Professor Paul Tchawa, Head of Department of Geography, University of Yaounde 1 talks to Cameroon Tribune on the incidence of irregular rainfall in Cameroon.
What explains the changing climatic conditions in the country?
What is happing now is what can be called an anomaly. But talking about anomaly does not mean that it is rare or exceptional. Climate functions that way. Climate is characterised by changes. What is called an anomaly can be due to local causes but mostly planetary cases. At the moment, I think that one of the principal causes of the anomaly is linked to a wind called El Nino. These are more complex mechanisms which have as headquarters the Pacific and which change the climate at the planetary level with effects on the period of beginning of rains. If El Nino passes in December for instance in a year, it is not immediately that effects will be noticed in Africa. But it is sure that for several years, the effects of El Nino on the climate of Central and West Africa is clear. This is seen in the changes such as early and late rain. But I don't think that will give any particular worries.
What is the impact on the population, especially as farmers are waiting for the rains to beginning the planting season?
These anomalies have different types of consequences. At the level of agriculture, we are a country which is mostly dependent on agro pastoral activities. The period for the beginning of activities especially planting season, is based on the first rains. The rain which fell yesterday January 27, 2013 which is generally expected in mid March is wrong signal. Luckily, the peasants are experienced. Generally most of them will avoid planting now. Because if you plant now and in the days ahead there is no rain the grains will get bad. I think that these rains considerably disturb the agricultural calendar; be it early or late rains. The effect also touches other sectors such as tourism. Tourism is a sector that is controlled by the seasons. Tourists will like to go to a place they know the weather at that time. As for health consequences, there are diseases that are vectors. These vectors live in marshy places and such rains naturally revive or wake up these vectors and increase the development of lava. There are also other health problems such as cold and influenza.
What can people do to protect themselves from the effects of drastic weather change?
I think there is not much to be done to protect one's self. I think what should be done is to try to reduce the effects. Climate change is also due to human effects such as deforestation, maintaining standing water around homes, and there are several human activities which aggravate these changes. I think researchers should be mobilized and this research should be inter-disciplinary with doctors, sociologists, geographers, epidemiologists, etc to understand and above all strengthen the capacities of the population capacities of people to minimise the effect because we can't do anything against the phenomenon.