Underlying Causes of
Deforestation and Forest Degradation
Macro-Economics, Markets, and the
Many forestry experts believe rural population growth explains most, if not all, deforestation and forest degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa (Bawa and Dayanandan 1997; FAO 1996; Kanta and Redantz 1997). Unlike Asia and Latin America, where commercial farms and ranchers convert large areas of forest to perennial crops, pasture, or mechanized annual crop production, most forest clearing in Africa is by small farmers. Since the regions forested areas have little mechanized agriculture or livestock and poorly developed labor markets, many researchers assume labor constraints ensure that all farmers cultivate similar amounts of land. This implies the total area farmers cultivate will expand in proportion to the growth in the number of farm families; and, if that expansion occurs at the expense of forest, deforestation rates should closely follow rural population growth.
A slightly different, but related, story associates population growth with forest clearing for fuel wood (Anderson 1986). If one assumes, as many studies do, that per capita fuel wood consumption is constant, then how much wood families collect for fuel will depend exclusively on the total number of households. In this case, however, the literature typically focuses on urban as well as rural population, since forest degradation due to fuel wood collection is often greatest in peri-urban areas.
Population-based explanations of forest change have great intuitive appeal. Nevertheless, increasing evidence suggests they are wrong, at least in their simplest versions. Contrary to expectation, studies by Fairchild and Leach (1995) and Tiffen, Mortimore, and Gichuki (1994) found higher population densities were associated with greater forest cover in parts of Guinea and Kenya, respectively. Cline-Cole, Main, and Nichol (1990) provide data from several African countries showing that per capita fuel wood consumption varies widely depending on average household size and other variables and use it to conclude that total fuel wood consumption should not be expected to be a simple linear function of population.
Perhaps more importantly, recent reviews of agricultural supply response in Africa conclude that aggregate cultivated area responds positively to prices and other variables such as road construction and public investment in agriculture, especially in the medium to long term (Mamingi 1997; Schiff and Montenegro 1997). This implies that population-based explanations alone cannot fully explain deforestation rates and that changes in macro-economic and sectoral policies and market trends probably also play important roles.
This paper examines how macro-economic changes and market fluctuations influenced changes in land use and forest product extraction in the humid forest zone of Cameroon between 1967 and 1997. We tentatively conclude that during the first part of this period (1967-76), when food production was largely for household consumption and rural to urban migration had just begun to be important, the level of forest clearing for food crop production probably was largely determined by rural fertility rates. Government policies limited forest clearing for cocoa and coffee production through high implicit taxation on these crops.
This situation changed, however, during the oil boom years (1977-1985). High international coffee and cocoa prices during the first few years and lower implicit taxation during subsequent years, encouraged moderately higher levels of forest clearing for coffee and cocoa production. The governments use of oil revenues to expand parastatal oil palm and rubber plantations led to additional deforestation.
On the other hand, the oil boom greatly stimulated the urban economy and this probably accelerated rural to urban migration and reduced rural population growth. Rapid urban population and income growth might have made it more attractive for rural household to cultivate food for urban consumers, and this probably occurred in certain instances. Nevertheless, government policies favoring food imports and rice and maize production in other parts of Cameroon and the low income elasticities of most crops grown in the humid forest zone limited this effect.
Following the oil boom, Cameroons economy went into a prolonged crisis. During the first part of that crisis, conditions in the cities deteriorated much more rapidly than in the rural areas. But, by 1990, declining real cocoa and coffee prices and reduced government services and subsidies were seriously affecting humid forest zone farmers. This eventually led many of them to cut back on planting new cocoa and coffee fields and put more effort into food crop production. Since food crop production as practiced in Southern Cameroon requires substantial fallow areas in addition to the areas under cultivation, the net effect was probably higher total forest clearing by small farmers. At the same time, the government greatly restricted investment in parastatal agroindustrial plantations, possibly reducing forest clearing for agroindustrial crops.
Finally, in 1994, Cameroon and other Francophone African countries devalued the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) Franc by 50%. This was expected to result in a rapid increase in cocoa and coffee exports, but so far export growth has been moderate, and farmers appear to continue their shift towards greater emphasis on food crops. The devaluation did, however, greatly stimulate timber production for export and may have promoted the exploitation of certain non-timber forest products.
These conclusions are based on an exhaustive review of the official agricultural and forestry statistics, survey and case study data, and other secondary literature. We believe them to be the most plausible explanations currently available that are consistent with all the known facts. Nevertheless, we would be the first to admit that our results cannot be considered conclusive, given the poor quality and often incomplete and contradictory nature of much the data. As with any exploratory research results, they will inevitably need to be refined and modified, as new evidence becomes available.
This paper begins by providing basic background on the humid forest zone of Cameroon and the human activities that affect its forests. Then come four sections focusing on the evolution of the countrys economy and on the population, agriculture, and forestry in the humid forest region in the periods prior to the oil boom, during the boom, under crisis and structural adjustment, and after the 1994 devaluation. Each section begins with a short overview of the economic and demographic conditions during the period, followed by a discussion of the trends regarding cocoa, coffee, food crops, plantation crops, and forest products.
1. The Forests and Agriculture of Cameroons Humid Forest Zone
The Republic of Cameroon occupies an area of 475,000 square kilometers. The five southern provinces, where the humid forest zone is located (Southwest, Littoral, Center, South, and East) cover 57% of that (270,711 square kilometers) (Pokam 1997). These provinces include the countrys capital, Yaoundé, and first largest city, Douala (the economic capital) and are divided into 28 departments (Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
In 1987, the last year for which relatively reliable statistics exist, the total population of the five southern provinces was 4.7 million people, 2.2 million of whom (47.5%) lived in rural areas. Thirteen departments had rural population densities of less than ten persons per square kilometer, five had 10 to 20 persons per square kilometer, three 20 to 40 persons per square kilometer, and two over 80 persons per square kilometer (Gubry et. al. 1996). Population densities were highest in departments close to Yaoundé in the Center province, in the Southwest province, and in the Moungo Basin area of the Littoral province.
