“These passing trucks mean these children are going to suffer,” he tells IPS. In the distance, sawmills are busy, and bulldozers as well, opening up access roads to logging and mining sites.“Just look at the way they are destroying this forest,” Essomba says.
For the Baka, the forest represents the beginning and the end of life.
The chief of the Baka village of Mayos in the country’s East Region, Clement Nzito, tells IPS that “the forest is our pharmacy, our food market, our source of oxygen and the cradle of the one who guides us all, the Supreme God which we call ‘Jengi’.”
Samuel Nnah Ndobe, who directs Pygmy programmes for the Yaoundé-based non-governmental Centre for Environment and Development (CED), recalls that in 1994, Cameroon passed forestry laws “that had the effect of forcing the Baka from primary forests, and these were turned into national parks where they are not allowed to hunt.”
The Baka are allowed to hunt in secondary forests, “but that precisely is where timber companies are also allowed free rein to log, and that’s destroying the forests,” Ndobe says. He regrets that the fauna-rich parts of the forests where the Baka used to hunt game have now been protected and guarded. “Logging areas are also guarded, and the Pygmies are now found on the fringes,” he says.
Xenophobic tendencies among Bantu neighbours also keep the Bakas on the fringes.
“Bantu consider Baka as sub-human. They claim Baka kids stink in class,” Alexis Tadokem, head teacher of a government primary school in Ntam Carrefour, a village on Cameroon’s borders with Congo Brazzaville, tells IPS. “Baka are used as servants to Bantu. They are tortured and sometimes killed in the forest by the Bantu,” he says.
“When our children go to school, they are beaten by the Bantus,” confirms Yana Nicolas, a Baka man in Moloundou.