Perception of flood risk in rural Cameroon

28 Mai 2021

Although risk perception of natural hazards has been identified as an important determinant of sound policy making, there is little empirical research on it in developing countries. This article fills the gap in the empirical literature. It relates to Babessi, a rural town in the northwestern region of Cameroon. Babessi was hit by a severe flash flood in 2012. The interdisciplinary lens used here deciphers the complexity created by flood hazards, often embedded in contexts characterized by poverty, a state constrained in disaster response, and the absence of market-based solutions. Primary data were collected using a snowball system. Multinomial logistic regression analysis suggests that individuals with leadership roles, such as heads of households, perceive flood risk more strongly, likely because of their role as household providers. We found that risk perception was related to place of residence, which in turn was associated with religious affiliation. Christians perceive flooding as more risky than Muslims because the former traditionally live at the foot of hills and the latter uphill; thus, Muslims are less exposed and ultimately less affected by flooding. Finally, public disaster relief appears to have built trust and thus reduced risk perceptions, although some victims remained skeptical of government disaster relief. This suggests a large potential benefit of public transfers for flood risk management in developing countries.

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