/Oceanian tropics. It is difficult to provide exact figures, but based on current estimates, from concessions already granted to forestry companies, the total disappearance of tropical rainforests seems inescapable. At the Belgian or European level what can we do to save the irreplaceable heritage ? Without renouncing global action, which is indispensable, it seems possible to focus part of our means and efforts on a few limited objectives.

What should we do and where ?

Let us look at the two regions of the world in the most immediate danger.

In Asia/Oceania tropical rainforests are still found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. According to a recently published study by the World Resources Institute, the situation seems less critical than that of Africa. There, the remaining rainforests are concentrated in the Congo Basin. The situation is particularly worrying for three reasons :

There is little time left to act. Nevertheless we have a few assets

European cooperation, in all its forms, is by far the most important in a region in which we have considerable knowledge. Thanks to European Commission programs such as the Ecosystèmes Forestiers de l’Afrique Centrale (ECOFAC), the Avenir des Peuples des Forêts Tropicales (APFT), we have developed a unique expertise in coordinating with local researchers and managers. Their high quality and motivation demonstrate that they increasingly share our concerns.
Herein lies an opportunity to seize, but what strategy must be developed to save what can still be saved ?
In fact there are many initiatives, unfortunately they are often dispersed or even competitive with one another. The European Commission should take the lead and coordinate the activities of the different participating organisations. The European Commission’s establishment of an informal conference involving everyone active in the Congo Basin last April is an excellent start.
As for forestry exploitation, we must help the countries concerned to enforce existing rules and encourage exploitation that respects the environment as much as possible. This includes the development of a certification or award of an eco-label of quality for all rainforest products sold in our markets.
We must continue to study the ecosystems, the complexity of which only becomes apparent progressively over time. Furthermore we must not accept the myth of the virgin forest, a product of the idealisation of nature by Western city dwellers. These forests have been inhabited for thousands of years and their exploitation through ancestral habits has contributed to the biodiversity. It is therefore essential that we include these peoples in our conservation effort.

This is not easy but it is the only guarantee for long term success. From the cities to the villages, these people must change from spectators to actors, and hence our partners in the move towards durable development.

Finally we must be more than other regions, we must think big. The distances covered by large fauna are considerable, so we must protect areas much larger than those of current reserves and parks. To this end we can either link several existing protected areas by controlled « corridors », an option currently proposed within Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and the Central African Republic, or preserve one very large uninterrupted zone.

This immediately brings to mind the National Park of Salonga, at the centre of the Congo Basin. Demarcated several years ago, at present it exists only on paper. Immense, enclosed and situated in an area of low population, it offers an exceptional opportunity to preserve, in one or two large blocks, an area of 36 000 km2, significantly greater than the surface area of Belgium. The ECOFAC program had planned to integrate this in its activities, however the political situation in Zaïre has interrupted all activity in this country. With the subsequent changes, there is now a chance for Europe and the government of President Kabila to make a major gesture for future generations.

Let us hope that our own country, which as we know played an important part in the creation of the Congo National Parks, will have, with the help of the European Community, the will to support an initiative on this issue.

by P. de Maret


Article published in La Libre Belgique, in the Summer University column, 11/08/1997
Pierre de Maret is professor of Anthropology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and Director of the APFT programme.

2. Trinational Sangha River Conference
Yale University, 25-29 sept. 1997

The objective of this meeting was to promote better communication between three conservation projects:

It also aimed at bringing together researchers (in social sciences -prehistory, history, anthropology- and in natural sciences -ecology...), persons in charge of protected areas, developers and national representatives of concerned ministeries.

Five APFT representatives participated in this conference:

During the second session, « Knowledge and policy interactions in Conservation », Daou V. Joiris presented a paper on ‘the anthropological constraints within the framework of conservation projects of Central Africa. Serge Bahuchet and Edmond Dounias were discussants. The paper examined the main socio-cultural criteria that conservation programmes in tropical rainforests should take into account. These criteria are specific to forest economies in Central Africa. We need to tackle in details the issue of customary lands. We must also contemplate the socio-economic changes brought about by management in protected areas. The presentation was illustrated by case studies from ECOFAC. The third session in which M. Thuret participated dealt with conservation approaches in the Sangha region.

Various points were made in the discussion

Several futures collaborations are viewed

by Daou V. Joiris


Daou V. Joiris is anthropologist and co-ordinator of APFT consultancies
Daou V. Joiris: «The anthropological constraints within the framework of conservation projects of Central Africa», Trinational Sangha River Conference, Yale University, 25-29 September 1997. To be published in the Conference acts.
Civilisations, Vol. XLIV, N° 1-2, « Les Peuples des Forêts Tropicales : Systèmes traditionnels et développement rural », January 1997.


3. Institutional Links to Harmonize Development and Conservation Strategies in the Congo Basin

In the context of donor attempts to coordinate their development and conservation strategies in the Congo Basin as first discussed in Brussels last 23-24 April, efforts are also being made on the policy implementation level. Two series of meetings took place in Washington, D. C., one with CARPE and the other with World Bank officers involved in various Central African projects.

