Credit Access in CameroonCameroon is a country in Central Africa located right below the Sahara Desert. With a population close to 24 million, estimates show that 48 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The majority of those who live in poverty reside in northern, rural regions. Although Cameroon has experienced growth in GDP since 2018, it is the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a region that has suffered in Africa due to the fall of oil prices. Cameroon aims to become an emerging country by 2035, which means the real GDP will have to grow by 8 percent. In order to reach this goal, credit access is an advancement that must be focused on. Seeking a solution for credit access in Cameroon is a crucial task for its government.

Unfortunately, in 2017, only 10 percent of Cameroon’s population reported that they have a bank account.

Agriculture and the Economy

It’s clear that financial services and education are not reaching a large portion of Cameroon’s population. Often described as a miniature Africa, Cameroon exhibits all the climates of the continent, with a large chain of mountains separating the arid and green regions. This terrain presents a challenge in acclimating the population to new advancements such as mobile banking and loan access.

Cameroon’s economy is rooted in agriculture, something found mostly in rural regions where access to credit is poor. Because of the country’s rich landscape and natural resources, 70 percent of the population’s labor force is in Cameroon farms. However, 23 percent of farmer households rely on subsistence farming, which means they are working to feed themselves and their family. This is an alternative to both consuming and selling the produce.

While subsistence farming can provide a family with a self-sufficient method towards survival, its success is dependent on a non-hazardous climate and funding. Specifically, this is access to expensive chemical fertilizers. Subsistence farming also doesn’t help improve the economy’s investment sector when many people are farming to live instead of making money to save. Most farmers sell their products at the marketplace, where physical cash is exchanged for goods. Out of the 90 percent who do not own a bank account, the majority reported that they had no money to save or made no regular income.

A Need to Expand Credit Access in Cameroon

There are currently around 840 or so accredited microfinance institutions in Cameroon. The country’s loan performance has worsened due to the number of uninformed loans given to consumers. In 2018, the Risk Prevention Bureau for Microfinance (CREMF) was established as a system that helps these institutions track and disseminate the correct data on all their customers. This makes it somewhat easier for them to recover borrowed money. However, the challenge is still present: the majority of these microfinance institutions are in rural areas with low internet connectivity. This makes it difficult to continue giving out loans to those who need them.

In order to make credit access in Cameroon more financially inclusive, mobile services must be extended to rural areas. Additionally, services should also cover financial education and funding for farmers. In 2008, Express Union introduced mobile money. Mobile money offers a quick method for payments and access to finances.

While there are 6.8 million subscribers, there are only 1.5 million active users of mobile money services. The biggest challenge is implementing a cashless culture in a country that is reliant on a cash-based agricultural market.

Improvement Efforts

In order to establish an equal financial climate, the government of Cameroon and the World Bank Group renewed its strategy. This 2017-2021 project focuses on three main areas:

  1. poverty traps in rural areas
  2. access to better transportation
  3. improving weak governance.

The main objectives of this framework are increased market productivity in the agricultural sectors, improved health and improved access to credit in Cameroon.

Another solution to help foster jobs in Cameroon is the Agriculture Investment and Market Development Project (AIMD). Participants of this project are working to pave a bridge between agriculture and agribusiness. For example, this includes:

  • educating farmers on new techniques
  • providing them with the means to create quality produce
  • connecting them with agro-industrial companies like Guinness through mobile applications.

These advancements have helped to boost the financial sector and improve credit access in Cameroon. As a result, the livelihood of the country’s poor has improved. With consistent improvement, it’s possible that Cameroon’s economy can emerge into one that is economically stable, with more equally-distributed prosperity among regions.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Pexels

maternal and child mortalityCameroon borders the coast of the Gulf of Guinea in Central Africa. The country is home to around 25.3 million people, comprising around 0.3 percent of the world’s population. Its population has increased significantly from 17 million in 2002. The nation has faced a number of health challenges, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but is primarily plagued by extremely high maternal and child mortality rates. In 1998, there were 4.3 reported deaths per 1,000 live births. This rate has steadily increased in recent years. The 2018 UNICEF data report states that the national neonatal mortality rate is 24 deaths per 1,000 live births, and is as high as 36 deaths in rural areas.

