Livelihood strategies of Central African refugees in Cameroon

Working and discussion papers
March 2017

Over the past ten years, Cameroon has admitted tens of thousands of refugees fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR). Most have settled outside camps, with 70% living in rural, peri-urban and urban areas of eastern Cameroon. With an increasing gap between funding and needs and a growing crisis with Nigerian refugees in northern Cameroon, supporting CAR refugees’ self-reliance has become more urgent than ever.

This working paper examines the lives and livelihoods of CAR refugees, the challenges they face and the institutions, networks and individuals that shape the choices they make and the actions they take throughout their displacement.

Facilitated by a conducive legal framework and existing ties with local communities, CAR refugees in Cameroon have found an environment in which the majority feels integrated. However, many struggle to sustain themselves. From understanding their first priorities and their longer-term objectives, this study highlights the role of pre-existing networks – family, friends and trading partners – in supporting refugees in the first phase of their displacement, alongside individuals and institutions in host communities.