RELUFA

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Fighting Hunger
in Cameroon

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Context

Located at the crossroads of the African continent, Cameroon blends many of its diverse geographical and human features. Language barriers, ethnic loyalties, religious convictions and jealousies over educational, economic and political opportunities affect the development of a national consciousness among the 200 ethnic groups that make up its population.

Despite the popularity of Christianity and Islam and the strong influence of foreign European customs, various traditional ways of life and religious practices are evident in each of the country's regions.

The population of Cameroon is often categorized into three main regions. In the northern savanna, with its adverse climatic conditions, Muslim Fulani and numerous other ethnic groups endure as herders and subsistence cultivators in the lowest living standards. In the West, the Bamiléké, Cameroonian's largest ethnic group, known for their enterprising character, share the highlands as cultivators with numerous other peoples. They reap the fruits of better soils and more favorable ecological conditions. While several thousand marginalized Pygmies struggle to survive in their natural habitat of the endangered southeastern tropical rainforests, the predominant peoples of the South are Bantu groups like the Bassa and Pahouin. Until recently their fertile grounds have been exploited for export products as coffee and cocoa, but the population is slowly shifting to the cultivation of crops for its own food sovereignty.

Over the past two decades Cameroonian society has undergone the crippling effects of an economic crisis due to the plummeting prices of its export commodities on the world market. The exodus of young people from rural areas to urban centers poses a multifaceted threat to both the rural and the urban populations. Although in urban centers income levels are generally higher, a sharp contrast exists between the educated economic elite who have well-paying jobs, and the migrants who abandon their traditional existence for a better livelihood but end up in the ranks of the unemployed within the rapidly increasing urban population. High unemployment among the youth has resulted in a critical increase of the crime rate in larger cities. The AIDS epidemic, rampant on the African continent since the early 1980's, is also affecting the caretakers of the families, the economic pillars in society and the educators of the next generationin Cameroon .

Facts at a Glance



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