Combating High Mortality Rates

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a study designed to identify the number of infant and mother deaths that occurred during childbirth in 2015 and 2016. The study included four health districts in Cameroon, Specific interventions focused on financing, strengthening necessary human resources, service provision, partnership and advocacy. WHO worked with a Cameroonian reproductive health organization, RMNAH, to train 87 healthcare providers in the operation and organization of regional blood transfusion around the four sectors. The organization also implemented 10 health facilities in central and east regions of Cameroon.

Despite the contributions of WHO and RMNAH, data showed that maternal and child mortality was the same in October 2015 and 2016. In May 2016, researchers traveling to Cameroon with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) discovered a superfood plant that may spark change in mortality rates.

The Superfood

A group of researchers first discovered the potentially transformative plant in the Takamanda rainforest region, located in southwest Cameroon. The group working with CIFOR was traveling to local communities, observing rates of malnutrition and maternal and child mortality and recording variation by village. One researcher, Caleb Yengo Tata, recalled that some communities witnessed infant death every day. The root of recurring health problems was anemia due to iron-deficiency in women who had reached reproductive age. In some regions of Cameroon, 50 percent of women and 65 percent of children face anemia-related health issues. These can include cognitive difficulties, low birth weight and generally increased maternal mortality. Tata and other CIFOR researchers found that women living in grassland communities were more prone to severe anemia than those living in forest areas. Around 75 percent of women inhabiting either terrain experienced a level of anemia.

Researchers found that the difference could be attributed to a dark leafy green plant called “eru,” which grows bountifully throughout rainforests in Cameroon and central Africa. The plant is predicted to have 85 percent more vital nutrients than fresh spinach, and has virtually no anti-nutrients, making it what Westerners would peg a “superfood.” Traditionally, eru is cooked in palm oil and served with crayfish and hot chili. Women in the forest regions of Cameroon have been harvesting the plant for years, but were unaware of its potential health benefits until recently.

The Eru Plant’s Impact

Science has not yet confirmed whether the eru leaf will adequately address the crisis of child and maternal mortality in Cameroon. Researchers found a statistically significant link between eru consumption and lower anemia rates, correlated to lower child and maternal mortality rates. Through research, scientists ruled out other environmental factors that may influence the prevalence of anemia, such as malaria and parasites. However, they were unable to collect information from a large sample. While the data itself is limited, the discovery is a step forward, representing a possibility of change and the beginning of a healthcare breakthrough.

Although significant changes have been made, maternal and child mortality in Cameroon is still high. For those living in the poorest areas of the country, there are 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. Even in areas considered the “richest sectors” report 29 deaths per 1,000 live births. Researchers, nutritional and medical experts and Cameroonians remain hopeful that the newly discovered eru could function as a breakthrough for child and maternal health. If successful, the superfood plant needs to be preserved, along with other micronutrient-dense foods likely hiding among grasslands and forests in rural sectors of the country.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Cameroon
Cameroon is in trouble. The country is economically plagued by a devastatingly high poverty rate, struggling education and health care systems, paralyzing corruption and various internal rifts that threaten national security and any prospects of a vibrant tourism industry.  Nevertheless, some bright spots remain that point towards a more prosperous future. With an official goal in place to be labeled as an “emerging market” by 2035, many questions about Cameroon’s precarious future linger. The top 10 facts about living conditions in Cameroon presented below will try to give a better picture of the situation in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Cameroon

