Baka and Bagyeli leaders highlight forest issues to media and wider public

Mathilde, Margrite, Aisha and Jeanne at London's Chelsea Flower Show
By
John Nelson

Baka and Bagyeli leaders highlight forest issues to media and wider public

Three indigenous leaders, Margrite Akom, Jeanne Noah and Mathilde Zang, from a remote forest near the UNESCO World Heritage Dja Reserve, Cameroon, were key figures in the development and construction of a Rainforest Garden at Chelsea Flower Show, London, from 25 to 29 May 2010. This garden highlighted their communities' traditions and concerns to the international media and wider public. At the event, the leaders spoke with the Queen, press and public, eloquently explaining the pressures they face including the discrimination and violation of their rights, the impact of industrial expansion and deforestation, and the loss of access to forest biodiversity upon which communities rely. Maps, developed by the Baka illustrating their traditional use of the forest for subsistence, were also incorporated into the garden. Margrite, Jeanne and Mathilde work with the African Indigenous Women's Organisation (AIWO) in Yaounde, Cameroon and were assisted by Aisha Aishatou from AIWO.