In 1984, the five southern provinces had an estimated 425,000 small farms, whose major crops were cocoa, robusta coffee, cassava, groundnuts, maize, cocoyams, and plantains. Forty-five percent of these farms were in departments with rural population densities of less than 10 persons per square kilometer, 18% in departments with 10-20 persons, 22% in departments with 20-40 persons, and 15% in departments with more than 80 persons (Gubry et. al. 1996; Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
Small farmers cultivated a total of 800,000 hectares in 1984, including 458,000 hectares of cocoa and coffee and 342,000 hectares of food crops. On average, each farmer cultivated 1.1 hectare of cocoa and/or robusta coffee, and .8 hectares of food crops. Farmers in the Southwest province and in the Moungo Basin of the Littoral province generally use more hired labor and inputs and cultivate larger areas (Ministry of Agriculture 1987; Ndembou 1995).
To fully reflect the magnitude of small farm agricultures impact on regional land use, however, one must also take into account the area left in fallow. Approximately, 260,000 of the 342,000 hectares of food crops mentioned previously formed part of shifting cultivation cropping systems involving the use of fallow (Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
Total fallow area in the humid forest zone is difficult to estimate. Ethnographic studies and local farmer surveys suggest that fallow periods throughout the region were traditionally fifteen years or longer. Fallow lengths of five to ten years are now common in areas with population densities of 10 to 40 persons per square kilometer, while high population areas can have fallow periods of less than five years. In the few cases where researchers have measured the ratio of food crop to fallow area, it ranges from one hectare of crop land per one and a half hectares of fallow to one hectare of crops per fifteen hectares of fallow.
Based on the proportion of farmers living in departments with low, medium, and high population densities, average fallow length in Southern Cameroon in the mid 1980s was probably between five and ten years. Farmers generally plant each field one or two years before letting it return to fallow. Thus, a reasonable first estimation might be that for every hectare of food crops in shifting cultivation systems in Southern Cameroon there were five to ten hectares of fallow of less than ten years (Holland et. al. 1992). This implies there were between 1.3 and 2.6 million hectares of fallow in the five southern provinces in 1984. Based on that estimate, small farm agriculture would have covered a total of between 2.1 and 3.4 million hectares, or between 7.7% and 12.6% of the total area.
Different small farmer cropping systems in the humid forest zone have distinct implications for forests. Traditionally, farmers planted cocoa and robusta coffee in areas with primary forest or old secondary forest (usually after first planting food crops). Those fields remained in cocoa or coffee for 40 years or more, with some areas being gradually replanted and others allowed to slowly return to forest. In recent years, however, farmers facing extremely low coffee or cocoa prices have sometimes abandoned their perennial crop fields much sooner.
The two main types of food crop fields in the Center and South provinces are the esep and the afup owondo. Men typically plant esep fields in forested areas or fallow land more than ten years old. Traditionally, the main crops in these fields were ngon melons (Cucumeropsis mannii) and plantain although in recent years ngon melon has became less common and cassava more so. Women cultivate most Afup owondo fields, in locations previously occupied by esep fields or short fallow. The main crops in these plots include groundnuts, cassava, maize, cocoyams, and yams. Esep fields are typically larger than afup owondo fields, but planted less frequently. Areas with high population density and shortages of male labor due to out-migration have fewer esep fields and while higher plantain prices encourage esep cultivation (Guyer 1985; Holland et. al. 1992; Ndoye and Russell 1993). In the southwest and littoral provinces, cocoyams are more important and groundnuts and maize less so, while in the north of the East province maize and cassava tends to have greater weight.
The humid forest zone of Cameroon also has several dozen medium and large public and private rubber, oil palm, sugar, banana, and tea plantations, mostly in the Littoral and Southwest provinces and the north-east of Yaoundé. These plantations cultivated 123,900 hectares in 1984 (Ministry of Agriculture 1987b).
In ecological terms, Cameroons humid forest zone covers 267,000 square kilometers, an area slightly smaller than the five provinces. Estimates of the area in dense forest in the late 1980s vary between 155,330 and 225,400 square kilometers, with most falling below 180,000 square kilometers (Laporte, Justice, and Kendall 1995; Mayaux, Achard, and Malingreau 1998; Van Soest 1996).
Low-altitude, Atlantic Coastal forests traditionally dominated the Littoral and Southwest Provinces and have some of the greatest biodiversity and endemism found anywhere in Africa. These forests grow in areas with relatively fertile soils and average annual rainfall of over 2,500 mm. and have suffered from widespread clearing and exploitation.
Congolese-type deciduous and semi-deciduous forest vegetation dominates farther east. These forests have less biodiversity, but substantial timber resources, much of which remains un-exploited. These forests grow in drier regions, with poorer soils. In the northern portion of the Center and East provinces, the area is drier still, characterized by a gradual transition to savanna (Tchoungui et. al. 1995).
As with forest cover, authors give widely differing estimates of deforestation rates, ranging from 80,000 to 200,000 hectares annually (Van Soest 1996). Laporte, Justice, and Kendall (1995) probably made the most serious effort to measure deforestation so far, based on comparing Landsat MSS images from the mid 1970s and low-resolution AVHRR images from the late 1980s. They estimate 20,000 kms2 of Cameroon rain forest was lost during that period (circa 130,000 hectare per year). Nevertheless, this figure probably exaggerates the extent of deforestation, since most of the forest lost became degraded forest (also called area under the influence of shifting cultivation), which included significant areas of long fallow and forest fragments. Forest clearing has been heavier in locations close to roads, rivers, and the two largest cities, and in areas with higher population densities (Mamingi et. al. 1996; Mertens and Lambin 1997; Van Soest 1995).
