Sweltering under the invasive tropical heat, Jane Njoh, with an empty bottle of gas on her head treks from one petrol station to the next, and from one gas sales point to the next.
The question she asks each time is always the same: have you got gas? And the answer is always the same: we are still awaiting supplies.
“I have been out in search of gas for the past two days,” Njoh tells Timescape Magazine.
It has become a common complaint across the nation. The situation has been blamed on an array of factors, including difficulties in importing the product, and the consequent speculation by retailers.
Cameroon consumes 150,000 metric tons of Liquefied Natural Gas every year but produces just about 34,000 metric tons. There have been plans to import 120,000 metric tons this year, but it’s not been smooth, triggering the current scarcity.
Some vendors have resorted to unscrupulous methods of making money, filling gas bottles with water, and stripping clients of their hard-earned money.
“I went to buy a bottle of gas and thought it was full, but when I tried to shake it, I discovered water escaping out of a little hole. It was water,” complains Collins Suh.
With gas becoming too hard to find, many are turning to traditional cooking methods-using wood as fuel.
“We now use firewood or charcoal to prepare food,” says Jacqueline Mofor.
With demand for charcoal on the rise, vendors say they are making brisk business.
“This month, my turnover has risen. It’s hard to see stocks of wood as is always the case. Wood sells like hot cakes,” a Yaoundé-based wood vendor tells Timescape Magazine.
Environmentalist, Dr. Forbesh Philip says it’s going to have a negative impact on the environment.
“It’s not good news for the environment,” he says. He regrets that as city dwellers now join rural areas in the search for fuel wood, the impact on forests is certainly going to be felt, as more trees will have to be felled for wood or charcoal.
With these realities hitting home, some are already thinking about reverting to more environmentally friendly energy sources.
“I have never learnt about biogas, the one that they can easily tap from the sceptic tank, so I am thinking about how I can use biogas from my sceptic tank,” says Mofor.
Saadio Momegni, an engineer operating in the renewable energy sector told Timescape Magazine that the gas scarcity is an added impetus for him to invest in the production of biogas for domestic consumption.
“It’s the only way we can effectively fight climate change while at the same time meeting our energy needs,” he asserts.
On a completely different plane, there are also fears that the scarcity of gas could worsen a spiralling inflationary situation and send people into the streets. An unrest of any nature at this time could easily degenerate into something else, the reason the authorities are working round the clock to take control of the situation.