Cameroon: What Future for the Baka?
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The indigenous hunter/gatherer peoples of the Central African rainforests have a strong and valuable customary heritage, developed over millennia in cultures that are uniquely adjusted to living in and utilizing the forest in a harmonious and sustainable way. Today, the cultures and very survival of the indigenous peoples of Central Africa are under severe threat, as a result of being pushed off their traditional forest lands by other interest groups, including logging, mining, national parks/conservation, agroforestry and agricultural ventures. As a consequence, the indigenous peoples of the Central African rainforests are becoming increasingly impoverished and marginalized, and their wealth of traditional forest-related knowledge risks being lost – to the detriment of global cultural diversity and to the detriment of global knowledge on environmentally-sound natural resource management practices.
This report looks specifically at the livelihoods and human rights situation of the Baka indigenous hunter/gatherers of south-east Cameroon. The Baka of this region are facing an increasingly uncertain future as their traditional lands have been almost entirely taken away from them, mainly to allocate to international logging and mining companies and as parts of Protected Areas. As a result, many Baka communities have been forced to leave their traditional lands and very few are now living a purely traditional nomadic lifestyle. Many live in settlements along the roadsides where they are the victims of widespread discrimination and human rights abuses on the part of the dominant society and where they face immense problems in terms of poverty and access to sufficient food and basic services.
The fundamental human rights of the world’s indigenous peoples – including those of the Baka – are protected by UN conventions and declarations, as well as by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. These are not, however, being implemented in Cameroon and there is no national legislation protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. Nor are there any specific government programmes aimed at supporting the livelihoods of the Baka people, who are basically left to fend for themselves – with some assistance from NGOs in Cameroon.
This report, which is a co-publication of IWGIA, Plan Finland and Plan Cameroon, analyses the livelihoods and human rights situation of the Baka people and provides recommendations for action. It is hoped that this report will serve as an informative reference for Baka communities, the government of Cameroon, non-governmental organisations and the international human rights community, and that it will help to promote Baka rights in future decision-making at all levels of society.