According to Van Dorp (1995), Cameroon has the highest percentage of forests exploited for logging of any African nation with large rain forests. In 1985, loggers had exploited 64% of Cameroons forests at some time during the previous sixty years, and some areas had been logged three or four times.
In 1996, 113 companies engaged in logging operations. Cameroon nationals owned most of them, but 28 foreign-owned companies controlled two - thirds of the production and exports. Total log production that year was approximately 2.7 million cubic meters. Since on average, ten cubic meters of timber are currently extracted from each hectare, this implies loggers exploited some 270,000 hectares. Five species, Ayous (Triplochiton scleroxylon), Azobe (Lophira alata), Iroko (Milicia excelsa), Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum), and Sipo (Entandrophroma utile), traditionally accounted for more than 75% of Cameroon's timber exports. This dominance has declined slightly in recent years (Eba'a-atyi 1998).
Logging in Cameroon is quite selective and rarely involves clearing of forests. Nevertheless, it significantly disturbs the forests affected, often reduces the availability of commercial timber species, and sometimes encourages hunting and agricultural activities in nearby areas (Tchoungui et. al. 1995).
2. Agriculture and Timber Production before the Oil Boom (1967-1976)
In 1967, Cameroon was overwhelmingly rural and relied mostly on agricultural exports for its foreign exchange. Its fewer than one million urban residents (17% of the population) demanded little food from the rural areas (World Bank 1988). Between 1969 and 1976, cocoa and coffee accounted for more than two - thirds of export earnings (Varlet 1992). The public sectors role in the national economy was marginal and the government invested little in agriculture.
Over the next ten years, the area converted from forest to agricultural uses in the Humid Forest Zone of Cameroon was probably of only moderate proportions. The national economy grew on average 5% each year, thanks largely to a rise in cocoa and coffee exports and farmers cleared about 10,000 hectares of forest each year for those crops (Mama 1996; Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
Rural population growth and expanding urban food markets encouraged forest clearing for food crop production. However, the migration of rural labor to urban areas, the small absolute size of urban food markets, farmers reliance on cocoa and coffee exports to meet most of their needs for cash, and declining fallow periods partly offset these tendencies.
Large parastatal agroindustrial plantations expanded, aided in part by World Bank loans, while timber production and exports doubled. Nevertheless, growth in the plantation sector was slower than during the following period, and timber production and exports levels remained far below those reached in subsequent periods.
Between 1964 and 1971, farmers planted an average of 9,200 hectares of cocoa each year. This expansion declined to 7,600 hectares per year during 1972-1980 (Ministry of Agriculture 1987). Production statistics reflect the same trends. They show production grew steadily between 1950 and 1971, then leveled off at around 110,000 metric tons (Losch 1994).
Low producer prices slowed cocoas growth. International cocoa prices dropped sharply in the mid-1960s. In response, the government created a Cocoa Price Stabilization Fund (CSPC) and a network of state-sponsored marketing cooperatives, supposedly to help farmers obtain better prices. Nevertheless, farmers received an even lower percentage of the world price for their cocoa after the new marketing structures were created (Conte et. al. 1995).
Cocoa expanded faster in the Southwest Province. Whereas 53% of cocoa trees in the Center and South Provinces in 1984 had been planted before 1964, in the Southwest province the figure was only 19% (Ministry of Agriculture 1987). Rapid migration into the Southwest from neighboring provinces and Nigeria and the provinces greater access to markets encouraged that expansion (Losch 1994).
On average, robusta coffee area in the humid forest zone grew 3,000 hectares per year between 1972 and 1980. That was slightly higher than during the previous thirteen years. Robusta coffee expanded faster in the so-called Moungo Basin of the Littoral, Southwest, and West provinces, where 68% of all growth between 1972 and 1980 was concentrated. After Cameroons Independence in 1960, many Bamileke farmers moved to that region from more densely populated area farther north and cleared new land. According to a 1991-2 survey of 126 robusta coffee farmers in the Moungo Basin by Fadani (1993.), on average, farmers in the region established their coffee plantations in 1965.
Nominal producer prices for robusta coffee rose consistently during 1967-1976, but real prices fluctuated heavily. As with cocoa, domestic producer prices rose slower than world prices, implying that implicit taxation of coffee export rose.
Food crops statistics for this period are of poor quality and unreliable. Nevertheless, they suggest production rose steadily, but slowly. FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture statistics give widely differing estimates for the production and areas of humid forest zone food crops, but both series show food crop production rose in most years between 1965 and 1975.
The growth of urban markets encouraged food crop production, particularly in areas close to Yaoundé and Douala (Guyer 1985). Between 1964 and 1976, the population of Yaoundé almost tripled, from 109,185 to 313,706, while Doualas population rose from 230,000 in 1968 to 458,000 in 1976 (Pokam 1996).
Even so, the total number of urban consumers remained too small to make the sale of food crops very attractive. Even in the most densely populated and accessible areas such as the Lékié district in the Center Province, farmers sold only about one third of their food crops (Guyer 1985).
For the most part, farmers relied on cocoa and coffee revenues to meet their cash needs. Thus, for example, in 1976, 76% of farmers incomes in the Center province, where Yaoundé is located, came from cocoa, while food crops provided only 11% (Alary, Courade, and Janin 1994).
Rural demographic growth and male migration from rural areas to the cities probably encouraged shorter fallow periods, thus making food production more intensive. As mentioned previously, average fallow lengths in Southern Cameroon apparently decline as rural population density rises (Russell 1993). In addition, Guyer (1985) reports that since forest clearing was traditionally a male activity and male migration to the cities became important during this period, households concentrated more on their afup owondo fields, which were managed by women and required shorter fallow periods.
