Volcanic eruptions are one of the most unexpected, dreaded, violent and dramatic agents of change on earth. During the 1990s more than 2100 lives were lost world wide because of volcanic activity and two cities were completely devastated (Witham 2005). In addition, volcanic eruptions and induced effects affected around 2.8 million people in the world and the economic loss reached several billions of dollars, causing tremendous disruption in entire regions and countries. One of the aims of The MIA-VITA project is to contribute and come out with result that can enhance early warnings for each community exposed to one of the 4 selected volcanoes (i.e., Mount Merapi in Indonesia, Mount Kanlaon in Philippines, Mount Fogo in Cape Verde and Mount Cameroon in Cameroon).
As part of the project MIAVITA, a socio-economic vulnerability study on the Mount Cameroon Region has started in spring 2011, more precisely in the Fako division (South-West Cameroon). This area was selected for the study because it is the most exposed division in the country with regards to volcanic eruption and other hazards. It was also selected because of its high population, the concentration of schools and health centres, the number of strategic infrastructures (i.e., Oil National Refinery (SONARA), Limbe power plant, Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC)) and the concentration of the governance services of the whole South-West region, witness of recurrent damages associated with the activity of Mt. Cameroon. The major expected outcome of the study consist in designing the appropriate models to provide the best information about the Mount Cameroon natural risks to local communities, organized planning and prevention tools to help the local population to better perceive the risks and collaborate with the local and governmental authorities in managing them.
Fig.1: Flood at Clerks quarter, Limbe.
The research methods have included questionnaire-based survey, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs). Preliminary results are from data only collected in 2 of 5 total sub-divisions (i.e., Idenau and Limbe) and they show that all the participants have experienced at least one of the main volcanic threats associated with the Mount Cameroon. 100 participants (86%) had experienced lava flow in Idenau against almost equivalent high rate of 247 (82%) in Limbe. The impact of ash coverage and flood (Fig. 1) was equally very high in both sub-divisions with experienced rate above 70%. Landslide was significantly more present in Limbe (249 participants, 83%) than Idenau (27 participants, 23%). Lahars and rock fall were also present in both sub-divisions but at relatively lower rates (less than 10%). It was realized that up to 60% of the participants in rural areas did not go above primary schools against a relatively lower but considerable rate of 41% for their urban settings counterparts. The sampled population is relatively poor with 39% of participants in rural setting earning less than 30000 XAF per month against a relative high rate of 31% for those leaving in urban settings. Less than 15% of those leaving in rural settings earn more than 100000 XAF per months against a higher though quite moderate rate of 24% for their urban counterparts. In both settings, roughly 70% of household has 3-5 peoples and 36% of households in rural settings had 6 and more people. The relatively large family size couples with low income, highlights the question of subsistence in these communities. In addition to this, these populations both in urban and rural settings are not covered by any insurance scheme (95% for those who have not subscribed to any insurance scheme). In both sub-divisions, the main sources of livelihood were farming (32% in Idenau against 24% in Limbe) and unskilled works (41% in both Idenau and Limbe). Others include fishing and hunting. The population is highly vulnerable because of the state of poverty (Fig. 2) but highly conscious of the risks because a greater majority of them stated that they were ready to accept resettlement if a new house or enough money were offered to them (more than 70%). The majority of them (58%) equally complain of the expensive nature of government lands. It is therefore obvious that poverty coupled with inadequate resettlement policy increases the exposure of these people (Fig. 3). In addition to this, 80% of respondents deplored the non-existence of an emergency plan to manage the hazards. Such plan exists, but the study indicates that the targeted population are still quite ignorant of it. This poor management strategy is obviously another major cause of concern, which contributes in increasing vulnerability in these risky zones.
Fig. 2: Respondent’s house cracked by earthquake in Saxenhoff Camp (Buea). She lives in the house supporting the wall with wooden beam not having money for renovation.
Fig. 3: Ongoing settlement on landslide-prone area at Mabeta, Limbe.