African Nomads

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Baka Hut


The rain forests of Central Africa vast green blanket covering the area the size of Mexico hidden by trees are the forest homes of the Baka people. No one knows how long the Baka have lived in this forests. Ancient Egyptians recorded contact with them nearly 2500 years before Christ. Europeans who came to this region 4000 years later called them pygmies, they call themselves Baka. 

The Baka believe they were thrown out of heaven for being too noisy and sent to live in the forest. The Baka people are hunter and gatherers. A semi nomadic tribes people, the Baka lived across huge territories of forest regions. In the 1960s life changed as the government of Cameroon encouraged the Baka's to move out of the forest and live by the road sides in exchange for schools, health care and the chance to trade. Then it seemed like a good deal. Little did they know...

Today the Baka village sends a group of men deep into the forest to hunt for big game meat to provide a substitute to their dietary needs. They use guns and sometimes can only afford one bullet as they are so expensive and literary have just one shot at finding the food. They hunt for monkeys, forest buffaloes and other big game life within the forest. They skin and smoke the game meat so as to ensure the meat does not rot while at the same time deterring flies. For the Baka survival in the forest is only possible because they share everything equally. Pickings are too lean for everyone to find their own

The Community of Nkolenyeng consists of around 550 villagers, majority Fang (Bantu), minority (about 60) Baka, an indigenous forest people, known for its average small statue. The Community managed to obtain their own official Community Forest, squeezed around a road by logging concessions in the North, and a natural reserve as well as iron mining concessions in the South. Looking at a forest map of Cameroon you see large areas representing the logging concessions and the tiny stretches along the roads: potential Community Forest, mostly on poor land with poor forests.

The villagers in Nkolgenyeng have established an ambitious management plan. Cacao plants in an agroforest and very limited selected logging with sustainable methods (e.g. without heavy machinery, wood transport without vehicles) are currently the main sources of income, combined with small subsistence farming by the Fang and honey production and hunting by the Baka. Now, they work on establishing detailed biodiversity and carbon inventories to receive in the future payments for environmental services such as carbon sequestration. The forest is managed by a community committee consisting of Baka and Fang, man and women.


Maasai Hut


Southern Kenya and northern Tanzania

The Maasai are the semi-nomadic people of East Africa. They are traditionally cattle herders but many have fallen to occupations such as the cultivation and trade of Maize and other crops due to the increasing shortage of land. As one of the most unchanged nomadic cultures in the world the Maasai face great challenges concerning adaptation to rapid economic and social change. Increasing encroachment on Maasai lands threatens their traditional way of life. In the next decade, Maasai will need to address integration into the mainstream modern economies and political systems of Kenyan and Tanzanian society.

The structure of Maasai culture is immensely complex and largely based on ritual. For men there are multiple initiation ceremonies that mark the transition from one age set to another but of all initiations circumcision is the most important rite of passage. This ritual, performed in a group, initiates boys into manhood and begins their life as a warrior. The primary responsibilities of warriors are to protect the community from predators and other tribes and to raid cattle to increase their herds. However, modern laws and regulations have diminished their function as cattle raids are now illegal and their lands are greatly diminished. However, many of these initiations, rituals and customs are eroding due to outside influences.


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San Hut


Kalahari Desert, South Africa and Namibia

The San, commonly known as Bushmen, are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa where they have lived for at least 20,000 years. In the middle of Botswana lies the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a reserve created to protect the traditional territory of the San and the game they depend on. These people were traditionally hunter-gatherers, part of the Khoisan group and are related to the traditionally pastoral Khoikhoi.

Since the mid 1990s, the central government of Botswana has implemented a relocation policy, aiming to move the Bushmen out of their ancestral land into newly created settlements in order to access the diamonds beneath the soil. However, an opposition group was created and in December 2006 they won in court against the government and were allowed to return to their ancestral land. However, although more than 1000 San intended to return, only limited numbers have been allowed to and many have settled as farmers or been incorporated into modern society.

The San have no formal authority figure or chief, but govern themselves by group consensus. Disputes are resolved through lengthy discussions where all involved have a chance to make their thoughts heard until some agreement is reached.
The San belief system generally observes the supremacy of one powerful god, while at the same time recognizing the presence of lesser gods along with their wives and children. The most important spiritual being to the southern San was /Kaggen, the trickster-deity. He created many things, and appears in numerous myths where he can be foolish or wise, tiresome or helpful. He can assume many forms such as a praying mantis, and eland or a vulture. He is not in one of his animal forms, /Kaggen lives his life as an ordinary San.

Ritual also plays a part in the lives of the San. Of prime importance in all San groups is a ritual dance that serves to heal the group. The great 'medicine or healing dance' and the rain dance were rituals in which everyone participated. During these dances, the women usually sat around a central fire as they sang and clapped their hands.