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Results Briefs November 8, 2019

Lifting Cameroon’s Most Vulnerable Out of Poverty: Building Resilience and Fostering Local Governance to Address the Root Causes of Fragility and Conflict in Northern Regions of Cameroon


Mariama and her husband, Rice farmers, Vélé (Far North region, Cameroon) – Flood emergency project beneficiary.

Photo: O. Hebga/World Bank

Over the past three years, while increasing its support to Government of Cameroon, The World Bank operated a geographical shift to poorest and most fragile parts of the country in order to address the roots causes of fragility and conflict in the northern regions, notably the septentrion that is home of 37% of the total population and more than 56% of all the poor in the country. This emphasis was primarily done through the water and sanitation, Social Safety Nets, Community Development Program, Health and agriculture projects.


Cameroon is a low middle-income country at two speeds: poverty and inequality are deteriorating in the northern regions notably the conflict prone North-West, while declining slightly in the rest of the country. The sharp rural versus urban and regional disparities between the northern regions and the rest of the country persists. The poverty map recently set up by the government showed an increase in poverty in the Far North, North West and South West regions ranging from 77%, 57%and 21% in 2019 respectively compared to 74%, 55% and 18% in 2014 while it slightly decreased or remained stagnant in other regions. Furthermore, the Boko Haram conflict and renewed escalation of violence in Nigeria and Lake Chad region generated a renewed flow of refugees to the Far North region that hosts 102,000 Nigerian refugees. In the meantime, the recent conflict in the anglophone regions has a severe impact on both poverty and the already low Human Capital Index (HCI) (0.39, i.e. below the 0.4 average if Sub Saharan Africa).It has been estimated that about 4.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Cameroon also remains vulnerable to climate change, particularly in the North, which aggravates the pressure on the availability of already limited natural resources resulting in conflicts over land and water. Cameroon met only the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) on primary school enrolment.

Going forward, Cameroon will need to address these specific issues that, combined with poor quality of government services, weak governance, lack of empowerment of local government and communities and a sense of marginalization by a highly centralized state, are notably the common root causes of the ongoing conflicts.


To address these challenges, lending to date is in line with the Country Partnership Framework (CPF) (FY17-FY21) and reflects strategic adjustments to enhance financing for the poorest and most fragile regions also supported by reforms through Development Policy Operations. Emphasis was deliberately put on activities that tackle:  (i) abject poverty through expanded social safety nets, (ii) low rural productivity through agriculture and livestock projects ; (iii) poor access to economic and social services for improved health and nutrition, better education,  and (iv) weak governance in a pragmatic way by targeting more efficient public expenditures and (v) poor service delivery by improving regulation in key sectors and increasing citizen engagement at the project level through the Community Development Program and financing mechanisms such as the Performance Based Financing in the health sector and education as a pilot. Tailored implementation mechanisms have been developed to continue working in areas in active conflict in the Far North with the rehabilitation of the Mora-Dabanga-Kousseri road.  

Looking forward, the program will continue to place an emphasis on northern regions to consolidate the strong results achieved so far and adopt a tailored approach to the conflict in the anglophone regions.


Advisory Services and Analytics (ASAs) and Development Policy Operations (DPOs) have been very instrumental in generating a more robust approach to policy regulatory and institutional reforms. Public Expenditure Review (PER), analytical work on State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), wage bill, text book and Social Protection) successfully laid the groundwork for reforms subsequently supported by the DPO series with dedicated reforms.

  • Textbook policy was revamped, prices reduced and quality increased. Combined with support from the Equity and Quality for Improved Learning Project (GPE financing), the pupil/textbook ratio was reduced from 1/12 to 1/7 in primary education.  
  • The PBF system in health was extended to more than 75% of population of the country in the ten regions
  • Scale-up of Cash Transfer agreed with the Government and inserted in 2019 Finance Law to ensure enough provisions to extend the coverage of the national Social Safety Nets Program by at least 11500 households.

ASA and DPOs have also been key to support adequate policy, institutional and regulatory reforms to make the investment environment more attractive to the private sector and underpin the Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) through the Cascade approach in the energy and agriculture sectors.

