The importance of forests to the well-being of a large number of poor people especially in tropical developing countries is indisputable and well recorded (Ruiz Pérez and Arnold 1996; Arnold and Ruiz-Perez 1998; Byron and Arnold1999; Tieguhong and Ndoye 2004; Sunderlin et al.2005;Powell et al. 2011;). In addition, tropical forests are a natural resource pool indispensable to the national development plans and poverty reduction strategies around the world. The tropical forests contain a wealth of timber and non-timber products which have thus been exploited for food, fuel wood, watershed, pharmaceutical royalties, honey, snail and other marketable and non-marketable products. NTFPs contribute to livelihoods of about 2 billion of the world’s poorest people in urban and rural settlements and are among the most valuable plant resources for present and future food security. There is now clear evidence that the earth’s climate is warming. Global surface temperatures have risen by 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit (ºF) over the last 100 years. Worldwide, the last decade has been the warmest on record. The rate of warming across the globe over the last 50 years (0.24ºF per decade) is almost double the rate of Warming over the last 100 years (0.13ºF per decade). But the evidence of climate change extends well beyond increases in global surface temperatures. It also includes: changing precipitation patterns, melting ice in the arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea level, around the world, acidification of the oceans due to elevated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, responses by plants and animals, such as shifting ranges. Forests are tremendously naturally endowed to combat climate change by protecting people and livelihoods, and creating a base for more sustainable economic and social development. But this natural mechanism is often hampered by anthropogenic activities. It is therefore imperative to take measures which are environmentally sustainable not only for mitigation, but also for its adaptation. It is argued that climate change presents additional challenges to a country such as Cameroon, owing to its agro-ecological diversity (Brown et al. 2010). Indeed, studies have identiﬁed diﬀerent aspects of climate change vulnerability speciﬁc to individual agro-ecosystems in Cameroon (Brown et al. 2010, Yengoh et al. 2010a). While changes that warrant adaptation may occur in all agro-ecosystems in the country, these changes are not likely to be of the same intensity in the entire country (IPCC 2007). Many developing countries (Smith and Scherr 2003; World Bank 2004);(Nkem et al.2010).Over1.6 billion people living in extreme poverty . Forest preservation and conservation provides an essential mitigation measure towards addressing climate variability and change (Kremen et al. 2000; Thompson et al.2009). There is limited understanding on the magnitude of the changes in local climatic scenarios in the landscape. Observations were related to uncertainty, irregularity and periodic changes. In a study in southern Cameroon, villagers describe this situation as“climate accident”(Chia et al.,2013).However, the inherent variations of climate from season to season and from year to year make variability a fundamental part of climate change (Hulme et al., 1999; Berz, 1999). Research has underscored the vulnerability to climate variability and change of sectors, such as food, energy and water (Sonwa et al.,2012),and the livelihood strategies of forest-dependent communities (Bele et al.,2013a,2013b;Nkem et al.,2012;Chia et al.,2013) in other forest areas in the region. The use of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) is proffered as an option in this paper. Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are defined as biological materials other than timber which are extracted from the forest for human use. There are suggestions, however, of three major pathways of climate change impacts on indigenous people and their livelihoods through increase in environmental risks, reduction in livelihood opportunities and consequent stressing of existing social and policy institutions (Agrawal 2007). Forest livelihood strategies are influenced by forest type, which determines the availability and distribution of various livelihood assets described in the Department for International Development (1999) sustainable livelihood framework. This may be related to the differential sensitivity of forest types to climate impacts, as well as to the nature of use of the asset by the community. These climate risks have been selected from the well documented scientific analysis of climate change on tropical forests, particularly Congo Basin forests (CBFP 2005; IPCC 2007; Locatelli et al. 2008; Somorin 2010).NTFPs encompasses as all tangible animals and plants forest products other than industrial wood, coming from natural forests, managed secondary forests and enriched forests.. NTFPs contribute to livelihoods of about 2 billion of the world’s poorest people in urban and rural settlements and are among the most valuable plant resources for present and future food security. There is limited understanding on the magnitude of the changes in local climatic scenarios in the landscape. Observations were related to uncertainty, irregularity and periodic changes. NTFPs if properly managed can provide good sources of animal protein and income to the immediate communities as well as promote tourism. Adaptation through reducing vulnerability is therefore one of the approaches considered likely to reduce the impacts of long-term climate changes. Importantly, it has been argued by Nkem et al. (2010) that sustainable utilization of NTFPs could be among the effective climate change adaptation strategies in Africa. Several climate change related policies and programs have focused on NTFPs. According to UN (2009), NTFPs are one of the co-benefits of REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus). Through its implementation, communities will gain more benefits of ecosystem services, especially through creation of sustainable NTFPs based enterprises (URT, 2010b). The Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC Smith et al., (2014a) describes how older people are usually at greater risk from storms, floods, heat waves, and other extreme events partly because they tend to be less mobile than younger adults, more likely live alone in some cultures and thus find more difficult to avoid hazardous situations. During such times of stresses, the most important coping strategy for households involves gathering of NTFPs such as wild mushrooms, firewood, wild fruits, thatch grasses, medicinal plants, bush meat, building poles to mention a few. This reliance on forest resources is often greater considering that forests also support local industries that produce wood products (Nkem et al., 2010).
The objectives of this study were to:
Identify different types of NTFPs in the study area and amount sold per household per year in BFR.
To examine local perception of climate change vulnerability and impacts on NTFPs availability and livelihoods of forest dependent communities around BFR, perceptions on changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures around BFR.
To examine the coping/adaptation strategies at community level in the changing climate.