[OPE-L] Political economy of pygmies

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Aug 09 2006 - 17:50:18 EDT

KRIBI, Cameroon (ILO Online) - With no telephone connection to the outside
world, and a single access road that is little more than a forest trail, the
pygmy village situated two hours away from Cameroon's seaside resort Kribi
might as well be placed on the other side of the earth as far as many
Cameroonians are concerned.

For the pygmies, however, the position of their settlement is more
ambiguous: too accessible for loggers, but too remote for the benefits of
modern life to make themselves felt. For the about 40,000 indigenous pygmies
living in the forests of south and east Cameroon, life is becoming more and
more difficult because they predominantly live on resources from the forest.

"God has made us the guardians of this forest. It is our soul and without
it, we have no life, we disappear. When we are taken out of the forest and
forced to settle along the roads, next to the villages, everything changes
in our community", explains a 26 year-old Bagyéli woman.

She does not like to be referred to as a "pygmy" and considers this term
derogatory. Members of the "pygmy" communities prefer to be referred to by
their tribal names, i.e. Baka, Bagyéli and Bedzang.

These communities are among the poorest in the country, living in isolated
and sometimes inaccessible areas. They suffer from discrimination insofar as
they are falsely considered as being "less developed" and "less advanced"
than the other more dominant groups of society.

The tropical rain forest is increasingly being exploited by foresters and
the State is establishing national parks and reserves, which means that it
no longer provides enough food and medicinal plants for the pygmies. The
game disappears when heavy machinery is introduced in the rain forests.
Poverty ensues and the pygmies have to become farmers, facing serious
problems because of the scarcity of land.

"Our neighbours have all the land. Everything is difficult for us", explains
the pygmy woman. "There isn't enough food for everybody. But we are a
sharing community, so we try to share everything we find."

Besides lack of suitable land and primary health care services, pygmies face
a 95 per cent illiteracy rate as schools are far away from their traditional
settlements and the curricula are not adapted to their way of life. The
traditional way of life of hunter-gatherers known as pygmies is threatened
not only by the presence of loggers but by the failure to identify them as a
part of the forest ecosystem. (...)

Rest of the story at:

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