Land degradation and desertification are a long-standing concern in Cameroon [1], with impacts that are felt on the economy, the environment, and the well-being of populations, particularly in rural areas where survival depends on the availability of natural resources provided by the land [2]. Land degradation, which is the direct consequence of vegetation cover loss, takes on increasingly alarming proportions of land each year in Cameroon, particularly in arid savannah and to a lesser extent in moist savannah areas. Nationwide, it is estimated that more than 12 million ha of land is degraded, according to figures from the Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development (MINEPDED) [3].

The National Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN-TS) provides information on land degradation trends in Cameroon using three indicators: land use, land productivity and soil organic carbon stocks. Between 2000 and 2010, in terms of land use, forest area fell by 619 km²; shrub, grassland and low vegetation areas increased by 298 km²; cultivated land increased by 321 km²; and wetlands, water bodies, artificial areas, bare land, and others remained stable. This loss of forest cover in the country is seen as a sign of forest landscape and land degradation. Concerning the dynamics of land productivity, using data from 1999 to 2013, 8245 km² of land in Cameroon are declining in productivity; 32,428 km² show the first signs of decline; 64,544 km² are stable but undergoing disturbances; 222,526 km² are stable and not undergoing disturbances; and 136,779 km² are increasing in productivity. Finally, in terms of carbon stock, the conversion of forest areas to cropland caused Cameroon to lose 438,723 tonnes of carbon (0.02% of its carbon stock). The area of degraded forests and lands according to the LDN-TS is thus estimated at around 12,062,768 hectares with particular emphasis on the watersheds of Logone, Djérem 2, Nyong, Mbam and Katina Ala [2].


Land degradation is the result of the combined effects of several factors which act together, and which can be grouped into two main categories: (i) exogenous and natural factors and (ii) anthropogenic factors. The main natural factor that contributes to land degradation in Cameroon is climatic. The impact of climate change is particularly visible in areas with lower and highly variable rainfall, such as the Sudano-Sahelian zone in northern Cameroon [2].

The main anthropogenic factors in Cameroon include: inappropriate and unsustainable agricultural practices; overgrazing and bushfires for agricultural, grazing or hunting purposes (resulting in increased soil erosion and biodiversity loss); haphazard logging aggravated by growing population pressure (in the west and centre regions); irrational management of agriculture, forest and pastoral lands with no zoning plans; weak drought response capability; and wrong perception by the population that the “land resource’’ is infinite or unlimited. All this is compounded by the chronic poverty level of the population [3].


Key policies and governance approach

Land degradation and desertification has long been a matter of concern for the Government of Cameroon [4]. As such, Cameroon has been attempting to address land degradation in the country even before implementation of the main guidelines of the 1992 Rio Summit, which enshrined the major conventions (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification - UNCCD, Convention on Biological Diversity - CBD, etc.). For instance, in 1995, Cameroon set up a provincial committee for drought control in the north of the country. This organization started the actions to combat desertification and drought via the initial phase of Operation Green Sahel. This programme promoted mass reforestation to respond to the degradation of the environment. Subsequently, and in order to comply with its commitments to the UNCCD, Cameroon produced its National Action Plan to Combat Desertification (NAP/CD) in 2006. This plan relaunched Operation Green Sahel, integrating the new guidelines of the Convention [1], [4].

As early as 2015, Cameroon acted along with the UNCCD to promote the concept of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), which has been defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems”. As a result, Cameroon proposed its national Land Degradation Neutrality target setting programme, whose guidelines at the national level aim to achieve, in relation to 2015 (no net loss), the improvement of land production conditions of at least 10% more of the national territory. At the communal level, the neutrality targets aim to achieve a coverage of at least 90% of councils located in priority areas for combating land and forest landscape degradations. In addition, at the specific level, targets include achieving the restoration of 12 million ha declared by Cameroon under the AFR100 initiative, reducing dependence on firewood, and reducing forest degradation by at least 75% [4].

Beyond the application of the guidelines of the UNCCD, Cameroon has committed itself to the Bonn Challenge initiative through its African name known as “African Forest Landscape Restoration (AFR100)”. Additionally, the country has expressed interest in the Great Green Wall initiative and to this end, a national strategy and an action plan were developed to define the implementation framework of this initiative [4].

While all these initiatives and opportunities to be implemented have the same goal: restoring landscapes and degraded lands, it is necessary to harmonise all land and landscape restoration activities at the national level. For this reason, Cameroon has recently developed the Harmonised Action Plan (2020-2030) to combat land and forest landscape degradation in Cameroon. The vision of the Harmonised Action Plan is to contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets through forest land and landscape restoration initiatives (Bonn Challenge/AFR100), in line with Cameroon’s National Development Strategy (NDS 30). The overall objective is to federate all initiatives and efforts to combat land and landscape degradation in order to restore 12 million hectares of degraded forest lands and landscapes by 2030 [4].

Successes and remaining challenges

The rehabilitation of landscapes in Cameroon has given rise to several strategy papers, and many past and current landscape restoration projects have been implemented in various regions of the country. These projects make up a body of experiences [1], through which the country can build upon the cumulative lessons learned [4], that will help facilitate implementation of future landscape restoration activities in the country. Additionally, the personnel that have been involved in landscape restoration in Cameroon have participated in conferences and exchanges of experience, which represents another asset for developing and implementing land and landscape restoration initiatives in the country [1].

