Environment in Cameroon Essay

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The pre se nt day Re pu bli c of Cameroon was formed in 1961 when the former French Cameroon joined part of British Cameroon to create a new government. In response to continued political stability, Cameroon has created a strong infrastructure while developing the agricultural, petroleum, and transportation sectors. The Chad-Cameroon Pipeline has caused much controversy and concern among environmentalists but has been lauded as an important economic project for both countries. Funding from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have fueled development and structural reform in Cameroon; however, the high level of national debt has been an anchor on local prosperity and equitable growth. Democratic reform has also continued at a slower pace than development, in part because of widespread government corruption. The prospect of debt relief from multi-lateral funding agencies represents a promising development.

With a per capita income of $1,900, Cameroon is ranked 183rd of 232 countries in world incomes. Approximately 70 percent of the labor force is engaged in agriculture, chiefly at the subsistence level. Nearly half of Cameroonians live below the national poverty line, and one-fourth of the people are undernourished. Some 30 percent are unemployed. Just over half the population lives in urban areas. Income is unevenly distributed, with the richest 10 percent possessing 36.6 percent of income as compared to 1.9 percent for the poorest 10 percent. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Reports rank Cameroon 158th of 232 countries on overall quality-of-life issues.

Bordering the Bight of Biafra, Cameroon has a coastline of 402 kilometers and shares land borders with the Central African Republic, Chad, the R public of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria. Cameroon also has 6,000 square kilometers of inland water resources. The terrain of Cameroon varies from the coastal plains of the southwest and north to mountains in the west and a dissected plateau in the central region of the country. Elevations range from sea level to 4,095 meters at Fako on Mount Cameroon. This mountain, the highest in sub-saharan West Africa, is an active volcano. The climate of Cameroon is also varied, with the coast enjoying a tropical climate while the north is semiarid and hot. Cameroon experiences a good deal of volcanic activity, and volcanoes on Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun periodically release poisonous gases into the atmosphere. Cameroon’s natural resources include petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber, and hydropower. Nearly 13 percent of the land area is arable.

The population of 17,340,702 Cameroonians experiences an HIV/AIDS rate of 6.9 percent. Some 49,000 people have died from this disease since 2003, and it is estimated that 560,000 others are living with it. Some 37 percent of Cameroonians lack sustained access to safe drinking water, and 52 percent do not have access to improved sanitation. As a result, the population has a very high risk of contracting food and waterborne diseases that include bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever and the water contact disease schistosomiasis. In some areas, chances for contracting vectorborne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever are also high. High incidences of disease in Cameroon result in low population growth (2.04 percent) and life expectancy (51.16 years) and high infant mortality (63.52 deaths per 1,000 live births) and death (13.47/1,000) rates. Cameroonian women bear an average of 4.39 children, and 26.6 percent of the adult female population is illiterate as compared to 15.3 percent of adult males.

Most environmental problems in Cameroon are a result of uncontrolled economic activities. Part of the Congo Basin Forest, the second-largest rain forest in the world, lies within Cameroon. However, only 4.5 percent of land area is under national protection. Deforestation is occurring at a rate of nine percent as ecologically valuable tropical forests are cut down for export. The rate of desertification in the Congo Basin Forest has accelerated in response to agricultural mismanagement, overgrazing, and deforestation. The countries that host the rain forest have joined together with international groups to form the Congo Basin Forest Partnership designed to prevent further damage. With a $35 million grant from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Cameroon introduced the Forest and Environmental Policy Development Program in 2006 under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The program targets enhancement of sustainable development and the promotion of biodiversity. Local and international environmental groups also play a major role in protecting the environment of the rain forest.

Overfishing has threatened marine ecosystems and placed the Cameroonian food supply in danger. Poaching as well as destruction of habitats has also placed wildlife at risk. Of 409 mammal species that have been identified in Cameroon, 40 are endangered, as are 15 of 165 known bird species. In a 2006 study conducted by scientists at Yale University, Cameroon was ranked 100th of 132 countries on environmental performance, in line with the comparable income group and slightly above the comparable geographic group. The overall score was reduced because of the low ranking in environmental health. The Cameroonian government participates in the following international agreements on the environment: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, and Tropical Timber 94.


  1. Timothy Doyle, Environmental Movements in Minority and Majority Worlds: A Global Perspective (Rutgers University Press, 2005);
  2. Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Africa and the Middle East: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003);
  3. Valentine Udoh James, Africa’s Ecology: Sustaining the Biological and Environmental Diversity of a Continent (Mc-Farland, 1993).

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