Cameroon, also known as the Republic of Cameroon, is often referred to as the hinge of Africa. ‘A continent within a continent’ could be the best phrase to describe this beautiful country. Despite being a small country, Cameroon is home to all the diverse cultures of Africa and is hence, rightly called the Miniature of Africa. The world’s most poisonous lake, the rare white–striped deer, the pygmies, the lush green rainforests are all found in one country called Cameroon. One of the important facts is that the country is known for its thermal springs and an active volcano, Mount Cameroon. Although Douala is the largest city in Cameroon, Yaoundé is its capital city. Let us learn more about Cameroon in detail.

Where is it located?

Cameroon is a small country located in Central Africa. It shares its borders with countries such as the Central African Republic (901km), the Republic of Congo (494km), Equatorial Guinea (183km), Gabon (349km) and Nigeria (1,975km). Stretching a coastline of about 402 km, it lies between 6°N latitude and 12°E longitude. Cameroon covers a total area of about 475,440 sq. km, out of which, land occupies about 472,710 sq. km and water occupies about 2,730 sq. km.  Comparatively, it ranks 54th in the world and is slightly larger than California.  

How is its topography and climatic conditions?

Cameroon enjoys a climate which varies with the terrain, from tropical along the coastline to semi–arid and hot in the northern plains and further cooler in the mountains. The winters are from the months between November to February (16°C), hottest months are from March–May (40°C) and the months from July–October is monsoon. Cameroon has a very diverse topography made up of various landforms like the coastal plains in the southwest, dissected plateau in the centre, high mountains in the west and plains in the north. Mount Cameroon, the highest mountain in Sub-Saharan West Africa, is an active volcano. The natural resources include petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber and hydropower. The land is prone to natural hazards like periodic releases of poisonous gases from the volcanoes from Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun and environmental issues like waterborne diseases, deforestation, overgrazing, desertification, poaching and overfishing.

What is its flora and fauna like?

Cameroon is among the richest countries in the African continent in terms of biodiversity resources. Its forests does not have one, but two sub-species of the western gorilla, the cross river gorilla (endangered) and the western lowland gorilla, elephants, red and green monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, antelopes, mandrills, rodents, bats, and birds like small sunbirds, giant hawks and eagles. Reptiles like the African rock python, green bush viper, crocodile, and turtles like loggerhead, Atlantic green, leatherback, hawksbill and the rare Olive Ridley are found here. Near the coastline, the humpback whale, right whale, sperm whale, fin whale, killer whale, sei whale, and dolphins can be found. The evergreen trees found in the rainforests are ebony, mahogany, obeche, dibetu, sapelli and bamboo.

What are their food habits?

In South Cameroon, meals consist of cassava (root staple), cocoyam and plantains whereas in the savannah grassland, the staple food is maize and plantain and in the arid region, it is sorghum and millet. Meals consist of a cooked cereal and/or root staple accompanied by a stew or sauce. Vegetables such as greens, okra and squashes, along with dried meat and seafood are popular. Hot peppers, onion, ginger and tomatoes are the favourite condiments of the people of Cameroon. Uncooked fruits such as papaya, mangoes, bananas, oranges and avocado are eaten as snacks and desserts but not with the meal. In many regions, men and guests eat before women and children. Washing of hands is an important part of their food etiquette. Special drinks such as palm wine and millet beer is served along with soft drinks at special occasions.

Which religion is followed and what are the languages spoken here?

People in Cameroon are mainly Catholics (about 34.7%) and Protestants (about 17.5%) but there is also a large Muslim population especially in the North Cameroon. Traditional African beliefs are followed by nearly a quarter of the population which involves the combining of animist (spirit) beliefs with their Christian or Muslim beliefs. English and French are the two official languages of Cameroon. In addition, they speak twenty-four different African languages, few of which include Saharan, Chadic and Bantu.

What is their overall culture?

Cameroonian folklore has many myths, legends and proverbs used by its varied cultural groups. In traditional societies, people still perform their ancient rites and customs to the accompaniment of music, dance masks and statuettes. The music is even played when they want to accuse someone of a serious crime. They usually have big families and marriages are arranged. The male member is the head of the family while women do the household chores. Grandparents usually live in the same compound as their children. Muslims in the north wear colourful robes while women cover their head. Pagnes or sarongs are worn by all women.  Language of greeting is either French or English, accompanied with a handshake and sometimes, a kiss on the cheeks. Pointing fingers and crossing of legs is considered rude.

What are its economic features?

Modest oil resources and favourable agricultural conditions have made Cameroon one of the best endowed primary commodity economies in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Its agricultural products are coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, cassava, livestock and timber. Industries that have contributed to its development are petroleum, production and refining, aluminium production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber and ship repair. It exports commodities like crude oil and petroleum products, lumbar, cocoa beans, aluminium, coffee and cotton to Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, U.S, India and France. It imports machinery electrical equipment transport equipment, fuel and food from China, France, Nigeria, Belgium and India.

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