Global Development and Remote African Villages

Author: Wolfgram, Steven A.
This study explores the relationships among tropical biodiversity conservation, economic development and local cultures within the context of two provinces in the Central African nation of Cameroon. The author examined the attitudes toward environmental conservation and economic development of three groups – rural Africans, urban Africans, and urban Westerners – that directly impact Cameroon’s environment and its environmental and development efforts.

A mixed methods approach was used with equal priority given to the quantitative and qualitative research. On the quantitative side, a survey instrument was used with all three groups, and on the qualitative side, semi-structured interviews, informal conversations, focus groups and village meetings were held. Issues of linguistic and cultural differences and the challenges of conducting rural research during the rainy season were addressed in the research.

The study found that urban-rural distinctions were far stronger than African-Western distinctions. With regard to Cameroon’s overall problems or challenges, urban African and urban Westerner respondents agreed that government ineffectiveness, poverty and lack of jobs were the top priorities, while the rural respondents indicated that lack of roads and water systems were the biggest problems. Both urban groups stated that their top objectives for conserving the environment related to sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity preservation, while the rural group reported that their top objective for conserving the environment was to sustain the lives and livelihoods of local people.

The research demonstrated that rural Africans are not a monolithic group. Within the two-province study area, important differences regarding environmental views were identified among rural respondents based on the ecosystems in which they lived.

This study affirmed the highly interrelated nature of environmental conservation, economic development and local culture, and suggested a comprehensive approach to addressing these overlapping spheres. A gender-based analysis indicated gender differences within and across the groups relating to attitudes toward government and urbanization.

The research identified a number of foundations in progress in environmental conservation and development, including the agreement of all three groups on the need for more cross-group communication and training. Persistent obstacles to environmental and developmental progress were also noted with ineffective government and systemic corruption at the top of the list.


“This book is the outcome of Dr. Steve Wolfgram’s curiosity concerning why so many conservation projects fail in Africa despite the involvement of local people. Dr. Wolfgram has combined a thorough review of the literature on biodiversity conservation, economic development and local cultures with well-designed field research that took him to remote villages which are too often neglected by researchers and program managers. The study is academically robust with strong quantitative analysis and a rich blending of qualitative material which makes this work of interest to researchers, as well as to practitioners in the areas of human development, environmental conservation and cultural studies. This insightful book offers a multi-disciplinary analysis that cuts across development studies, ecology, sociology and cultural studies ... Perhaps his most important broad achievement is giving voice to rural women and men - subsistence farmers, hunters, fishers and graziers from over 20 remote villages in Cameroon’s North West and South West Provinces, who typically lack the resources and political organization necessary to articulate and advance their interests ...” – (from the Preface) Professor Joyce Endeley, University of Buea

“Western studies on biodiversity in Africa typically focus on the ecology of fragile ecosystems while largely ignoring the economic development needs and cultural heritage of the people who live in those ecosystems. Dr. Wolfgram’s study examines biodiversity in the context of human development needs and local culture to produce a richer, more holistic and more African-centered analysis of this phenomenon ... This book not only meets the needs of graduate students of African development, it is highly recommended for researchers and practitioners in human development, environmental sustainability and business development ...” – Professor Henry Akwo Elonge, Clark Atlanta University

“ ... Using in-depth illustrations and local case studies, the author skillfully takes the reader through the perceptions of rural Africans whose livelihoods and survival depend on these ecosystems, of urban Africans whose lifestyles and attitudes directly influence natural resource usage, and of urban westerners whose interests and actions control decisions and policies on conservation ... Dr. Wolfgram’s direct and objective analysis of field data alongside existing relevant literature enables him to articulate brilliantly the effects of poverty and globalization on conservation in Africa and to advocate the rationale for people-centered development strategies.” – Professor Lotsmart Fonjong, University of Buea

Table of Contents

Preface by Joyce Endeley
List of Charts
List of Tables
List of Illustrations
1. Introduction
2. Western Concepts of Economic Development and Environmental Conservation Meet African World Views and Ecosystems
3. Back to the Village: Designing and Implementing a Study to Give Voice to Remote Rural Villagers
4. Rural Africans, Urban Africans and Urban Westerners: Views of Development and Environmental Conservation
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
Appendices A – D