Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Cameroon’s land and water resources are under considerable strain due to increasing pressure from population growth. According to the World Bank, the amount of arable land has decreased from 0.65 hectares per person (in 1965) to only 0.31 hectares per person in 2009. Pressure on land resources has also contributed to the decline of forest area in the country, which has dropped from 243,160 km2 in 1990 to about 199, 000 km2 in 2010.
One outcome of population growth in rural Cameroon is that as people search for new farm land beyond the boundaries of what was previously cultivated and settle on this land, these new farms and farming practices are lowering the amount and quality of water available to downstream towns. A related problem is that population pressure has resulted in more intensive and unsustainable cultivation of land along the banks of significant waterways. This has created soil breakdown, resulting in downstream erosion and pollution. This increased activity has also put a spotlight on the traditional practices of clothes washing and defecation in rivers and streams that have increased to a point where they are having an impact on public health.
Populations that have lived along waterways and used rivers for various agricultural, bodily and traditional practices for decades have not had to consider the consequences of their actions on water pollution and on riverbanks until now. However, with population pressure on the rise and an increase in the aggregate negative effects on water sources and soil, citizens must now become engaged in the environment around them and understand how they can organize themselves to share water resources appropriately and protect waterways and riverbanks. While these communities have not traditionally seen themselves as custodians of the waterways and land, the repercussions of population pressure on the irrigable water supply, the riverbanks’ soil and on their health, are highlighting the need for these communities to take action.
Urban areas, like Yaounde, are also facing water quality problems that Tantoh believes can be addressed by using the same principles of community involvement in developing solutions for the long-term management of water sources for the benefit of the community. He sees the solution as not simply rural or urban and is working to raise awareness that solutions that come from fields, such as landscaping and botanic gardening, can be as valuable in a rural context as an urban context.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Farmer Tantoh is mobilizing a range of local talents and knowledge to create a citizen-led movement to maintain the integrity of water sources and to curtail pollution. He is responding to the negative consequences of increased population pressure on water resources, and the need for better water management planning and waterway protection strategies. To do this, he is mobilizing communities to take part in the protection and restoration of their water sources. He is building a national network of school-based environmental clubs, a network of traditional healers concerned with maintaining "sacred spaces" in the Northwest of Cameroon, and helping a growing community of urban advocacy groups to find practical solutions to creating urban green space (profitably) and maintaining the quality of “spring-fed" water.