| Pygmies are time immemorial dwellers of the tropical rainforest. In Central Africa, they are found in Democratic republic of Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo, Cameroon, and other countries of western Africa like Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. They are among the oldest inhabitants of Africa.
Pygmy are scattered over Africa in different tribes almost all starting by “Ba” meaning “people”.
The different pygmy groups express in different languages making comprehension almost impossible between them. All the pygmy tribes speak the language of neighbouring no-pygmy peoples and sometimes common words are found, probably as a result of a long cohabitation. Common words are also found between different even widely separated.
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Their way of life
Pygmies are known to be forest dwellers that live through hunting, gathering and fishing. These activities are mostly done for survival but hunting was also practiced for the prestige of the hunter. They know the forest and its animals very intimately. They believe in the forest as a providing god and they communicate with him through its spirit, the “Jengi”. In the Pygmy culture, men are holders of the traditions and initiation secrets. They hunt to provide wild game. Women are responsible of building the leaves huts called “Mongulu”, they do dam fishing during dry season, they do the cooking, making panniers, baskets, matting and since more recent times they do the farming together with their husbands.
Pygmies have a polyphonic music involving everybody and instruments like drums, flutes, bells and thumb pianos. There are different types of dances for almost all occasions and some on very specific occasions like initiation or funerals involving initiated dancers.
Pygmies live close to the Bantu villagers, neighboring their habitat. This symbiotic cohabitation is known for times immemorial and involves exchange of forest products for other goods and crops. These exchanges are most of the time unfair and give advantage to the villagers who claim their superiority to the Pygmies.
Pygmies have been encouraged by the government of Cameroon to leave the inner parts of the forest and settle in villages alongside roads just like farming Bantu villagers. This process has been gradually taking place over years and Pygmy villages and settlements are now found alongside roads almost everywhere in the Center, Southern and Eastern areas of Cameroon. Pygmies are now given identity cards and birth certificates; they vote and get gradually adapted to civilized life. Bantu villagers rent them nearby lands for farming, and they have learned how to build houses instead of their traditional dome shaped leaves hut called “mongulu”. These traditionally nomad forest people now progressively dream of something else than the forest. Most of them wish to send their children to school, dream of success and celebrity just like their TV stars, most of them are involved in local activities, including politics, religion and development projects. Despite the “call of the forest”, Pygmies are now irreversibly moving into a new way of life and new practices.
| What problems they face
Pygmies now in Cameroon are adopting a sedentary way of life because of different factors on the lands Bantu villagers were first to occupy alongside roads. Since there are scattered almost everywhere in the forest, there is no real Pygmy land recongnized to them by villagers or government. Thata situation is being maintained by the inferiority complex that almost all the Pygmies developed throughout the years of cohabitation with Bantus and their quickness to move whenever a problem occurs. The first action ever made in that direction was recently started by catholic missionaries in Le Bosquet near Lomié, East Cameroon.
Continuous deforestation and plantations are cutting into the forest, reducing hunting territories and natural resources that are essential for Pygmies biologic and cultural survival. This increases dependence towards the Bantus.
Poor hygiene malnourishment and numerous infectious diseases like Tuberculosis and other lungs infections, malaria, viral infections are responsible of an important mortality rate. We estimate that 20 to 25% of the population is ill, especially children. They cannot access adequate health care since their resources are very limited.
Access to high school and college is almost impossible since they cannot afford it without sponsors. That is one reason among many why they stop going to school, which is very dramatic for this people. In a world in which education and money for almost all needs are key words for a better living, this adopted sedentary way of life has exposed these unprepared people to a rude rapidly changing world. The process seems to have reached a disadvantaging dead end point. Getting out of it requires full continuous social, educational and technical assistance until an appropriate and satisfying individual and collective adaptation capacity is attained, in some areas.
Pygmies way of life has been deeply disturbed during the recent decades. Since this process seems irreversible, assistance for a better and efficient adaptation is necessary to avoid seeing them being crushed by our changing world.
Pygmies are unique and they need your support. We are trying to do as much as we can. So many things can be done with little money.
| Cameroon is located in Central Africa and faces the Atlantic Ocean by the gulf of Guinea.
The country is organized into ten regions (provinces): Far North, North, Adamaoua, North West, West, South West, Littoral, Centre, South, East.
The country population is divided into more than 234 ethnic groups.
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We conduct our activities in these areas:
- Various Bantu populations, mostly, Ewondo, Eton, Bafia, Banen
- One Pygmy tribe, the Bedzan-Tikar
- Various Bantu populations, mostly Bulus, Fang, Ngumba, Batanga
- Two Pygmy ethnic groups, the Bakas and the Bagyeli-Bakola
- Various Bantu populations, mostly Maka, Badjoue, Bikele, Zime
- One Pygmy ethny, the Bakas