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Pipelines, Parks, and People: Bagyeli Document Land UseNear Campo Ma’an National Park

The insecurity the Bakola and Bagyeli Pygmies in Cameroon’s Ocean Department are facing due to a new pipeline is an experience that has been shared by many indigenous peoples around the world. But the pipeline is not the Bakola and Bagyeli’s only concern. A national park to offset the pipeline’s environmental impacts has been established on their traditional hunting and gathering areas, placing their rights under increasing pressure.

The impacts of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline on local communities are well documented and were mentioned in the report of the World Bank Inspection Panel, which completed its investigation in 2003 in response to a complaint lodged the year before.[1] The particular case of the Bagyeli and Bakola serves to illustrate weaknesses in the application of current World Bank operational policies concerning indigenous peoples (OD 4.20), and natural habitats (OD 4.04). Environmental offset areas are required under the Natural Habitats Policy of the World Bank, a key donor to the project.

Around the new park, Bagyeli are using their own resource maps to advocate at local and national levels for their rights over these lands. Bagyeli expect to be consulted about the new management plans that are being developed for these forests, but their participation in these discussions is not certain, especially now that the World Bank has rejected their complaints. The complaints were linked to the lack of recognition for Bagyeli rights over their lands and their rights to participate in decisions concerning their livelihoods. This lack of recognition is leading to increasing uncertainty and concern among local communities still absorbing the brunt of the impacts of the oil pipeline project.

Pipeline Impacts
The Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project has completed construction of a 1,070 kilometer-long oil pipeline from the Doba oil fields in southern Chad to Kribi in southern Cameroon, using funds from the U.S. operator Exxon-Mobil, along with Petronas in Malaysia, Chevron Texaco in the United States, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group. The pipeline was the end result of a project that was first devised by the oil companies in the 1990s. In June 2000, the IFC agreed to contribute its support for this massive oil infrastructure project through loans to the governments of Cameroon and Chad.

The southern portion of the pipeline traverses more than 100 kilometers of Bagyeli communities’ lands. Many of these communities rely on hunting and gathering to secure the bulk of their subsistence, with hunting camps far in the forest. They interact with settled Bantu farmers and merchants who now dominate the local civic structures between Lolodorf and Kribi. The Chad oil is finally exported from Cameroon via the oil companies’ offshore storage and loading structures located along the Atlantic coast near Kribi.

The project’s expected impacts on local communities across this zone led the Cameroon Oil Transportation Company (COTCO), which is owned by the consortium of oil companies, to develop and then implement compensation plans. In Cameroon, COTCO paid four levels of compensation: individual compensation, community compensation, regional compensation, and supplemental compensation (for temporary occupation outside the easement).[2] In addition, the project was bound by the World Bank’s Indigenous Peoples Policy, stipulating the preparation of an Indigenous Peoples Plan for compensation in conjunction with local communities, in this case Bagyeli and Bakola from the zone two kilometers on either side of the pipeline route. In accordance with bank procedures, this plan was meant to have been prepared and discussed with the Bagyeli prior to the staff assessment of the project in 1999. But because Bagyeli were not involved in the baseline consultations that were used to develop the compensation program, the plan did not recognize the their livelihood system based on hunting and gathering and the Bagyeli received almost nothing from any of the four compensation provisions[3] until this year, when some of COTCO’s targeted regional compensation measures were initiated in the form of expensive “model dwelling” houses for key Bagyeli leaders.

Despite the establishment two years ago of a substantial endowment fund to be managed by the Foundation for Environment and Development in Cameroon (FEDEC) to fund an Indigenous Peoples Plan (IPP), there is still no published plan even though the pipeline construction is complete, and Bagyeli and Bakola have not been adequately consulted about its possible form or content. Project managers have admitted, and the Inspection Panel has agreed in its investigation report, that “implementation [of the IPP] has been slow.” As the 2003 Inspection Panel report says: “Management described the IPP as a ’work in progress’ aimed at addressing the primary needs of the Bakola/Bagyeli.” The Indigenous Peoples Plan states[4]: “It is stressed that these are only ideas for potential projects and that it is up to the concerned populations, Bakola and Bantu, to decide which of the projects is relevant to them or to propose others that concern them more than the ones proposed here through informal participation. The scope of the potential programmes will be further defined in the consultation meetings to be implemented as part of this IPP.”

