Wednesday, June 6, 2007


In the heart of the Congo basin forests the Baka community are fighting for their lives to save a disappearing world from an unseen enemy. The rain forests of Central Africa vast green blanket covering the area the size of Mexico hidden by trees are the forest homes of the Baka people. No one knows how long the Baka have lived in this forests. Ancient Egyptians recorded contact with them nearly 2500 years before Christ. Europeans who came to this region 4000 years later called them pygmies, they call themselves Baka.

The Baka believe they were thrown out of heaven for being too noisy and sent to live in the forest. The Baka people are hunter and gatherers. A semi nomadic tribes people, the Baka lived across huge territories of forest regions. In the 1960s life changed as the government of Cameroon encouraged the Baka's to move out of the forest and live by the road sides in exchange for schools, health care and the chance to trade. Then it seemed like a good deal. Little did they know...

Massive deforestation, which deprives the Pygmies of the natural and symbolic resources essential for their biological and cultural survival is now endemic. The trees in the forests can fetch up to US$40,000 for each individual tree due to their rarity and age. Before, the Baka would walk freely through the forest stopping wherever they liked, cuts sticks to make temporary shelters. They ate plants and fish as men hunted for game meat to feed the communities. Now they are forced to live a sedentary lifestyle.

Today the Baka village sends a group of men deep into the forest to hunt for big game meat to provide a substitute to their dietary needs. They use guns and sometimes can only afford one bullet as they are so expensive and literary have just one shot at finding the food. They hunt for monkeys, forest buffaloes and other big game life within the forest. They skin and smoke the game meat so as to ensure the meat does not rot while at the same time deterring flies. For the Baka survival in the forest is only possible because they share everything equally. Pickings are too lean for everyone to find their own.

In the periods of the year when the Baka live near the Bantu villages, they are exploited and despised by their farmer neighbours. The Baka have become victims of racism and exploited in the plantations as very cheap labour. Despite the inadequate diet and various health problems, the Baka communities have managed to live a peaceful life and maintaining their cultural heritage and the Baka identity.

Rain Forests Foundation

1 comment:

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