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SLE Photo Voice Project in Cameroon 2018

 

“The climate convention wants Africa to reduce CO2, to protect its forest.

You impose that, but what is our benefit?

In America, in Brazil, forests are cut down to give room to industries,

you have work and you are rich.

But in Africa, people must protect the forest.

However, they do not benefit from that. We are left behind”.

 

 Young man, Socambo*

*Socambo is a small Cameroonian town at the South of the park, close to the border to the Republic of the Congo

 

 

Following international policy targets, 30 % of global territory should become protected areas (PAs) by 2030. Most territory, however, is inhabited and already in use based on informal land rights. Usage restrictions and the exclusive management of already established PAs often leads to conflicts between park management and local communities.

While those “local communities” are the center of debates on development and conservation, we actually know very little about their lived experiences, challenges, and their hopes and aspirations.

In 2018, a research team of the Centre for Rural Development (SLE), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, applied PhotoVoice, a method of visual anthropology, to document the lived experience of local communities surrounding Lobéké National Park in the Congo-Basin. 20 participants from six communities (belonging to the indigenous Baka and to Bantu, women and men, between 15 and 60 years old) were asked to document important aspects of their lives (either positive or negative) and given a digital camera for two days, followed by individual in- depth interviews.

Here, we show a selection of this material, sorted by topic addressed and commented by the participant. The most popular topics discussed were inadequate housing, lack of clean water supply, poor health, poor education, and conservation conflicts. Other topics addressed were insufficient sanitation, food, farming, transport, energy, and alcoholism.

The selected PhotoVoice pictures offer a glimpse into local peoples' lived realities, revealing conditions of extreme poverty. The deprivation of basic needs might explain the widespread dissatisfaction with the park, which offers no tangible benefits to local communities so far. To the contrary, unclear usage regulations, misuse of power by local eco- guards and safari companies and lack of participation in conservation management further constraint their already deeply constrained livelihoods. As a result, the park is perceived as an alien construct imposed upon communities that thwarts local development -- poignantly captured through recorded statements such as “conservation does not like the people” or “elephants are more protected than humans”.

Participants belonging to the indigenous Baka, often depicted as “non-modern” “forest-people” by their Bantu neighbors, used PhotoVoice to expose their widespread and consistent marginalization and discrimination, further expressing a desire to be integrated into villages as equals.

The entire study is available here in English and French.

 

 

Lobéké National Park and research locations, 2018

Karte PhotoVoice

 

 

Characteristics of the participants

characteristics of the participants

 

 

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“I used to live in a hut like that, and I like them.

I stay in a hut like that one when I am working on my fields in

the forest, where I plant bananas and cacao.

After a week, I will build a new hut”.

PhotoVoice participant (Baka, female)

 

 

METHOD PHOTOVOICE

PhotoVoice is a participative, visual research method that utilizes photography as an interview tool. Guided by the participant, PhotoVoice allows participants to document their life conditions as they perceive them. Through discussions with the researcher, participants explain the meanings attached to their images, and thereby help uncover the feelings, values, and social issues at play . 

Note: The date on the pictures was set incorrectly. All pictures were taken in August or September 2018

If you have any questions about the method or the research project, you can contact Henrice Stöbesand: stoebehe[at]hu-berlin.de

CLICK PLUS to view the photos by theme


HOUSING
1 2 4

 

“We suffer from diseases because the house is not well built. The baby often fells ill. We always live in bad houses like this one... I do not like the house. Snakes can easily enter inside. And when it rains, the house gets wet, and people fall sick. I prefer a house made out of plywood and zinc. I would like to have a house in which I feel secure, happy, and in peace. My dream house has electric lights, five rooms, a kitchen and a toilet. Like a house in the city.

Baka, female

 

 

"The materials used to build the house are not good. Most houses in the village are constructed in this way and collapse after 8 to 9 years. Most people cannot get quality wood to build their houses. Only the people who work in the COVAREF [mostly Bantu] have access to wood."

Baka, male


*COVAREF: Short for “Comité de Valorisation des Ressources Fauniques” is a community committee that manages the community hunting zones in the park’s buffer zone.

 

 

“I really like this house - it is well constructed and protects against mosquitoes. Windows and doors can be closed. Children are not only protected against diseases but people feel more at ease [in a house like this].

Baka, male

 

38 39 40

 

“I am a widow and have neither wood nor money to get a better and more comfortable house”

Bantu, female

 

 

“I do not like this house because it is made out of wooden sticks. Many people have to live in that house but share only one room. When it rains, the beds get wet. There are lots of mosquitoes leading to malaria. The people in this house suffer a lot”.

Baka, female

 

 

“This is a good house because it is well constructed and the door can be closed”.

Baka, female

 

WATER
16 17 41


“The boy is fetching water from a river while some meters upstream people wash themselves and defecate into the water. I would like to have clean drinking water and a water pump. Water is the basis of health and drinking water from a river is a serious issue. It not only causes diseases like typhoid but makes the brain sick, too, because people get mentally ill if they are always feeling sick.”

Bantu, male

 

“The picture shows [our] local waterfall. It is beautiful to look at. I hope that the waterfall can be used for hydro energy and attract tourists.”