However, structural problems in Cameroon make for serious obstacles. For instance, landscape restoration requires actions that cut across the fields of action of various government ministries. For example, in Cameroon, the ministries of the Environment (MINEPDED), of Agriculture (MINADER), of Forests and Fauna (MINFOF), of Water and Energy (MINEE) and of Mines (MINMIDT) all work on the same aspects of the environment: soil, water, and ecosystems. However, these ministries often operate in silos, with each one tending to act in isolation, according to its own policy. This generates approaches locally that are contradictory and that can lead to land conflicts. Another structural problem is the weakness of national land and forest research. This weakness is linked in particular to the lack of stable financing, which is an obstacle to stimulating the innovations needed for landscape restoration on the ground. Further, despite the great efforts made by Cameroon to involve local populations in decision-making, real implementation of this approach faces difficulty on the ground. Yet, without the involvement of local stakeholders, landscape restoration in the country will not be sustainable. Means and tools are also still lacking when it comes to monitoring and evaluating restoration efforts, which is needed to improve knowledge of the best approaches [1].

Initiatives and Development Plans

Within the framework of the Bonn Challenge and AFR100, Cameroon aims to restore 12 million ha of degraded land. To contribute to this, two major projects co-signed by the MINEPDED and the MINFOF were programmed for implementation in 2021. The first, the Largescale Forest Landscape Restoration in Africa project, aims at the large-scale restoration of forest landscapes. In Cameroon, it is funded through the IKI initiative by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The second is a programme made up of several projects, each with different forms of implementation depending on the stakeholders involved (public and private stakeholders, Decentralized Territorial Community, NGOs) [1].

Cameroon is also implementing the Great Green Wall initiative [1], which aims to grow an 8,000-kilometre continent-wide barrier to combat land degradation, desertification and drought in the Sahel. As part of this initiative, UNHCR and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) launched a unique programme in 2018 aimed at reversing deforestation in the Minawao refugee camp and surrounding villages in north-eastern Cameroon. By 2021, 360,000 seedlings had been planted on more than 100 hectares. The camp was almost deforested, but this project has helped to repair the vegetation cover. The project is also part of a UNHCR strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with refugee camps and preserve local environments. The approach includes scaling-up tree planting and clean cooking programmes, investing in solar energy systems and reducing plastic waste [5].     

The National Plantation Forests Development Programme (NPFDP), validated in 2019 by the forest administration and development partners, could be the basis for the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes and forests in Cameroon. The National Forestry Development Agency (ANAFOR) is responsible for directly or indirectly supporting the implementation of the said programme. To do so, it carries out studies, looks for financing, provides seeds and seedlings and develops consulting expertise. Even though financial support is not yet available, this programme offers the opportunity to reconcile restoration actions using a landscape approach, with the involvement of local populations via decentralized local authorities. Under this programme, the main objective of ANAFOR is to facilitate the planning, establishment and development of private and community forest plantations, the development of value chains, and the creation of a sustainable forestry economy generating jobs and growth [1].

  • Integrate Land Degradation Neutrality into the national development planning process [2].
  • Cameroon needs to mobilize additional financial resources to support its landscape and land restoration projects. Cameroon should, therefore, improve the contributions of financial and technical partners, bilateral donors and more especially, involve the private sector in the mobilization of resources [4].
  • There exist several external funding opportunities. For example, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) represents an opportunity for financing restoration projects [4].
  • The three Rio Conventions (UNCCD, CBD, UNFCCC) and the various agreements and mechanisms that flow from them constitute a great opportunity to finance projects for the restoration of degraded landscapes and lands. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UNFCCC, for example, through its Kyoto Protocol, is an excellent opportunity to finance tree planting activities [4].
  • Ensure greater involvement of local populations in the decision-making process [4].
  • Civil society could play the role of a coordinator, further integrating local interrelationships in order to create synergies between all types of programmes that are taking place within the landscape in question [1].
  • Capacity building of all actors involved in the restoration of landscapes and lands [4].
  • Establish a national observatory committee to monitor and coordinate land and landscape restoration initiatives [4].
  • Increase the protection of ecosystems and habitats with high biodiversity [4].
  • Strengthen multi-faceted support for income-generating activities [4].
  • Strengthen implementation actions of the Harmonised Action Plan (reforestation, soil fertility restoration, multi-sectoral research, rehabilitation of degraded lands, change in energy consumption patterns, etc.) [4]
  • Consider the gender aspect in the implementation of the Harmonised Action Plan [4].
  • Information, education, communication, and awareness raising of all stakeholders [4].

[1] Guizol, P., Diakhite, M., Seka, J., Bring, C., Mbonayem, L., Awono, A., Oyono, P.R., Mokpidie, D., Ndikumagenge, C., Sonwa, D.J., Ndabirorere, S., Waitkuwait, W.E., Ngobieng, M.A., Tabi, P., Essamba, L. (2022). Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) in Central Africa. In: The Forests of the Congo Basin: State of the Forests 2021, 317-338. Bogor, Indonesia. CIFOR.




[5] UNHCR (2021). Refugees in Cameroon help build ‘Great Green Wall’ to combat desertification. [Online]. Available: