Where: Djoum, Cameroon, Central-West Africa.
Who: A tribe of small hunter-gatherer forest people.
Endangered: Deforestation, commercial development and logging impacts on the pygmies hunting grounds
Where To Find Pygmies
Djoum has the feel of a frontier town. Situated right in the middle of the lush rainforest, it was set up by the Germans as a base for many deforestation projects that are still going on today. You reach Djoum through a red piste, badly maintained and practically unusable during the rainy seasons. Once in Djoum, you’ll discover many derelict buildings, now pale souvenir of the colonisation era. But there’s more to Djoum than meets the eye: around this small village and its dirt track road, around 50,000 pygmies still live today. The original inhabitants of most of the country, they were driven into the forest a couple of thousand years ago by various aggressive, taller Bantu tribes, and have made it their home ever since.
There are many different pygmy tribes including Bambuit, Batwa, Bagyeli, and Bayaka. Their names denote their origin and the prefix ‘ba’ means people. Hunter-gatherers, the small in stature pygmies still live off the bounty of the forest, fishing, hunting bushmeat, gathering fruits and honey, medicinal herbs and magical potion. They have close ties with the local farmers who will exchange forest produce for other crops and goods.
Issues For the Modern-Day Pygmy
Pygmies face many problems as their homes are threatened. Deforestation, extensive logging, and commercial hunting are big concerns, as are diminishing natural resources. In Cameroon theBagyeli Pygmies livelihood is being disrupted by an oil pipeline built through their land. They are also routinely deprived by the government who do not see forest dwellers as equal citizens.
Until recent times pygmies lived deep in the forest, but over the last century, as national parks to preserve wildlife have been set up and as logging concessions have been granted in the forest, the pygmies have gradually been driven brought out from the deep forest where they were originally driven.
The cultural of Cameroon’s Baka Pygmy people giving an insight into their lives.
Main Image: Sangmelima, Suzana_K, Flickr Creative Commons
By Emma Jones