  1. A picture of the living conditions in Cameroon is not complete without the all-important measures of GDP and GDP per capita. With the 15th largest economy in Africa, Cameroon’s total nominal GDP of $38 billion places it at 98th place globally. When taking heed of the population, the nation’s GDP per capita of $1,400 places it near the bottom of the pack globally, at 152nd place, and 26th out of 55 countries in Africa.
  2. Despite the sobering figures above, Cameroon’s economy has made great strides towards becoming a prosperous emerging market in recent years. In the period from 2004 to 2008, while the countries reserves quadrupled to $3 billion, the public debt was reduced from over 60 percent of GDP to around 10 percent. Furthermore, over the last decade, Cameroon’s GDP per capita grew at a steady 4 percent annually, well above the global average of 2.6 percent. In addition, Cameroon’s unemployment rate currently rests at a healthy 4.24 percent.
  3. Nonetheless, Cameroon still has a ways to go, as 48 percent of the population continues to live under the poverty line. With this in mind, it is important to note that poverty remains a largely rural phenomenon in the country. Despite only accounting for roughly 45 percent of the country’s total population of 24 million, nearly 55 percent of those living in poverty dwell in rural areas where access to steady-paying jobs and adequate infrastructure is sparse.
  4. With a relatively low score of 0.56, placing the country 151st out of 189 total countries measured, Cameroon currently ranks last in the “Medium Human Development” category of the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Established to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone, a country’s HDI takes into account various measures of health, education and per capita wealth.
  5. As of 2010, the last year on file, the adult literacy rate in Cameroon was estimated at 71.3 percent, well below the world average of 84.6 percent at the time. On a more positive note, Cameroon boasts one of the highest school attendance rates in Africa, with most children having access to relatively inexpensive, state-run schools. In 2013, the enrollment rate for primary schools was 93.5 percent. It is important to note that boys continue to attend school at a significantly higher rate than girls as a result of entrenched cultural norms.
  6. Cameroon is plagued by crippling corruption on an epic scale. The Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys, places Cameroon 152nd overall out of 180 countries measured. The rippling economic ramifications of prolific corruption at a governmental level can be devastating, with research highlighting a direct correlation between a higher CPI score and positive long-term economic growth. So much so, in fact, that a country can expect GDP growth in the range of 1.7 percent for every “unit increase” in a country’s CPI score.
  7. One of the biggest factors limiting Cameroon’s education attendance rate is not only the accessibility of schools but also the prevalence of child labor. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 56 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 were working, while 53 percent of children aged between 7 and 14 were forced to balance both work and school.
  8. Cameroon’s health care system is sparse and insufficient, significantly affecting the overall quality of life in the country. This is best represented in the country’s markedly low life expectancy and high infant mortality rate. Cameroon’s life expectancy rests at just 57 years for males and 59 years for females. The infant mortality rate is extremely high, at 84 deaths per 1,000 births. Cameroon’s substandard health care system can be rooted back to the government’s minimal funding. Currently, health care expenditures are equal to just 4.1 percent of the country’s GDP.
  9. Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon as its authoritarian President since 1982. Over these 37 years, he has quelled democratic hopes and limited any and all civic and civil liberties. Having this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Cameroon was labeled as “not free” by Freedom House. With an overall score of 22 out of 100 (100 being entirely free), Cameroon ranks 174th out of 210 countries measured.
  10. Bordering Nigeria and Chad, Boko Haram continues to pose a threat to Cameroon, especially in the country’s far north. This represents a huge issue for the safety of the country’s citizens.

Despite being an independent country from 1960, Cameroon still has an autocratic rule that made country one of the poorest in the world. The country has a lot of work to do, especially in the fields of child labor and corruption. The positive developments are present, such as the low unemployment rate and high school attendance rates. These and similar positive examples provide hope for the citizens that a country can be categorized as an “emerging market” by 2035.

– William Lloyd

Photo: Flickr

Tech Industry in Cameroon
As Africa experiences the highest rate of growth of digital consumerism in the world, Cameroon finds itself at the forefront of the continent’s technological boom.

This rise of the tech industry in Cameroon is quickly changing the landscape of the country, and the investment opportunities these companies are bringing in, as well as the digital products they produce, could prove key to building Cameroon’s economy and improving the lives of its impoverished citizens.

