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From law school to the field: Community lawyers in Cameroon

By: Samuel Nguiffo

This study prepared by the Center for Environment and Development (CED) in conjunction with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) profiles the Community Legal Field Worker (CLFW) initiative in Cameroon. The CLFW initiative provided marginalized Bantu and indigenous communities with legal assistance and support to safeguard and assert their community and forestry rights. The CLFW project recruited and trained highly motivated young law-school graduates and then paired them with NGOs working with communities. The study, while highlighting difficulties and obstacles faced, reports many positive results from the lawyers’ efforts, including: increased community understanding of their rights and the formal means to exercise those rights, the securing of legal titles to community forests, and fairer distribution of forestry royalties and other benefits to communities. The guidelines, lessons learned, and key practical findings presented in this study may serve as an invaluable reference for similar initiatives.

Key words: Community legal field worker, forestry, indigenous peoples, capacity-building.