Happy International Day of Forests!

This year, the theme for the day is “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”. USFS works with various partners across Central Africa, and a key part of our work is focused on capacity building, especially in regards to the next generation of conservation practitioners who will be charged with the sustainable management of their forest resources. As part of our program, and in partnership with the Network of Forestry and Environmental Training Institutions of Central Africa (RIFFEAC), USFS has previously launched four teaching modules based on sustainable resource guides developed with and validated by the Central Africa Forest Commission (COMIFAC). These modules focus on community-based natural resource management, extractive resource zone management, integrated landscape land use, and protected area management have been adopted by academic institutions in the region.

Most Recently, USFS has collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to launch a new human rights and conservation curriculum at Garoua Wildlife College in Cameroon. The technical and college-level curriculum was introduced at a launch ceremony in early March 2021.

The new curriculum aims to educate existing and future conservation practitioners on the importance of protecting human rights. Photo courtesy of Vincent Zoalang.

Human Rights and Conservation: A New Course Curriculum for Central African Conservation Practitioners

This new curriculum reflects the growing concern in Central Africa—as elsewhere—that for conservation efforts in protected areas to be successful, they must reflect the interests and needs of indigenous communities. However, tensions and even violent conflict over sovereignty, rights, and resources are not uncommon. Educating existing and future conservation practitioners on the imperative for protecting human rights in the practical field context of protected area management is the objective of the new curriculum.

Developed with the guidance of a leading anthropologist and input and review from a range of Central African and international interdisciplinary experts and on-the-ground practitioners, the new curriculum aims to educate existing and future conservation practitioners on the importance of protecting human rights. 

It focuses on complex issues about conservation practices and carefully considers the context in which conservation practitioners work. By combining technical expertise, resources, and respective longstanding partnerships, USFWS, USFS, and USAID aim to extend the reach and impact of the curriculum so it can inform future practitioners on the ground—those who work to promote conservation in Central Africa—that they also need to protect the rights and livelihoods of their fellow citizens.

The launch ceremony was attended by officials Ministry of Forestry and Fauna (MINFOF) of Cameroon, as well as representatives from USFS, USFWS, and the US Embassy in Cameroon. Photo courtesy of Vincent Zoalang.

Since 2011, USFWS and Garoua Wildlife College have worked together to integrate emerging wildlife conservation issues into the college curriculum. This new human rights curriculum is the result of a multi-year, collaborative process between USFWS, faculty from Garoua, and IPRC-Kitabi College in Rwanda. Through USFS support, faculty from both institutions collaborated with Central African colleagues during a training on the Free Prior and Informed Consent Process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2020. In addition, USFS also helped design a human rights higher education teaching module, which was carried out in partnership with the Forest Peoples Program

The launch ceremony in early March was attended by officials Ministry of Forestry and Fauna (MINFOF) of Cameroon, as well as representatives from USFS, USFWS, and the US Embassy in Cameroon. After the initial rollout at Garoua, the new module on human rights and conservation will be available for use at all higher education institutions in the Network of Forestry and Environmental Training Institutions of Central Africa (RIFFEAC). MINFOF has also requested that the module be taught to its existing cadre of ecoguards and rangers. Looking ahead, USFS and USFWS hope to expand the use of this curriculum so that it is available not only at universities but to all forestry and environment ministry staff across the region.

Officials and students pose for a photo after the ceremony for the launch of the curriculum. Photo courtesy of Vincent Zoalang.

The new human rights and conservation curriculum is the product of a close collaboration between USFWS and USFS programs in Central Africa, with funding support from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Central African Regional Program for the Environment (USAID/CARPE). USAID’s CARPE program has worked since 1995 to help protect and preserve forests and biodiversity within the region. 

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