Between 1951 and 1980, plantations cleared some 56,100 hectares of forest (1,934 hectares per year) for banana, oil palm , rubber, and sugar cane production, the majority of it in the Southwest and Littoral Provinces. The total area in production of these crops in farms larger than 50 hectares rose from 28,000 hectares to 84,100 hectares during that period (Jilly 1992; Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
Unfortunately, we have been unable to determine what portion of that increase occurred between 1967 and 1976. We only know that between 1967 and 1974, the state-owned Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) cleared 9,000 hectares of forest to expand its plantation area from 22,000 hectares to 31,000 hectares (Mope Simo 1995). This and similar efforts by other parastatal agroindustrial was made possible in part by US$36 millions in loans from the World Bank (World Bank 1988).
Timber production doubled from 602,394 mts.3 in 1965-66 to 1,200,000 mts.3 in 1976-77 (Foteu 1995). Production was concentrated in the Atlantic Forests of the Littoral and Southwest Provinces, although the Center Province also provided substantial timber.
3. The Oil Boom (1977-1986)
Rapid growth of oil production, high international petroleum and agricultural prices and an influx of foreign loans permitted the Cameroon economy to flourish during the decade beginning in 1977. The economy grew at an average of 14.2% annually between 1977 and 1981 and 6.0% annually from 1981 until 1986 and per capita GDP rose from US$485 in 1978 to $915 in 1985 (Blanford et. al. 1994; Varlet 1992).
Cameroon produced little oil prior to 1978, but by 1985 petroleum accounted for 20% of the countrys GDP. Agricultures share of GDP fell correspondingly, from 29.3% to 20.5%, and its share of exports dropped from 87% to 27% (Blanford et. al. 1994).
Much of the countrys newly acquired wealth went to the public sector. Government expenditures rose from 16.5% of GDP to 21.2%. In nominal terms, this represented a rise from 173.2 billion CFA francs in 1978 to 813.7 billion CFA francs in 1985 (ibid). Public employment grew from 205,500 in 1976 to 292,900 in 1985 (Van Soest 1996).
Government spending on agriculture jumped from an average of 42 billion CFA francs in 1971-75 to 336 billion CFA franc in 1981-85. The Government heavily subsidized fertilizers and pesticides and that greatly boosted their use, with fertilizer consumption growing an average of 16% per year between 1975 and 1985 (Blanford et. al. 1994; World Bank 1988). The government also spent a lot of money on parastatal agro-industrial plantations, which expanded much faster than previously.
Real international coffee and cocoa prices were high throughout the period and extremely high from 1977 to 1980 (Ruf 1995). This partially mitigated the detrimental effects on agriculture often associated with oil export booms and stimulated a small rise in the rate of expansion of cocoa and coffee area (Devarajan and de Melo 1987).
Dramatic growth in urban job opportunities and living standards accelerated rural to urban migration, particularly to Yaoundé (Economic Intelligence Unit 1988). Urban dwellers went from 27% of the population in 1975 to 36% in 1985. By 1985, almost 3.7 million people lived in cities, four times more than in 1965 (Van Soest 1996).
Increased urban demand for foodstuffs should have stimulated greater food crop production in the humid forest zones. An influx of food imports, government subsidies for food production in other regions, and the low income elasticities of food crops produced in the humid forest zone curtailed this effect, however. Peri-urban food crop production probably became more important in certain areas, but, in general, food production in the Humid Forest Zone of Cameroon stagnated.
Cocoa production stagnated during the oil boom at about 110,000 metric tons. Nevertheless, cocoa area expansion continued and probably even accelerated, as the average area planted annually jumped from 7,600 hectares between 1972 and 1980 to 12,000 hectares between 1980 and 1984 (Ministry of Agriculture 1987). This apparent contradiction of stagnant production and growing area can largely be explained by falling yields in the older cocoa plantations, as the average age of Cameroons cocoa trees rose, as well by increasing problems with fungal and insect attacks.
Cocoa in the Southwest province continued to be much dynamic, in part because of faster population growth, due largely to the persistent flows of migrants into the province. Between 1976 and 1987, the Southwest provinces rural population rose at almost twice the rate of the rural population of the five provinces of the Humid Forest Zone as a whole.
Nominal producer prices for cocoa rose throughout the oil boom, but real prices reached their peak in 1981 and then fell (Amin 1996). On average, farmers received a higher fraction of the world price than during the previous period, thanks in part to the governments desire to use its oil revenues to support cocoa production. Still, the government continued to receive a major share of Cameroons cocoa revenues.
Fertilizer subsidies did not encourage cocoa production much, as only 5% of cocoa producers used fertilizers in 1984. Fungicide and insecticide, subsidies, on the other hand, were quite important, particularly in the Southwest province (Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
Robusta coffee production grew during the oil boom, although production fluctuated heavily from year to year. Area expanded more modestly, with an annual increase between 1981 and 1984 of 3,200 hectares (Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
Even though international coffee prices were extremely high between 1976 and 1979, Cameroon farmers benefited only marginally from these increases. This was because on average the percentage of world prices they received from the government fell from 52% between 1967 and 1976 to 43% between 1977 and 1986. As a result, real producer prices between 1977 and 1986 were only 3% higher than between 1971 and 1976 (Amin 1996).
These government price policies undoubtedly discouraged the establishment of new coffee area, especially in the Moungo basin. Farmers there depended heavily on hired labor because their farms tended to be larger and more productive than in the Center, South, or East Provinces.
