The Republic of Cameroon covers a surface area of 475,000 km2, situated between latitudes 2-13° north and between longitudes 8-16° east. In 2000, it had an estimated population of 15 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.6%. It has one of the highest population densities in Central Africa.
About 90% of African ecosystems are found in Cameroon. They include the sahelian, sudanian, tropical rainforest, afromontane, coastal and marine ecoregions. Thus, the presence of a diversity of plants and wildlife that ranks Cameroon 5th in Africa after the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Madagascar and Tanzania. With regards to the diversity of its sylvicultural primates, Cameroon is ranked 2nd in Africa behind the Democratic Republic of Congo. This wealth of biological diversity constitutes an enormous reservoir of genetic material.
The biodiversity (all living organisms and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems) managed in protected areas and on state land is threatened by poor knowledge of the resource potential, unsustainable exploitation by the local populations and economic operators, inadequate institutional arrangement by the administration and insufficient financial and material resources.
State institutions managed these resources in a conservatory manner until 1980, after which date positive change started with the designation of the Benue and Waza National Parks and the Dja Wildlife Reserve as biosphere reserves. The creation in April 1992 of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (MINEF) by the Government was a great step forward. Also in 1992, the “Earth Summit” was held in Rio de Janeiro, of which one of the outputs was “Agenda 21”. Within the framework of this action plan that aimed at reconciling sustainable use of natural resources with poverty alleviation, western nations promised to provide technical and financial assistance to countries endowed with a great wealth in biodiversity in order to conserve it. It is for this purpose that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was created.
Thereafter, as concepts and orientations evolved, protected area management became less conservatory and bipartisan, but more participatory. This participatory approach required that the concerns of all stakeholders be taken into consideration (the Administration, funding partners, NGOs, local populations and economic operators). It is in a bid to further develop and test this new conservation approach, that the Government of Cameroon together with its partners designed the Cameroon Biodiversity Conservation and Management Programme.