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

Environmental NGO Budgets

Determining the exact size of the budgets of the Cameroonian environmental NGOs we interviewed and the exact amount of funds they received from various sources proved to be a complex and difficult task. The budgets of the international NGO offices in Cameroon were often intertwined with those of their international parent organizations in complex ways, and some of them, along with a few of the larger Cameroonian-based organizations were regional in scope, making isolating the budget for Cameroon alone almost impossible. Most of the Type I Cameroonian NGOs did maintain formal budgets, and they sometimes issued annual reports; however, the persons we interviewed did not always have intimate knowledge of or access to these data. In light of obstacles like these, it is not surprising that problems ascertaining budget size have been noted in other research on African NGOs (Michael, 2004), and that even Brockington and Scholfield’s (2010b) careful study of relatively large, visible nature conservation organizations across Africa was unable to obtain financial data from over two-thirds of the NGOs studied.

Problems were greatest, however, in Type II organizations. In these cases, our questions about annual budgets and sources of revenue often seemed to be poorly understood, and follow-up questions and efforts to clarify things sometimes produced more frustration and consternation than understanding. One possible explanation of this outcome—strongly argued to us in communication from an organization that investigates corruption in the nonprofit sector in Cameroon—is that the leaders of these organizations are corrupt, siphoning off project funds for personal use and therefore unwilling to discuss budgets and funding sources. We lacked the resources to investigate this assertion, but it is certainly not implausible, at least in some cases. Nevertheless, we believe that the situation is probably more complex. Many of the NGO leaders we interviewed pointed out that they and other staff continued to work even when there were no active grants and, therefore, minimal or no financial compensation. Furthermore, many leaders of Type II organizations were not well educated, especially in the area of NGO budget management and accounting, and they lacked professional staff or consultants to assist them. As seen elsewhere in Africa (Holmen, 2010), their management and financial strategies showed striking parallels to those of the informal economy, where management is informal, formal accounting is uncommon, personal and business funds are not always clearly segregated, and use of available financial resources to maintain patronage arrangements is common. In any event, meaningful budget data from these organizations proved impossible to obtain.

For these reasons, we do not attempt to report the organizations’ total budgets or the absolute amounts they receive from various sources, although simple inspection of facilities and data about program scope and staff size made it obvious that the international NGOs had the greatest financial resources, followed by Type I Cameroonian organizations and then Type II organizations. These findings are in accord with the Brockington and Scholfield (2010b) study of a large sample of nature protection organizations and Beer’s (2012) careful study of environmental NGOs in Kenya.

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