One of the few places robusta coffee expanded significantly was the Haut-Nyong division in the East Province, where it grew by 11, 400 hectares between 1972 and 1984 (Ministry of Agriculture 1987). As logging companies opened new roads into that area, many small farmers followed (André and Pierre n.d.) Then, in 1978, the World Bank lent US$8.5 million for the ZAPI-Est integrated rural development project in the region and that further boosted migration to the region and greater coffee production (World Bank 1988).
The main reason robusta coffee production rose despite the stagnation of cultivated area during this period was the rapid diffusion of fertilizer use, encouraged by large government subsidies. By 1984, some 40% of robusta coffee producers in the humid forest zone used chemical fertilizers (Ministry of Agriculture 1987).
The limited data available regarding food crop production in the humid forest zone suggests that it grew little, if at all, during the oil boom. A 1988 World Bank report estimated that between 1971 and 1987, cocoyam and cassava production declined, yam production increased only 1% per year, and plantain production grew 3.3% annually. Other sources give differing estimates of production and area, but none suggests regional food production grew rapidly.
One major reason food crop production failed to expand significantly was that rural population of the humid forest zone itself grew rather slowly (Van Soest 1985). Slow population growth, in turn, was largely due to the rapid rural to urban migration promoted by the oil boom.
Between 1976 and 1987, the rural population of the five provinces of the Humid Forest Zone grew only 433,384.
With an average rural household size of 5.4, this might have implied an additional 80,000 farms. As noted previously, in 1984, on average, each farm in the region cultivated .8 hectares of food crops, implying ex ante that rural population growth might have led to an annual increase in the area dedicated to food crops of 6,000 hectares. An increase of this magnitude, even if cumulative, might not have been detected by the governments weak statistical services. Still, once fallow were taken into account, annual forest clearing resulting from such an increase could have been as high as 25,000 - 50,000 hectares.
Within the humid forest zone as a whole, the rural population in the Southwest and East provinces grew much faster than in the South, Center, and Littoral provinces. As a result, 81% of the regions entire rural population growth during this period was in the Southwest and East provinces. While these provinces experienced substantial net in-migration to their rural areas, in the other provinces more rural people left for the cities than arrived from other areas.
Even with slow rural population growth, dynamic urban markets for food might have encouraged production in the humid forest zone . This clearly occurred in the areas closest to Yaoundé and Douala and a few other large cities. Overall, however, the effect was apparently small and on average humid forest zone farmers only sold 25% to 35% of the food crops they produced in 1984 (World Bank 1988).
The main reason that growing urban markets did not lead to better opportunities for humid forest zone farmers was that an increasing portion of urban foodstuffs came from other areas. Between 1976 and 1988, the percentage of national food coming from traditional agriculture fell from 81% to 60%, and food imports and agroindustrial products accounted for most of that loss. The percentage of cereals imported climbed from 6% in 1981 to 17% in 1986, and the country went from exporting sugar to importing 20% of its needs (World Bank 1995). The humid forest zones share of traditional agriculture probably also declined relative to that of the maize producers of West province and rice producers in the north.
Structural factors and government policies both contributed to this outcome. Since rice, wheat, meat, and agroindustrial products have higher income elasticities than tubers and plantains, as urban consumers incomes rose, they tended to consume more of the former. A large drop in real consumer prices for rice and wheat, stimulated by large subsidies for rice production in northern Cameroon and, towards the end of the period, an appreciation of the real exchange rate, also encouraged urban rice and wheat consumption. In contrast, real consumer prices for plantains remained almost constant (World Bank 1988). Thus, despite a 15.9% annual growth rate in rice production in Cameroon between 1971 and 1987, the country still imported more rice and wheat during the oil boom than previously (Jilly 1992).
The 1984 Agricultural Census identified 38,500 hectares of rubber, sugar cane, oil palm, and bananas that were not yet in production, implying they had been planted after 1978 (Ministry of Agriculture 1987). This means large farms planted at least 6,400 hectares each year of these crops during the oil boom, and perhaps a little more.
The rapid acceleration in the growth of plantation crops was financed in part by $105 million in World Bank loans (World Bank 1988). Between 1978 and 1987 CAMDEV planted 3,747 hectares of rubber with support from the CAMDEV II World Bank project, bringing its total rubber area to 21,466 hectares in 1987. HEVECAM was created in 1975 and established 15,000 hectares of rubber during the oil boom, with support from the World Bank and the French Government (Mouafo 1992). Two parastatal sugar companies, SOSUCAM and CAMSUCO, created in the mid-1970s, established 16,000 additional hectares of sugar cane, while CAMDEV and SOCAPALM both increased their oil palm area, and another state-owned company planted 5,500 hectares of bananas (World Bank 1988).
Wood production rose from 1.2 million cubic meters in 1977 to 2.1 million cubic meters in 1985. Exports also grew for a few years, but after 1979 they started to drop off (Foteu 1995). Possible explanations for the declining proportion of exports include greater demand for timber in the domestic market generated by the oil boom and (after 1983) real exchange rate appreciation. However, we have been unable to find hard evidence to support either hypothesis.
Timber production also moved markedly towards the east, as new roads opened new areas to logging in East Province and timber resources in Southwest and Littoral provinces became depleted. Between 1982/3 and 1985/6, the percentage of logs coming from East province rose from 42% to 55%, while the percentage coming from Littoral and Southwest provinces fell from 22% to 14% (Van Dorp 1995).
4. The Crisis and Structural Adjustment (1986-1993)
In 1986, the Cameroon economy entered into a deep crisis from which it has yet to emerge. Initially, the crisis was provoked by a rapid decline in export prices and the exhaustion of the countrys petroleum reserves, but it was later greatly aggravated by an over-valued currency, a growing foreign debt, and, in some cases, public sector mismanagement.
Between fiscal years 1985/6 and 1987/8, Cameroons terms of trade deteriorated a remarkable 65%. This, in turn. generated a decline in government revenues, leading to a fiscal deficit of 6% of GDP (Herrera 1994).
