Water Governance in Cameroon – Opportunities for New Approaches and Capacity Building

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Case Description
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Geolocation: 6° 0' 0", 12° 24' 0"
Total Population 21.7 million
Total Area 475,440475,440 km²
183,567.384 mi²
Climate Descriptors Moist tropical (Köppen A-type), Semi-arid/steppe (Köppen B-type), Continental (Köppen D-type), Monsoon, Dry-summer, temperate
Predominent Land Use Descriptors agricultural- cropland and pasture, forest land, rangeland, urban
Important Uses of Water Agriculture or Irrigation, Domestic/Urban Supply
Riparians: Cameroon

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Natural, Historic, Economic, Regional, and Political Framework

Cameroon's varied climate contributes to uneven distribution of precipitation in which areas within the south of the country receive abundant precipitation and the northern areas, along the edge of the Sahara, receive no more than 500 mm rain per year. Reduced rainfall since the 1950s has contributed to lower flows in rivers within the semi-arid regions, but the dense network of rivers throughout the country still provides sufficient water to meet current demand.[1] However, due to significant climatic differences that impact distribution & precipitation regimes, regional floods, droughts and extended water quality problems are common. [2]

Cameroon's rivers drain to four major basins: the Niger, Lake Chad, Congo, and Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic). The Sanaga, Nyong, Cross (Manyu), and Ntem Rivers are the largest contributors to Atlantic drainage. The Benue River is a major tributary of the Niger River. The Logone (Chari) river is a major contributor to Lake Chad. The Dja and Boumba Rivers are part of the Congo Basin.

Cameroon is located in Middle Africa, along the Gulf of Guinea. A dense network of perennial and intermittent rivers and streams exist throughout the country, contributing to  four major drainage patterns.

Because many of these rivers contribute to transboundary basins, management decisions at the local/regional/country level for water resources in Cameroon may have implications beyond its borders.

Cameroon's population is growing at an annual rate of 2.8% [2], and is primarily young, with about 60% of the population below the age of 25.[3] The growing population is contributing to the challenges of increasing and improving sustainable use of the country's natural resources. Awareness of the negative impacts on land, water, and human health due to general deforestation and the aridification of existing agricultural lands have assisted in increasing activities to address sustainable resource management (e.g.: water and land management). Governing water resources in a manner that addresses potential impacts of climate change, the needs of a growing population, and the need to provide equitable access to water and improved water quality across all user groups is a significant and complex challenge.

Cameroon's major challenges for water governance include

  • data challenges (gathering and updating quality and quantity information for water), [1]
  • institutional capacity (political will, capacity building, and mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement),[1][4] and
  • local capacity (education for disaster risk management, care and monitoring of water resources at the community level). [5]

Cameroon's government, educational institutions and communities seek to address these challenges, often with assistance from outside organizations, particularly in building institutional capacity for addressing these challenges at different levels. Some specific capacity building challenges include providing education and facilitating empowerment at the local level for flood/drought preparedness while developing the human resources to enable capacity building within the country.

Additionally, Cameroon is working to address building capacity to address water related risks through transboundary initiatives. Disastrous flood outcomes in 2012 spurred cooperation between Cameroon and Nigeria that will address information sharing and coordination on flood control structures. [6]

Water Governance in the Nyong Basin

The Nyong is the second largest river in Cameroon and the eastern-most portion of the river's extent are characterized by both perennial and seasonal wetlands. Downstream from these wetlands, the basin is dominated by forested and agricultural lands.

The Nyong Basin is located in southwestern Cameroon and can be considered a sub-basin within the context of regional drainage to the Gulf of Guinea.

A major concern for the governance of this river is that Cameroon does not have any legal and regulatory provision to govern the management of wetlands. Law N° 98/005 of 14 April 1998 established protection, management, and accessibility of water resources, but did not explicitly address wetlands. Environmental degradation and flooding along the Nyong are of increasing concern.