Central African Regional Program for the Environment

Along with Roger Fotso of ECOFAC Cameroon and Assitou Ndinga of UICN Congo, T. Trefon went to Washington to participate in the first CARPE Advisory Board meeting. The meeting provided the opportunity for these Advisors to have a formal presentation of the USAID-supported initiative which « aims to identify and begin to establish the conditions and practices required to reduce deforestation and biodiversity loss in the Congo Basin » and to meet with Team Leaders. CARPE activities (or Intermediate Results in USAID jargon) focus on: Infrastructure, Non-Timber Forest Products, Wildlife Use, Protected Areas, Gaps in the Protected Area Network, Community Conservation, Forestry, and Agriculture.While CARPE is more involved in natural science and public policy issues, there is nonetheless a recognized need to understand social science factors in far greater detail. As APFT and CARPE have similar strategic objectives and both operate in Central Africa, collaborative link-ups are taking form. These include sharing of information, sha- ring of preliminary research findings, exchange of documentation, facilitating contacts with African experts. CARPE has also funded a ULB/APFT project which combines socio-economic analysis and remote sensing in urban areas. Exchanging services/resources between the APFT Yaoundé Base and the CARPE Regional Office in Libreville is being planned.

World Bank Meeting with Vicente Ferrer

Independent of the CARPE hosted meeting, but taking advantage of the trip to Washington, contacts were established at the World Bank. Mr. Vicente Ferrer is principal economist for agriculture in Africa at the Bank. His department is involved in forestry and environmental policy in countries of the Congo Basin. He is interested in collaborating with APFT because his work on detailed forestry operational issues has led to concerns about the effects of commercial forestry on forest communities.

As the Bank is currently involved in the elaboration and application of fiscal policy in Cameroon which will redistribute « to the local level » revenues earned by the state from logging concessions, it can use input from APFT on, for example

identifying which local communities should benefit from this redistribution;

identifying intermediaries on the local level;

for what types of projects should funds be spent;

what types of subsistence and commercial alternatives can be made available to those communities who find themselves deprived of land (lost to logging concessions).

World Bank Meeting with REIMP

Two separate meetings took place with project manager, François Rantrua, Philippe Gerbe, of the environment department, Maurizia Tovo, sociologist and Antoine Lema, social scientist.

The Regional Environmental Information Management Project is funded principally by the EU/DGVIII and the GEF. It is a World Bank initiative which provides planning and management of natural resources in the Congo Basin by addressing the four following problems:

Two areas where APFT and REIMP could collaborate are:

These meetings reveal the growing consensus amongst donors that development and conservation projects need to give greater priority to social science factors in order to be effective. They also presented APFT opportunities to apply its expertise for practical action/policy outcomes by reducing the gap between general coordination activities and local level needs.

CARPE’s members

US Based Partners:

- Biodiversity Support Program
- NASA/University of Maryland
- Peace Corps
- U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service (USDA)
- Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
- World Learning, PVO-NGO/NRMS
- World Resources Institute
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

African Partners:

- NGOs
- Universities
- Private Sector Consultants
- Governments Agencies

This five year/$14 million program:

- gathers and disseminates baseline information on the status of the forest in the Congo Basin;
- identifies and prioritizes the threats to the future of the forest in the region, and opportunities for sustainable forest management;
- develops systems for monitoring forest resources and biodiversity;
- facilitates the meaningful involvement of African partners, strengthens the capacity of African decision makers to rationally manage forest resources and maintain the long-term ecological and economic productivity of the region.

The CARPE URL is The site can also be opened through APFT Links (under construction). 

by Theodore Trefon
Forest-City relations coordinator for APFT

4. Fire, forest, people and the southeast Asian smog

Fire is part of the normal ecology and human ecology of tropical rain forests throughout the world, and has probably been so for many thousands of years. For example, residues of charcoal have been found in cores sunk in parts of Sumatra which have been interpreted as the result of both spontaneous and deliberate burning. Spontaneous ignition of forest provides opportunities for the light to penetrate to the forest floor and allows new trees to grow, it increases the possibilities for new species to establish themselves and maintains the distinctive patchiness of forest structure.

This 'patchiness' is now widely acknowledged to contribute to the effective reproduction of forest and to maintain its characteristic high biodiversity by providing a wide range of different habitats at different stages of regrowth. At the same time, we know that fire has been used as a tool for clearing agricultural plots by traditional shifting or swidden cultivators for millennia, part of a strategy for successfully farming forest on a sustainable basis which has in turn contributed further to maintaining the distinctive form of southeast Asian rain forest. The genetically rich lowland forests of large parts of Sumatra, Borneo and Irian Jaya which environmentalists and governments seek to protect as 'natural' habitat, are in large part the result of human interference which involves conscious strategies of burning.

For much of the colonial period, traditional shifting cultivators were reviled as destroyers rather than managers and makers of forest, an image which has persisted among post-colonial policy makers, aided and abetted, it must be said, by many 'expert' forestry and conservation advisors. We now know that this is not true. How ironic then that the fires which now sweep through parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan are less a consequence of the ignorance of traditional farmers whose fires have 'got out of control' (a common explanation put forward by the government of Indonesia), but a cumulative result of policies which have encouraged widespread and intensive transformations of forest to make them more productive, which have simplified their ecological organisation and decreased their diversity and, therefore, increased the risk of widespread fire damage without ensuring that the controls are in place to prevent accidents.

