Africa has six of 10 countries considered to be most threatened by climate change globally. They are Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, according to a July 2019 CNN report.
The others are the Philippines, Cambodia, Haiti and Bangladesh.
With diminishing national incomes, some of the African countries seriously affected by climate change find it difficult to adopt a holistic approach to solving of their problems, thus the piecemeal approach being adopted by Cameroon.
The Cameroonian approach is being used as a model in some Central African countries.
The Cameroonian piecemeal approach involves the government partnering major cities in an innovative urban greening drive. It is expected this will contribute to improve living conditions and security of urban dwellers.
The project will assist councils to deal with deforestation, flooding, drought, rising temperatures, and water shortages.
These challenges are further compounded with the growing population in most cities in Cameroon.
Fifteen city councils recently signed agreements with the government to undertake multi-faceted urban-greening projects. These include tree planting in vulnerable areas and the creation of recreational parks.
It is expected that these efforts will result in reducing deforestation, floods, drought, and water shortages.
The city councils include Yaounde, Douala, Limbe, Bamenda, Bafoussam, Garoua, Ngaoundere, Bertoua, Ebolowa, Nkongsamba, Kumba, Edea, Maroua, Kousseri and Sangmelima.
According to Environmental Journalist Ntungwe Ngalame who writes for InfoCongo, Cameroon government officials have pledged to steer deforested cities from the edge of climate disasters with an urban multi-facet town greening project launched in 2019.
“The city greening project will involve tree planting principally targeting flood-prone areas, multiple recreational spots as well as the drought-stricken Cameroon’s northern regions,” said Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Jules Doret Ndongo.
“It is our responsibility to give our cities the much needed environmental facelift and make them safe now and in the future,” Ndongo said.
“Cameroon’s economy has seen an uptick in investments particularly as the country works to transition to a developed state.
“Unfortunately, this also means sacrificing huge forested areas where these projects are located,” said Chief Zachee Nzoh Ngandembou, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Environment and Rural Transformation, a non-governmental organisation promoting rural development in Cameroon.
Forest loss in Cameroon between 2001 and 2015 is estimated at 777,000 hectares, according to the Global Forest Watch.
This situation has worsened since 2016 with the numerous investment projects undertaken by the government as part of efforts to host Africa’s premier football competition, experts said.
Cameroon was scheduled to host the African Nations Cup in January but because of unpreparedness and the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition has been shifted to 2021.
Effectively organising such a large event requires the construction of large infrastructures such as roads, stadia, training grounds and hotels.
What this means is that considerable forest land has been used up exposing many cities to the scorching heat and high temperatures.
“Forest loss does not only hurt ecosystems and drive climate change but it also puts the livelihood of millions of city dwellers in danger,” Paul Donfack, a consultant with the African Forest Forum, said.
“The environmental impact of forest loss is immeasurable. It could lead to extreme weather, rising temperatures, torrential floods, droughts, and water shortages thus putting the lives of the vulnerable population at risk,” Donfack said.
The government hopes the new urban greening forests project will help mitigate the situation.
“The new urban reforestation project will help boost the tree planting schemes launched by the government in 2017,” Bruno Mfou’ou Mfou’ou, Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, said.
The government in 2017 launched a project to restore 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of deforested land to redress the challenges of dwindling forests and help mitigate the effects of climate change, he said.
The selected cities shall receive close to 600 million FCFA (1.2 million dollars) yearly as part of government’s support.
Forest experts said that a national policy in this area would be necessary to define the roles of different actors as well as how to conduct public campaigns.
“We call on the Cameroon government to institute a national policy that will ensure sustainable tree in cities,” said Greenpeace Africa’s Environmental Ambassador, Biakolo Onana Alain.
Greenpeace Africa Forest Campaigner, Sylvie Djacbou, emphasised the need to protect the Congo Basin Forest.
“By its sheer size, the Congo Basin Forest serves as a large carbon reservoir of global significance for regulating greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide.
“Greenpeace stands with local and indigenous communities to protect the forest against illegal industrial agriculture and land grabbing,” concluded Djacbou.
The government plan includes planting close to 600.000 trees anually for the next five years. It also includes supporting some water supply projects like rainwater harvesting, construction of boreholes as well as draining schemes and sewage disposal.
Some of these plans are already being implemented in Cameroon’s two major cities of Douala and Yaounde.
Council officials believe building recreational spots with trees in cities will help inhabitants find safe havens against rising city temperatures and set reforestation examples that can be replicated in other countries in the Congo Basin region.
Environment experts have lauded the plan to engage city councils on a genuinely green economy path that offers solutions for both climate and agriculture challenges.
“It is economically advantageous if projects like these are owned and run by local councils. This is attractive for green private sector investments more generally,” Augustine Njamnshi,” CEO of Bio-Resource Centre, A Yaounde-based NGO, said.
Douala, Yaounde, and other cities in Cameroon sometimes face water shortages and floods.
Experts attribute this partly to disappearing forest and said, “ we are likely to see more of this in other African countries.
“Extreme weather events are taking a toll on African cities which are growing rapidly and threatening the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent.”
Additional Reporting from InfoCongo