Stakeholders in the forestry sector have committed to consult the Baka people on all development projects that may impact their lives.
This commitment was made as hundreds gathered to celebrate the Baka Cultural festival from 25-31 March. The festival, themed “BAKA DREAM DAYS” was commemorated this year focusing on: “Decentralization and Sustainable Management of Biodiversity in The Congo Basin: The Place Of Indigenous Peoples.”
With the slogan of “My forest my life,” indigenous people exhibited the Baka living museum, traditional dances and cultural heritage to the general public. An animated roundtable debate between indigenous people, Greenpeace Africa, Sudcam’s staff and the media, focused on the impact of development projects and the need to involve indigenous people living around the Sudcam project. The initiative to sensitise the general public about the rich cultural aspect of the indigenous people is an interactive awareness campaign by Greenpeace Africa, APIFED and Baka communities. It is also to highlight the symbiotic relationship between the Baka people and the forest.
“We want to use this cultural festival to talk about our existence and the problems we face as Baka people. We are calling on the government to officially recognise our chiefs and give us administrative support to secure these 60,000 ha of forest land. This forest will eventually include a community forest and the living museum of the Baka people of Assok”, said His Majesty Abila Bienvenue, Chief of the Baka Community of Assok.
The forest plays an important role in regulating the global climate and halting runaway climate change for the benefit of the entire biosphere. However, our forest and the indigenous communities leaving and depending on it are under threat from alarming deforestation and land grabbing which is rubbing indigenous communities of their livelihood.
“The activities carried out with our partners and the Baka communities show the important place of indigenous people in protecting the forest and its biodiversity. As illustrated by the community, protecting the forest is part of their culture, it is a way of life. We call on government authorities to ensure the customary rights of indigenous people are secured by actively engaging them in the ongoing land tenure reform and land use planning review processes. The intrinsic link between the Baka people and their forest makes it imperative for them to be considered equal partners in forest management. This will help the Baka people to better defend their rights vis-a-vis developmental projects,” said Sylvie Djacbou, Greenpeace Africa Forest Campaigner.
The Baka people are using culture and the promotion of a living museum as a medium for forest protection. This will increase the touristic attraction of the area and go a long way to support the economic development of the South Region while preserving their culture. Government officials should see this as an opportunity. The government urgently needs to enact and implement regulations that safeguard the forest and grant land rights to indigenous people.