636.5 Dilemmas of environmental NGOs in Cameroon

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 10:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
William MARKHAM , Sociology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Lotsmart FONJONG , Women and Gender Studies, University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon
This paper examines challenges facing Cameroonian environmental NGOs in meeting their objectives. Based on theories of civil society, open systems models of organizations, and existing literature about Cameroon and its NGOs, we identified five key challenges facing these organizations: raising adequate funds to sustain programming, employing and retaining technically qualified staff, attracting volunteers, developing mutually supportive relationships with government, and cooperating with other environmental NGOs. Interviews with leaders of 52 NGOs in five ecologically, politically, and economically diverse regions revealed that the first two challenges were the most serious. Focusing on them, we identify three main types of environmental NGOs: a) relatively well funded international NGOs with operations in Cameroon and highly professionalized staffs and models of operation; b) Cameroonian NGOs that are successful in obtaining substantial funding from international sources and able to employ the experts required to maintain required budget records and undertake elaborate, scientifically-based projects; c) Cameroonian NGOs that lack sufficient funding and expertise to write proposals and conduct projects that attract international funding and are therefore forced to rely on very small amounts of funds raised locally and conduct operations on a limited scale. This situation results both from the operating procedures of international funders and from structural characteristics of Cameroonian society that make domestic fundraising difficult. The latter include a government with relatively scant resources and a history of corruption, a relatively small upper middle class, and technical obstacles to raising funds by mail or telephone. Under these circumstance NGOs in the third category must rely on small projects, especially in the area of public education, funded by small donations from supporters or small subcontracts from the first two types of organizations. Increasing the competitiveness of Cameroonian NGOs for foreign funds and developing more effective models of domestic fundraising are thus key challenges facing the sector.