Ayonghe Akonwi Nebasifu. Photo: Santeri Happonen.

Doctoral dissertation: Knowledge Integration in Co-management: A Study on the People of the Mount Cameroon National Park

22.2.2022 8:30

Ayonghe Akonwi Nebasifu, M.A., studies in his dissertation the unequal power relations between officials and local people in the co-management of the Mount Cameroon National Park and its adjacent communities. Ayonghe’s work contributes to co-management theory by revealing simultaneous compliance with and opposition to various relations of power in which people use official and unofficial strategies to attain their goals within a system of resource management.

Collaborative management (co-management) is applied globally and often in the governance of protected areas such as national parks, wilderness areas, marine environments, and other types of nature reserves. Its procedures entail the sharing of power and responsibilities between local resource users and state authorities, but this is never easy because of the diverse actors and opinions involved. Thus, there is a need for novel ideas about how local communities can navigate the difficulties of co-management.

Ayonghe conducted six years of ethnographic research in the Mount Cameroon National Park in sub-Saharan Africa – an IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) category II protected area in the Gulf of Guinea Forests in West Africa. He investigated the nature of power relations between the co-management regime of the Mount Cameroon National Park and its local residents. Ayonghe was especially interested in whether the local residents have the capacity to be resilient in times of crises within the co-management system, and what kinds of relations exist between local knowledge and biodiversity conservation within this system.

A twofold set of practices allowing cultural continuity

Ayonghe’s study draws on an overarching theoretical framework informed by the connection between power, hierarchy, and egalitarianism. It also unpacks the concepts of traditional knowledge, agency, and cultural resilience embedded in this framework.

The results suggest that even when co-management does not provide space for the proper integration of local knowledge, people can preserve their culture and livelihoods through acts of cultural resilience, agency, and the use of traditional knowledge.

– As agents, people can concurrently follow and circumvent the official system to cope with changes in the local environment. For example, through conservation development agreements (CDA), the park regime provides incentives to boost agricultural activities among the locals in exchange for limiting their utilisation of biodiversity in state-protected areas. While some individuals welcome this approach for the income benefits it affords, others resist the system when it hinders their freedom to exercise their customary rights on the land, Ayonghe says.

This being the case, people engage in a twofold set of practices that allows cultural continuity in the context of co-management.

The potential of traditional knowledge in biodiversity conservation

The study brings forth ideas as to the best decisions to be made in order to preserve biodiversity without changing the way in which indigenous groups have used their land for a long time.

– For instance, we can adopt good practices from the people’s spiritual connection to giant tree species native to the Sahara that the people have preserved for thousands of years before the introduction of state-prohibition laws over the use of forests.

The existing systems of resource governance should not take for granted the traditions and cultural relations that indigenous groups share beneath the shadow of power differences within co-management and related systems.

In Australia, North America, and the Canadian Arctic, experimental procedures are implemented through the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) model where indigenous groups decide how to best manage and promote their forests.

– The same can be done in the Mount Cameroon National park, since the people have experience spanning many generations as custodians of their environment, Ayonghe notes.

Information on the public examination

The academic dissertation Knowledge Integration in Co-management: A Study on the People of the Mount Cameroon National Park by Ayonghe Akonwi Nebasifu, M.A., will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Lapland on Wednesday 2 March 2022 at 12 noon in lecture hall LS2 (Yliopistonkatu 8). The opponent is Associate Research Professor (International forest policy and governance) Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen from LUKE (Natural Resources Institute Finland) and the custos is Research Professor (Northern Anthropology) Florian Stammler from the Artic Centre at the University of Lapland.

The public defence can be followed online at https://blogi.eoppimispalvelut.fi/ulapland/

Coffee will be served in Restaurant Felli after the session.

Information on the doctoral candidate

Ayonghe Akonwi Nebasifu graduated in 2011 from the University of Buea as a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Journalism and Communication. In 2014, he completed a master’s degree (M.A.) at the University of Lapland in Audiovisual Media studies with a minor in Tourism Management.

Ayonghe has been a member of the Anthropology Research Team at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland since 2016. Earlier, he has worked as an assistant conservator at an animal rehabilitation centre in Cameroon, as a researcher in the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, and as an intern in ERUDEF (Environment and Rural Development Foundation), places where he gained an awareness of the challenges in forestry and wildlife conservation.

Further information

Ayonghe Akonwi Nebasifu
phone: 040 484 4231

Information on the publication

Ayonghe Akonwi Nebasifu: Knowledge Integration in Co-management: A Study on the People of the Mount Cameroon National Park. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 332. ISBN 978-952-337-307-5, ISSN 1796-6310. University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 2022.

Permanent address of the publication: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-307-5