Food & Daily life

Life without a safety net

Food is considered essential to hospitality and Cameroonians will go out of their way to feed a guest, even when they have little to offer.

Life is a struggle for poor families, who rely on growing their own food through subsistence farming. If drought or floods destroy harvests, there is no welfare system to which people can turn.

In traditional communities, women are seen as responsible for household work and face discrimination in a male-oriented society. However, perceptions are changing slowly.

In 2011, two women ran for the presidency of Cameroon and 25 women became members of parliament (out of 180 MPs).

Meals and snacks

Because of the high rainfall and good growing conditions in many regions, Cameroonians grow a wide range of crops. Meat and fish are also plentiful (for those who can afford them). With an abundance of home-grown produce, the country’s cuisine is known as one of the widest in west Africa.

In restaurants, French-style dishes are particularly popular, drawing on a range of ingredients. Cafes and small eateries – sometimes called ‘chop’ bars – focus on chicken, fish and chips. The chips can be made out of potato, yam or plantain.

On the street

Street vendors offer barbecued kebabs of meat or fish (known as brochettes), often with a spicy sauce such as maggi. In the south, fried plantains and cassava are sold. Sweet snacks such as doughnuts and pastries are also popular.

For family meals, Cameroonian cooking often involves preparing a sauce of meat, fish or vegetables to accompany a carbohydrate staple of rice, millet, corn or tubers, such as taro or cocoyam – see Climate & Agriculture.

In the north, meals are often based around maize and millet and peanut or palm oil sauces are common. In the south, yams, cassava and plantains are more often used in dishes.

Kola nuts are popular in Cameroon. Chewed for their bitter juice, which acts as a mild stimulant, kola nuts are often exchanged as gifts. Along the coast, coconuts are another important nut

And to drink?

Home brews

Popular home-brewed beverages include millet (bilibili) and corn (kwatcha) beer. Palm wine (matango) is also popular in the south and along the coast.

Though coffee is grown as a cash crop in certain parts of Cameroon, locals more often drink the instant variety. Coffee stalls open up early in the morning, serving locals with bread and fillings for breakfast. Later in the day, tea and green tea are more popular as a hot drink.

When it’s time to relax, locals often head to the buvettes, small bars serving beer, lager and soft drinks. However, if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, these bars aren’t always the best place, since music or television often blares out.