BAMENDA, CAMEROON – Margaret Shu, 61, is a retired teacher who now works as a farmer in Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s Northwest region. She says she is surprised about the heavy rains her town received at the end of September.
“In my 32 years in Bamenda, I have never seen such a rain,” she says. “It rained so heavily in a short while. While it rained, it poured down hail stones in large quantities.”
The heavy rain caused flooding in her town.
“It was terrible,” Shu says.
She says the hail destroyed all her crops.
“The crops that I planted this season were all shredded by the hail stones,” Shu says. “The leaves of my newly planted corn, beans and cocoyam were all destroyed.”
Shu says Bamenda’s rainfall this year is a clear indication of climate change. She says it hurts farmers the most, as heavy rains cause unpredictable seasons that confuse farmers about when to plant. Both heavy rains and drought have ruined crops in recent years.
“I can now see the manifestations of climate change,” she says.
Local residents in Bamenda are voicing concerns about the rare heavy rain and the floods that have reached them in recent weeks. Some experts attribute the uncharacteristic weather patterns to climate change. But others attribute increased flooding to poor management of dams, a project the federal government has prioritized for this year.
This year, severe flooding has affected four of Cameroon’s 10 regions: the Far North, the North, the East and the Northwest regions, according to local media. The flooding has affected several villages, and thousands of people have lost their homes, property, animals and crops. Official data has not yet been publicized.
In the Northwest region, a flood struck the village of Babessi in the Ngoketunjia division in early September. The flood destroyed farmlands and the homes and property of 26 families, according to local media.
At the end of the month, it rained heavily and hailed in Bamenda. There was flash flooding, leaving vehicles and pedestrians unable to cross the bridge over the main road in the middle of the town, with no option than to wait on both sides for the water level to go down.
Of the vehicles that dared to cross the bridge, some lost their engines in the middle of the water. The rushing water also swept away one motorbike rider who tried to cross the bridge, with the iron bars along the bridge preventing him from falling off.
Businesses and homes endured several inches of water. Owners occupied themselves by draining the buildings and houses.
One onlooker, Augustine Tanteh, looked at the high waters and prayed that it would rain even more.
“I pray that the rain falls even heavier so that there will be flooding here in Bamenda also,” he says. “Let it flood so that the president will come to Bamenda also and give some money and food.”
President Paul Biya and his wife visited flood victims