The main cause of the fires now appears to be a consequence of extensive land clearing as part of the government plans for transmigration, indiscriminate and unregulated logging and modification of forest for plantation trees.

For many decades, following a pattern established by the Dutch, the Indonesian government has used transmigration as an instrument to alleviate demographic pressure in the Javanese heartland, open-up areas for economic development and as a political tool to integrate an ethnically diverse population. Many transmigrants in pioneer zones find it impossible to cope on the land they are provided with and quickly move out of resettlement zones, cutting forest - by legal or illegal means - to establish dry land agriculture. They employ slash and burn techniques without the precautions and knowledge possessed by local people.

Lumbering in Indonesia has grown rapidly since independence, a combination of small-scale local logging concessions, larger companies and multi-national joint ventures. Modern logging techniques, even when not involving clear-felling leave an enormous amount of trash behind, which when dry can easily catch fire, spontaneously or accidentally. Areas cleared through logging, pioneer slash and burn, or specifically for the purpose, are planted with plantation crops. These vary from place to place, but increasingly include timber trees for wood pulp, rubber and - in the areas where the fires are currently at their worst - oil palm. Here again, it is the uncleared dry waste left by the firms involved which seems to pose the greatest risk.

Much has been attributed in recent press reports to the so-called global El Niño periodic oscillations which, put simply, result in longer dry seasons and spells of below average annual rainfall in parts of the tropical belt. All of the ingredients mentioned above certainly increase the likelihood that El Niño aberrations will provide the final trigger in maximising damage over wide areas. But El Niño cycles have been operating for centuries without trig gering the kind of unprecedented regional calamity with its pathogenic smoke and smog effects whichhave been witnessed this year. Out of control fires are historically commonplace, but in recent years have become more frequent, even in non El Niño years.

It has been common since the late seventies for fires in Kalimantan to occlude the sun and to pose hazards for residents in, for example, Brunei and east Malaysia. In some places surface coal seams and peat have ignited and continue to burn for years rather than months. However, the rains have usually come in time to solve the immediate problem which the government appears incapable of handling in any other way. Many traditional farmers throughout the tropics are aware of what we call El Niño effects, and have managed them satisfactorily in the past, in some cases even making contingency plans.

Institutions appear to be corporately more ignorant, and less well-placed to respond. Why this should be so is crucial to understand if the problem is to be addressed, let alone solved. It is not, it would appear, for lack of information. The Indonesian Department of the environment, for example, is able to match satellite imagery to databases which indicate precisely the ownership of plantations where the worst fires have started. These have been on estates belonging to hardly more than 146 companies. Some of these companies are owned by members of the Indonesian political elite, some have Malaysian and Singaporean backing and some involve Western capital.Reaction among the peoples and governments of the region has been mixed. The governments of the ASEAN grouping feel a strong sense of solidarity and are extremely reluctant to criticise each other. For that reason Indonesia has had a relatively easy ride despite the very severe consequences of pollution in Malaysia and Singapore. President Suharto has apologised to his ASEAN neighbours on two separate occasions and this seems to have satisfied them, at least for the time being.

At a popular level, however, criticism of the Indonesian government has not been so restrained. Not only does the man in the street feel exceedingly irritated by what is generally regarded as the failure of the Indonesian government to take adequate steps to prevent the disaster, but businesses too are beginning to suffer, and the publication of satellite photographs in the Singapore press along with the quotation of several critical comments suggest that there may be demands for compensation.

In Indonesia popular criticism has been muted because of an uncertainty of whom to blame. Areas of the archipelago which have been relatively unaffected, and this includes the capital Jakarta, have been kept woefully uninformed about the extent of what is happening. When they do learn, for example as result of having to travel to Malaysia, they remark that they "are ashamed to be Indonesian". In areas which have been severely affected such as the province of Jambi, the response has been mixed.

There has been a general recognition that the rains have been late this year but the general perception seems to be that those responsible for the fires deserve all the blame, since in the process of clearing it has been accepted for some time that the control of fires should not be dependent on rains. Small farmers have been told for years that forest conservation measures require building fire-breaks and ensuring fires do not get out of control. In these traditional farming areas, then, the blame is being squarely laid at the feet of those involved in clearing land for new plantations, particularly for oil palm which is being promoted for all its worth in Indonesia in competition with Malaysia.

This over-rapid expansion without due care for essential procedures is perceived as the consequence of business tycoons from Jakarta simply being allowed to devastate the forest land, often aided and abetted by a get-rich quick itinerant work-force assisted by those corrupt enough among the local law enforcement officers to accept bribes. Not only do the latter frequently turn a blind eye to forest destruction, they even at times participate in illegal felling.

Thus divisions are being created among the indigenous inhabitants themselves: between traditional farmers carrying out centuries-old clearing techniques and those who have abandoned traditional farming and see the opportunity for making quick money in working for contractors engaged illegal felling; between those who feel they have a genuine claim through traditional usufruct to forest land and those who are newcomers; and among the representatives of various local government offices often working in competition rather than cooperatively in coordination.

