OKANI’s action in Gbabandi and the development of indigenous peoples

OKANI’s vision is «a cohesive society where the rights, justice and fulfillment of indigenous peoples from the forests of Cameroon are guaranteed.» Its mission is to «support Indigenous peoples from the Cameroonian forests, and to improve their living conditions through the promotion of respect for their rights

Since its creation 11 years ago, Okani has implemented several activities through different projects with the support of different technical and financial partners in order to improve the living conditions of indigenous peoples living in the Cameroonian forests.

Projects were implemented in the following fields:

  • Education

Promotion of education in the Baka language through the ORA (Observe, Reflect, Act) method. Data collection regarding the access and progress of Baka children school enrollment.

  • Mapping and monitoring

Participative mapping OKANI implemented several mapping activities, such as:

  • Mapping of indigenous villages located next to protected areas, forest and mining concessions.
  • Mapping of indigenous cultural sites.

The maps designed through these activities are used to support advocacy actions to protect indigenous peoples’ territories.

Community based monitoring

This is a data collection system used to monitor the territory and related issues. This technique takes into account the free, prior and informed consent and gets the indigenous communities to participate in the process.

Promotion of agriculture and non-timber forest products (NTFP)

Several communities were supported to start agricultural projects in order to reach food autonomy and to be able to exempt themselves from servitude from dominant populations.

  • Leadership

OKANI led several capacity-building activities with grassroots indigenous organisations regarding leadership. This is to support the creation of a new generation of indigenous peoples who can take the future of their communities in their hands through a legitimate and credible representation system.

  • Land rights

In the framework of activities linked to land rights of indigenous peoples, OKANI implemented several advocacy actions at the local and national level in order to protect indigenous peoples’ rights in the forest and fauna reserve of Ngoyla Mintom.

Gbabandi : The platform for indigenous peoples from the Cameroonian forests

The objective of this platform is a better representation of indigenous peoples from the Cameroonian forests at the local, national and international level to better protect their rights through advocacy activities. On 12th September 2017, Gbabandi made a declaration regarding land rights.

The declaration by Gbabandi regarding land rights

This declaration concerned six sets of priorities:

  1. Right to Land
  2. Right to free, prior and informed consent and to participation
  3. Right to shared benefits
  4. Right to the promotion of traditional knowledge
  5. Right to self-determination
  6. Traditional indigenous chieftaincy

The objective of this declaration was to make known the concerns of indigenous peoples regarding their right to access and make full use of their ancestral lands.

Well Grounded’s support in our fight for the rights of indigenous peoples

Well Grounded’s support is very important to Okani as it helps us make the organisation more effective and efficient. Obviously, if we are not well organised at the strategic level, we won’t be able to be efficient in the actions we implement within the communities.

Well Grounded has been working for almost a year with OKANI at the construction of its intervention strategy for its development actions. OKANI now has a vision and a mission, which helped us develop core strategies to solve issues in indigenous communities.

Our collaboration with Well Grounded helped us discover our own priorities and to find means to implement them. We have also found our specificity as a human-rights organisation working for indigenous peoples. This opens up our horizons when seeking technical and financial partners.

Our collaboration with Well Grounded is very beneficial. Okani is growing and keeps on working for the rights of indigenous peoples from the forests of Cameroon with great serenity.

About the author

Armelle Elodie Nitcheu Bouopda

Armelle has been the programme officer at Okani since October 2016. Before this, she worked as a consultant for several development organisations. Her professional career has always been linked to the rights of indigenous peoples in general, and more specifically those of the forests. Armelle has legal knowledge about international mechanisms in terms of human rights in general, with a specific focus on the rights of indigenous populations. She has a hands on approach and regularly stays with indigenous communities, which gives her credibility when talking about their rights as she knows their daily challenges. She studied social philosophy and obtained a Masters in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action. She is preparing a doctorate in environmental right with a focus on protection of forest peoples in times of climate change and industrial development in Africa.