The specific challenges ahead include:

  • no system for flood warning
  • continued land degradation and deforestation [7]
  • water quality concerns leading to health impacts and serious waterborne illness

In 2012, Tchouaffe Tchadje and Tchamba conducted survey research in Mbalmayo, a city along the Nyong River (3° 31' N 11° 30' E). They sought to understand the socioeconomic, governance, and environmental conditions that shape vulnerability and the capacity to adapt to climate change (i.e. flood risks) within the local community through semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Outcomes from the research included identification of local perceptions of the current river management of the Nyong including water related risk management (flooding) and water quality management.

Currently most agriculture in the immediate region does not use synthetic fertilizers, and continued organic practices and widening the use of responsible organic agricultural practices could have significant environmental benefits to the Nyong basin through increased carbon sequestration and lowered agricultural waste runoff to the river basin.

Tchouaffe Tchadje & Tchamba (2013) conducted a SWOT analysis of the current system from the perspective of stakeholders in Mbalmayo and provide guidance for addressing the Nyong river using principals of IWRM and addressing the key Political, Social, Economic, and Environmental aspects important to stakeholders. They seek to promote a river master plan implemented using community based adaptation and mitigation for climate change (CBAM) principals that provide better security services (risk management and mitigation) for citizens of the river basin.

These recommendations include:

  • Enforce existing water management policies
  • Decentralize the management system of the Nyong river
  • Set up dialogue and local level political network to reduce disaster risks at the local level
  • Initialize emergency warning system (EWS)
  • Improve basic social dialogue and health services access
  • Reduce economic vulnerability through poverty reduction
  • Establish an environmental protection framework to prevent further degradation and restore the Nyong

Additional recommendations include the need for a independent regulatory body and increased incentives for activities that improve sustainable use of water resources and good agricultural practice.[5]

Issues and Stakeholders

Building Community level capacity for effective response to acute (i.e. flood event) and persistent (i.e. climate change) water related challenges requires input, assistance & support from organizations at multiple scales

NSPD: Water Quantity, Water Quality, Governance, Assets
Stakeholder Types: Sovereign state/national/federal government, Local Government, Development/humanitarian interest, Community or organized citizens

Surveys conducted within the Nyong Basin by Tchouaffe Tchadje & Tchamba (2013) highlight the need for the population build capacity to effectively prepare for and respond to water-related hazards (see table below). Subsistence agriculture and fishing account for most livelihoods, and farmers and fishermen do not have the tools to respond to flood or prepare for or endure extended drought. Municipalities lack access to funding and financial services to improve their water management and disaster risk management plans. The Central Government (including Ministries of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation; Mines and Water; and, Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development) has a role in helping the local municipalities and community level organizations receive the framework and funds for building response/adaptation capabilities. NGOs and Universities have stake in providing opportunities and schemes for education and planning for disaster risk management.

Table: Perceptions of Stakeholder Groups in Mbalmayo regarding the Governance of the Nyong River (adapted from Tchouaffe Tchadje & Tchamba, 2013)[5]

Stakeholders Characteristics and Capacities Motivations and Expectations Implications for Planning
  • Nearly 70% have an income below the national minimum wage
  • Almost 60% the members are women but they are not owners of land.
  • Seek to improve their livelihoods;
  • Seek to improve the quality and quantity of their agricultural products
  • Capacity-building needed, especially of women and young members;
  • Need to reduce the incidence of pest on crops;
  • Need training on Disaster Risk Management and safety;
  • Need for access to credit and micro-insurance schemes, especially by women and young members.
  • Almost all the members are men;
  • Women are typically fish sellers;
  • Fish are less available/abundant.
  • To improve the quality and quantity of their fishes
  • Need training on Risk Identification & Assessment
Community and Women's Organizations
  • Almost 80% are women.
  • Limited access to affordable credit and other financial services;
  • Women have limited access to and control over land
  • Women have the responsibility for feeding the family
  • To improve their livelihoods
  • Capacity-building needed, especially of women and young members;
  • Women need to own land.
Youth Organizations
  • Nearly 60% of community;
  • Limited awareness of their obligations and rights.
  • To be involved in their parent’s activities
  • need capacity building
  • The mayor has the responsibility to manage the water system;
  • Limited access to funding or other financial services.
  • To build up a management plan of the municipality;
  • To establish a dialogue between all the stakeholders;
  • To establish adequate channels to reinforce participation of the civil society in public arena.
  • Need financial decentralization and support from Bank;
  • Need for better communication infrastructure and access to the municipality;
  • Need for awareness raising of the local population on disaster risk reduction;
  • Need to Manage effectively the rapid changes occurring in the territory (such as disasters).
Central Government
  • Responsible for regulation and policy
  • To ensure good governance
  • To safeguard the environment and reduce negative climate impacts
Need to:
  • boost disaster risk reduction;
  • set up and enact early warming systems/services for floods;
  • to transform regulation and use of water (regulation & enforcement)
  • Involved with building local and institutional capacity and raising awareness about pressing concerns.
  • To look into the global interest of the population (sensitization on water risks, early warnings)
  • Need to sensitize and train the population onsite (on prompt action in recovery situations)
Universities (E.g. University of Dschang)
  • Involved with providing training in agriculture, water, wetlands and research
  • To enhance conceptual understanding of various aspects of water governance, and help to develop competencies (water professionals and community education)
  • Need to develop onsite training for local population

