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Cash-strapped Cameroon battles to improve climate resilience

The heart of the city of Yaounde after a heavy downpour ©Daily News Cameroon

Since 2015, Cameroon which hangs on the armpit of Africa has been experiencing severe climate-induced disruptions because of the El Niño and La Niña weather phenomena. The situation has not spared other countries on the continent south of the Sahara. According to Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director-General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), in terms of severity and extent, “the ongoing El Niño and La Niña, with their related droughts and floods, are considered the worst since the turn of the century.” The situation is even more disturbing in Cameroon.

Dr. Tabi Joda, an environmentalist and Executive Director of Green Aid International, says the capital city Yaounde, located in the country’s Equatorial Rainforest, is fast turning into a desert because of the rampant cutting down of trees. “Felling trees precipitates rainfall which creates inconsistent weather patterns and provokes floods,’ Dr. Tabi underscores. Yaounde, like Douala and other parts of the country are prone to floods which affect the livelihood of tens of thousands of poor households especially in semi-urban and urban areas.

Besides submerging on-and-off the political (Yaounde) and economic (Douala) capitals of the country, increasing climate change has ferociously disrupted Cameroon’s food production, especially in the northern Sahel regions were constant drought and floods interplay. Cameroon is considered the breadbasket of the central African sub-region. Just recently, the price of food crops started sky-rocketing in Cameroon especially that of cassava which is one of the most consumed staples in the country.

In the face of growing environmental threats; both occasioned by nature and man, Government hasn’t been unconcerned. But its efforts have largely been thwarted by inadequate funding, and to a lesser extent by policy, according to Dr. Tabi.

Cameroon sits in the World Bank’s list of heavily indebted poor countries. And multilateral institutions have raised concerns over the country’s rising debt, though Government holds its public debt situation is satisfactory.

Though having the will to mitigate the effects of climate change in the country, as many a Government official has declared on different occasions, the country is yet to have the financial viability. It is still grappling to recover from multiple economic shocks occasioned by the sustained fall in oil and global commodity prices as well as the menace of national and sub-regional insecurity.

Cleaners do their best, but unfortunately most of the inhabitants of Yaounde still consider their streets and streams, like this one, to be their trash bin and public toilets. ©Tchoh Bennett Kuwan

Despite the challenges, Cameroon has been making strides, going as far as borrowing to safeguard its environments and protect future generations.

Last year, in a bid to safeguard its wetlands, the Government through the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, secured FCFA 25 billion from Spanish Deutsche Bank to rehabilitate the Yaounde Municipal Lake. The project which is ongoing will see the stinking water pool- home to infectious mosquitoes- turned to a leisure site. Its drainage system will also be cleared.

Much earlier, in 2015, the Government obtained a FCFA 47.9 Billion loan from the African Development Bank and other financing institutions to extend a 2.4 km Chinese-built canal on the Mfoundi river bed by a further 2.6 km. The stream which runs across the capital city often overflows its banks and causes floods during five to six hours of heavy downpour common during six months of rainy season. Such occurs after its course must have been clogged by garbage inappropriately disposed. The canal construction project seeks to change the tide, though it is limited just to the city center.

Besides borrowing to put in place urgent measures, the Government through the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, has been doling out millions annually to support environment-friendly projects such as ‘Operation Green Sahel’ which seeks to fight against desertification. Such projects have often benefited from foreign donors, though such donations neither constant in coming nor sufficient.

In efforts to sustain its climate change resilience efforts, the Minister of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, Hele Pierre told the state media that in relation to the Green Climate Fund, the Government has obtained US$ 300, 000 as preparatory funds to access the Green Fund. “Presently, project ideas are being formalized with the goal of constituting a repertoire of projects eligible to the fund,” Hele said.

Dr Richard Munang, Regional Climate Change Coordinator for the United Nations Environment Progamme (UNEP) in Nairobi, holds that “in Africa, it is not an absence of ideas or innovations, but rather lack of incentives & institutional structures to bring to scale, known solutions” to climate change. We learned incentives and putting in place of institutional structures both require huge sums of money.

A civil society activist based in Yaounde, Giscard Alain Medouga, suggests that in the face of rising climate change and its negative impacts, parliament has to put in place an emergency plan, just like it did with the three-year emergency plan for development. “As early as possible, we really need to jerk into thinking and take positive actions to preserve our future,” he posits.

By Amindeh Blaise Atabong; freelance journalist working in Cameroon

 


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