Rise of Startups

Despite the steady improvement of living conditions in Cameroon, many citizens still struggle to survive. As a result, numerous startups in the country have set out to use advancements in technology to work for people in need.

Noticing that the cost of smartphones is lowering every day while access to health care is still difficult and that the infant death rate remains high, tech startup GiftedMom created an app allowing pregnant women and new mothers to text health care professionals for help when they cannot afford to see a doctor in person.

Similarly, Agro-Hub set out to help farmers, who make up nearly 70 percent of Cameroon’s population, as they fight to keep their work profitable. The startup helps farmers adapt to market changes, sell their products and find a community among other farmers who may offer help.

As unemployment remains a constant issue, web platform Njorku helps people from Cameroon to find jobs by offering an easy-to-use interface for both people looking for work and recruiters trying to find well-suited candidates.

These startups, only a few among many, use technology to solve real-world issues with practical solutions. As they succeed, the users they target (impoverished peoples, mothers and infants, unemployed individuals) also succeed.

Through Education Comes Potential

Seeing the possibilities that can arise when people are educated and knowledgeable about technology, many tech industry professionals both within Cameroon and abroad have invested time and resources to prepare young people for participation in the industry.

In 2015, German software corporation SAP hosted Africa Code Week in 17 African countries, including Cameroon, with the goal of spreading digital literacy and preparing African youth to work and compete in an increasingly digital world.

The Genius Center in the Cameroon city of Douala teaches children coding, computer skills and the ability to think of digital solutions for real-world issues, preparing them not only for employment but also to use these skills to improve their communities.

While Africa’s fast-growing population raises alarms of poverty and unemployment, the rise in technology training provides hope for job openings increase and creation of well-educated workers who are capable of performing in these roles.

Looking Forward

As the tech industry in Cameroon continues to grow, significant changes are necessary for the growth to be sustainable. The country is still reeling from a three-month government-imposed internet shutdown in English-speaking regions that ended in early 2018, leaving tech professionals wary of the government as it announces plans to support the industry in the coming years.

Due to tech professionals’ suspicion of the government and Cameroonian business peoples’ hesitation to invest in this industry, many startups have sought investment from investors outside of the country.

For Cameroon to fully enjoy the benefits of this growing industry, domestic investors must understand and support the rapidly evolving direction in which the world market is trending.

While these changes are necessary for the benefits of the tech industry in Cameroon to be realized, the country has already made significant headway in establishing itself as a global competitor in the industry.

 – Rob Lee
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in CameroonBy definition, poverty is a state of being extremely poor, which includes the desperate search for food, water and shelter. Taking a look at poverty from a global perspective, the majority of the poorest countries in the world are in Africa. Facts about poverty in Cameroon is a topic that is overlooked in the media, but it remains extremely relevant to those experiencing it.