Initially, the government responded by sharp cuts in public investment and by taking out loans from abroad (Marchés Tropicaux 1992). The economic problems continued, however, and by 1989, the government had little choice but to enter formally into a process of structural adjustment with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In return for these agencies support, the government agreed to cut public spending, liberalize markets, and carry out institutional reform. Despite the growing over valuation of the countrys currency, the initial structural adjustment package did not include a currency devaluation since Cameroon shares its currency, the CFA Franc, with other francophone African countries, which did not agree to devalue.
In their first few years of implementation, these structural adjustment policies (SAPs) did not succeeded in reversing the countrys economic decline. On average, per capita GDP fell 6.3% each year between 1985 and 1993, and by 1993, per capita consumption was 40% lower than when the crisis began (World Bank 1995).
After peaking at 9.16 million tons in 1985, oil production fell to 7.83 million tons in 1990 and 5.38 million tons in 1995 (Economist Intelligence Unit 1997). That has put the burden back on agriculture and timber to provide the bulk of the countrys foreign exchange earnings.
In the initial years of the crisis, farmers in the humid forest zone escaped some of the crisis harshest effects, thanks to a government decision to maintain nominal producer prices for cocoa and coffee despite a sharp decline in world prices. As a result of that decision, cocoa and coffee farmers received a higher percentage of the world price for their products during the late 1980s than at any time since 1967. Compared to most of their urban counterparts, whose real incomes plummeted, farmers fared relatively well.
By 1990, however, the government no longer had sufficient resource to maintain nominal cocoa and coffee prices at their previous levels and was forced to reduce cocoa prices by 40% and robusta coffee prices by 60% (Blanford et. al. 1994). The decline in real prices was even greater and real producer prices for cocoa and robusta coffee were only 45% and 22% respectively of what they had been in 1969 (Losch, Fusillier, and Dupraz 1990).
Between 1990 and 1993, the government also: lowered and then eliminated all fertilizer and pesticide subsidies; shut down the National Produce Marketing Board (ONCPB) for cocoa and coffee, and liberalized cocoa and coffee trade; closed the cocoa development agency (SODECAO) and the ZAPI-est integrated rural development project; and reduced funding for agricultural research, extension, and credit (Marchés Tropicaux 1992; Blanford et. al. 1994; Ndembou 1995).
These measures led to a dramatic fall in robusta coffee and cocoa production. They also encouraged farmers to devote more effort to food crop cultivation, collection of forest products and fuel wood, and hunting to compensate for the fall in cash crop incomes, thus putting greater pressure on forests.
There is some indication that rural to urban migration slackened off during the crisis and structural adjustment and that some urban dwellers went back to farming, either by engaging in peri-urban agriculture or returning to rural areas. This may also have increased pressure on forests.
Plantation agriculture and timber production both stagnated due to a combination of over-valued exchange rates, the governments inability to continue to invest in parastatal agriculture, and weak international prices.
As long as the government maintained nominal cocoa prices constant, cocoa production remained relatively constant at a level about 15,000 tons higher than during the oil boom of around 123,000 tons. This additional 15,000 tons probably reflected the expansion of cocoa area promoted by higher cocoa prices during the late 1970s.
After the government reduced nominal prices from 420 CFA franc per kilo in 19.. to 250 CFA franc in 1989/90, however, and began to reduce subsidies on insecticides and fungicides, production plummeted to an average of only 86,000 thousand tons between 1990/1 and 1994/5, a decline of 30.4% (Ndembou 1995).
No reliable data exists for cocoa area in the decade following 1985, but new planting probably declined and significant areas were abandoned. Among 1,545 cocoa farmers interviewed in the Center and Southern provinces in 1998, approximately the same percentage reduced their cocoa area between 1985 and 1993 (25%) as increased it (27%). Farmers in villages farther from Yaoundé, tended to increase their cocoa area, while those closer to Yaoundé were more inclined to reduce it (personal communication, W. Sunderlin 1998). Sieffert and Truong (1992) report that 39% of a group of 40 cocoa farmers they interviewed in the East Province in 1991 had abandoned some of their cocoa area. Toornstra, Persoon, and Youmbi (1994) say that of 2741 ha of cocoa in Mbang, East province, 1,241 had been abandoned in late 1993 (Toornstra, Persoon, and Youmbi 1994).
The story with robusta coffee was similar but more dramatic. Production fluctuated greatly between 1985 and 1989, with high production years followed by low production years due to agronomic factors. Overall, however, the trend was towards a mild increase.
Then the government cut robusta coffee prices from 455 CFA franc per kilo in 1988 to 175 CFA franc per kilo in 1989 and to 155 CFA franc per kilo in 1990. And as with cocoa, the prices farmers actually received were often much less (Losch 1992). Moreover, in 1989/90, the government was unable to pay farmers on time for their coffee and many were paid much later or received no money at all. Between 1989/90 and 1991/2, the government gradually eliminated fertilizer subsidies, and that also greatly affected robusta coffee farmers (Grangeret-Owona, 1995).
Production, which had fluctuated between 75,000 and 125,000 tons in the late 1980s, fell to 50,000 tons in 1993. Robusta coffee farmers surveyed in 1994, reported that the amount each produced on average was only 19.1 sacks in 1992/3, compared to 38 sacks in 1988/9, with the greatest decline in East and Southwest provinces (Courade and Alary 1994).
Most of this decline in production was probably due to lower fertilizer use. A survey of 93 robusta coffee farmers in Littoral and East provinces, found that the percentage of farmers using fertilizers in the two provinces fell from 51% and 13% respectively in 1989 to 42% and 5% in 1992. In addition, farmers who continued to use fertilizer used much less on average than in 1989 (Fadani 1993).
