Deforestation in Cameroon is driven by various factors, both direct and indirect.
Here are some key causes of deforestation in Cameroon:
Agriculture and Shifting Cultivation: Agriculture, particularly small-scale subsistence farming, is a significant driver of deforestation in Cameroon. Farmers clear land through slash-and-burn practices to create fields for cultivating crops. Shifting cultivation, where farmers rotate their fields after a few years, often leads to repeated cycles of deforestation in different areas.
Commercial Agriculture and Plantations: The expansion of commercial agriculture, including large-scale industrial plantations for crops like oil palm, rubber, and cocoa, contributes to deforestation. Forest areas are often cleared to make way for monoculture plantations, which results in the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats.
Logging and Timber Extraction: Logging, both legal and illegal, plays a major role in deforestation. Timber extraction for domestic use and commercial purposes, including export, leads to the clearing of forests. Unsustainable logging practices, such as selective logging and illegal logging, further exacerbate deforestation rates.
Infrastructure Development: The construction of infrastructure, such as roads, highways, dams, and mining operations, results in forest clearance. Infrastructure projects often require the clearing of land, leading to fragmentation of forest ecosystems and increased access for human activities, including logging and agriculture.
Fuelwood Collection and Charcoal Production: The reliance on fuelwood as a primary source of energy, particularly in rural areas, drives deforestation. Local communities and urban populations depend on wood for cooking and heating, leading to the unsustainable extraction of timber from forests. Charcoal production, which involves burning wood, also contributes to deforestation.
Population Growth and Urbanization: Population growth and urban expansion lead to increased demand for land, housing, and infrastructure. As cities and towns expand, forests are cleared to make way for residential, commercial, and industrial development, resulting in deforestation.
Mining and Extractive Industries: Mining activities, including artisanal and industrial mining, contribute to deforestation in Cameroon. Forests are cleared to access mineral resources, such as gold, diamonds, and other minerals. Mining operations often involve the construction of roads, infrastructure, and the use of heavy machinery, leading to extensive forest clearance.
Weak Law Enforcement and Governance: Weak law enforcement, corruption, and inadequate governance contribute to deforestation. Illegal logging and encroachment into protected areas occur due to limited enforcement capacity and lack of monitoring. Ineffective land-use planning and unclear land tenure systems can also lead to land grabbing and unauthorized clearing of forests.
Commercial Bushmeat Trade: The commercial bushmeat trade, fueled by high demand for wildlife products, leads to deforestation indirectly. Hunting for bushmeat drives the depletion of animal populations, disrupts ecological balance, and can result in habitat degradation due to the removal of key species.
Climate Change and Fire Incidents: Climate change-related factors, such as increased temperatures and changing rainfall patterns, can contribute to forest degradation and susceptibility to wildfires. Both natural and human-induced fires, such as those used for land clearing, can cause widespread forest destruction.
Addressing deforestation in Cameroon requires a combination of policy interventions, sustainable land-use practices, community involvement, and effective law enforcement. It involves promoting sustainable agriculture, responsible logging practices, protected area management, land-use planning, and alternative sources of energy to reduce reliance on fuelwood. Strengthening governance, enforcing regulations, and combating illegal activities are also essential for curbing deforestation rates.