10 Facts About Poverty in Cameroon

  1. The Human Development Index (HDI) is the calculation of a country’s health, education and income. As of 2015, the most recent HDI reported Cameroon’s value at 0.518 percent. Out of 188 countries, Cameroon ranks at 153. The good news seems to be that this is progress for Cameroon. The infant mortality rate has decreased, raising the life expectancy of newborns by 2.4 years. The expected number of years enrolled in formal schooling has increased by 2.4 years, and the GNI per capita has risen by 5.5 percent since 1990.
  2. At an estimated population count of 24.68 million people, 30 percent of Cameroon’s society lives below the poverty line.
  3. In 1960 Cameroon obtained their independence while experiencing a prosperous economy that soon transitioned into a decade-long recession beginning in the mid-1980’s. Their economic prosperity was attributed to income from oil, gas, timber, aluminum, agriculture, and the mining of natural resources. While much of their profit has relied on these exports, the economy eventually fell short due to a major decline in global prices. This led to the current stagnant and inequitable per capita income.
  4. The current unemployment rate stands at 4.2 percent, which is a dramatic increase in employment since the country’s all-time high record in 1996 of 8 percent.
  5. Health care is a major struggle for impoverished citizens of Cameroon. People don’t possess the financial capacity to access decent healthcare, and the public resources available are insufficient. Although more money is spent on healthcare in Cameroon than any other sub-Saharan country, it’s only available to the wealthy regions. Organizations like The International Medical Corps are helping with preventive medicine as well as educating the citizens of Cameroon on maintaining good health. This is a major fact about poverty in Cameroon that needs to be addressed in order to prevent fatal diseases and deaths.
  6. Cameroon’s poverty level is considered a rural phenomenon, with 55 percent of the poor occupying that geography. The level of education, gender and matrimonial status reflects the poverty dynamic. Women and children make up about half of those living in rural poverty.
  7. Proper education isn’t accessible to children of Cameroon, especially in poor regions. The expected years of schooling, on average, is about 10 years. The adult literacy rate of around 70 percent is due to the lack the proper funding, infrastructure, and teachers in the educational system.
  8. Cameroonians face the challenge of obliterating malnutrition. Moderate to severe stunting affects 31.7 percent of children under the age of five. Health hazards, extreme illnesses, and death are known ramifications of malnutrition. Food scarcity has the strongest influence on the affliction of poverty. Limited income equates a limited amount of food. Organizations like The World Food Program are trying to help people in Cameroon eradicate malnutrition by 2030.
  9. The government of Cameroon provides subsidies for electricity, food, and fuel, that have dented the federal budget. This affects the potential funding for education, healthcare and infrastructure. This poses concern of the government’s priority for funding and assisting with impoverished societies.
  10. Migration appears to be the most popular resolution to individuals growing up in impoverished regions Cameroon. In response to the increasing poverty, many people move out of the country to seek better living conditions. A few key factors that lead to migration are; family reunification, relocation in search of education, and lack of autonomy.

Among the many facts about poverty in Cameroon that can be discussed, these issues are the most prevalent to those living in these conditions. With assistance from other countries with greater resources and organizations like The World Food Program, Cameroon’s state of poverty could improve drastically.

– Kayla Sellers
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in CameroonQuality education is the cornerstone of a prosperous nation. But in Cameroon — an ethnically diverse country in south-central Africa — only 53 percent of children attend secondary school. Also, the state of girls’ education in Cameroon is troubling since they do not have access to quality education and many of them are not even enrolled in schools. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 70 percent of Cameroonian girls are illiterate.

Facts about Girls’ Education in Cameroon

A variety of factors influence the lack of education among girls in Cameroon. Traditional values stifle chances of prolonged schooling or any schooling for girls. Poverty often forces women to leave school and to work and earn an income for their families. In addition, high rates of youth pregnancy and child marriage impede continued education for many girls. Although Cameroon ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which sets the minimum age of marriage at the start of adulthood, yhe legal age of marriage in the country is still 15 with parental permission. In 2014, the UNICEF found that over 31 percent of teenage girls in Cameroon were married before age 18.

Patriarchal norms drive down girls’ education in Cameroon as well. Patience Fielding from the University of California, Berkeley found that women’s educational pursuits are further restricted in higher educational institutions as well, especially in the fields of math, science and technology. Even as girls struggle to enroll in schools, obstacles meet them in the classroom. Girls face a disproportionate amount of discrimination, sexual harassment and violence.

What’s Happening

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

International organizations are supporting Cameroonian girls and increasing female enrollment in schools. UNICEF works to advocate early childhood education as well as supply resources and classroom materials to students and teachers.

Cameroonian women are also spearheading efforts to make social change and promote girls’ education in Cameroon. In a 2016 Times article, Leila Kigha talks about her grandmother’s efforts to inspire other Cameroonian women and the ripple effect a single woman’s hope for the future can have on others. She refused to accept the status quo and sent her children to school against all odds. Her descendants went on to establish the Shine A Light Africa initiative — a nonprofit that works to allow women to sell farm products in groups.