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Tagged with: decentralization

  1. ^ 1.0 1.1 1.2 World Water Assessment Programme. 2009.The United Nations World Water Development Report 3: Water in a Changing World.Paris: UNESCO, and London: Earthscan. Pages 2-5. Cameroon case study [PDF, 3 MB] - http://webworld.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/wwdr3/case_studies/pdf/Case_Studies_Africa.pdf#page=2
  2. ^ 2.0 2.1 The National Coordination of the ANCR-NCSA process (2007) National Coordination of the National Capacity Self Assessment Project in Global Environment Management ANCR-NCSA Process. Online: https://www.thegef.org/gef/sites/thegef.org/files/documents/document/ncsa-cameroon-fr-ap.pdf
  3. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2013) The World Factbook 2013-14. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2013. Available online https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html
  4. ^ African Development Bank, 2009, Country Strategy Paper 2010-2014 Cameroon. Accessed online September 09 2013: http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Project-and-Operations/CAMEROON_2010-2014%20COUNTRY%20STRATEGY%20PAPER.pdf
  5. ^ 5.0 5.1 5.2 TCHOUAFFE TCHIADJE, Norbert F. & TCHAMBA, Martin N., "Water Governance in the River Nyong Basin, Cameroon" Water issues/challenges and Climate Change Adaptation in Africa 24-2 Tadjoung, P. (2008) Importance, menaces et perspectives pour la conservation de la faune mammalienne et ichtyologique du bassin versant supérieure de la vallée du fleuve Nyong. Mémoire de DESS en Sciences Forestières, Université de Yaoundé I. 66 p.
  6. ^ Ngalme, E. N. Cameroon, Nigeria Cooperate on Flood Prevention. Thompson Rueters Foundation. Accessed 19 Aug 2013 Online : http://www.trust.org/item/20130819082113-2z9lo
  7. ^ Tadjoung, P. (2008) Importance, menaces et perspectives pour la conservation de la faune mammalienne et ichtyologique du bassin versant supérieure de la vallée du fleuve Nyong. Mémoire de DESS en Sciences Forestières, Université de Yaoundé I. 66 p.

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Facts about "Water Governance in Cameroon – Opportunities for New Approaches and Capacity Building"RDF feed
Area475,440 km² (183,567.384 mi²) +
ClimateMoist tropical (Köppen A-type) +, Semi-arid/steppe (Köppen B-type) +, Continental (Köppen D-type) +, Monsoon +, Dry-summer + and temperate +
Geolocation6° 0' 0", 12° 24' 0"Latitude: 6
Longitude: 12.4
IssueBuilding Community level capacity for effective response to acute (i.e. flood event) and persistent (i.e. climate change) water related challenges requires input, assistance & support from organizations at multiple scales +
Land Useagricultural- cropland and pasture +, forest land +, rangeland + and urban +
NSPDWater Quantity +, Water Quality +, Governance + and Assets +
Population21,700,000 million +
RiparianCameroon +
Stakeholder TypeSovereign state/national/federal government +, Local Government +, Development/humanitarian interest + and Community or organized citizens +
Topic Tagdecentralization +
Water UseAgriculture or Irrigation + and Domestic/Urban Supply +