Two things are striking about the present catastrophe, other that its evidently devastating scale and the complexity of the technical factors involved. The first is clear from the preceding two paragraphs; that is the way it is simultaneously global, regional and local. The second concerns the perceptions and representations of different actors in the drama. Despite evidence to the contrary, what is widely portrayed - and especially in the press releases of government spokespersons - as a 'natural' disaster, in fact has its roots in the activities of human beings, and the policies of governments and companies over the long term.

There is nothing new in describing as `natural' causes which are to a considerable extent social or cultural. We all do this, quite innocently, much of the time. The rain forest, as we have already said, is only 'natural' in this sense. However, it would be a gross calumny if the blame for these fires and polluting smog were to be either dismissed as a freak natural catastrophe in the face of which governments and commerce are impotent, or if it were to backfire on local farmers who routinely use fire as a tool for modifying the forest and who over many thousands of years have thereby ensured its species richness and economic productivity.

by Roy Ellen
and Bill Watson

5. The New Millennium, the European
Monetary Union and the Pope

Cargo cults, a kind of religious millenarian movement, have been present in Papua New Guinea since first contact with Europeans. There is now a substantial published literature on the subject.

Cargo cults flourish in times of crisis. They include elements of protest, of adaptation to, and of self-assertion in, a rapidly changing world. They can be seen as desperate attempts to make odd ends meet: that is to explain by traditional means the changes imposed from the outside, to incorporate those changes into the existing cultural matrix and to participate in the benefits of western economy. They form an underlying ideological stratum shared by rural societies in Papua New Guinea, while the niche previously occupied by colonial rulers is now occupied by native and urban expatriate elites. Since Papua New Guinea is not a country of well-educated townsmen, but of semi-literate villagers, with limited access to the transnational and international flow of ideas and thoughts, it just takes an appropriate trigger to release millenarian activity.

There are indications from many parts of Papua New Guinea, that the cargo and millenarian ideas are being refuelled by the approaching millennium. This event is considered special, not only by the Catholic Church which has declared the year 2000 to be a Jubilee year, but also by non-clerical expatriates and members of the urban elites.

Moreover, the presence of logging and mining operations in many parts of the coun-try provides the rural population with ample justification for feelings of crisis, resentment and change.

The situation is aggravated by dissemination of misinformation. For example, the European Monetary Union is predicted to encompass the whole world, rendering the local currency, the Kina, obsolete and allowing the Pope (a European) to take over the one-world government. Such events are interpreted as fulfilling old testament prophecies. American radical preachers are especially active in linking Europe to the rule of the Antichrist which will precede the second coming of Christ (and the end of the world). Their publications are available in the many religious bookshops in PNG and their ideas are subsequently carried to the rural areas by visitors from the towns. An example: Morris Cerullo (666 by 1999? Beware the Exploding Global Economy! , San Diego 1991) sees the EEC as "the world's largest and richest economy" (p.11), and claims that a single EEC currency, "is prophetically significant because in Revelations, Chapter 13. we are told that there will be a resurgence of the ancient Roman Empire, which existed at the time of Christ's First Coming. This new Roman Empire will be in existence at Christ's Second Coming. The new United States of Europe will be like that ancient Roman Empire." (p.12). And further, "Chancellor Kohl has stated: 'We Germans want to expand the EEC into a European Union. Our core objective is, and will continue to be, Europe's political unification.' The ultimate result of this objective will be the establishment of a unified Europe which will lead the world under the rule of the Antichrist to its greatest glory, and ultimately, to its greatest catastrophe."(pp.13-14). He concludes: "Part-tner, mark my words: The European Community (EEC) is destined by God's endtime plan to emerge as the leading world power of the 21st Century." (p.15).

Such rhetoric contributes to syncretistic local expectations for the turn of the millennium, and these expectations do, of course, influence decisions made concerning logging or mining. That is, those operations which bring large-scale changes to rural environments may be seen by villagers as cataclysmic necessities (Catholics) preceding the one-world government by the Pope, of which they will benefit; or as being of no concern at all as there is no future beyond 2000 (radical denominations). Thus, rural expectations for the turn of the millennium may have serious consequences for the state of the country and its resources after the year 2000. Indeed, the range of efforts made to stop the depletion of Papua New Guinea's natural resources, such as the promotion of small-scale business, cash-cropping, portable sawmills or landowner awareness programmes, may in some areas be wrongly focused. For instance in rural East Sepik Province "Assembly of God church members have been quite literally banking on Christ's return in 2000 and the subsequent destruction of the world by fire. People reason that cutting the forest was a good way to generate income for the duration since it would all be destroyed anyway. There is also a very fatalistic view of the environment and general economic security - both are believed to be 'up to God's will' and quite beyond human control." (Jolene Stritecky, personal communication). Malaysian logging firms have already taken advantage of such attitudes and are using the notion of the imminent end of the world to obtain landowner consent for their operations (e.g., with Kasua people of Southern Highland Province, Florence Brunois, personal communication). At Enga, many people see no sense in planting perennial crops such as coffee or pandans, crops which take several years to bear fruit, and which are usually planted by fathers for their sons' future use (Charles Yala, personal communication).

