National parks are good for animals, but not always for people, particularly women. Parks restrict people’s activities. Since women typically have fewer resources than men and have a harder time shifting to new activities, sometimes they find it difficult to adapt to the restrictions park authorities impose.
Bifa and Ebianomeyong in Cameroon are good illustrations of that. The two villages caught researchers’ attention because the women there were unusually vocal in their opinions about a nearby national park called Campo-Ma’an. "Women in Campo Ma’an National Park" by A.M. Tiani, G. Akwah, and J. Nguiebouri tells these women’s story.
Until recently, Bifa’s women earned most of their cash selling meat from wild animals in a nearby town and rubber plantation. The men did most of the hunting, but trading was largely women’s work, so the money went to them.
Then the government established the park, and ecoguards started to harass the women and confiscate their meat. They even went into the women’s kitchens to see what they were cooking. No one ever clearly explained the new rules to the women or told them exactly where the park boundaries were.
The ecoguards didn’t manage to stop the hunting, but now people have to sneak into the forest and buy their meat directly from the hunters. The women traders are out of work.
In Ebianemeyong the government has stopped people from using the road to town because it runs through the park and they want to keep out poachers. Actually, the poachers rarely use the road because they could easily get caught. The real losers have been female farmers who can no longer send their crops to the market or take their sick children to the doctor.
In both villages the women realize they can’t get rid of the park. All the women of Bifa are really demanding is that park managers clearly define where no hunting is allowed and stop bothering them when the meat comes from other places. Ebianemeyong’s women are even ready to help the authorities keep out poachers and loggers, as long as they get some jobs and help with local services. That doesn’t seem too much to ask. National Parks cannot always reduce poverty, but at least they should not increase it.
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This paper forms part of a complete book focusing on issues related to equity and forests. The full reference for the chapter is: A.M. Tiani, G. Akwah, and J. Nguiebouri. 2005 "Women in Campo-Ma’an National Park: Uncertainties and Adaptations in Cameroon", pp. 131-149, IN The Equitable Forest (C. Colfer, editor), Washington D.C. Resources for the Future and CIFOR.
You can purchase the book on-line from Resources For the Future Press at: http://www.rff.org