This work has been monumental in ensuring that change happens. Research shows the positive externalities resulting from girls having access to better and continued education consequently leading to a higher standard of living. In addition, improving girls’ education can reduce maternal death and infant mortality rates substantially.

Conclusion

The Republic of Cameroon’s constitution outlines that the State shall guarantee a child’s right to education. However, equal and prolonged access to education is often not a reality for Cameroonian girls. Thus, it requires international attention from political leaders and focused agendas to help reduce the gender gap in education to greatly influence individual lives in such nations.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Cameroon
Despite relative peace and political stability in Cameroon, it remains a country plagued by food shortages and malnutrition.

The Problem

Cameroon is home to 23.7 million people, 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Poverty is concentrated in four regions —  the Far North, the North, Adamaoua and the East. These same regions are those most severely impacted by food insecurity. In fact, OCHA (the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) reported a 189 percent increase in food insecurity between 2013 and 2016 and stated that 2.6 million people in Cameroon were food insecure in 2017.

In April 2018, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that that number has risen to 3.9 million, 2.5 million of whom are living in one of the four aforementioned regions. In other words, 36.7 percent of the population in these four regions is food insecure.

Cameroon’s harsh climate makes growing crops extremely challenging. In the North, between 25 and 30 percent of the land is completely barren and unsuitable for cultivation. Furthermore, the dry season is long, during which severe water shortages are widespread and, when rain does come, ruinous floods become common.

Refugees and IDPs in Cameroon

The relative peace and stability of Cameroon make it attractive to refugees fleeing danger and violence in neighboring countries. Namely, refugees emanate from Chad (to the North/Northeast of Cameroon), Nigeria (to the North/Northwest) and the Central African Republic or C.A.R. (to the East).

At the end of 2017, the UNHCR (the U.N.’s Refugee Agency) reported that over 85,000 Nigerian refugees lived in the Far North region of Cameroon and about 231,000 refugees from C.A.R lived in the North, Adamaoua and East regions. Such dramatic population influxes take a severe toll on the already limited food supply of Cameroon.

In addition, Boko Haram — the major cause of most Nigerian refugees fleeing for Cameroon — has been active along the Nigerian-Cameroonian border; so, along with forcing Nigerians to flee violence and resettle in the Far North of Cameroon, Boko Haram violence also forces local Cameroonians from the Far North to flee south into the North and Adamaoua regions.

These internal Cameroonian refugees are officially referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Between 2014 and 2015, over 70 percent of farmers in the Far North region, fleeing Boko Haram violence or over-crowding caused by the influx of refugees, deserted their land to move elsewhere to a less crowded area.

However, rather than lessen the pressure placed on the already scarce food resources of the Far North, IDPs abandoning their farms only increases it, for much viable land is now not being farmed. As a result, the production of cereal crops, the main staple food of the region, was down over 50 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Efforts to Help & Reasons for Hope

The WFP is committed to helping achieve the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) goal number two and to helping end hunger and malnutrition in Cameroon. To accomplish this, the organization chose to target the four above-named regions most impacted by food shortages and malnutrition in Cameroon.

Regional violence — such as that caused by Boko Haram — makes delivering food especially difficult, but the WFP has remained committed to helping in Cameroon nonetheless. The organization continues to raise money and increase the amount of food and nutritional supplies being sent to refugee camps. Furthermore, the WFP runs a supplementary feeding program that specifically targets childhood nutrition, as an estimated 31 percent of all children in Cameroon between the ages of six months and five years are chronically malnourished.

Despite continued challenges, the impact of WFP shows reasons for hope. In April of this year alone, the WFP helped over 292,000 people in Cameroon. Almost 75,000 CAR refugees living in East, Adamaoua and North regions, 47,500 Nigerian refugees and almost 17,000 Cameroonian IDPs in the Far North region received food rations or cash transfers from WFP.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Ongoing challenges in Lake ChadCountries surrounding Lake Chad in Central Africa are facing staggering levels of poverty. In addition to ecological challenges, violence stirred up by the terrorist organization Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has begun to affect other nations in the region — notably Chad, Cameroon and Niger — causing detrimental consequences on food and livelihood security.

