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Cameroon is part of:
Africa · Middle Africa · Western Africa ·
Water Basins of Cameroon:
Akpa · Benito-Ntem · Congo-Zaire · Cross · Lake Chad · Niger Basin · Ogooue · Sanaga ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Yaoundé
Neighbouring Countries Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea
Total Area 475,440 km2
  - Water 6,000 km2 (1.26%) / 126 m2/ha
  - Land 469,440 km2
Coastline 402 km
Population 16,321,860 (34 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.514 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 44.6 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $25,000 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $2,400
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 70,698 km2 (15.06%)
     - Arable 58,868 km2 (12.54%)
     - Permanent Crops 11,830 km2 (2.52%)
     - Irrigated 260 km2
  - Non cultivated 7,822,060 km2 (84.94%)
Average Annual RainfallD 1604 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 285.5 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 0.99 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 74%
  - For Domestic Use 18%
  - For Industrial Use 8%
  - Per Capita 67 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 66%
     - Urban population 86%
     - Rural population 44%
  - Improved Sanitation 51%
     - Urban population 58%
     - Rural population 43%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Cameroon is situated between West and Central Africa at the extreme north-eastern end of the Gulf of Guinea. It is bordered by Chad in the north-east, the Central African Republic on the east, the Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea on the south, and Nigeria on the west. It has about 400 km of Atlantic coastline in the southwest, and shares Lake Chad with Chad in the north. The country’s total surface area is about 475,650 km2, and the estimated population is 18 million (WHO/UNICEF, 2008), with more than half under age 25. The urban and rural populations are about the same size, although urbanization is increasing by 4.7% per year, on average. About 35% of the urban population lives in the economic capital, Douala, or the administrative capital, Yaoundé.[1]

The country’s 1,200 km length, proximity to the sea and topography give it a varied climate with wide differences in rainfall and vegetation. The maximum rainfall of 10,000 mm occurs in the equatorial climate zone in the south, and the minimum of 500 mm in the extreme north on the edge of the Sahara. The average annual rainfall is about 1,684 mm.

Average rainfall has been declining since the 1950s. In the last three decades it has decreased by about 5%. Reduced flow rates have been more pronounced in areas with a Sahelian climate, where reductions ranging from 15% to 25% have been recorded. These changes have led to increased desertification in the north and a falling water table due to reduced recharge. In addition, previously permanent wells are drying up late in the dry season.

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Cameroon has a dense network of rivers, most of which arise on the central Adamawa plateau and flow north or south. These provide it with abundant water resources in relation to current demand. The six main basins are Sanaga, Sanaga West, Sanaga South, Benoue, Congo and Lake Chad. The Sanaga basin, located in the centre of the country, is the largest, covering about 29% of the territory. It and the Sanaga West and South basins constitute the Atlantic basin. Cameroon’s total annual renewable water resources amount to some 283.5 billion m3 or about 17,000 m3 per capita, using 2006 population estimates (Aquastat, 2007). The groundwater resources have not yet been comprehensively evaluated, so their potential is not known precisely, but is estimated at 100 billion to 120 billion m3. Due to the lack of comprehensive monitoring of water resources, consumption patterns are not known exactly. However it is estimated that about 1 billion m3 of the total renewable water resources is withdrawn annually. Of this, roughly 74% is used in agriculture, 18% for municipal consumption and 8% in industry (Aquastat, 2007).

Agriculture is the backbone of Cameroon’s economy, accounting for about 41% of GDP (World Bank, 2007) and 55% of the workforce (WRI, 2007). At about 69,750 km2, arable land amounts to 15% of the overall surface area. About 29% of the arable land is cultivated, mostly in the west and south-west. The share of the population working in agriculture has been decreasing since the 1970s, but as productivity has increased over the same period, food security has not been directly affected. Irrigation has contributed substantially to productivity, making cultivation possible during the dry season. In 2000, irrigated area of about 224.5 km2 (excluding 28 km2 of spate irrigation, where floods are diverted from ephemeral rivers to cultivate crops) corresponded to around 8% of the potentially irrigable area. Large irrigation projects (more than 2 km2) accounted for roughly 65% of the irrigated area (Aquastat, 2005). Some large state-owned systems were abandoned due to low performance, while others that were privatized succeeded in improving efficiency of banana production for export. Consequently, the government has been privatizing larger irrigation systems and supporting projects of less than 5 ha (0.05 km2), aiming to increase irrigation efficiency and sustainability.

