Humans have always adapted to their environment and its climatic variability. This is an inherent capacity of humans, a capacity linked to their ability to act collectively. If adaptation is an inherent capacity of human beings and human societies, it would seem that in the face of climate change this inherent capacity is not sufficient, hence the notion of vulnerability. The concept of vulnerability highlights the difficulties faced by the peoples of the world in coping with the climate challenges of the last century.
Cameroon, like many African countries, faces a higher level of climate vulnerability in its northern region. The commune of Datchéka is not an exception to this reality and is experiencing disturbances that affect its natural environment and the activities of the population. The work presented in this article is the result of field research done in that region by a Cameroonian civil society organisation called Help Community carried out during 2019-2020 through questionnaires, public consultation and interviews with the authorities of this municipality.
I- SUMMARY PRESENTATION OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF DATCHEKA
Datchéka, created in 1993, is a Commune of the Department of Mayo-Danay in the Far North Region of Cameroon. It is bordered to the North by the commune of Doukoula, to the South by Fianga (Republic of Chad), to the East by the commune of Wina, and to the West by Tchatibali. This Commune covers 500 km2 and has a projected population in 2017 of 42,443 and includes 20 villages, the most populated of which are Soukoumkaya, Djamni, Kankarwa, Gangalang, Datcheka, Golompoui, Konkorong, Gaï Gaï , Tibali , Zouaye, Sokom, Lara and Warsaye. Like African Communes with high population growth rates, Datchéka has a predominantly young population. Young people under the age of 30 account for nearly 60% of the total population. The population growth rate is around 3% (Source: District Medical Officer of Health)
The climate is tropical and Sahelian. The rainy season lasts three months of the year and the dry season lasts nine months. Temperatures are around 15 to 25°C between December and February and rise to 45°C around March, before easing off around June, when they drop to around 30°C.
The vegetation is herbaceous and woody, giving sparse plant formations. Grass is a precious resource. Its diversity allows the development of activities other than pastoral but also craft activities. It provides important fodder for animals and large species are used to make sekko. This technique allows the craftsmen to generate an annual surplus value of around 40 000 F CFA. The degradation of the environmental space is a fact that can be observed. The strong human pressure on natural resources accelerates the desertification process. The natural forest is composed of species such as Prosopis, Acacias, Ziziphus, Balanites have disappeared, leaving a vegetal formation resulting from regeneration due to human action. This is what has increased the populations of Feidherbia and neems.
II- CLIMATIC RISKS AFFECTING AGRICULTURE IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF DATCHEKA
The main risks identified in the commune of Datcheka are: drought, floods, strong winds, heat waves to which we add dust winds and biological invasions. Here we focus our attention on two points: Floods and Drought.
As far as the Floods are concerned, 50 hectares of cereals were destroyed in all the villages affected by the floods during the floods of 2019. Based on the local estimate that 01 hectare of cereal/mil is equivalent to 12 bags of cereal/mil, it is estimated that more than 600 bags of cereal stocks/mil have been destroyed. Similarly, if one starts from the local estimate that 12 sacks of cereal/mil was worth 420,000 CFA francs in 2019 because of 35,000 CFA francs per sack (for that year), it is estimated that more than 21,000,000 CFA francs were lost by people in the flood-prone and flooded villages of Datcheka in 2019.
As far as drought is concerned, red millet and yellow millet, also known as sorghum, did not produce in 2019. In fact, millet is the food base of the local population. Red millet is sown during the rainy season which lasts barely 3 months (with 9 months of dry season). Yellow millet, or off-season millet, is sown in flooded or flooded areas just after the water has receded (this is one of the advantages of flooding in the locality). If drought or other climatic hazards such as caterpillar or locust invasions of fields cause red millet to fail to mature in the three villages like the flooded ones, people can make up for it by planting yellow millet. During the flooding period, snake bite rates increase: there are between 08 to 10 cases of snake bites per month during this period (between June and July) and an increase in malaria cases is observed.
But only in 1985, because of the great drought, neither red nor yellow millet reached maturity in the zone, and the price of a sack of millet rose to 50,000 FCFA, whereas it usually costs 12,000 FCFA. This has led to great hunger, many deaths and the massive displacement of people to areas much further south in Cameroon. In 1988, the population only harvested a small amount of red millet and sorghum. In 1998, there was no harvest. “There was money but no millet, we ate everything we saw, even the herbs like animals,” informs the chief of Djamni. According to the population, the worst drought occurred in 2002, which led to a great famine and many deaths. In the event of a drought in the commune, an average of 120 deaths are recorded per drought episode, especially among children.
III-RESILIENCE TO CLIMATE RISKS IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF DATCHEKA
Several measures have been put in place to alleviate the climatic risks existing in the municipality of Datcheka with regard to flooding and drought.
As far as floods are concerned, the local authorities (Sub-prefect and Mayors) proceed each time with the distribution of the Head of State’s flood donation consisting of rice, soap and mattresses, among other things. A certain solidarity between populations has been observed during these floods.
A traditional flood warning system exists. Indeed, the villages and districts of the Datcheka district do not have an early warning system for flood monitoring proper. However, the populations of three villages are often the last to be hit by floods in the area, and they inform themselves of floods in the localities of Wina (district of the neighbouring Mayo Danaye department in Datcheka) and Fianga (border town in the Republic of Chad). According to the populations, if there is flooding in Wina, the district of Datcheka will in turn be affected by the floods in 3 days or a week at most. On the other hand, if there is flooding in Fianga, Datcheka will in turn be affected after 2 or 3 days. It is through this traditional warning system that the population is alerted to the probable arrival of floods.
As for drought, as a means of resilience, we have the displacement or migration of the population, the storage of hay and fodder, the burying of jars full of water as a means of conservation, the construction on stilts of granaries, the reduction of the number of meals, transhumance towards regions with high pastoral potential (pasture, water); the creation of artificial water pools; the construction on stilts of granaries.
Agriculture in the municipality of Dacheka is severely affected by climate change. This is mainly caused by floods and drought, which cause 50% of the land to be lost and increase malnutrition and deaths. The means of resilience provided to solve this problem remain far below the level needed to sustainably solve the agricultural deficit observed in the region. In addition to these means of resilience, no measures have been taken for the reconstruction or repair of destroyed or partially cracked houses in 2019, due to the absence of a non-governmental, national or even international organisation to act in 2019. Also the absence of a water drainage system or water passage system and the lack of awareness. If agriculture is crucial for the monitoring of a population, it is equally important to specify that the presence of a high rate of malaria and poisonous snake are obstacles to the well-being of populations. Sustainable measures need to be found to not only enable agriculture to survive during these scourges but also to respond to these epidemics.