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Home arrow Environment arrow Saving the Environment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Organizational Dynamics and Effectiveness of NGOs in Cameroon
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Activities

Existing research indicates that environmental NGOs in Cameroon and across sub-Saharan Africa engage in a very wide spectrum of specific activities in pursuit of their goals; however, we located only one other study, Beer’s (2012) Kenyan study, that tabulates the frequency with which a broad sample of NGOs undertakes various activities. The most common activities involved a wide variety of environmental education efforts and implementation of specific projects to improve or protect the environment. Other frequent activities included efforts to influence government through lobbying, distribution of flyers or pamphlets, environmental research, providing information to other NGOs, and managing natural resources such as community forests. More confrontational activities, such as protests or strikes, submitting petitions, and lawsuits, were much less common.

Interviewees in our research were also asked to describe the specific activities that their NGO engaged in to achieve each of the goals they had listed earlier. The results appear in Table 6.8.11

The interviewees reported that their NGOs engaged in between one and nine separate activities, with a mean of 4.4. The activities mentioned spanned a broad spectrum, but many of them fell into one of three clusters.

Educational activities of various types clearly occupied a great deal of the NGOs’ time and effort. Almost two-thirds of the interviewees reported that their NGO was involved in teaching adults specific skills that would help to protect the environment. Examples include teaching about tree planting to fight desertification, fish farming as an alternative to overfishing, organic farming, and beekeeping, which was intended to reduce the problems resulting from excessive collection of honey from wild bees. Forty-four percent mentioned general environmental education for adults on topics such as recycling and climate change, and 29 percent said that they engaged in environmental education for children or youth. These efforts included conducting programs in the schools on topics such as nature education, waste disposal and water purity, sponsoring school projects such as school gardens and tree planting, short courses on environmental topics for university students, and videoconferencing with students in other nations. Twenty-nine percent of the NGOs said that they sought to publicize environmental problems and their solutions in the media via press conferences and press releases, and 12 percent had

Table 6.8 Activities reported by NGOs by NGO type

Activity

All

NGOs

International

NGOs

Type I NGOs

Type II NGOs

Teaching specific groups specific skills that protect environment

62%

60%

53%

71%

Specific actions by NGO to directly solve environmental problems

58%

40%

47%

67%

Educating adults about environmental problems/ solutions

44%

40%

63%

24%

Conducting research about environmental problems/solutions

38%

80%

42%

29%

Educating children/youth about environmental problems/solutions

29%

20%

32%

38%

Publicizing environmental problems/solutions via media

29%

0%

32%

33%

Specific efforts to influence government policy

25%

60%

16%

29%

Training/informing government officials about environmental problems/solutions

21%

40%

26%

10%

Promoting/teaching local communities or groups about community forests

21%

40%

26%

14%

Monitoring/reporting on enforcement of environmental laws

17%

20%

32%

0%

Organizing local groups or new NGOs to work on environmental problems/solutions

17%

0%

26%

14%

Mediating/resolving conflicts over environment/ resources

13%

0%

32%

5%

Organizing/conducting workshops/forums on environmental problems/solutions

12%

0%

5%

24%

Working with or influencing business

10%

40%

5%

5%

Working with universities/students on environmental problems/solutions

10%

20%

5%

14%

Networking with other environmental NGOs

10%

20%

5%

10%

Fund-raising

4%

20%

0%

5%

Other

21%

32%

10%

14%

N = 52.

conducted workshops or forums to discuss environmental problems and their solutions. Two other activities had a substantial educational component. Twenty-one percent of the interviewees reported being involved in informing or training government officials about environmental problems and their solutions, and the same percentage worked to promote community forests (see chapter 5), which included educating local communities about them.

A second cluster of activities involved direct efforts to solve environmental problems. Well over half (58 percent) of the NGOs worked on such projects. Examples included well digging, tree planting, and operating recycling programs. A number of other activities involved collaborations with other groups to solve environmental problems. Seventeen percent said that they tried to organize local groups or new NGOs to work on environmental problems, and 21 percent worked to help local communities learn about and establish community forests. Yet another specific activity that involved working with other groups was efforts to mediate conflicts over environmental problems and resources (13 percent). Finally, 10 percent of the NGOs reported working with universities or their students to solve various environmental problems.

A third cluster of activities, which involved working to influence government, was considerably less prominent. A quarter of the organizations mentioned making efforts to influence government policy, and 17 percent engaged in monitoring or reporting on the enforcement of environmental laws. In addition, 21 percent conducted training or informational sessions for government officials or personnel. These results reflect once again the environmental NGOs’ propensity to avoid actions that might risk government repression or withdrawal of cooperation or support. We discuss these issues further in chapter 8.

The only frequently mentioned activity that did not fit well in one of these clusters was conducting research about environmental problems and their solutions. NGO involvement in formal research has been reported elsewhere in Africa (e.g., Goldberger, 2008; Beer, 2012), but we were somewhat surprised that over a third of the NGOs mentioned this activity, especially since some of them, especially Type II NGOs, clearly lacked the resources, skill, and equipment to do technical research. Interestingly, only 12 percent of the NGOs said that they worked with or tried to influence business. This is clearly an area in which there are many opportunities, assuming cooperative businesses could be found, and there are a few examples of at least partially successful efforts elsewhere in Africa (e.g., Tukahirwa, Mol, and Ooosteveer, 2010, 2013). Ten percent said that they networked with other environmental NGOs and 4 percent said that they engaged in fund-raising activities. The low percentage reporting fund-raising probably reflects both the many obstacles to successful fund-raising (see chapter 7) and the fact that we asked the question in terms of activities intended to meet organizational goals. Finally, 21 percent of the NGOs mentioned a wide range of other activities.

Most of the differences in the types of activities among international, Type I, and Type II NGOs were of small to moderate size; however, there were two visible patterns. The clearest involved activities much more frequently listed by the international than the Cameroonian NGOs. In general, these tended to require (1) substantial expertise (e.g., conducting research or training government officials) and/or (2) enough resources, influence, and independence of action to cooperate with government and business on a relatively equal basis (e.g., efforts to influence government policy, working with and influencing business, and training government officials). It is also likely that achieving their goals more frequently requires them to engage in these activities. It is difficult, for example, to establish and maintain nature protection areas without close cooperation with government.

Second, it appears that, with the notable exception of educating adults about environmental problems, Type II Cameroonian NGOs are more often engaged in educational activities than Type I NGOs. This is in line with the findings about goals. A likely explanation of this pattern is that environmental education, when conducted on a small scale, does not require major financial resources. Moreover, at least some types of environmental education of the public do not require deep technical expertise.

 
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