How the Region’s Citizens Are Being Affected

Due to ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, the United Nations has found that 10.7 million people are in need of assistance, seven million are food insecure and 515,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. According to the Operational Inter-Sector Working Group, the upcoming June-to-August rainy season in the Lake Chad region will leave 536,000 people vulnerable in Northeast Nigeria.

Areas of Concern for Ongoing Challenges in Lake Chad

  1. Once the third-largest source of freshwater in Africa, satellite images show that the lake has vanished to roughly 10 percent of its original size, putting millions from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria at risk of losing their main source of water. In the 1960s, populations surrounding Lake Chad, which was then home to over 130 species of fish, enjoyed a level of food security.But decreasing water levels from the overuse of water, prolonged drought and global warming are forcing local populations to switch from fishing to agricultural production. “This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one,” Food and Agriculture Organization Director -General Graziano da Silva said at a media briefing in Rome in early 2017.
  2. Currently, armed fighting is a staple of the region. In Northeast Nigeria, the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, a jihadist militant organization, will severely hurt cultivation in peak seasons in 2018. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of fatal conflict events in 2017 compared to the years 2013–2016 in this region. Households are highly dependent on emergency assistance from humanitarian aid agencies and deteriorating living conditions have led to population displacement.In addition, some areas are facing additional conflicts. There were 323 protection incidents reported on 84 sites in the Chad Lake region between January and April 2018, including violations of the right to property, violations of the right to life and physical integrity and sexual violence, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
  3. Food prices are well above average and are much higher than what is sustainable for those making low wages. Concern is higher in the summer “lean season,” when income is lowest and food prices are highest before harvest begins.Although humanitarian aid organizations are providing supplies, USAID reports that more needs to be done to eradicate acute food insecurity. USAID estimates that in the Adamawa State region in Nigeria, response needs are likely much higher than the organization is able to reach.

How Challenges Are Being Addressed

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is working heavily to mitigate ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, creating a response action plan for 2017–2019 which targets Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. To assist nearly three million people, the Food and Agriculture Organization is in the process of implementing programs include providing livestock emergency support (restocking vaccinations and animal feed), supporting food production and rehabilitating infrastructure to bolster production.

Next, there seems to be mutual understanding among countries in the region of the urgency of action. In February 2018 in Abuja, the Lake Chad Basin region commission along with the Nigerian government and UNESCO held a conference called, “Saving Lake Chad to restore its basin’s ecosystem for sustainable development, security and livelihoods.”

Finally, USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network seeks to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. In April 2018, 2.25 million people in the northeast area of Nigeria received food assistance from the organization.

Ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, including the disappearance of Lake Chad, civil conflict driven by Boko Haram and limited access to foodstuff, have pushed thousands into poverty. Keeping these issues in mind, humanitarian aid organizations are working to mitigate and reverse the impacts of decades of damage.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to CameroonCameroon is a country in Central Africa known for its cultural and geographic diversity. The United States and Cameroon established economic relations in 1960 and have shared a somewhat positive relationship since. U.S.-Cameroon relations have hit turbulence in recent years due to concerns over human rights violations and a lack of change to political and economic conditions.

Regardless of the speed of progress, both countries share a desire to reduce threats to the region, improve the living conditions of the people and promote economic conditions. This work means that there are many ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Cameroon.

Despite Cameroon’s economic growth, health standards have not seen the expected growth rates that generally rise with economic conditions. Life expectancy, child mortality and maternal mortality are below the regional average. The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Cameroon is roughly 4.3 percent, which is among the highest in Western and Central Africa. Of the people that live in Cameroon, close to 40 percent live below the poverty line.

In order to combat this problem, the U.S. Agency for International Development provides a multitude of programs benefitting Cameroon, managed mainly through its regional office in Ghana. As well as USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides U.S. aid to Cameroon in order to prevent and fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. The U.S. State Department, in conjunction with USAID, also provide funds for refugees, civic engagement in elections, democratization, counter-extremism and education.

