Land, as a very important factor of production in every economy, has a specific and unique affinity of interest from private, corporate and public sectors. In the diversity of Cameroon’s richly covered landscape, which serves as a huge backup for her claims as Africa’s microcosm, the indigenous and local populations tend to be squatters in what should be their rightful heritage. There is also a frustrating discrimination in land acquisition and ownership by women for socio-cultural reasons. Although national laws provide some form of security for unregistered house plots, farms and rigorously damaging and/or exploitatory acts of deforestation, the extent of this security on the environment and indigenous people is limited. It is as well unfairly limited to a minimal compensation for permanent loss of infrastructure, crops etc when the government requires a land space for other purposes. In the implementation of some of these complex laws, the procedures to register land holdings by customary owners has become outrageously expensive and bogus. This weakens the effectiveness of the laws on the fields since most indigenous populations prefer to minimize its importance by using their lands unregistered. By default, all unregistered land belongs to the government with the exception to some human efforts recognized by the state as aforementioned.
In this regard, most cultures in Cameroon, as is the case of the Wimbum people in the Donga and Mantung Division of the North West Region of Cameroon, land by traditional rights is strictly conferred to males. In an already biased community, the bias goes further to be gender focused. Although women account for up to an estimated half of the world’s small holder farmers in developing countries, they more often do not have the rights to the lands they till. Research suggests that when women own the rights to land they till, the economic sustainability, basic education and family health is improved upon at an even greater and responsible measure. In this expose we seek to critically observe the current situations in our laudable advocacy for the rights of these minority and marginalized people while proposing measures that could be referenced at a global scale.
With the global population ever on the rise and the environment in its unhealthiest state in thousands of years, the natural availability of food supply has depleted tremendously and most of the resources for a good life have become scarce. WICUDA (Wimbum Cultural and Development Association) in firm collaboration with CAMCCUL ( Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League) consider it imperative now more than ever before for the effects of climate change, soil exhaustion, the crumbling of the ozone layer, deforestation, the approach of deserts, reduced rainfall, an inconsiderate management of the environment, a proliferation of devastating insects and animals, army conflicts, economic and monetary crisis, and gender inequality in the access of factors of production, to be counteracted by more effective and sustainable measures to restore balance to the ecosystem. Despite the failed measures of state facilities that could enable vivid networking within and outside the nation, the Wimbum rural women and indigenous peoples could play an important role in the search for and implementation of sustainable and efficient solutions to these problems. However several factors present a hindrance to this. Factors such as gender inequality as concerns access to factors of production, limited access to popularization services, education, training and economic information, to research and appropriate technology, and also to modern equipment and more.
STATE POLICIES, SOCIO-CULTURAL INFLUENCE ON INVESTMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
Policies in Cameroon state that land titles are the only legal means of holding land rights. However the ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (MINDAF) reports that only 2% of the land in Cameroon was registered or titled as of the early 2000s. The case still holds true today with perhaps just a slight and insignificant increase in the percentage of titled lands. With focus on Wimbum clan, it is worth noting that in most parts of the country if not all, land is still held and managed informally through local tenure agreements. These local agreements are a combination of statutory and customary tenure rules with a set complex, malleable and unclear principles that could result to uncertainty, conflicts as well as inhibit local development to a great extent.
Given the obvious traditional influences and the informal setup, most land in the Wimbum tribe is acquired via historical, ancestral and family heritage mostly with conference on a male heir. Such myopic gender imbalanced approaches over the years have led to serious gap on collective human capacity building and empowerment within girls/women. In this instance you find many widows left stranded with kids, unable to farm the lands previously owned by their husbands. It would appear there are no clear cut laws that could provide regulative measures on such malpractices. Educative hypothesis could not only help in shaping these methods of gender inequality from diverse angles but also help to regulate agricultural malpractices that expose the soils as well as indiscriminate exploitation of timber which fosters deforestation.
Consequently, The Forest Code, No. 94/01 of 20 January 1994 which provides clear orientations toward sustainable forest use in Cameroon and ushers in the concept of community forest where management is localized to indigenes isn’t of any satisfactory economic impact because of poor administration.
The creation of numerous Women empowerment groups; the recent admission of the Wimbum woman into the local council and the great awareness of international women rights via social media platforms has brought in a recommendable steam in recent times. The emergence of Credit Unions surely helps a great deal and the discovery of new farming methods like the recent Roland Formundam simplified Green house farming spreading across the entire North West region has also seriously greatly increased productivity on a small scale while reducing harsh farming methods on large scales with very low yields. These as well could help avoid Ozone layer depletion extensively.