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Facing Changes in African Forests

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Filmed by the Baka people of the Bertoua region, Eastern Cameroon, April 2009. This drought we are having is really bad. The sun beats down leaving Mankind no possibilities. The banana plants are giving us poor harvests. In the forest these days… do all the trees continue to bear fruit? No. Most of the fruits on the trees fall early. There is simply not enough water to give them strength. It’s the earth as well that lacks moisture… Yes! The earth has no water and does not form humus. This is needed to form the compost from dead leaves. This makes the forest fertile and enables the trees to grow. And tell us, was it always like this? No! In the past the dry season had its time and the rain had its time. Today everything has changed. Why do Baka Woman like to fish? Fishing is our way of life and it’s our livelihood. We naturally love fishing. Rain or shine the Baka woman will get in the water and in this stream, we used to fish here all seasons. But what is sad now that the stream is drying up. It used to be so bountiful. I used to bring home baskets full of fish! The sun is so strong! It dries up all the water. Do you mean the fish are all dying in the streams? They are dying. The water levels have dropped too low. And has the sowing period arrived yet? The time of sowing seeds is coming close, but we’re planting the bananas already. As for the corn, some we have sown others not yet. Do these plants manage to grow? Some do and some don’t. Many just wither and die. It’s because of the sun. The sun is much stronger now. The source of the spring is over there but its drying up. It is running so weakly-listen “kpolo, kpolo, kpolo We don’t know where to find fish to eat. The temperature is unnaturally high in both the dry season and the wet season. There is no more difference between the seasons! ! That’s why we show you this. Because the Earth has changed. It is the tree felling … its that the tree that has been felled. It’s people that fell to saw planks of wood. But sadly, they felled that tree and done nothing with it. We find trees like this that are felled and not used. This is a danger for the nature, because that tree had a value. Maybe this tree had provided us with traditional remedies. It is not right that such a tree is felled and not used. It would be good to explain this to the foresters show them how you can drill to test a trunk before felling, to see of it is diseased or hollow before sawing down. But theses people are not experts. They cut and throw away. This is the Padouk. We value this tree very highly. It treats so many maladies. For example we take this and grind it to make a red powder used in our initiation rites. This is used in the initiation with the Kobo (Great Spirit). It is with this that men’s bodies are strengthened to enable them to endure the initiation rites. . It is so heavily exploited that it has almost disappeared. It is with this tree that we make our Balafon... (traditional musical instrument) I walk behind the elders to learn what they do in the forest. I need to watch them carefully so I can teach my own children tomorrow. I must not neglect these traditions from the past, but rather I must preserve them for my own wellbeing. We need to show how we move the fire to the hive. We use these Yandji branches to wrap the fire. Is there no management plan in this forest? Yes there is a Community Management Plan! But our community forestry rights are not respected. And before we took on a Community Forest Plan the illegal foresters used to pay us 10 USD for a whole tree! They felled the tree and our children dragged it for them to the village. Now that we have created the Community Forest people have to respect the rules more then before because behind us is the authority of the State and there are now more controls. But talking about conservation - its all finished already! We don’t kill that much game hunting with spears and arrows. But it’s not just the Baka who hunt in the forest. The Bantu peoples arrive with boxes of ammunition and instead of killing one animal, one person can kill 5, 10 or even 20 or 30 animals per day and its not even to eat now, its really just to sell. Yes, we could improve our lives a little bit by developing projects around the home. But that doesn’t mean we should abandon our culture, that the Baka stay connect to the forest. This is something so very important, because to lose the forest is to lose our identity! A joint Okani-Insight Production with support from UNDP, GEF Small Grants Programme. For more info:

Video Details

Duration: 12 minutes and 11 seconds
Country: Cameroon
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 66
Posted by: conversationsearh on Dec 2, 2011

This video is a joint Okani-InsightShare production that was realised with support from the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme.

For more information:

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