Disappearing habitats, displaced pygmies

12 08 2007

Aka pygmy habitats threatened by logging

In the late 1980s I had the good fortune to drive through the forest in Central African Republic and interact with the pygmies there.

There was one sedentary village where the pygmies were gathered as there was the hope of sedentarizing them and integrating them into mainstream society.

Pygmies are by nature forest nomads and have been so for hundreds of years.  Their division of labor is clear – men responsible for fauna, women for flora.  They usually move around the forest, settling in one area until it no longer can accomodate their waste, etc., and move into another area – this is done in a regularized fashion so that when they return to a given area it is usually regenerated and they can live there again.

The Aka “Pygmies” have been named the world’s best fathers, dedicating the most time of all the globe’s peoples to active fathering.  For more information read here

That was when the forest was the forest, with trees and animals within, with the music that is known as pygmy music lilting through the atmosphere.

Fast forward to 2007 – the forest is disappearing, many of the trees are cut down, and as such the nomadic nature of the pygmy is forced to undergo a radical cultural change to a sedentary lifestyle, with the attendant disease, lack of sanitation, and other socio-economic issues that they have not had the capacity to understand, much less overcome.

In addition, being different, they are mocked and ridiculed by the larger population and have lost the forest cover which held them intact over the years.

What can be done to help this group of people?

The men know the animals of the forest intimately; the women know the plants of the forest intimately and could treat any disease that might have occurred.  Now they are thrust into a sedentary lifestyle without the cover of the forest, they are at a total loss as to how to regain the dignity that was theirs under cover of the forest.

The destruction of a habitat for gentle, non-threatening people is forcing them to undergo scorn, ridicule, hate – they have no idea how to interact with sedentary people, how to do societal work.  They kept the forest intact and helped keep us intact.  Now that they are thrust into a space in which they have no idea how to behave, they have become the scorned, despite all the knowledge they have about the flora and fauna of the forests, about the plants necessary to treat illnesses – no one is caring about this knowledge.  The only concern is how to get them added to a workforce and treat them as slaves and third-class citizens.

Help the Aka pygmy! How? I do not know – maybe someone out there does.  Their security assures our security.

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