How robusta coffee area changed in less certain. Ndembou (1995) says that 33% of robusta coffee producers in the Southwest province abandoned at least some of their coffee area, and Sieffert and Truong (1992) and Toornstra, Persoon, and Youmbi (1994) report widespread abandonment of coffee areas in the East Province. On the other hand, of 331 robusta coffee producers surveyed in the Center and South provinces in 1997, 25% reported their coffee area was larger in 1993 than in 1985, while only 13% said the opposite (Sunderlin and Pokam, 1998).
The change most likely to have affected overall deforestation rates after 1985 was the growing importance of food crops compared to cocoa and coffee. As rural households found their incomes from cocoa and coffee collapsing, many attempted to compensate for those losses by increasing their production of food.
In the initial years of the crisis, food crop area probably did not increase, and may have even decreased slightly. The only period in its history when Cameroon produced food crop statistics of reasonable quality was from 1984 to 1990, and these show an apparently random year-to-year fluctuation in the area in traditional humid forest zone food crops of between 220,000 and 300,000 hectares, with each farmer cultivating between .48 and .66 hectares per year.
With urban food markets depressed by the crisis and an over-valued exchange rate that took food imports to their highest levels ever, farmers received much lower prices for the food they sold. Producer prices of plantains, cassava, and maize, for example, fell 31%, 39% and 47% respectively between 1984/5 and 1990/1 (World Bank 1995). Thus, it is hardly not surprising that farmers did not jump to expand their food production during those years.
Once cocoa and coffee prices also crashed, however, they had little choice. They had to sell something and the drop in food prices was less than for cocoa and coffee. Thus, many of them enlarged their food crop fields or inter-cropped food crops in their coffee and cocoa fields. Some urban households also began growing food to compensate for the incomes they lost due to the crisis in the cities (Courade 1994). In all probability, these changes led to a significant rise in total forest clearing.
A wide variety of empirical studies support this hypothesis. A 1997 survey of 4,078 households in the Center and South provinces found that 43% of farmers expanded their plantain area between 1985 and 1993 and the same percentage expanded their area in other food crops, while only 36% and 35% respectively had reduced it (Sunderlin and Pokam, 1998). Another survey of 250 households in the same provinces in 1996 determined that the percentage of household income coming from the sale of traditional food crops and vegetables grew substantially over the previous ten years (Demenou 1996). Both surveys also identified that they growth in importance of food crops was more pronounced in villages farther away from Yaoundé. Alan, Courade, and Janin (1994) cite various surveys from Center province that show the percentage of farmer's incomes derived from cocoa fell from 76% in 1976 to 45% in 1991, 9% in 1993 and 15% in 1994. The percentage obtained from food crops went from 11% in 1976 to 20% in 1991, 24% in 1993, and 30% in 1994. A survey of robusta coffee producers in the Littoral Province by Fadani (1993) determined that the percentage of farmers incomes provided by the sale of foods crops rose from 1% in 1987 to 28% in 1991. Russell (1993) and Holland et. al. (1992) report that farmers in Mbalmayo in the center province responded to the fall of cocoa prices by enlarging the area of plantain and cocoyams cultivated for sale in the towns and Toornstra, Persoon, and Youmbi (1994) note that the same thing occurred in Mbang in the East Province. Temple (1993) observed a similar tendency among cocoa farmers in the Southwest province, only in that case farmers also expanded their production of cassava, fruits, and vegetables.
Several economic modeling exercises have also predicted the decline in cocoa prices after 1989 would lead farmers to shift some land to plantain production. These include a linear programming model by Heidhues et. al. (1994) based on surveys of cocoa farmers in the southwest province in 1991 and 1992 and a model by Gockowski (1997) using Ministry of Agriculture survey data from the Center and South provinces.
It is also possible, although much less certain, that the collapse of urban livings standards and employment opportunities after 1985 led rural to urban migration from the humid forest zone to taper off and to an increased number of migrants returning to the rural areas. Despite all the severe hardships induced by the fall in agricultural prices, it may be that for many people under current circumstances it is easier to survive in the countryside than in the towns. If this were the case, rural population in the humid forest zone should rise more rapidly and this, in turn, might lead to greater deforestation.
Preliminary results from the previously mentioned 1997 survey of 4,078 households in 38 villages in the Center and South provinces provide mixed evidence in this regard. On the one hand, rural to urban migration has apparently continued to be rapid throughout the period, but on the other, migration to Yaoundé may have declined since 1992 and return migration of people who previously left the villages has risen (Sunderlin and Pokam, 1998).
Non-timber forest products and Fuel wood
The search for alternative income sources to replace coffee and cocoa not only promoted food crop production, but also encouraged greater commercial fuel wood production and exploitation of non-timber forest products such as palm wine, kola nuts, wild mango, and bush meat (Courade 1994; Demenou 1996). Ndoye (1995) provides evidence that the harvesting of palm wine and wild mango allowed farmers to generate incomes which greatly exceeded the opportunity costs of using their labor for cocoa or coffee production, and this was undoubtedly the case of other products as well. Commercial hunting and fishing was particularly important in East province, with one 1994 survey of 82 households there finding that these were the families largest source of income (Sieffert and Truoung 1992; Ndembou 1995; Youmbi 1997). Many, although not all, of these activities tended to over-exploit the resources involved, thus degrading the forests.
For the parastatal agroindustrial companies, the crisis meant less access to government credit and subsidies, increasing pressure from international agencies for the privatization of some or all of their activities, over-valued exchange rates, and falling domestic demand for their products (Marché Tropicaux 1992). Under these conditions, major expansion of the land area they cultivated was practically unthinkable. Rubber production did manage to grow by practically 150% between 1985 and 1992 but this growth came almost exclusively from areas planted before the crisis began (World Bank 1995).
