Since 1986, Cameroon has faced severe economic hardship. City dwellers’ incomes have declined the most. As a result, more people in the humid forest zone clear forest and families tend to clear larger areas. This situation persists despite almost ten years of structural adjustment policies designed to revive the economy.
William Sunderlin and Jacques Pokam recently conducted a survey of 4,078 households in 38 villages in Cameroon’s Center and South provinces that partially replicated a survey by Andre Franqueville in the same villages in the mid-1970s. They found that, on average:
Village populations grew faster after 1986. More people immigrated from other areas; fewer moved to the cities; and many of those who previously migrated to cities returned home.
Households chopped down more forest to grow food. This helped compensate for lower earnings from cocoa. Men became more involved in food production activities previously left to women.
A second study by Ousseynou Ndoye and David Kaimowitz based on secondary literature supports these conclusions. That study also shows recent increases in logging, fuel wood extraction, and exploitation of non-timber forest products have further degraded Cameroon’s forests. A currency devaluation in 1994 encouraged logging and demand for non-timber forest products. Families partially compensated for lower tree crops incomes by selling more fuelwood and non-timber forest products.
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