Research Site, NGOs, and Data Collection

Environmental NGOs do not operate in a vacuum, but within physical, biological, economic, political, and social contexts that shape their goals, strategies, and activities. While no single country can be considered typical of sub-Saharan Africa, Cameroon, located at the geographic intersection of West and Central Africa, is a particularly appropriate site for research about environmental NGOs. Often referred to as “Africa in miniature,” it contains examples of most of sub-Saharan Africa’s ecosystem types and ranks near the top in biodiversity (see chapter 4). Among the ecosystems represented are rain forest, montane forest, Sahel, savannah, high mountains, coastal swamp, and seacoast, resulting in a wide range of economic activities and environmental problems. Formerly divided into sections controlled by the French and the British, Cameroon includes both Anglophone and Francophone areas, where British and French languages and administrative and cultural traditions, respectively, dominate. Cameroon retains a large rural population, but it has two cities, Douala and Yaounde, with populations of over two million and a number of smaller cities. In the context of sub-Saharan Africa, it ranks neither especially high nor low in geographic area, population, prosperity, and infrastructure development (CIA, 2014). Following independence, Cameroon experienced a fairly typical history of early economic promise and growth, followed by declining commodity prices, a debt crisis, and structural adjustments and subsequent economic stagnation and government retrenchments.

Our research includes both international and Cameroonian-based NGOs, which we selected through a carefully constructed sampling process designed to ensure regional diversity and to include a wide variety of NGO types in terms of goals, size, activities, and effectiveness. Interviews were based on an interview schedule that included questions about virtually every aspect of the NGOs and averaged about 1.25 hours in length. We also collected and used documentary materials from the NGOs, including information from Internet sites, and we draw on previous research studies where relevant.

 
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