When or how this consultation is to take place is still unknown to Bagyeli, including those from outside the immediate pipeline zone who, according to the Inspection Panel, also should have been given due consideration.[5]

Parks and People
In addition to the requirements of the World Bank’s policy on indigenous peoples, the bank’s policy on natural habitats stipulates that when a project converts or degrades natural habitats, it must include mitigation measures, including those to minimize habitat loss and/or to establish and maintain an ecologically similar protected area. Even though the physical footprint of the pipeline is small, it has led to permanent destruction of the forest located along its construction route, and there are other potential and anticipated impacts, especially if the oil pipeline leaks or there is accidental spillage from one of the pumping stations or outlets. It was therefore decided to include two environmental offsets as part of the mitigation for the short-term and potential long-term environmental damages from the pipeline.

The IFC Loan Agreement with the government of Cameroon stipulates that the project establish the National Park of Campo Ma’an and the National Park of M’bam Djerem, as well as FEDEC to provide funding for the parks from a proportion of the earnings on an endowment from COTCO.

The Indigenous Peoples Plan did not include those communities living outside the immediate pipeline zone. However, Bagyeli living further south within the Unité Technique Operationelle (UTO) Campo Ma’an, where Campo Ma’an National Park (PNCM) is situated, now face additional impacts as a result of this project.

As documented elsewhere in Cameroon and across Central Africa, the direct impacts of protective conservation measures on indigenous communities living in or around areas designated for conservation can be severe. In southwest Cameroon, indigenous Bagyeli communities have always relied on hunting and gathering and, despite many Bagyeli’s reliance on agriculture, the livelihoods of most—especially those living in the extreme southwest in the UTO Campo Ma’an—are still tied to the forests that have not yet been taken over by farmers or cut down by loggers.

Cameroon law[6] stipulates that “the setting up or extension of a national park, integrated ecological reserve, game ranch or game reserve may only be carried out after the persons whose rights are affected by the project have been compensated in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations.” However, Campo Ma’an National Park was established in 2000 without adequately assessing its impact on Bagyeli communities living in and around the PNCM, and there are currently no known plans to compensate them for the loss of land and livelihoods which this project now threatens. One Bagyeli from southwestern UTO Campo Ma’an told the Forest Peoples Project (FPP): “When they were setting up the park, no one came to consult with us, the Bagyeli. Maybe they went to talk to the Bantu, but me I don’t know anything about this. They do not know us. We only heard people talk about the World Bank. The World Bank, the World Bank—what is the World Bank?”

This discrepancy occurs despite the involvement of the World Bank Global Environment Facility through a long-term biodiversity conservation and management project[7] that is meant to address participation and social issues, including the requirement for baseline consultations.

The rights of hunting and gathering communities to their forests across the UTO Campo Ma’an are under increasing threat from new rules and regulations currently under discussion by the Ministry of Forests and the Environment, which is responsible for the management of the UTO, and World Wildlife Fund-Cameroon, the non-governmental conservation organization with overall responsibility for the management of this new national park. Bagyeli communities are worried that the new park management plan will include prohibitive regulations that will impede local communities’ subsistence use of the UTO’s remaining standing forests. The plan applies to core protected areas of the PNCM, composed of over 250,000 hectares[8], as well as adjoining “buffer” zones or “community-managed” areas which will be established now that demarcation for the UTO Campo Ma’an is well advanced. Much of this land overlays Bagyeli traditional hunting and gathering grounds, and the increased enforcement that inevitably will be imposed by this environmental offset project will further restrict the availability of food, building and craft materials, and traditional medicines that lay at the foundation of the Bagyeli livelihood system. These restrictions have already started to happen.