These few examples are not exceptional; millenarian ideas seem to be widespread throughout the country. A preliminary survey carried out in April this year at the University of Papua New Guinea, showed that 46 of 55 students questioned reported similar millenarian beliefs to be present in their home villages.

In brief:

In Papua New Guinea, the millenarian movements stimulate short-term logging, without considering a sustainable management of ressources since, in people’s mind, the world will be destroyed anyway.

by Christin Kocher-Schmid


Burridge, K. (1960) Mambu. A Melanesian Millennium. London: Methuen & Co.
Lawrence, P. (1964) Road Belong Cargo. A Study of the Cargo Movement in the Southern Madang District, New Guinea. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
Wanek, A. (1996) The State and its Enemies in Papua New Guinea. (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Monograph Series 68) Richmond (Surrey) Curzon Press.
Worsley, P. (1957) The Trumpet Shall Sound. A Study of 'Cargo Cults' in Melanesia. London: Paladin.


6. Drought in PNG

Linked to the El Niño phenomenon, the current weather pattern that has caused extensive and abnor-mal drought conditions throughout Southeast Asia and Australia is particularly affecting the island of New Guinea. The nation Papua New Guinea, occupying the eastern half of this island, is being especially hard hit.

Most of its people live in rural areas and rely on subsistence economy. Normally Papua New Guinea is a rather wet and cloudy country and so subsistence agriculture is geared to these climatic conditions. Staple crops can tolerate some dry conditions but cannot survive prolonged dry spells. This situation has been made worse by frosts earlier this year which, in the higher altitudes, destroyed the sweet potato crop. At present more than 650,000 people (of a total population of 3.9 million) are being fed by government and foreign aid organisations. And, while rains are due soon this number will increase because no new gardens could be planted during the drought.

Meteorologists predict that this dry wea- ther will continue. This means that people living in lowland areas will also be affected. There they rely on the sago palm but this requires much water to extract the starch from its pulp.

The situation is being aggravated by several drought-related factors

According to recent government reports (The National 14.11.97), 6.4 Million Kina (about £2.56 million ) is required every month to feed the population in the worst affected areas. Australia presently contributes about Aus$ 4 million per month in direct relief, however, supply flights by the Australian Defence Force are being hampered by the smog. If it is to foot the bill, the government will have to impose a freeze on new projects and slash the size of the public service next year.

Moreover, if the dry weather conditions continue into 1998, the government is expected to lose more than 164 million Kina (£65.6 million) in revenue from the agricultural sector. In short, Papua New Guinea faces its most serious natural crisis in recent history.

In brief

Drought in Papua New Guinea has the following consequences:

by Christin Kocher-Schmid

7. Health and sexually transmitted diseases
in forest environment - southern Cameroon

AIDS is thought of as having a low prevalence in Africa’s rural forest areas, especially compared with the situation in Eastern Africa. In order to better assess this problem, the APFT programme has developed, within the frame of studies in human biology, specific research on the profile of the pandemic in Central Africa.

Serologic surveys carried out in Cameroon (A. Froment) report a seropositivity rate below 1%. However this situation is likely to evolve quite fast, in two particular contexts :

In the Ntem valley (Southern Came-roon), an APFT team (D.Bley, N.Vernazza-Licht, H. Pagezy) has initiated, in collaboration with IFORD, a study on the villagers’ mobility to urban areas, and intends to carry out a specific study on the HIV epidemiology in the proximity of several industrial firms. Furthermore, IFORD has undertaken a large survey on the city of Yaoundé, the outline of which is presented in the text which follows.

Health and STD in Yaoundé (Cameroon) : a project methodology.

[Myriam de Loenzien, Evina Akam (IFORD)]

The "Institut de Formation et de recherche Démographique" (IFORD, Université de Yaoundé) has co-ordinated, from the 15 July to 23 September, research on «Health and STD in African cities: case study of Yaoundé». This study was carried out in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Yaoundé I University and the "Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire" of Yaoundé. It comes within the scope of a «multi-centric study of the factors which determine the differences in the HIV prevailing rate in the cities of Sub-Saharan Africa » in two countries with a poor HIV prevailing rate (Benin and Cameroon) and in two countries with a strong HIV prevailing rate (Zambia and Kenya). The whole project is co-ordinated by the "Institut de Médecine Tropicale" of Antwerp. This study aims at explaining the maintenance of the sero-prevalence differences between the four chosen cities. At the local level, such research will allow to increase the knowledge of the factors determining the HIV infection spreading amongst populations where heterosexual intercourse is the predominant transmission mode. Therefore, the interventions will be better circumscribed in order to reduce the number of HIV infections (ANRS project, 1996).

In Yaoundé as well as in other cities, two studies have been carried out, the first one with 340 prostitutes, the other with a representative sample of the city general population, made up of 2040 people from 15 to 49 years old, that is 947 men and 1103 women, divided up between 740 households. The collection of information included a socio-demographic questionnaire and medical exams consisting in taking a blood sample, a urine sample and also, for women, in having a smear.

