Obstacles to Obtaining Adequate Funding

Like those elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, environmental NGOs in Cameroon can seek funding from various sources: (1) grants or contracts from government bodies in Cameroon; (2) grants from other nations or international government organizations; (3) grants from international environmental or development NGOs; (4) grants or contracts from private business; (5) gifts from individual donors; (6) grants from foundations or other charitable organizations; (7) grants or contracts from other environmental NGOs in Cameroon; (8) revenues from fund-raising events and projects; and (9) sales of their services.

The obstacles to fund-raising confronting Cameroonian-based groups are much more serious than those facing their international counterparts. The core problem is that raising funds via donations from the general public, the primary source of support for environmental organizations in almost all developed nations, is a daunting task in Cameroon. In developed countries, organizations such as Greenpeace, the US Sierra Club, and WWF use elaborate strategies for raising money from the general public, and these strategies are often emulated by smaller groups. Their professional fund-raising experts use sophisticated appeals that are carefully designed to overcome the free rider problem and persuade people that their contributions do matter, and they frequently offer benefits such as “free gifts,” magazine subscriptions, and free information to donors. Their solicitations are distributed via carefully planned mailings and telephone solicitations, supplemented by their elaborate websites (Jordan and Maloney, 1997; Bosso, 2005; Markham, 2008).

There are many obstacles to using these strategies in less developed countries. The typical donor in developed countries is a well-educated, well-paid professional, teacher, or government employee of the type inclined to support new social movements (see chapter 2). Such persons do exist in Cameroon, but they are a considerably smaller proportion of the population, and their incomes are much lower than those of their counterparts in developed nations. Cameroon’s economic decline in the wake of structural adjustments and the layoffs of a considerable number of government employees described in chapter 5 has only exacerbated the problem. Moreover, fund-raising by mail, telephone, or the Internet requires the services of technical experts, as well as major investments in equipment and computer software. The cost of these strategies exceeds the resources of almost all Cameroonian NGOs, and there are additional obstacles, such as the absence of home mail delivery, lack of telephone directories, and serious problems involving Internet security and poor communications infrastructure. As a result, fund-raising from individuals is difficult not only in Cameroon, but also for NGOs across sub-Saharan Africa (Anheier and Salamon, 1998; Michael, 2004; Beer, 2012).

Seeking grants and contracts from the Cameroonian government is also problematic because of the effects of the country’s economic difficulties on government revenues and the strictures on government budgets imposed by structural adjustments (see chapter 5). Given the many competing claims on government revenues, it seems unlikely that much additional government money will be forthcoming in the foreseeable future, and clientism and corruption siphon off some money that might otherwise flow to environmental NGOs. Obtaining funds from business is also challenging. Cameroon has few large, industrial firms, and many of those that do exist are owned by Western-based multinationals. Most Cameroonian-owned manufacturing and service businesses are small, and most retail activity is in the hands of small businesses, many of them marginal operators in the informal economy. Donations like the one from a mobile phone firm that provided most of the funding for a WWF tree planting project (Atatah, 2005) or gifts from an engineering firm and a major paper producer to help support a water bird census (Cameroon Wetland Forum, 2007) do occur, but they are not common. Finally, the foundation sector in Cameroon is very underdeveloped. There are only a few foundations with very small budgets, and their activities tend to focus mostly on basic needs, such as health and education.

In short, while obtaining grants or contracts from government, businesses, or foundations is not impossible, doing so is an uphill struggle, and the amount of money available is quite limited. This leaves the possibilities of raising small sums from donations by friends and acquaintances of NGO staff or local citizens approached personally, from local fund-raising events, or from sales of products or services such as recycling; however, the fund-raising potential of these mechanisms is limited (Michael, 2004; Turkahirwa, Mol, and Oosteveer, 2010, 2014; Beer, 2012).

As a result of these circumstances, Cameroonian environmental NGOs, like those in most other developing countries, have strong incentives to turn for financial support to international environmental NGOs and to international and single nation-based aid agencies from the Global North, which have channelled more of their grant-making activity in Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa to NGOs. We were unable to find any previous study of the sources of international funds available specifically to environmental NGOs in Cameroon; however, as of 2006, the National Capacity Self-Assessment Global Support Programme (2006) identified the most important of the international development agencies operating in Cameroon as the Canadian International Development Agency, the World Bank, the German Cooperation for Development (GTZ), The Netherlands Cooperation, the United Nations Development Program, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the European Union. Although international organizations do offer a more promising avenue to obtaining financial resources, their funds, too, are limited, and many Cameroonian NGOs—including, at times, international environmental NGOs operating in Cameroon—face stiff competition for a limited pool of funds.

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