Although Cameroon has sufficient water resources, choices in water use have started to affect water availability and ecosystems. For example, plantation of eucalyptus in the western highlands to provide firewood and construction material induced a very high evapotranspiration rate, which has altered the ecosystem and greatly diminished groundwater recharge and the flow rate in the area.

The country’s estimated hydroelectric potential is 35 GW. Even with only around 2% of this potential developed, hydroelectricity accounts for about 97% of electricity generation in Cameroon (EIA, 2004). Because there is no nationwide grid, 20% of the electricity produced is lost, even though the south is undersupplied. Also undersupplied are rural areas in general, where only some 20% of the population has access to electricity, compared with 80% in urban areas. Overall, about 8.7 million people, or 53% of the population, lack access to electricity (IEA, 2006). To improve the situation, the Rural Electrification Agency promotes micro hydro projects and has demanded an increase in the national budget for rural electrification. Cameroon’s heavy reliance on hydropower leaves its energy sector extremely vulnerable to drought, however. Existing hydroelectricity capacity falls short of meeting current demand, and shortages are especially acute in the dry season. Pending further hydropower development, the National Electricity Company has begun building thermal power plants. Despite the country’s weak industrial base, the main user of electricity is the aluminium industry, which accounts for about half of all electricity consumed in Cameroon. Due to the absence of an effective monitoring system, data on industrial effluent emissions are patchy, and the extent of water pollution in Cameroon is not fully known.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

Under Cameroon’s Water Law (Law No. 98/005 of 14 April 1998) water is a natural resource within the common heritage of the country. The state is responsible for managing the country’s water resources and facilitating access for the entire population. However, the Water Law expressly contemplates the state’s ability to transfer its obligations to manage the water resources to local authorities and other entities, a provision that allows for the public-private partnership model of urban service delivery adopted by Cameroon in 2007. The law prohibits discharge of chemicals, sewage and other harmful substances into water resources and protects water quality.

The government passed several water resource–related decrees in 2001: (1) Decree No. 2001/161/PM 8 May 2001 established the powers, organization and functioning of the National Water Committee; (2) Decree No. 2001/162/PM 8 May 2001set rules protecting areas around abstraction points and standards for processing and storage of water; (3) Decree No. 2001/162/PM 8 May 2001specified terms and conditions of water extraction surface or groundwater for industrial and commercial uses; and (4) Decree No. 2001/162/PM 8 May 2001specifies rules for the protection of surface or groundwater against pollution.

Decree No. 2005/494 of 31 December 2005 created the Cameroon Water Corporation (Camwater), a state-owned asset-holding company. The legislation served as the foundation for the creation of a public-private partnership for the delivery of urban water.

Tenure Issues

Under Cameroon’s formal laws and regulations, the government is responsible for supplying the population with adequate drinking water, and users are required to pay for the service. Industrial and commercial water use is subject to state regulation and fees.

Under customary law, local communities generally have the right to use water from lakes, rivers and other surface waters. In some forested parts of southern Cameroon, access to aquatic resources is based on inheritance of rights from mothers to daughters-in-law. Access also depends on the types of fishing available on a river and the size of the river.

In rural areas, women and children are responsible for fetching water for the entire household. Those without access to a piped water source must often travel long distances to rivers and lakes. Those who cannot travel are often forced to buy water from private vendors who charge households many times what is charged for piped water.).

Institutional Framework

The Ministry of Energy and Water Resources (MINEE) has primary responsibility for the sector and is responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating policies regarding water resources and exploitation of the water resources. Within MINEE, the Department of Water Resources and Hydrology (DHH) is responsible for rural drinking water. As rural water supply networks develop, they will be managed by water point management committees or contracted out to private entities as networks grow. The Ministry of Agriculture oversees irrigation and drainage, and the Ministry of Scientific Research and Technology runs the Center on Hydrologic Research.

The Ministry of Urbanism and Housing has overall responsibility for the delivery of water in urban areas. In 2007, the government restructured the urban water sector. The assets of the former national water utility, the Cameroon National Water Corporation (la Société Nationale des Eaux du Cameroun, SNEC), were transferred to the state-owned Camwater. Camwater has a concession with the government for service delivery in urban and peri-urban areas, which it delegates to a consortium led by the Moroccan public utility, the Office National de l’Eau Potable (ONEP). In 2008, the ONEP/Delta Holding Ingema Consortium began providing production, transportation, and distribution of drinking water through the newly established local private company, Camerounaise des Eaux (CdE). Camwater is responsible for infrastructure development and for financing investment in the water sector.

