The Biggest Problem: Money

Operating an environmental NGO requires money, although the amount required differs according its scale, goals, and activities. NGOs that undertake construction of water wells in villages, seek to distribute solar cookers to hundreds of families, or use satellite photography to monitor deforestation require very substantial funding. Most of these are international or Type I Cameroonian NGOs. Type II NGOs are more apt to be found running local educational projects about recycling or conducting small-scale tree planting in local areas. Although they can operate with less money, they too require financial resources. Only a handful of NGOs get by without at least some paid staff, office space, and equipment, and most of these do so purely out of necessity.

Funding is a key issue for all types of Cameroonian NGOs (Fonjong, 2007b; Gabsa, 2007; Tanga and Fonchigong, 2009), and funding shortages have been reported as key problems in studies of environmental NGOs elsewhere in Africa (e.g., Dierig, 1999; Dibie, 2007b; Beer, 2012). Lack of funds was the biggest weakness perceived by the Cameroonian-based NGOs in this study and the most frequently cited hindrance to reaching their goals.

In recent years, environmental NGOs in Cameroon, like development and environmental NGOs elsewhere in the Global South, have benefitted from the growing availability of funding for NGOs from the international funding organizations that provide most of the funds available for environmental protection (see chapter 2); however, this dependence on foreign funds can carry with it many problems, for “he who pays the piper”—potentially at least—“calls the tune.” This chapter looks at where Cameroon’s NGOs obtain their funding, as well as at some of the problems that arise out of the choice between high dependence on foreign funding vs. operating—whether out of necessity or choice—without such funds.

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