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Ngoebakome Solange, an activist in the pigmy’s community near SCAPALM plantation in Kribi, says that climate change has motivated most pygmy’s women to start educating their children. Solange explains that hey have always depended on the wild as source of food, but with too much variations in climatic conditions, the situation has changed today.

“Our staple food such as plantains and cassava have become scarce because of decrease in yield and productivity associated in climate variations beyond our control,” she said.

Workers in a SOCAPALM plantation. Photo: Micha Patault

Irregular rainfall and high temperatures have negatively affected the growth of crops.

“In many occasions, we have to hurry planting cassava and plantains in time for the rains, only to notice that the rains would disappear after a week,” Solange added.

The community faces hunger and women labour in vain because harvest has increasingly become poor.

The community is also currently in conflicts with SOCAPALM Company, the largest palm oil plantation in the county. The only source of water that the village communities depend on for drinking, bathing, washing house utensils is the same water that SOCAPALM depend on for irrigation of their nursery.

Water has been polluted but since people in the community do not have any other alternative water source, they continue to drink it. This has led to elderly people falling sick regularly, and has also led to a number of deaths.

“We are scared that if something is not done to remedy the situation, our community might disappear. The situation is very complex and difficult for to us to manage with limited financial means. We need assistance from the government. Our problems in this pygmy’s community seem to be multiplying daily.”

In pygmy culture medicinal plant know-how is kept primarily by the women. Photo: Quim Fabregas

One solution that the community has resorted to is to start educating children, so that they may be able to adapt in the future and no longer have to be dependent in the wild for hunting food.

They believe that once their children are educated, they may be lucky to pick a job that may support the older generation.

Luanga Akili, another pygmy woman who depends on herbs and plants to carry out traditional healings, also affirms that some herbs are becoming rare in the forest.

According to the United States Protection Agency (US EPA), indigenous peoples are concrete examples of how climate change may affect cultures and traditions. Plants and animals used for traditional practices or sacred ceremonies, for example, have become less available, thus changing ways of life and tribal culture. The same can be said for the pygmies in Cameroon.

The effects of climate change has also triggered an exodus in other neighboring communities like in Kilobo, Bauga 30km from Kribi town, caused by hunger and poverty.

This is creating a new problem in most urban areas and a rise in crimes, linked to the unskilled nature of migrants. The pigmy community falls under the indigenous population in Cameroon whose rights are violated and whose voices are not heard. Pygmies are not represented in their council’s areas or at the National Assembly where their plight can be properly addressed or where they can lobby for support.

Anu Paul

About Anu Paul