Editor’s note: In Context is a new series designed to inform and educate you on Heifer’s work in each country we have a presence. Every two weeks we’ll tackle a different country and examine unique situations related to hunger and poverty, how Heifer works to address them as well as take some time to explore local culture and traditions.
Population: 20 Million
Native greeting: Bonjour! (Hello!)
Capital: Yaounde (second largest city in Cameroon)
Official language: French and English
Local currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFA)
Cameroon is a central African nation bordered by Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The Gulf of Guinea lies to the southwest of the country and the Sahel region, the zone of transition between the Sahara desert and the Savanna, runs through northern Cameroon. The climate ranges from tropical along the coast to semi-arid and hot in the north.
European presence in Cameroon was limited to coastal trade as malaria prevented any significant settlement of the country’s interior. It wasn’t until 1884, after large quantities of Quinine, a malaria suppressant, became available, that Germany colonized and named the country “Kamerun”. Under the League of Nations, post World War I Cameroon was partitioned between France and England, with France given larger geographical share. After a brief armed struggle for independence for French Cameroon in 1955 led by the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon, French Cameroon gained independence in 1960 and was officially named Republic of Cameroon. The following year the largely Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroon voted to separate and join Nigeria and the largely Christian southern third voted to join the Republic of Cameroon.
Cameroon is a young country that has yet to establish adequate infrastructure. Roads connecting urban centers to rural areas are far and few. The unemployment rate is at 30% and with 7 out of 10 young people as being under-employed, the Government is making employment, particularly among young people, a priority. Ranked 150th on the 2011 Human Development Index, it is estimated that 48% of the population lives under the poverty line.
|Photo courtesy of Heifer International
Poverty in Cameroon is largely a rural phenomenon. 55% of the country’s poor live in rural areas. A 2007 study shows a decline (of about 5 points) of poverty in urban areas whereas as rural areas, especially those in the north saw a rise in poverty by about 3 points. Most affected are women andchildren. About half of the people living in poor households are women and children under the age of 15. A household study conducted in Cameroon in 2007showed that only 18% of rural women have a secondary-level education and 14% of women that are living in the northern parts of the country receiving secondary-level schooling.
Livestock portfolio: Pigs; dairy cattle; meat goats; sheep; snails; cane rats; poultry; rabbits; guinea pigs and donkeys
Technology portfolio: Integrated crop-livestock agriculture; organic farming; minimum tillage; contour bonds; ethno-veterinary practices; community animal healthcare; bio-sand filters and biogas technology
Issues addressed: Sustainable food systems; income security; nutrition; environment; gender; youth and potable water
Job creation among the rural poor is a step to alleviating poverty in Cameroon. Heifer Cameroon began its work in country by focusing on the dairy industry. Since then, Heifer has expanded to include other livestock species and varied livelihood strategies to assist resource poor families in 6 of Cameroon’s 10 regions.
|Photo courtesy of Heifer International
Heifer Cameroon works in collaboration with other NGOs and state institutions like the Ministry of Livestock and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in order to reach even more of the resource-poor and vulnerable population.
Heifer Cameroon is Heifer’s oldest program in West Africa.They began their operations in 1974 and has assisted over 30,000 families.