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Vulnerable to climate change, Cameroon tackles the problem head-on

A Man Cycling in Cameroon

A man rides a bicycle in Cameroon; a country very vulnerable to climate change that it didn’t cause, but developing innovative solutions to the problem. Photograph: Peter Treanor/Alamy


Powered by article titled “Vulnerable to climate change, Cameroon tackles the problem head-on” was written by John Abraham, for on Tuesday 28th January 2014 07.00 UTC

My research involves not only studying the Earth’s climate, but also working to find clean energy solutions that will enable people and regions to have access to reliable electricity without increasing emissions of heat-trapping gases. In support of this effort, I recently traveled to Cameroon, which is on the western coast of Africa. There, in a town near the coast called Buea, I spent two weeks with my family and colleagues, working with a new university (Catholic University Institute of Buea, or CUIB for short) but more about that later.

First, readers of this column will note that I take a particular interest in the impacts of climate change that are being felt at regional or national levels. In particular, changes to weather patterns and how those changes are being driven by either natural or human causes is something I care deeply about. Fortunately, there is extensive literature available about observed changes or expected changes to climate and weather in and around Cameroon. For instance, some studies that focus on the impacts of climate change on the water cycle project that increases in rainfall and evaporation from lakes, rivers, oceans, and plants will have impacts that must be considered in future development planning.

Another study focused on the impacts that land use changes and climate change have on Cameroon’s forests; the study found future effects will be profound. Loss of forest lands will lead to loss of animal life in particular. More recent work confirms the vulnerability of Cameroon’s forests to climate change. Those researchers found that while the people in Cameroon expressed a great deal of understanding and appreciation of climate change, the ability of the country to adapt to climate change was limited.

Perhaps the most detailed study regarding Cameroon’s susceptibility to climate change was completed by the World Bank, which related agricultural output to climate change, in particular to changes in temperature and precipitation. The authors reported that since a large majority of the poor of Cameroon (and a significant percentage of the national GDP) work in agriculture, Cameroon as a nation is particularly sensitive to some of the changes we expect to see as the world warms.

And all of this brings us back to the university CUIB. I traveled there to find out what people on the ground observe. I spoke with the Dean of the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Laetitia Ako Kima. She told me,

“Farmers in this region are dependent on rain-fed agriculture and have observed erratic rainfall patterns and intensity which adversely affect agricultural activities and their livelihoods. Effects of this include among others, difficulty in following cropping calendars due to unpredictable and unseasonably long rainy periods, decline in crop yields, high disease incidence and crop losses, increased post-harvest losses and high labour costs, coupled with increasing incidents of HIV/AIDS.

These adversely affect their livelihoods, exacerbating already entrenched poverty which prevails at the grassroots level. There is therefore an urgent need for alternative coping strategies to mitigate prevailing circumstances.”


Outdoor community classrooms at CUIB.


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