Over-valued exchange rates and stagnant European demand for timber also discouraged logging companies from expanding. Throughout the period, timber production and exports were more or less constant, with about 2.0 to 2.1 million cubic meters of logs produced each year (Foteu 1995). The trend away from logging in the Littoral and Southwest province and towards greater forest exploitation in the East province continued, and by 1991/2 59%, of all timber came from the East Province, while only 8% came from the Littoral and Southwest provinces (Van Dorp 1995).
5. Devaluation (1994-1997)
In January 1994, Cameroon and the other CFA franc zone nations finally devalued the CFA franc by 50%. The devaluation was supposed to improve the countrys balance of payments by stimulating exports and discouraging imports, and it met some success on both accounts (Economist Intelligence Unit 1997).
For our purposes, it is important to note that although the devaluation succeeded in raising cocoa and coffee production, the shift was apparently not sufficient to revert the tendency towards greater emphasis on food crops and non-timber forest products. At the same time, the new exchange rates greatly stimulated timber production, and that negatively effected large areas of forest.
After the devaluation, producer prices for cocoa rose from 300 CFA franc in 1993/4 to 495 CFA franc in 1994/5, although they subsequently declined to 340 CFA franc in 1995/6. Farmers responded rapidly to these increase and in 1995/6 cocoa production reached 130,000 tons (Economist Intelligence Unit 1997).
How this occurred, however, is not completely clear. Since any cocoa planted after the devaluation would not have come into production yet, presumably this production increase was achieved through greater application of pesticides and weeding.
The only reliable information regarding the planting of new cocoa fields since the devaluation comes from the previously mentioned 1997 survey of 38 villages in center and south provinces. That survey, which covered a total of 1,790 cocoa-planting households, found that 29% had expanded their cocoa area between 1993 and 1997 but a similar amount had reduced it (W. Sunderlin, personal communication 1998).
Robusta coffee production has also slowly recuperated, aided in part by high international coffee prices in 1995 and 1996. By 1995/6, production was back up to 72,000 tons (MINAGRI, n.d.). Moreover, this occurred despite large increases in fertilizers prices resulting from the devaluation. The 1997 survey of 38 villages in the center and south provinces found that a higher percentage of coffee producers had increased their area in production between 1993 and 1997 (36% vs. 29%) and a smaller percentage had reduced it (Sunderlin and Pokam, 1998).
Despite the rises in cocoa and coffee production, however, the same survey of households in the Center and South provinces found that the percentage of farmers who increased their area in plantains and other food crops actually rose after the 1994 devaluation. Forty eight percent of plantain producers reported increasing the area cultivated between 1993 and 1997, as did 47% of producers of other food crops (Sunderlin and Pokam 1998). So, it appears the shift from cocoa and coffee production towards food crops continued after the devaluation.
Several of the tendencies that discouraged humid forest food crop production in the past now seem to have reversed. As urban incomes decline, consumers may shift back towards traditional food crops. The crisis and the devaluation may have reduced urban dwellers per capita food consumption but the total number of urban consumers has continued to grow. The devaluation greatly raised the prices of imported foodstuffs, and urban dwellers consumed less as a result (Courade 1994). Humid forest zone food producers have probably also been less adversely affected by the elimination of fertilizer subsidies, than their competitors in the West province and the north.
Non-Timber Forest Products and Fuel wood
The devaluation led to higher prices for many products that compete with locally produced fuel wood and non-timber forest products. As a result, many poorer consumers shifted from using kerosene to fuel wood, from beer to palm wine, or from industrial pharmaceuticals to medicinal plants. This further increased the exploitation of those products (Foteu 1995; Ndoye 1995).
As a result of the devaluation, producer prices of logs doubled but timber companies production costs only rose 34%. This stimulated logging companies to increase their production from 2 million cubic meters in 1992/3 to 2.7 million cubic meters in 1993/4. On average, log exports from Douala were almost twice as high in 1994-1996, than between 1987 and 1993. The number of species exported rose from 40-50 percent between 1987 and 1993 to 60-75 percent in 1994-1996, and two new species joined the list of major exports, Fraké (Terminalia superba) and Tali (Erythorphleum ivorensis). The fact that it was now commercially viable to export a larger number of species also led companies to harvest larger volumes of timber from each hectare logged (Eba'a-atyi 1998).
Economic policy and market fluctuations have both greatly affected the magnitude and location of deforestation and forest clearing in Cameroon. In the cases of commercial timber exploitation and agroindustrial plantations this may be almost self evident, but it also applies to small farm cocoa, coffee, food crop, and fuel wood production.
Although a relative abundance of labor has certainly encouraged faster cocoa and coffee expansion in the Southwest province and the Moungo Basin of the Littoral province, rural population growth alone cannot explain the variations in cocoa and coffee areas in the Humid Forest Zone of Cameroon. Both international prices and government policies have clearly played a role.
In the case of food crop production, the situation is less clear, in part because of the poor quality of available statistics. Nevertheless, strong evidence suggests that the average area of food crops cultivated by small farmers in Southern Cameroon grew after 1990, in response to the fall in cocoa and coffee prices. Exchange rate policies, fertilizer subsidies, and policies affecting urban income levels may also have affected the average food crop area.
Finally, even if one assumes that the amount of land cleared for food crop production by small farmers in Cameroon is largely a function of their numbers that begs the question of what determines rural population growth in the first place. As our analysis clearly shows, over the last thirty years in the Humid Forest Zone of Cameroon rural to urban and rural to rural migration have played as much a role in determining population growth as have fertility levels. These migration patterns have varied significantly over time in response to changing economic conditions, so it would be incorrect to consider rural population growth as an exogenous determinant of deforestation without taking those conditions into account.
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