Three years ago, while the World Bank-funded preparatory project for Campo Ma’an National Park was being implemented, the dwellings of a Bagyeli community located next to Campo Ma’an National Park were burned down by park guards, who accused them of poaching.[9] Some families from Nyamabande lost everything, including their identity cards, cooking pots, and clothes.

“We were in the bush hunting for food for our families,” one villager recalled. “At that moment, the hunting guards came—to burn us. … They arrested a poacher [in the village] and said ‘here is a poacher’s village.’ We returned from the bush to find all the houses burned down. Clothes, identity cards, bedding, everything. The cooking pots were broken That is what it was like when I arrived.”[10]

Bagyeli in Nyamabande had lived on the same site for many years, a fact evidenced by the remains of houses, a series of family burial sites near old houses, and—exceptionally for Bagyeli—extensive gardens.[11] After this tragic event they were forced to move more than two kilometers north into areas already occupied by neighboring Bantu, who use and control the surrounding fields that also serve the needs of workers from Hevecam, the gigantic rubber plantation adjacent to this corner of the park. When they moved, Bagyeli families lost the use of most of their old gardens due to distance and fear of retribution if they returned. Land is scarce where the community now lives, and many must now beg for land or work for others in exchange for food. Their fear of returning to their old homes is central to their worsening poverty.[12] Bagyeli communities across UTO Campo Ma’an have not yet been consulted adequately about new management plans for the park or the other forests within in the UTO, although the locations of some of their community sites and hunting camps were documented during the GEF project.[13]

Mapping Bagyeli Lands
During 2003, with support from the Forest Peoples Programme, the Cameroon non-governmental organization Centre for Environment and Development supported five Bagyeli communities living along the northern side of Campo Ma’an National Park—Nyamabande, Bissono, Mebia’a, Nyabitande, and Awomo—in documenting their use of the forests around where they lived. These community land-use maps were developed through a participatory process, in which the mapping team from CED trained community-chosen representatives to be cartographers. These local cartographers worked with other members of the communities to collect data in the field and to sketch a land use map of their communities. Using the information and the maps, a professional cartographer assisted in the transcription of the information onto scale maps. The information was then cross-checked using Global Positioning System units and Geographic Information Systems equipment. In a fourth stage, the first draft of the geo-referenced map was discussed and amended during community meetings.

This work with Bagyeli to document the use of their forests led to the identification of a number of serious conflicts with agricultural communities over access to land, and tension between park authorities and local communities.[14] The final Bagyeli resource use maps, which community representatives presented to local authorities in November 2003, demonstrate conclusively the importance of the local forests for Bagyeli subsistence and cultural needs—many Bagyeli rely on resources within the park to secure most of their livelihood, as they have done for aeons, while developing their own agriculture. Up to 85 percent of the livelihood activities of the Bagyeli from Nyamabande take place within the boundaries of the new park. These rights, along with their food security, are now under terminal threat from this project.

In Central Africa, conservation laws generally preclude any subsistence activities within parks—even if parks overlap hunting and gathering peoples’ traditional lands, as is clearly demonstrated in Campo Ma’an National Park. Analysis by Fergus Mackay of the Forest Peoples Programme (and guest editor of this issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly) has shown that these laws are incompatible with international norms pertaining to indigenous peoples rights, and there is growing agreement that reform of local legislation is needed in many places. The global conservation community agrees that strong guidelines to protect indigenous communities should be enforced, as it indicated at the World Parks Congress in September 2003 through the Durban Accord. The accord’s recommendations set important new standards for the rights of indigenous peoples living in and around protected areas. The Durban Action Plan contains a full section titled “The Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mobile Peoples and Local Communities Recognised and Guaranteed in Relation to Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation,” and recommends specific targets and actions for governments and protected areas.[15]

The Campo Ma’an case highlights the need for conservation-financing agencies such as the Global Environment Facility to institute more effective standards, mechanisms, and practices to address rights and social issues in protected area establishment and management. Crucial among these is the need to adopt and properly implement new standards for social and poverty risk assessment prior to any protected area projects that may affect indigenous and local communities. Agencies such as the World Bank who implement these projects must also ensure that their own internal policies are fully consistent with indigenous peoples’ rights.

