Cameroonians Say Govt Must Do ‘Much More’ to Protect the Environment

More than seven in 10 citizens see pollution as a serious problem in their community.

Key findings

  • More than seven in 10 Cameroonians (72%) say pollution is a serious problem in their community. o Citizens cite deforestation (23%), human waste management (23%), trash disposal (22%), and pollution of water sources (19%) as the most important environmental issues in their community. o Three-fourths (76%) of respondents say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in Cameroon.
  • Cameroonians believe the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean falls on ordinary citizens (36%), the national government (26%), and the local government (21%).
  • A majority (57%) of citizens think the government is doing an inadequate job of reducing pollution and protecting the environment. Fully two-thirds (67%) say it needs to do “much more.”
  • If environmental-protection policies threaten jobs and incomes, 52% of citizens say the government should prioritise the environment, while 42% disagree.
  • A majority (57%) of Cameroonians say the benefits of natural resource extraction outweigh its negative impacts, such as pollution.
  • But more than eight in 10 (81%) want the government to tighten regulation of the resource-extraction industry to reduce its negative impacts on the environment. ▪ Majorities think that ordinary people have a voice in decisions about natural resource extraction (61%) and that local communities receive a fair share of the sector’s revenues (55%).

Cameroon possesses abundant natural resources, including oil and gas, mineral deposits, high-quality timber, and an enormous range of flora and fauna. But if its natural and cultural diversity has earned it the title of “Africa in miniature,” the country also shares many of the environmental challenges present elsewhere on the continent (World Bank, 2023a; UNEP, 2023).

Deforestation claimed more than 1.5 million hectares between 2001 and 2020, threatening the country’s rich biodiversity (World Bank, 2022; Manigha, 2023). Population growth, urbanisation, and industrialisation drive land degradation and water and air pollution, exacerbated in the anglophone region by the country’s ongoing socio-political crisis (Bang, 2022).

Cameroon is also struggling with waste management, in particular plastic pollution. According to some estimates, the country generates about 600,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year (Landfill Solutions, 2022).

In 2012, Cameroon implemented a ban on the production, sale, and use of non biodegradable plastic bags. However, despite this ban, significant quantities of plastic bags are smuggled into the country across its 1,690 km border with Nigeria (Kindzeka, 2023).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Cameroonians’ experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental governance, and natural resource extraction.

Findings show that most Cameroonians are concerned about pollution in their community. They rank deforestation, human waste management, and trash disposal as their most important local pollution problems. They consider environmental protection a responsibility they share with their national and local governments but say the government must do “much more” on this issue.

A majority of citizens say the benefits of natural resource extraction, such as jobs and revenue, outweigh its costs, such as pollution, but most also call for tighter regulation of the industry to limit its negative impacts on the environment.

Baba Adou Baba Adou is a researcher of Political Science at the University of Florida and the UF Sahel Research Group

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