Circular economy

Yoko: a former colonial town that encapsulates the ambitions of Cameroon’s REDD+

| Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 27, 2017

Lying in a buffer zone between the lush southern regions and the northern Sahelian regions of Cameroon, Yoko municipality is launching a project for the protection of its forest, estimated at 135,000 hectares in size. Without cutting down its trees, the town will bring in a stable revenue thanks to the carbon market at international level.

Without resorting to chopping down trees in its municipal forest, Yoko’s town council can rest assured that it will receive billions of FCFA (millions of US dollars) thanks to the adoption of a protection plan covering 29,500 hectares of forest. This choice may seem surprising, in a context where legal, and especially illegal logging is currently a profitable business in Cameroon. While elsewhere, logging trucks were taking turns to make their way down the badly surfaced road, Yoko town council made the decision to preserve its trees. The forest had been given to the town on 14 January 2011 following a decree from the country’s prime minister, in keeping with Article 20 of Cameroon’s 1994 Forestry Law. The local authorities had expected that the acquisition of this municipal forest would enable them to quickly resolve the financial difficulties that were preventing the municipality’s development.

But they had no such luck. The inventory carried out by specialized firm Le Serbie was disappointing. The conclusion of their evaluation was that, “the forest, despite requests that it be used for the exploitation of timber, is actually very poor in resources from which profit could be made.” The news brutally crushed hopes that development could be financed through forestry exploitation. “It didn’t take into account the global context of climate change,” Dieudonné Annir, Mayor of Yoko Municipality explained.

However, it was through Annir’s skillful coordination efforts that this poverty of exploitable material in the forest was actually turned into a source of income. From the cartographic survey, it was evident that the municipal forest and its outskirts were undergoing a full reconstitution. This discovery was a blessing for the head of the town council, as it led to the consideration of problems linked to climate change, and notably to the REDD+ - a program designed to help developing countries reduce their emissions from deforestation through responsible land use.

So instead of exploiting the forest, the town council of Yoko opted for the protection of its forest cover of 29,500 hectares, with an extension over a 10 km radius surrounding the municipal forest. Which brought the size of surface area to be protected up to 135,100 hectares. A conservation project has been set up by the municipal authority. The idea for the project will subsequently be presented to the National Participatory Development Programme (PNDP). Following a national open competition for the implementation of REDD+ at municipal level, the project proposal for Yoko caught the attention of the judges, as it is representative of the agro-ecological zone of dense bimodal humid forest that covers the center, south and east of Cameroon.

An 2 billion FCFA (US$ 3.6 million)investment, for 5 billion (US$9 million) in carbon credits

By ensuring the protection of the municipal forest through the creation of sustainable agro-sylvo-pastoral activity zones, the initiative will enable carbon emission savings, along with direct non-carbon related benefits, and other improvements in terms of socio-environmental externalities, the Mayor of Yoko said.

Projections of the resulting carbon savings show that the protection of the municipal forest would enable the capture of around 1,400,000 tonnes of carbon gas. Furthermore, according to data released by Ecosystem Marketplace in 2014, the average price of Voluntary Carbon Units (VCU) issued by REDD+ projects ranges from US$ 7 to $ 3 per tonne on the carbon credit market. Taking a hypothesis of US$ 3 per tonne, with a lower priced carbon credit on the market, Yoko municipality would make US$ 4,000,000 over the next 30 years.

To ensure the protection of its municipal forest between 2017 and 2047, Yoko municipality needs an investment of 2 000 000 000 FCFA ($US 3.6 million), including 220 300 000 FCFA (US$ 4 million) for the first year, according to Dieudonné Annir. Through this investment, the protection of the municipal forest would produce 7 500 000 000 FCFA (US$ 13.5 million): a net gain of 5 600 000 000 FCFA ($US 10 million) over the 30-year period.

The project has already benefited from an investment guarantee from the French Development Agency (AFD) – amounting to 200 000 000 FCFA ($US360,000) drawn from funds from the Development Debt Relief Contract signed between Cameroon and France in 2006, within the framework of a bilateral debt cancellation agreement between the two countries.

Thanks to this financial backing, Yoko can more confidently establish its credentials as a ‘green town’ in Cameroon. A project for the creation of an urban forest in the new administrative district is starting to break ground. There’s also talk of eco-districts to extend the scope of eco-development via the REDD+ initiative.

Like Yoko, another 12 municipalities in Cameroon are preparing to enter the carbon market through projects to protect their forests.

Text box on REDD+

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) was first negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) during the 2005 COP11 in Montreal. The aim of the program is to reduce net emissions of greenhouse emissions through enhanced forest management in developing countries. With REDD+ countries are financially rewarded for cutting greenhouse emissions through alternative land use.

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Published on October 27, 2017
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