  • Nachtigal Hydropower Guarantee of $300 million reached financial closing in December 2018 and will provide an additional 420MW by end of 2021.

IDA Results

The Flood Emergency Project (IDA $108 million) implemented since 2014 aimed to support the government in rehabilitation of 70 km of embankment along Logon river and 27 km of Maga dam in the Far North region following the 2012 devastating flood that caused extensive damages to approximately 30,000 households and jeopardized food security. In addition to the rehabilitation of these key hydraulic infrastructure and the associated waterconveyance/ irrigation infrastructure for the Company of Expansion and Modernization of Rice growing in Yagoua/Société d’Expansion et de Modernisation de la Riziculture à Yagoua (SEMRY) rice schemes (7,500ha), the project also supports improvement of emergency and disaster-preparedness. At the end of FY19 :

  • More than 100,000 are being protected from annual risks of floods
  • Population’s livelihood in the target areas improved, most farmers have two harvests per year instead of one before.
  • Disaster risk is better managed in this region particularly vulnerable to climate change.

The Agriculture Investment & Market Development Project (IDA, $100 million) launched in FY15 to support the transformation of low productivity, subsistence-oriented cassava, maize and sorghum into commercially-oriented and competitive value chains. The following results have been achieved between 2016 and 2019:

  • The yield of targeted crops has increased over baseline by 68% for sorghum, 180% for maize, and been multiplied by two for cassava.
  • 139,945 farmers were provided with agriculture assets and services.
  • The price premium of product sold by beneficiary farmers increased by +20% for sorghum and +13% for maize.

The Health System Performance Reinforcement Project (IDA $136 million-FY17) aimed to support the expansion of the PBF to the Northern regions and its country-wide scale up. From 2016 to 2018, the operation focused on scaling-up to the remaining 36 districts in the three northern regions of Cameroon (Far North, North, and Adamawa) with a population of 7,614,882 (2016).

  • The Performance Based Financing system has been extended to 75% of the population in the ten regions.
  • At the third quarter of 2011, 81% of health districts (26 out of 30) in the Far North or 87% of the population there are covered by the PBF scheme.
  • In the northern and east regions, the percentage of assisted births increased over baseline by 43% between 2014 and 2018, and the number of under-5 deaths per 1000 lives has reduced over the baseline by 39% from 2014 to 2018.

The development objective of the Community Development Support Project-Phase III (IDA $118 million) implemented since 2016 is to strengthen local public finance management and participatory development processes in communes for the delivery of quality and sustainable social and economic infrastructure. For this third phase, the direct beneficiaries are the one million plus residents of the 360 communes (50 percent women).  The following results have been achieved:

  • The number of health centers built, rehabilitated and equipped increased over baseline by 150%.
  • The number of water holes constructed and rehabilitated increased by 50%.
  • The number of direct beneficiaries increased from 237,799 to 1,592,614 of which +54% women.
  • A citizen feedback mechanism is operational in 153 communes.  
  • The 360 communes produce a procurement manual including planning, budgeting contracting and financial management against 0 at the beginning of the program.

The Social Safety Nets project (SSNP) (IDA $50 million) effective since 2014, aimed to support the establishment of a basic national safety net system including piloting targeted cash transfers and public works programs for the poorest and most vulnerable people in participating areas. Direct public works projects beneficiaries reached 30,000 people of which 45% female.

Furthermore, the number of households benefitting from the cash transfer program in northern regions increased from 4,000 to 54,000 including emergency cash transfers.

Bank Group Contribution

As of June 2019, the national International Development Association (IDA) lending portfolio in Cameroon stands at $1.3 billion in commitments including $130 million from the IDA18 Refugee Sub-Window (provided to Cameroon on grant terms due to high risk of debt distress) and consists of 15 projects. The IDA portfolio also includes two regional integration projects, whose share of commitments dedicated to Cameroon is $417 million. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) portfolio stands at $817 million with 3 projects in energy and transport sectors including a guarantee for the Nachtigal Hydropower Project. IDA and IBRD financing commitments increased by 86% since 2016 and the portfolio has shifted towards poorest and fragile northern regions with more than half of new commitments located there. This includes dedicated support for refugees and their host communities with the Community Driven Development, Social Safety Nets, Health System Performance and Education Reform Support projects together drawing on $130 million in financing from the IDA18 Refugee Sub-window.   


