Bioversity international

Chapter 1. Hunting, gathering and food sharing in Africa’s rainforests The forest-based food system of the Baka indigenous people in South-eastern Cameroon

  • Baka of Dimgba
    Gribe, East Region, Cameroon
  • Masaaki Hirai
    Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
  • Towa Olivier William Kamgaing
    Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
  • Gennifer Meldrum
    Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

At a glance

The Baka are one group of “Pygmy” hunter-gatherers who live in the rainforest of the Congo Basin. They have depended entirely on forest resources for their life and culture through hunting, gathering and fishing. The most distinct and basic features of their livelihoods are characterized by (1) the frequent and extensive moves in the forest searching for major food resources, including wild yams, animals and fruits, have strong seasonality and are distributed in low density areas; (2) the minimised labour input considering they move extensively but spend only two to five hours a day collecting food; (3) the food sharing, by which uncertainty in food procurement is mitigated and the Baka’s value for collective wealth over accumulation of individual property is reproduced; and (4) the exchange with neighbouring groups for crops as the forest is full of biodiversity and biomass, but food resources are not always sufficient. Over recent decades, the Baka’s livelihoods have been influenced by changes in the macro environment, including a settlement policy and a zoning policy that has affected their extensive moves from forest to forest, as well as timber exploitation, the market economy, increased bushmeat trade and animal decline. Ultimately, such conditions are affecting food sharing amongst the Baka and the relationship between the Baka and their neighbours.

“Individual independence in food sourcing is important to eat well and share food with everyone.”

Saying of the Baka from Dimgba.
United Nations Geospatial. 2021. Map of the World. Washington, D.C., UN. [Cited 7 June 2021.]
  • Note from the editors: Baka terms are mentioned using the International Phonetic Alphabet. Baka language is a three-level tonal tongue. By convention, high and low tons are symbolized by ´ and `, respectively, and medium is expressed by the absence of a symbol. ^ and ˇ express descending and ascending inflections, respectively.