On the occasion of World Water Day 2023, we question the Water, Climate, Development and Gender Program (WACDEP-G) in Cameroon. Implemented by the National Meteorological Directorate of the Cameroonian Ministry of Transport (MINT) and the Global Water Partnership in Cameroon (GWP-Cmr), the program promotes the inclusion of women in the management of water access projects in the context of climate change. In northern Cameroon, where the program is implemented, access to water is more difficult. Low rainfall and prolonged droughts make water resources scarce, jeopardizing rain-fed agriculture and food security. Murielle Elouga, the head of the Water, Climate, Development and Gender Program (WACDEP-G) in Cameroon, answers AFRIK 21’s questions.
The program you are in charge of has been working for three years to involve women in the integrated management of water resources in Cameroon. What progress have you made in this area?
The « Water, Climate and Gender Development » program is implemented by the Global Water Partnership in Africa (GWP-Caf) and aims to take into account gender in the planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of projects in the water and climate resilience sector. During its implementation over the last three years, we have accompanied the Ministry of Water and Energy in taking gender into account in the law on the water regime, which is currently being revised.
Indeed, after an analysis of this law, we realized that it speaks more about the population in general, without taking into account specific social categories, i.e. youth, women, men, disabled people, and many others. We believe that by integrating the gender issue in this law, it will condition the development of policies to improve access to water for the population as a whole. Another advance in the program is that we have helped to remove the barriers around a disease related to the consumption of drinking water with high fluoride content. Dental Fluorosis. By conducting scientific and sociological studies in northern Cameroon, we realized that this disease, which gives a certain yellowish color to the teeth, is not related to hygiene, nor even to any curse. It is indeed a disease linked to the consumption of water with a high fluoride content. A pathology that affects women on a social level.
Access to water remains a challenge for the populations of the Northern parts of Cameroon, and particularly for women. What improvements are you advocating in this part of the country?
What we are advocating is to involve women at all levels of decision making, to put them at the heart of water-related activities and to provide them with more tools and training on water and climate change issues. Given that the water cycle is increasingly being altered due to the vagaries of climate change impacts.
Beyond that, it is interesting to listen to these women. To have their endogenous and traditional knowledge in order to better involve them in all issues related to water management, conservation and supply. Also, to facilitate women’s access to water, it is important to develop or promote endogenous technologies that are already implemented in the localities, but which need financial support or accompaniment from the State and development partners.
World Water Day 2023 is celebrated under the theme « accelerating change ». What should farmers and rural communities in Cameroon and elsewhere understand?
This theme challenges farmers and rural communities in Cameroon and elsewhere on their ability to adapt to water-related change. A change induced by the impacts of climate change. So if we must adapt to this change, we must be more informed and equipped, know the importance of the water resource and develop endogenous techniques for its conservation. Also, rural women need to know that they are at the very heart of water resource management and conservation, although they need the support of public authorities, both in technical and financial terms. They also need the support of development partners, whether in terms of logistics, techniques, or finance, to be able to carry out their local water resource management initiatives and improve access or water security.
World Water Day is a day to raise awareness on sustainable water resources management. What is your comment on Cameroon?
As far as Cameroon is concerned, I advise the authorities to apply integrated water resources management (IWRM). Because we need water in all areas of economic activity. We need it for electricity, in the health sector, the agricultural sector, and the industrial sector. So water is a matter for all actors, decision-makers, planners, users. And all of them must contribute in one way or another, according to their role, according to their responsibilities, to the elaboration of laws, to the development of policies, to planning and to implementation at the operational level. Beyond the sectoral management of this resource, collaboration is needed to create a balance in the management of the water resource, in the rationalization of this water, according to economic and even social priorities. Women have a major role to play in promoting integrated water resources management. It is important for women to be more leaders and to act even at the local and operational level. They must be actors rather than mere beneficiaries.
Interview by Boris Ngounou