Collaboration with development partners has helped maximize impact across various sectors and areas. Besides regular participation in the Multi-Partnership Committee that brings together most partners and the government, the World Bank maintains a regular dialogue with key development partners, especially the African Development Bank(AfDB), the French Agency for Development(AFD), and the European Union (EU). This engagement focuses on: DPO, which is also closely coordinated with International Monetary Fund (IMF) that granted an Extended Credit Facility to Cameroon to restore external and fiscal sustainability following the 2014 oil price drop and to improve debt sustainability ; public financial management, where a partnership framework with the government was set up to support reforms related to public financial management, public investment, and state owned enterprises (SOEs); the transformational engagement in the energy sector (AfDB, EU, AFD), including the Nachtigal Hydropower Project; and forthcoming support to climate-smart agriculture in the northern regions (AFD). The same group maintains a continuous dialogue with the government on portfolio issues such as procurement, and the compensation process for land acquisition and involuntary displacement.

Notably, the collaboration with the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (and other UN agencies such as United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Program) has been critical to project implementation in the conflict-affected areas, such as the Far North region.  The Recovery and Peace Building Assessment was led by the government and supported by the UN, the EU and the WBG. Implementation of the projects financed under the IDA18 RSW benefits from the very close partnership with UNHCR.

Moving Forward

The Performance Learning Review (PLR) of the CPF has just been submitted to the board. The CPF pillars remain relevant and aligned with government’s vision and continues providing an adequate framework for engagement with some significant changes necessary to consider the new political, economic, social and security trends.

The CPF will be extended by one year until FY22 to : ( i) further increase its already strong support to development in the northern regions and the Lake Chad Region to address the causes and impacts of fragility and conflict with new lending that will focus on empowering girls and women strengthening livelihoods through climate-smart agriculture and transport connectivity, stronger empowerment of local communities, including for the resolution of local conflicts, will also be supported, improving trade and transport along the Douala-Ndjamena corridor,(ii) dedicate special efforts to anglophone regions in order to minimize loss of Human Capital in the two regions; iii) put greater focus on human capital challenges (especially stunting and malnutrition) ; (iii) design narrower and deeper DPO series going forward and (iv) strengthen the Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) approach. The Bank’s current activities aim to reach these goals towards its support to the following projects:

  • In the energy sector, the IDA Board approved a new $150 million project providing rural electricity access for underserved regions including the northern regions.
  • The WBG will further increase its already strong support to development in the northern regions and the Lake Chad region, to address the causes and impacts of fragility and conflict, including abject poverty.  Additional support will focus on empowering girls and women, strengthening livelihoods through climate-smart agriculture and transport connectivity, improving supply of electricity through the connection of the southern and northern electricity transmission networks, and improving trade and transport along the Douala-Ndjamena corridor. Better coordination of development activities among the four countries bordering Lake Chad and stronger empowerment of local communities, including for the resolution of local conflicts, will also be supported.
  • The DPO II (IDA $200) is  due for approval by the board in August.
  • The Bank will further strengthen its approach to MFD in the energy and transport sectors. With the Nachtigal Hydropower project now under construction, support will be provided through the ongoing technical assistance project to identify and prepare the next hydropower project on the Sanaga river. In the transport sector, work will focus on bringing in more private investments  to urban mobility and railways.


Suzanne, Rice farmer, Maga (Far North region, Cameroon) – Flood emergency project beneficiary. Photo: O. Hebga/World Bank

 “Thanks to the project, we can now load and sell our crops more easily and earn more money. And more important, I can send all my children to school today. I have no problem paying tuition.” Linda Siama, rice farmer in Maga

Mariama and her husband, Rice farmers, Vélé (Far North region, Cameroon) – Flood emergency project beneficiary. Photo: O. Hebga/World Bank

“The presence of women in the agricultural sector is crucial. The [Agricultural Investment and Market Development Project] (AIMDP) project encourage[s] us to achieve great results and gives us resources to reduce poverty for both our family and community.” Mariam Haman Adama, general manager of Organization of Sorgho producers (CROPSEC) based in the Far North of Cameroon.