Greenpeace Campaigner in the Democratic Republic of Congo. © Kevin McElvaney / Greenpeace
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I’m called Sineh Edel-queen, a Greenpeace Africa volunteer in Cameroon (Environmental Ambassadors of Cameroon). I had the opportunity to take part in the Baka community festival in Assok-Mintom March 2019 (a community living in the Congo basin forest).

As we commemorate the World Indigenous Day 2020, I want to share an insight of their beliefs and culture heritage to you all. The importance the forest is to their livelihood, and the role Baka people play in the conservation and preservation of the forest. And finally the need for us to join our voices with Baka people and that of other indigenous communities around the world to protect the forests. 

The Baka Community huts are made from branches and leaves. And very effective, since heavy torrential rains of our region cannot penetrate the leaves. Leaves are changed regularly and are put in a certain pattern. It looks small from the outside but very comfortable inside.

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“La grand mère” the symbol of Unity of the Baka Forbidden to enter except when authorised.

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Their forest is sacred. It was opened for all during the festival. Their god is called “kumba” and they also have the spirit of the forest named “Ejengi”. The spirit sees and knows everything; it watches over their tradition and is an intermediary between their god and community.

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Rivers are also sacred to the Baka People, the river at the festival site is called “River Mbè” They believe the river has the power to purify them when they wash their hands and face in it. 

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Also had a great opportunity to learn from a young Baka child on how to make caps, crowns, watches, belts using leaves from trees.

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The most amazing part of the festival was the social aspect; the fashion show, their dance and what captivated me the most, the singing. Their love for music is amazing. I grew up hearing stories of the dance of the pygmies and I ascertain the stories I heard are all true. 

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The part of the forest where the Baka community lives is untouched ’til date because of their culture. The forest is sacred and they spend their lives striving and fighting to protect the forest and its resources. 

The lesson I learned from the Baka people is that the forest is very sacred and we protect it so that our generation and future generations will continue to benefit from the ecosystem services they provide.

Let us all join our voices to that of the indigenous communities around the world by showcasing their culture and value of the forest to their livelihood. Because their lives depend on it.

“Destroying the forest is same as killing the Baka Community.”

Sineh Edel-queen is a Greenpeace Africa volunteer based in Yaounde, Cameroon.