In 2001, the government established a National Water Committee, with members from a host of ministries, including ministries of public health, territorial administration and agriculture. The Committee is responsible for helping the relevant ministries develop policy and has an oversight function.

Government Reforms, Interventions and Investments

Access to water in urban areas has suffered from insufficient production capacity, lack of network maintenance and lack of basic infrastructure. New water customers were required to pay upfront connection costs that were prohibitive for low and middle income households (equivalent to five to nine months of household income). The government undertook a major restructuring in 2007, and adopted an innovative approach to service delivery. The public-private partnership for the delivery of urban water uses an affermage model and was the first subsidized water connection program in West Africa to be implemented through an output-based aid mechanism. Under the affermage model, customers pay the private operator, CdE, a fee that covers CdE’s costs of installing new connections and providing water and government tariffs. CdE remits a percentage of the fee collected to the government. CdE’s profit is tied to the volume of water sold and is therefore incentivized to expand coverage, especially as Camwater is responsible for financing any necessary network infrastructure development. In order to ensure that poorer households (who often have low water consumption) are covered, Camwater and the Global Partnership for Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) agreed to share the cost (US $10 million over four years) of providing a partial subsidy for 40,000 households to obtain water connections.

The rural water sector has suffered from limited capacity of departments, agencies and local councils to govern water resources; multiple stakeholders with overlapping roles and responsibilities; lack of maintenance of equipment and infrastructure; and inadequate financial resources. Only approximately 45% of the rural population has access to safe drinking water. In 2007, the government adopted a rural Drinking Water and Sanitation Sector (DWSS) policy and a 2008–2015 action plan to achieve 80% rural coverage by 2015 through increased investment in infrastructure development and rehabilitation and institutional development.

The Cameroon Water Partnership (also known as the Global Water Partnership–Cameroon) is a multi-stakeholder body formed in 2005 to work with the government to develop policy and programs for the sustainable management of the country’s water resources as a contribution to alleviating poverty, improving socioeconomic well-being and protecting natural resources. The Partnership is a regional branch of the Global Water Partnership, which was founded in 1996 with support from UNDP and the World Bank. The network is open to all organizations involved in water resources management, including governments, donors, agencies and the private sector. The Partnership provides a forum for dialogue and exchange of information for all stakeholders in the water sector and supports capacity building and training of stakeholders in the water sector on principles of integrated water resources management.

Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is accepted in Cameroon as the starting point for policies that can enhance sustainable water resources management and development, and assure water security. However, conditions for effective use of the IWRM approach are not yet in place. Not only does Cameroon lack comprehensive information on water resources, but the distribution of water management authority is highly fragmented, and sectoral management approaches predominate. Moreover, the political will and commitment to enforce existing laws and regulations is inadequate, as are human and institutional capacity and investment for assessment and monitoring. Nevertheless, measures to improve water security have been carried out or are under way, including:

  • public-private partnerships for electricity and urban water supply;
  • an IWRM plan, expected by the end of 2009;
  • transfer of some water management responsibilities to local levels following implementation of a law on decentralization.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Donor Interventions and Investments

The African Development Bank is funding the $11 million Rural Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Project. The project, which has a 4-year term (2010–2014), covers the northwest, south, west and southwest regions of the country and is being implemented by the Department of Water Resources and Hydrology. The project plans to construct 88 simplified drinking water system networks with the goal of providing roughly 668,000 people with sufficient water at close proximity (no more than 500 meters).

The Global Partnership for Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) helped design the public-private partnership structure for the urban water sector. GPOBA is a partnership of donors and international organizations working together to support output-based aid approaches. Current partners are the World Bank, AusAID, DFID, SIDA, DGIS and IFC. The World Bank is also helping fund the 5-year, US $83 million Urban and Water Development Support Project for Cameroon, which runs to 2012. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Urbanism and Housing with the support of the Global Partnership for Output-Based Aid (GPOBA), which helped the government with the restructuring of the sector and creation of the public-private partnership between Camwater and ONEP-CdE. As of December 2009, the project had been launched in Bamenda (western region) but has been slow to implementing the water access infrastructure activities. More than 5,000 social water connections (connections shared by multiple households) were established as of December 2009, providing direct access to water supply for low-income consumers. In addition, a number of capacity building activities had taken place and progress had been achieved regarding finalization of an urban strategy.


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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Cameroon

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Case studies in or about Cameroon

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5 most recently updated publications on Cameroon
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5 most popular publications on Cameroon
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Who is Who

People working in Cameroon

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Organizations working in Cameroon
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  1. Except where otherwise noted, information in this case study is adapted from Fonteh (2003)

See also

External Resources

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