The results registered so far in the whole gamut of actions aimed at limiting the nefarious effects of desert advancement and land degradation in Cameroon are to say the least hope rekindling but the scourge of the phenomenon remains. The Minister of the Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, Hele Pierre, who presided at the ceremony in Garoua marked by a tree planting exercise on the occasion of the 25th World day to Combat Desertification and Drought, gave figures that leave no one indifferent. Almost 12 million hectares of land in Cameroon are degraded, two-thirds of which are in the northern regions impacting mostly on the poorest segment of the population epitomized by food crises, economic decline and ecological consequences. The situation is largely blamed on human activities, notably agriculture and livestock development. The Far North, North, Adamawa, North West and West Regions stand out as the most affected.
In effect, the phenomenon has attained disturbing levels over the years, triggering a vicious circle of environmental degradation, leading to impoverishment, food insecurity and mass migration in the very dry areas of the North and the Far North Regions. Through the National Action Plan for the Fight against Desertification (the Country’s Blue print for the control of desertification), studies have established the causes and impacts of desertification as well as the responses and strategies put in place. Some of the responses, according to Minister Hele Pierre, include: reconstitution and protection of 30,000 hectares of protected degraded land, planting of three million trees in 80 sites in the Far North, distribution of 120,000 high quality stoves to reduce the cutting of fuel wood, and implementing a restoration programme along the banks of River Benue covering 120 kilometers from Lagdo through Garoua to Pitoa. In spite of all these efforts, all that has been achieved remains mitigating.
Action against desertification are expected to go the extra mile as the country continues to bleed under the weight of land degradation. Of recent, as indicated by a specialized study; some parts of Cameroon witnessed the worst effects of desertification and land degradation. The Bamboutos Division, witnessed high level of water shortages; in Bui Division, almost all the run offs and water sources dried off. The story was same for Donga Mantung whose water tables dropped by almost 50 per cent in the past 25 years. In the Northern part of the Cameroon, wild fires have increased, the cutting of wood for fuel doubled and conflict between locals and migrant pastoralists from neighbouring countries ensued among others. These examples and much more are clear indications of the effects of desertification and land degradation which are calling for action to be stepped up.