In addition to the main socio-demographic characteristics, the gathered information allow to identify the sexual intercourse frequence, the partner characteristics, the possible use of prevention methods such as the use of condoms. The medical facet provides information on the sexually transmitted disease previous history, which brings to light the factors precipitating the HIV infection transmission. The serologies of the people interviewed in regards with syphilis and HIV are also known, as well as the presence of germs such as trichomonases as far as women are concerned. More specific information will allow to measure the important role played by a sub-type of particular HIV, by some practices like circumcision, dry sex or sexual intercourse during menstruation. The collected information will thus allow to test hypotheses specific to each of these approaches, and to compare and interweave the factors emanating from different fields.

Preliminary results have been presented at the Conférence Internationale sur le Sida in Africa which was held in Abidjan in December 1997. They show a HIV seropositivity rate close to 6% among the general population, which is close to the rates measured during the pre-survey (almost 7%), in December 1997. Among the prostitutes interviewed, 30% were HIV positive. This rate is slightly superior to the one given by OCEAC in 1992 for the same city (25%). Moreover, the proportion of syphilis positive people rose to about 10%.

These data will be the subject of a comprehensive study in the next months, in view of a first report elaboration at the beginning of 1998.

by Alain Froment (Orstom-APFT),
Myriam de Loenzien,
Evina Akam (IFORD)

8. Bushmeat and street food in Yaoundé, Cameroon

In Cameroon, an important "flow" of bushmeat supplies big villages, cities and even the Capital, Yaoundé. The game diffusion and consumption in cities are still to be examined. Who are the buyers of this bushmeat, and why do they eat it ?

A study, carried out in 1994-1996 within the framework of APFT, has focussed on all the sale and consumption places -markets, restaurants, eating houses and even private houses-, in order to delimit the motivations of the people principally involved, owners and consumers, and in order to assess this trade relevance and variations. This study allowed to define the importance, unknown until then, of bushmeat in urban alimentation, in particular in street alimentation.

Game trade

Three large protected areas should allow to preserve dense humid forest in the southern half of Cameroon. Their setting up faces a reality common to many conservation programmes: rural populations live within these reserves, and take their staple diet proteins from bushmeat. Moreover, they market part of the killed game, in order to have access to basic needs (health care, schooling,...), a phenomenon which has clearly been accentuated in the last few years in correlation with the fall of cash crop (cocoa, coffee) rates. This situation poses serious problems for programme implementation, as much for nature conservation as for rural development programmes. To what extent should traditional hunting, generally termed «poaching» be forbidden ? Would it be instead possible to manage this practice ? Advocating purely and simply for the banning of «poaching», is to disregard reality: people hunt and sell meat to make a living, and others buy it and consume it because they feel the need to do so.

«Aides-mamans» and daily consumption: why eat game ?

In a city like Yaoundé, with more than 1 million inhabitants, bushmeat is consumed in three main public places: restaurants, «circuits» and «aides-mamans». The first two are reserved to a more well-to-do clientèle.

On the other hand, «aides-mamans» are intended for a broader clientèle (made up of employees, civil servants, but also itinerant salesmen and unemployed people) for a daily consumption. They are part of street alimentation: the client choses a piece directly from a saucepan, then sits on a wooden bench and eats his meal on the spot in the open air.

This type of alimentation is not marginal, since in September 1995, we numbered 845 «aides-mamans», in 39 out of 63 town districts, 162 only for the city centre. All of them do not sell game. But when they propose two meals, game and raised meat, prices are slightly equivalent, to within about 100 CFA.

Three main reasons account for the expansion of these eating habits and for the part that game sale holds in it:

  1. the continuous working day, established in 1994: since they do not have time to go back home to eat, hundreds of employees have lunch in the street, at a reasonable price.
  2. the product price: in restaurants as well as in the street, the price difference between bushmeat or domesticated (beef, pork, chicken) animal meals, even fish, was not significant (see table). Within this context, all meals being at the same price, the consumers enjoy choosing what they prefer (game) and even their favorite game when they find it !

Comparison of portion prices (CFA F)






 150-500  250-400  200  500-600 ndole

 1000-2000  1000-2000  1000-4000  1000  

  1. the economic crisis which has been rampant in Cameroon for a decade, followed by the CFA franc devaluation at the beginning of 1994, have brought about at once the purchasing power decline and an increase of game prices on the market. In this way, the animal has increased more than 1000 CFA francs, to easily reach nowadays 5000 CFA F. Consequently, it is difficult for a Cameroonian household, whose monthly income does not exceed 40 000 CFA F (which includes 4 or 5 people), to spend such an amount for 2 kilos of meat. This results in a strong fall of family bushmeat consumption as well as of circuit frequenting.

Circuits too expensive for the purchasing power, game too expensive for home consumption, an insufficient price difference between beef and antelope: all these factors account for «aides-mamans»’ success, since they are the only ones to allow citizens to savor a game meal without putting a strain on the household budget, thanks to bargain prices satisfactory to both parties.