Baka, male

 

 

" This stream is not easy to access because it is situated on a steep slope. When it rains, water flows down into the river and mixes with other things, polluting the water. It can cause diarrhea, cholora and other diseases.”

Baka, male

 

42 43 44

 

“We used to carry water from the well which made us sick but now, thanks to the borehole, it is easy to access water and we are no longer sick”

Bantu, female

 

 

“Rain washes dirt into this source and the drinking water that people fetch from this source is contaminated. Many people get diarrhea or worms. There is a hospital in Kika, but the transport costs to go there and the treatment are very expensive. In my opinion, there should be a proper water well or pump in the village, but I do not know who could construct it”

Bantu, female

 

 

“The photo shows a water pump in Mambélé that was constructed by PASEPCO. I like it, because the pump is properly managed and the water is clean. In [my village], there is only one water point, but the Bantu population does not use it properly and it is contaminated with a lot of dirt. We Baka have therefore resorted to going into the forest to fetch water from a source. There is no organization that could build a similar water pump for the Baka in [my village]”

Baka, male

 

HEALTH
11 12 45

 

“When there is a bed, there should be a hospital table to put drugs, water and food on, but there is none.”

Bantu, female

 

 

“People in the village use traditional medicine from the forest to treat common diseases. The boy in the picture cuts bark off a tree that can be used to treat hernia or bladder infections. Both Baka and Bantu use traditional medicine. The knowledge about plants is passed on from generation to generation.”

Bantu, male

 

 

“My photo shows a mother and her children, her baby. They are eating plantains. The house is dirty. The woman should protect the baby, but it is difficult because she has no money for soap. The girl is without slippers, barefoot, because she has no shoes. The girl might walk into things. We need a lot of things, we cannot live well. It is difficult to find money, there is no work".

Baka, female


46 47 22

 

“There is no hospital nor health center nearby. We can buy rudimentary medicine at the local shops but one pill costs around 100 XAF, that is too expensive. In 2014, WWF promised to build a hospital, but has not delivered yet”

Bantu, farmer

 

 

”This health center was built 10 years ago. I like it for two reasons: first, it is near to the community, and second, the health center has cheaper medicine than the private medical center”

Baka, male

 

 

“I took a picture of a tree called Gorbo. The tree is very useful: the fruits can be collected and sold, the bark can be used for traditional medicine to treat coughs”

Baka, male

 

EDUCATION
48 13 49

 

“My picture shows young students in school uniforms. They are Baka students studying in church. This is the future. School in church is for free, but one has to motivate the teacher”.

Baka, male

 

 

“Heavy rainfalls have severely destroyed this school building. Due to the lack of school buildings, different grades need to be taught in one classroom.”

Bantu, female

 

 

“That is my grandfather. He wanted me to take a picture of him. He sits in this house where he gives counsel to people, on the good things in life. He told me to go to school, not to miss any class and I follow his advice. I think his advice is good - it is my life, going to school can help me”

Baka, female

 

14 15 50

 

“I took a picture of a Baka student. I like that the boy is educated and that he will be able to help the community. If there is a letter he is able to read it. He is very smart contrary to those who have never been to school. He is writing the Ordinary level certificate this year”

Baka, female

 

 

The picture shows where children go to study and learn things. The building is part of the local primary school - it is public and was constructed by the COVAREF ten years ago. School fees are 3,000 XAF [$ 5] per year. Children between the ages of 6 and 15 go to primary school. Around 60 % of the children in the village attend school, and some students also come from other villages nearby. Many students continue to go to secondary school in Kika.”

Bantu, female

*COVAREF: short for “Comité de Valorisation des Ressources Fauniques” is a community committee that manages the community hunting zones in the park’s buffer zone

 

 

“I value education a lot: our children go to school and can become anything, even president. At home, the children can teach their parents what they have learnt. School fees are 3,000 XAF [around $ 5] annually, which is OK. Schools are mixed with Baka and Bantu children, which helps to reduce discrimination and stereotypes between them”

Baka, male

 

CONFLICTS
26 27 28

 

“I took a picture of the hut next to my fields, where I stay to scare off animals. I use the drum and hit it so hard that it scares the animals away. When we are sick, we don't have the strength to do that because it is very stressful.”

Bantu, female

 

 

"This Baka woman complained that it was not possible to enter the forest due to the presence of ecoguards. One day, she returned from the forest with wild mangos. The ecoguards took it by force. They only took the mangos but didn’t hit her because she is old. Since then, she has never returned to the forest.”

Baka, female

 


“The person in the coffin was my colleague who died during a patrol in 2016. He was shot by a Baka during an elephant-hunt. To me, it represents the dangers and risks that ecoguards have to face. We die like this for the world heritage.”

Bantu, male

 

30 31 33


“Monkeys often enter the houses in the village. They go into the kitchens, steal food and destroy things. This happens about once a week. They also defecate. We chase them away, but they come back. Through conservation they have become less afraid of humans -- it is forbidden to kill them or shoot at them. Our grandparents used bows and arrows to chase them away. NGOs should find ways to keep them from the village, as there are currently no measures in place.”

