Baka optimistic as WWF and Plan International launch new project
The project entitled Rights, Resilience and a Sustainable future for the Baka people, their children and forests in Cameroon, was launched on September 14, 2017 in Abong Mbang, eastern Cameroon, in the presence of Baka leaders, traditional rulers, local administrative and council authorities as well as representatives of local NGOs.
Baka representatives and other actors at the launch, expressed optimism that the project will enable them take charge of their destiny and reduce abuse of their rights.
The 24-month project, which will be implemented in ten Baka communities in the southeast of the country, envisages the construction of schools and wells, inclusion of Baka in decision-making processes and management of natural resources. Through this scheme, WWF and Plan International seek to address the inequity prevailing in the management of natural resources and promote the joint distribution of benefits and other advantages derived from forest management.
Baka have various expectations from the project. “I am excited at this project; it addresses our key concerns,” says Badje Basil, Baka chief of Lessou Village in Dimako subdivision. “We face enormous difficulties with the education of our children; buying books and uniforms. I am hopeful that these will soon end,” he says.
To Boleka Jean Marie, a Baka development agent, Baka should be fully integrated in the entire process. “Baka need support in acquiring birth certificates and national identity cards in order to fully enjoy their rights of citizenship and access to school. Considering the activities envisaged in the project; building of schools and wells in the villages, I think it will improve the living conditions of Baka,” states Boleka.
Sanding Mekong Bathelemy, head of a government-run social action services (SAS) working with Baka populations in Ngoyla sub-division, thinks it is an innovative project as it lays emphasis on durability and the forest. “We know that the forest is the natural milieu of Baka and they already face threats and abuses in this milieu. If this persists, we risk losing them completely. I am hopeful they will be empowered to better face the future,” states Sanding.
Baka - indispensable in forest management
WWF and other local actors recognize the important role Baka play in the forest. “The management of natural resources cannot be done without the contribution of Baka. They were here before anyone else and they master the forest better than any of us,” states Gilles Etoga, WWF Jengi TRIDOM Programme Manager.
“Unfortunately their knowledge of the forest also makes them vulnerable to poachers and others who take advantage and abuse their rights,” he says.
“This project is for long-term development and will go a long way to improve the lives of Baka,” says Nleme Georges, Plan International representative for the East Region. WWF and Plan International will work with local NGOs and government actors to implement the project.
The Baka are an indigenous community living mostly in Southeast Cameroon. The community is estimated at 26,000 individuals who depend partially or entirely on the forest and its resources for their livelihoods.