Wolfgram, Steven A.
Steven A. Wolfgram has been working on human development projects and environmental conservation efforts and conducting research in Cameroon over the past 15 years. He is the president of the Cameroonian American Foundation and serves on the boards of two other NGOs focused on Cameroon. Dr. Wolfgram is a partner in the consulting firm Cahill, Wolfgram & Associates and is a part-time faculty member at Cardinal Stritch University.2006 0-7734-5638-4
This study explores the relationships among tropical biodiversity conservation, economic development and local cultures within the context of two provinces in the Central African nation of Cameroon. The author examined the attitudes toward environmental conservation and economic development of three groups – rural Africans, urban Africans, and urban Westerners – that directly impact Cameroon’s environment and its environmental and development efforts.
A mixed methods approach was used with equal priority given to the quantitative and qualitative research. On the quantitative side, a survey instrument was used with all three groups, and on the qualitative side, semi-structured interviews, informal conversations, focus groups and village meetings were held. Issues of linguistic and cultural differences and the challenges of conducting rural research during the rainy season were addressed in the research.
The study found that urban-rural distinctions were far stronger than African-Western distinctions. With regard to Cameroon’s overall problems or challenges, urban African and urban Westerner respondents agreed that government ineffectiveness, poverty and lack of jobs were the top priorities, while the rural respondents indicated that lack of roads and water systems were the biggest problems. Both urban groups stated that their top objectives for conserving the environment related to sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity preservation, while the rural group reported that their top objective for conserving the environment was to sustain the lives and livelihoods of local people.
The research demonstrated that rural Africans are not a monolithic group. Within the two-province study area, important differences regarding environmental views were identified among rural respondents based on the ecosystems in which they lived.
This study affirmed the highly interrelated nature of environmental conservation, economic development and local culture, and suggested a comprehensive approach to addressing these overlapping spheres. A gender-based analysis indicated gender differences within and across the groups relating to attitudes toward government and urbanization.
The research identified a number of foundations in progress in environmental conservation and development, including the agreement of all three groups on the need for more cross-group communication and training. Persistent obstacles to environmental and developmental progress were also noted with ineffective government and systemic corruption at the top of the list.