Bantu, farmer

 

 

“I like going to the village, as I can find work, e.g. washing dishes or clothes for Bantu neighbors. I use the money to buy food. [However], I don’t like working for them, it is hard and we earn little money.”

Baka, female

 


“A load like that can easily generate a profit of 5,000,000 XAF [$ 8800 ]. The president of the COVAREF is a Bantu. It is only the Bantu community that profits from the COVAREF. We Baka should be more involved in management and benefit-sharing”

Baka, male

*COVAREF: short for “Comité de Valorisation des Ressources Fauniques” is a community committee that manages the community hunting zones in the park’s buffer zone.

 

SANITATION
8

9

10

 

“The toilet building is located behind a house. As there is a lot of vegetation around it, snakes and other dangerous animals may attack people when they go there.”

Bantu, female

 

 

“The toilet is made out of mats and it is not comfortable. It is used by both men and women who are sick. And there is no roof. When it rains, the patients find it difficult to use.”

Bantu, female

 

 

“I do not like this toilet; it is located in the forest, far from my house. Diseases spread easily because everyone uses it. I prefer having a toilet of my own.” When asked what women do when they get their periods, she replies: “We don’t have anything to use, only our underwear. We also have nothing to alleviate the pain.”

Baka, female

 

FOOD
18 51 21

 

“This is a tree with honey inside. I love honey. We go to the forest to find honey inside trees. We eat it, sell some, and also use it as medicine”

Baka, male

 

 

“The forest is highly restricted for us and the sheep we have here are for the Muslims. We would like to have financial assistance to rear our own sheep and goats. Then we won't have to enter the forest to hunt. “

Baka, female

 

 

“I like the picture because it shows how meat can be sold to earn money for soaps, books, pens, and more. People along the street buy it from us. When people do not buy it, we will eat it ourselves.”

Baka, female

 

FARMING
24 23 20

 

“They are harvesting njangsang which they sell or use to make soup. They farm together and sell NFTPs to the Bantu. It is so difficult to harvest njangsang but the Bantu don't buy at a reasonable price. A bucket is sold for 500 XFA [roughly $ 1 ], and when the Bantu take it to town they make a profit of 4000 XFA [roughly $ 7 ].”

*Non- timer forest products

Baka, female

 

 

“I can earn enough money by selling the harvest to send my children to school. I harvest the cacao fruits four times per year. Buyers come from Kika and/or Moloundou and pay around 550 XAF [$ 1] per kg.”

Bantu, female

 

 

“If we had one of these, it would improve our lives. It helps to do the fields. With a machete, it is difficult. One has to cut the trees to improve our houses and habitats, and to do our fields.”

Baka, male

 

TRANSPORT
52 53 54

 

“My photo shows a road in Socambo. There are no cars nor busses to travel to other places, the only way to travel is by truck. Only 3 people fit, so a bigger family would have to split. The traveling time varies; you need one week in the rainy season to go from Socambo to Yokadouma; in the rainy season, it costs 15.000 XAF [$ 27] plus the food during the travel, which is very expensive; prices are at least 10.000 XAF [$ 18], it depends on the truck driver and the season” 

Bantu, female

 

 

“The photo shows a truck that is stuck because of the bad state of the road. The road is slippery and muddy in the rainy season and causes a lot of accidents. In the dry season, there is so much dust” 

Baka, female

 

 

“Motorbikes are the only means for transport in the area. There are no safety measures and they carry too many people.”

Bantu, female

 

ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY
5

6 7

 

“This is my pot cooking food on firewood at night. I would like to show that we have no [electric] light. We always have to look for firewood to cook, that is difficult.

Baka, female

 

 

“There is no electricity in the village, so people need to use torches to light their rooms after dark. WWF promised to electrify the village, but nothing has happened. It is dangerous to move in the dark without a light, there might be snakes or other animals. Without electricity, people cannot use modern technology such as mobile phones, computers, or television.

Bantu, farmer

 


“I am proud that we have a mobile network now. Thanks to the new antenna we have network in a radius of 5km. Before, we had to go to Congo for network or simply did not have any communication means at all. I am very happy about it. Everyone has a phone now”.

Bantu, male

 

ALCOHOLISM
34 55  

 

“It is awful that young people drink. The light drugs are a real problem, people get in fights and it really destroys the brain... the Baka drink a lot, too. I want someone to campaign against alcohol and to raise awareness about its dangers, because people that drink do not go to school, do not go to their fields or to church; instead, they steal and become bandits.”

Bantu, male

 

 

“My photo shows people that are drunk. They are drunk, they fight. Woman and man have too many problems with alcohol”

Baka, male

 

 

 
DEBTS
36 37  

 

This participant took a picture of a local shop. She was silent for a long time during the interview, Finally, she revealed why she took this picture:

“My family owes money to the shop owner, and it is difficult to pay our debts.” Their debts amount to 4000 XFA [$ 7].

Baka, female

 

 

"These are the former cacao fields of my father. He sold his fields because he was sick, and got 5000 XFA [roughly $ 9]. The new owners have performed rituals to keep other people away from the field. You will die when you touch the cacao.”

Baka, female

 

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