News / Africa

Cameroon Plastic Ban Impact on Food Packaging

FILE - Seona Ngufor of Cameroon carries bags of squash.
FILE - Seona Ngufor of Cameroon carries bags of squash.
Cameroonians are returning to traditional methods of transporting and packaging food after the government banned the production, sale and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.  People are now using large plantain leaves to store food - a move that has sparked mixed reactions among consumers and restaurateurs.

It is early morning in Mfou on the outskirts of Cameroon's capital, Yaounde.  Nka Pamela, a 26-year-old woman, is visiting a farm to buy plantain leaves.

This has been part of her routine ever since the government banned the importation, possession, sale and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.  People have until April to use up all the bags already in circulation.
 
Pamela said demand for leaves has skyrocketed and led to scarcity in many Yaounde neighborhoods. “At times the farmers will refuse to sell.  There are times that they increase their prices so it makes it difficult for us to bring leaves to Yaounde to sell,” she stated.
 
At the Mfoundi market in Yaounde, food vendors are now also selling leaves.  Restaurant owner Etta Deborah said she uses them to package some African traditional meals like corn fufu, koki, achu and mendumba.

“It is natural and then it is our African culture to use leaves for keeping [conserving] food and I want to protect my customers,” she explained.
 
But not everyone is happy.  Resident Ben Collins said he is concerned about health risks.

“You don’t know the origin of the leaves.  You don't know how the leaves were transported.  You don't know how they were conserved.  You don’t know the chemical reaction between the leaf and the food," he said. "And sometimes leaves are used for medicinal purposes and sometimes people unknowingly package their food with not knowing the effect.”
 
Dr. Agatha Tanya, nutritionist and lecturer at the University of Yaounde teaching hospital, said there is nothing to be worried about if leaves are used appropriately for packaging. 

“We can use leaves, natural leaves which we have in abundance and wrap food in it.  And besides, these leaves have a very, very nice flavor,” she said.

Other market vendors say leaves are not practical for packaging many items.  Nevielle Ngalim sells bread in Yaounde. 

“Where do they want us to put the bread and the cake?  To me the banning of the plastic is not normal,”  said Ngalim.
 
Ajongo Jean-Pierre - an official with Cameroon's Ministry of Environment - is an advocate of leaves but says consumers need to understand that the new ban only impacts non-biodegradable plastic bags.

“All plastics are not banned, but we should come back to natural leaves to replace the plastics,” he said.
 
The Cameroon Association for the Defense of the Rights of Consumers is asking the government to rethink how to roll out the ban so as not to hurt the economy. 

“Unfortunately, the socio-economic aspect was not taken into consideration which means that if incentive measures are not put in place, so many people within the sector will be affected," said Yvonne Tarkang, with the association. "So we think that the government should… come up with alternatives because non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned in Cameroon.”
 
Cameroon decided to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags on the grounds they clog waterways, spoil the landscape, and end up in landfills where take a thousand years to break down and degrade into particles which pollute the soil and water.

The government has announced plans to start producing other types of bio-degradable food packaging materials in partnership with private companies.

Cameroonians have until April to use up all of the plastic bags already in circulation.  After that, people using the bags could face heavy fines or even prison time.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid