greenpeace-International Day of Rural Women: The case of Baka from South Cameroon
In Cameroon, about half of my country is covered by forests. Home to incredible biodiversity, they are also central to the lives and livelihoods of many communities including the Baka. During my visits to the South region in the past three years, I had the opportunity to meet with the Baka people of the area. They’ve lived off the forest and firmly within it for centuries. Baka women in particular depend on the forest: they are food producers, knowledge holders, healers, and the keepers of their culture.
I recently had a few very interesting conversations with Baka women from Ando’o, Bitye and Edjom villages. From them, I learned they play key roles in preserving forests and hunting zones.
Over generations, they developed their own codes of forest conservation, including the prevention of overhunting. A beautiful principle of theirs is that successful hunting and gathering depend on fair sharing, both among themselves and with their environment:
“We do not hunt animals that are breeding. We also know how and when we must hunt and harvest.”
I was amazed by their comprehensive knowledge of forest medicinal plants, as well as animal behaviour. For example, Baka women know which plants are to be used to ease the process of giving birth. Baka women don’t give birth at a hospital, yet they are in good health. When I asked them how they manage to live in harmony with the rich wildlife of the forest, they mentioned many methods, including rotational hunting and harvesting.