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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master of Arts Political Science
Title The dangers of natural resources decentralization: Decentralized forest management,(local) development and the making of a Big Man in the Dimako Council, Cameroon
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
URL http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10488/1/Ofoulhast-Othamot_PhD_2011.pdf
Abstract
Throughout the world decentralized experiments in natural resources management are being
attempted on the assumption that through the inclusion of those who were formerly excluded -
local/rural communities and governments- the management of those resources as well as
local/rural living conditions shall be improved. In Cameroon, following the 1994 landmark
Forest Law which transferred some powers, resources and responsibilities to local actors, two
primary modes of decentralized forest management were conceived community and council
forests. Whereas, in the more than fifteen years since the 1994 reform, community forests have
been the object of intense scholarly attention, the study of council forests has lagged behind in
spite of the fact that earlier studies had highlighted the predicaments of the overall forest
management decentralization. This study sought to fill that gap in the literature.
The central question addressed in this dissertation was straightforward: why did the forest
management decentralization fail to achieve the goals of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)
and local development in Dimako Council? In order to answer that question, the dissertation
examined the case of the Dimako Council and the Dimako Council Forest. That case was
significant because it represented the first experiment in natural resources management by an
THE DANGERS OF NATURAL RESOURCES DECENTRALIZATION:
DECENTRALIZED FOREST MANAGEMENT, (LOCAL) DEVELOPMENT AND
THE MAKING OF A BIG MAN IN THE DIMAKO COUNCIL, CAMEROON
Gildas Allan Ofoulhast-Othamot, PhD
University of Pittsburgh, 2011

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elected local government in the entire Congo Basin, the second largest reservoir of tropical
forests after the Amazon.
The empirical research found that the forest management decentralization in Dimako
Council failed to achieve the goals of SFM and local development because the Mayor of
Dimako, taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by the forest law, captured the
council forest and utilized it for power-building purposes, thereby earning him the status of a Big
Man. Overall, the main contribution of the study is to show that the decentralization theory of
natural resources management instead of solving the ‘bad’ governance issues that it reportedly
identified in the first place has in effect extended and entrenched the reach of the patrimonial
state as well as aggravated the state of affairs in Dimako, leading to questions about its
relevance.

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