In Yaoundé, at every lunch hour, hundreds of women propose, in each neighbourhood, cooked bushmeat portions, at a very modest price. Today, if game remains the most appreciated food, endowed with a very positive image, it is paradoxically not anymore the luxury dish that it once was, because it has become the daily menu of thousands of passers-by, employees and civil servants.

It remains to be analyzed by which economic dysfunctions, domesticated animal food does not come into competition with game and hence does not represent any alternative.

Faced with an illusory poaching and game trade repression, the development of urban breeding should constitute a priority for all people concerned with wildlife preservation.

by Serge Bahuchet and
Kornelia Ioveva-Baillon


Serge Bahuchet is ethnoecologist,
CNRS Research Director and
APFT Scientific Council Director;
Kornelia Ioveva-Baillon,
holder of a diploma in ecology,
is in charge of a WWF mission in Cameroon and in Yaoundé for APFT.

9. Cocoa and the antelope: or why chocolate should
not be made with vegetable oil... (case of Cameroon)

The European Commission Directive proposals in order to harmonize the chocolate market, and relative to cacao products and chocolate intended for human consumption, have provoked during several months many reactions as much on the consumers’ part as on that of the producing countries’, before being examined at by European Parliament on the 23 October 1997.In this document we will make some comments, from the point of view of the Cameroonian village level, in the light of the planters’ reactions during the great cocoa market variation of the last decade.

Cocoa in the Cameroonian farmers’economy

In the 1992 dry season cocoa campaign, the world rates never stopped falling from one month to the other. In Cameroon, the purchase prices to cultivators fell, authorized buyers give up using their trucks on the forest area’s poor streets. At the end of the campaign, the disheartened planters can only gaze at the dried cacao bean bags, piled up in their kitchens....

Already the rate fall during the 88-89 campaign had resulted in an income loss varying from 50% to 60%, the kilo price dropping from 400 CFA to 200 CFA.The cultivators first stopped using expensive phytosanitary products, and afterwards stopped hiring seasonal workers necessary for weeding and harvesting. Finally they limited the harvested areas. But above all, the most active cultivators turned away from cacao cultivation in order to find elsewhere the necessary income to everyday life : taxes, school fees, medical care, paraffin oil, and soap were paid by cacao. Going back to their past, they used the time derived from the uselessness of agricultural work (the gathering and preparation of cacao-pods are time consuming) to develop more engaging activities providing regular income: trapping, establishing forest camps, laying hundreds of snares and checking them regularly.

In this economic context, the game sale proceeds to the buyum-sellum coming from cities exceeded the uncertain income from cacao. This income was even more reduced by the poor quality resulting from the lack of care to the plantations. Clearly enough a yearly income of 350 000 or 400 000 CFA F through game sale, cannot be compared to the million and a half that cocoa could bring to a household before the crisis. But it is better than an unskilled worker’s salary (30 000 CFA F/month at that time) and certainly better than nothing.

In 1994, another blow : the CFA Franc is devaluated. Salaries drop, the purchasing power diminishes, but at the market the price of the leg of bush-buck (forest antelope) increases... The cultivators who became bushmeat "producing" trappers have it confirmed that they made the right choice. Admittedly, devaluation plays a part in and fosters export; since rates are increasing during the 94-95 cocoa campaign, some planters restore their plantations. But for all that many of them don’t give up on trapping, which has become a blooming activity: the flow rate of forest smoked meat to cities does not stop to increase, much to the detriment of antelopes... and of nature protectors who do not know how to limit the flow !

The unexpected result of European chocolate

It is within this context that, on the 30 May 1996, the European Commission presented to the European Parliament a Directive proposal relative to the products derived from cacao and chocolate intended for human consumption [COM(95) 722; JO C231, 9/8/96]. This proposal provides, among others, to authorize State member chocolate makers to use, in the chocolate making, up to 5% of vegetable oils other than cacao [COM(95) 722 ; EU Bulletin 4-1996 § 1.3.8].

Fine chocolate lovers protest against the product quality decline. Africa’s friends, as far as they are concerned, wonder about the consequences for the Third World producers. Chocolate industrialists estimate that this possibility would only entail a fall inferior to 3% of demand (60 000 T/year) while producing countries value it from 6 to 12% (140 to 270 000 T /year).

Beyond these estimate disagreements, it is certain that a demand fall would first of all affect the smallest, most vulnerable producers. Cameroon, seventh world producer, only produces 120 000 T/year, 5% of the world tonnage. No doubt that Cameroonian forest planters would rapidly go back to trapping to make up for, once more, predictable income losses.


In the synthesis note in preparation of the debate within the European Parliament, the reporter, Mr Paul Lannoye, stresses, after the Development and Cooperation Commission’s opinion, that "the Directive limited advantages don’t make up at all for its major inconveniences (demand decline generating a temporary overproduction which will accentuate the prices fall; resort to substitution fat less expensive than shea butter, additional cost for Stabex)." [European Parliament, Synthesis Note 15-10-97].

