Tropical-Forest Foragers - Orientation



Identification. The term "tropical-forest foragers," or "pygmies," refers to ethnolinguistically diverse peoples distributed across the forested regions of Central Africa who are particularly short in stature and who traditionally have lived by specializing in hunting and gathering wild forest resources, which they consume themselves or trade to neighboring farmers in exchange for cultivated foods. There are exceptions to these generalizations: some "pygmies" are tall, independent from farmers, and live in the savanna. There is so much diversity among these groups that it is impossible to describe a "pygmy" culture. That there is no generic term other than the European word "pygmy" (derived from the Greek pyme, meaning a unit of measure equivalent to the distance from the elbow to a knuckle) bears testimony to the absence of any pan-"pygmy" awareness or culture. Forest foragers in most areas are unaware of the existence of "pygmies" in other regions, and there is currently no sense of solidarity among the different populations. Unfortunately, no term has been developed to replace the derogatory term "pygmy."

Multinational logging, the establishment of conservation parks and reserves in the tropical forest, gold and diamond mining, central-government programs and policies to sedentarize "pygmies," and more farmers moving into the forest because of population increases outside the forest areas are just some of the forces dramatically influencing forest foragers today. Traditional forager-farmer relations are breaking down, and most forest foragers today also farm, although it may only amount to planting a field in the middle of the forest or near a village and then abandoning it to hunt and gather until it is close to harvesttime. Few forest foragers receive health or education services from national governments.

Location, Linguistic Affiliation, and Demography. Forest foragers are distributed discontinuously across nine different African countries (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zaire, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Congo). Most forest foragers live in the Congo Basin and are usually found within 5° N or S of the equator and between 10° and 30° E. There is enormous diversity in the natural environments occupied by forest foragers of the Congo Basin—from upland dense tropical rain forest to lowland swamps to mixed savanna-forest environments. Ethnolinguistic diversity is also evident. The estimated 30,000 to 35,000 Aka, who live in southeastern Central African Republic, speak a Bantu language, whereas the 3,000 or so Asua of the Ituri Forest of northeastern Zaire speak a Sudanic language. About 10,000 Efe also reside in the Ituri Forest and speak a related Sudanic language. The Baka of southwestern Cameroon, who number about 30,000 to 40,000 individuals, speak a language classified as Oubanguian, as do the roughly 3,000 Bofi of the forest-savanna areas of southeastern Central African Republic. Other Bantu-language speakers among forest foragers are the estimated 2,000 Bongo of western Gabon, the 3,500 Kola of the southeastern coast of Cameroon, the 7,500 Mbuti of the Ituri Forest of northeastern Zaire, the 250 Medzan of the forest-wet savanna region of central Cameroon, the 14,000 Ntomba Twa of the Lake Tumba area of central Zaire, an unknown number of Kasai Twa inhabiting the forest-wet savanna areas of southern Zaire, and 10,000 Rwanda and Burundi Twa living in the western portions of those two nations.


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Lizzy
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Jan 8, 2015 @ 2:14 pm
This site is OK. I think it could have more information. Maybe some pictures? Great job though on having an easy to navigate website.

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