USAID also supports the promotion of human rights and the democratization process through the Cameroon Peace Promotion Project which utilizes radio programming to increase awareness of violence in the region and increase community unity towards a safer Cameroon. The program supports local moderate voices promoting tolerance and opportunities for dialogue on the events happening in Cameroon.

In order to support humanitarian intervention in the conflicts of Cameroon, the U.S. funnels aid to Cameroon through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Food for Peace Program. This office, as well as this program, assist those harmed or displaced by regional conflicts. This U.S. aid to Cameroon goes to help feed those affected by malnutrition, provide healthcare to those in need and provide cash for work opportunities which help put food on the table and train local citizens better practices.

As well as providing material assistance, these programs provide safe spaces for women and children affected by violence and knowledge on how to resist and mitigate future violence in the region. These efforts are also attempting to promote more independence in the region and provide knowledge to citizens in order to increase self-sufficiency.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Cameroon by promoting health standards in Cameroon which in turn prevents the spread of disease to the U.S. The United States, as the leading investor in the region, also supports the development of trade with Cameroon for good and services.

Cameroon exports goods such as petroleum, rubber, timber and coffee to the United States, while Cameroon imports goods such as machinery, aircraft, vehicles and plastics from the United States. The open trade made possible by U.S. foreign aid dollars facilitates a mutually beneficial relationship and allows for Cameroon to develop products to trade not only with the U.S. but with many other countries around the world as well.

In conclusion, Cameroon is a region in which economic development has not been as successful in efforts to end poverty. With the help of the United States Agency for International Development and programs such as Food for Peace, Cameroon is on track to begin down the road to poverty eradication. The people of Cameroon are gaining the skills and materials needed to become a more self-sufficient and democratic country, and the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Cameroon as well.

– Dalton Westfall
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in Cameroon
In 2008, Cameroon was the scene of hunger-related protests and protesters asking for cuts in fuel and food prices. In April 2010, a new initiative launched and was set to last for seven years; this act was known as the Agricultural Competitiveness Improvement Project (PACA), which led to major improvements for Cameroon’s food market and food security.

Financed by the government of Cameroon and an $82 million loan from the World Bank’s International Development Association, PACA was created to encourage young people to become farmers through the development of rural infrastructure facilities and the investment in value chains such as rice and maize cultivation, and pork and poultry.

 

Sustainable Agriculture and the Fruits of PACA Labor

By 2016, the project had already increased crop yields by 16 percent for rice, 98 percent for maize and 220 percent for plantain. Regarding the production of broiler meat, numbers doubled with a 122 percent increase for the average annual pig live weight, 257 percent for the average annual poultry live weight and 141 percent for the average annual egg production.

In fact, sustainable agriculture in Cameroon represents more than half of the country’s non-oil export revenues, and constitutes a field of high employment, with 60 percent of the country’s working population having a job in the sector. The project not only helps address the challenge of agricultural competitiveness, but it also brings food security, income generation and job creation in rural Cameroon.

 

Sustainable Agriculture and Women

Sustainable agriculture in Cameroon also proved to be a way for women in certain villages to improve their livelihoods. Joshua Kankonko is one of the founders of those eco-villages — in Bafut (a village in Cameroon), he implemented “permaculture,” an innovative system of sustainable agriculture and design principles that replenishes the soil and maximizes yields on small plots.

 

Systemic Improvements in Sustainable Agriculture

This system achieves better management of soil and environmental resources through natural and mechanical erosion control; one can use plans to hold soil and moisture together and the other uses natural materials such as bamboo to create barriers. From improving family incomes to restoring the natural environment, this project is successful at benefiting the overall well-being of Bafut’s community.

From large projects such as PACA, to smaller and locally-sourced projects like the one in Bafut, there has been a number of efforts to make sustainable agriculture in Cameroon a tool for higher productivity, higher incomes and better job opportunities.

– Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Wikimedia Commons