To these inconveniences, we should add another, which at least involves Cameroon : the cacao demand decline would bring about poaching and commercial hunting increase, destroying even more the wildlife that the European Commission, in other respects, strives to protect through the creation of protected areas which are very expensive for the European taxpayer.

by Serge Bahuchet
Serge Bahuchet,
Director of Research, CNRS,
and APFT Scientific Council Director

10. Can rattan help save wildlife?

As the social, economic and cultural importance of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) in the Congo Basin becomes increasingly clear, certain hypotheses which appeared environ-mentally appealing, now need to be reconsidered.

Recent evidence from the Yaoundé (Cameroon) area questions the hypothesis that the harvesting, commercialisation and transformation of certain NTFP by the rural poor can be a means of shifting efforts away from the predatory and unsustainable exploitation of ecologically sensitive forest products such as wildlife and tropical hardwoods. Some researchers and conservationists hold that providing alternative cash-earning possibilities to village populations thanks to NTFP could contribute to a viable conservation approach. On the contrary, our observations reveal that rattan harvesting and the commercialisation of game are two complementary and mutually supportive activities in terms of time allocation, the use of scarce cash and the increasingly intensive use of peri-urban forest space.

The "NTFP-as-alternative" hypothesis is predicated upon the assumption that villagers have closed systems of needs and that once they acquire a certain amount of cash to pay for the basics, they could be persuaded to reduce commercial hunting and trapping or hardwood tree felling. Unfortunately, the economic reality is somewhat different. Villagers require ever more cash to meet real and perceived needs. Even though the development of the cash economy is far from being a recent process, new demands are emerging.

Governments throughout Central Africa, and that of Cameroon is no exception, are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil their social, educational and health responsibilities. This means that populations have to develop and adapt their own survival strategies without relying on the state. Globalisation, familiarity with trends taking place abroad and contacts with cities all incite villagers to wish to acquire radios and televisions, to dress in Western fashion and consume what is perceived as "modern" foods and drinks. The prestige of being able to consume beer and bottled soft drinks, for example, is a clear social marker.

There are other reasons why villagers' systems of needs are expanding rather than fixed. In this Ewondo region where traditional political power is not inherited but acquired, money also talks: it gives those who have it le droit à la parole. Moreover, if proposed legislation is approved and applied, a new need for cash will be the payment of the "impôt libératoire"

Like many other NTFP, rattans (notably Ancistrophyllum secundiflorum and Eremosphata macrocarpa) play an important economic role in the interface between the populations of Yaoundé and its hinterland which is slowly but surely being emptied of its natural resources. Indeed, the expanding halo around the Cameroonian capital, like that encircling other cities in the region, is becoming a relative biodiversity vacuum (Trefon 1997).

Urbanites, be they the poorest of the poor or the well-to-do, rely to varying degrees on forest space and resources. Harvesters from more than twenty villages in the area provide rattan to a wholesale market at Mvog Mbi which in turn supplies approximately 117 workshops (Defo 1997) with the sticks and climbers needed to craft a variety of products ranging from baskets and mats to pieces of furniture such as beds, sofas, bookshelves, etc. which even a casual observer in the city cannot fail to notice. These products are in vogue with all social classes of this expanding one million-plus city.

Most villagers engage in diverse economic activities and rattan harvesting is just one of many. Others include food production for consumption and sale of surpluses; cocoa farming; hunting and fishing; wood extraction and the small-scale cutting of planks; harvesting of other NTFP such as leaf wrappers, wild mango, nuts, palm wine, etc.; extraction of sand needed for building; distillation of odontol (local alcohol made from palm wine); etc.

Although physically exacting (heavy loads are carried out over long distances), painful (because of the sharp thorns in the rattan's outer casing) and dangerous (because dead branches are often pulled down along with the climbers), rattan can provide rapid cash at any time of the year with no investment. The problem of seasonality which handicaps so many other economic activities does not apply here. It is still widely available around numerous villages and the large number of craftsman in Yaoundé make it a relatively easy seller.

In a recent survey (Defo 1997) rattan harvesters were asked the question whether it would make economic sense to abandon commercial hunting or hardwood extraction and devote their time and efforts solely to rattan. They nearly all replied in the negative, emphasising that these other activities are considerably more lucrative and that there is a high degree of complementarity between them. We have been able to identify three types of complementarities.

Given the present economic conditions and constraints in the Yaoundé hinterland, as well as the inventiveness of villagers to find survival strategies, combining numerous and comple-mentarity economic-subsistence activities is the rule. Can rattan help save wildlife? Unfortunately not. The response is not rattan or wildlife but rattan and wildlife.

by Theodore Trefon
and Louis Defo
Theodore Trefon coordinates Forest-City Relations for APFT.
Louis Defo, Université de Yaoundé I, is an APFT junior researcher.


Defo, Louis, La Filière des Produits Forestiers Non Ligneux: L'exemple du Rotin au Sud-Cameroun, APFT Unpublished Report, 1997, Yaoundé.
Trefon, Theodore, « Urban Threats to Biodiversity in the Congo Basin » in The Congo Basin: Recent Developments and Alternatives for Sustainable Development, BOS Newsletter, Journal on Tropical Forests and Forestry for Sustainable Development, Vol 16 (3), N° 37, Nov. 1997, Wageningen, Holland.

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