A Questionable Future
In Nyamabande, far away from debates over national policies and international law, Bagyeli want a resolution. “We want to live. We want to live like others. That is the first thing,” said an elder from the village. “We do not have any money—how are we supposed to live? Money is needed for man to live—those who do not have money cannot live. If you do not have something to sell, you cannot get money. Us here, we can kill game to sell and get money. We do not have much manioc—we still have to buy it in the village.

The Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project went into operation almost a year ahead of schedule. The technical prowess of the consortium building this pipeline contrasts sharply with the shocking weakness in their development and implementation of the project’s consultation processes, and the compensation and mitigation measures, especially those concerning Bagyeli hunting and gathering communities. The interests of these communities have been continually neglected by this project and many now face a growing threat to their rights and livelihoods through weak and inconsistent application of World Bank standards, resulting in the creation of a “mitigation measure,” such as Campo Ma’an National Park, with significant social costs.

Bagyeli now possess some of the necessary information and tools they need to open a dialogue over the management of Campo Ma’an National Park with government authorities, and expect that the new park managers will now abide by international norms and consult with Bagyeli communities over the park management plans that are now under review. But past experience demonstrates that international guidelines may not be enough to ensure that communities’ rights will be recognized by conservation organizations. For full protection, a re-interpretation of the legal provisions concerning protected areas in Central Africa is needed urgently, and donors and international non-governmental organizations should adopt binding guidelines that protect local communities’ rights. Otherwise, communities such as Nyamabande face an uncertain future.

1. The World Bank (2003, May 8). The Inspection Panel Investigation Report. Cameroon: Petroleum Development Pipeline Project and Petroleum Environmental Capacity Enhancement. Corrigendum. Washington, D.C.: Inspection Panel.
2. The Chad portion of the project is subject to a separate EMP and compensation plan.
3. Nelson, J, Kenrick, J. & Jackson, D. (2001). Not only were impacts not identified, but when the report was published, no individual compensation claims with Bagyeli or Bakola had been agreed upon and most local compensation programs had already been completed. Since then some of the outstanding individual grievances from Bagyeli have been compensated.
4. Inspection Panel. (2003, May 8). Para 196.
5. Inspection Panel. (2003, May 8). Para 220.
6. Article 5(3) of Decree No. 95-466-PM (1995, July 20).
7. Cameroon: Biodiversity Conservation and Management. World Bank Project 1995-2000.
8. IUCN/UNEP/WCMC/WCPA (2003). United Nations List of Protected Areas
9. Interview, November 2002. See video From Principles to Practice (2003). Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
10. FPP video-recorded interview, Nyamabande, November 2002. FPP has documented other instances around Campo Ma’an where tactics of this nature were used to remove forest inhabitants.
11. FPP and Planet Survey field data, confirmed separately by CED.
12. As documented since 2002.
13. Carte de Zonation de l’UTO Campo Ma’an Suivant le Profil des Menages. Projet d’Amenagement et de Conservation de la Biodiversité Campo Ma’an, Cameroun. (2002, May 23). Situation socio-économique dans l’UTO Campo Ma’an: Rapport de synthèse. Projet d’Amenagement et de Conservation de la Biodiversité Campo Ma’an, volet eco-développement SNV. (2002, December).
14. CED. (2004, January). Projet Promo Bagyeli: cartographie participative dans la partie nord du parc national de Campo Ma’an.

John Nelson ( is policy advisor for the U.K.-based Forest Peoples Programme and projects coordinator for the Forest Peoples Project. Belmond Tchoumba ( is program coordinator at the Centre for Environment and Development in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

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