On July 23 and 24, under the canopy of the Nomedjo community forest in Lomié, the Gbabandi Platform came together for its second General Assembly.
Established in 2016, Gbabandi currently comprises eight indigenous organisations, with others expected to join in the near future.
Over 100 Baka and Bagyeli attended the two-day meeting, travelling from various forested regions of Cameroon – from the west coast near Kribi, to the Central African border. Indigenous Bedzang and Mbororo groups were also represented.
The sub-divisional officer for Lomié opened the meeting, praising the platform for its initiative and stressing the importance of education for these forest communities.
In preparation for the event, dozens of moungoulous were constructed by the receiving Baka community of Nomedjo. These traditional shelters are built using leaves and branches, and they housed the participants in the forest for the duration of the Assembly.
A conference room was also built for the occasion, which the local Baka community will continue to use after the event for their own meetings.
Renewal of the governing body
Gbabandi’s governing body was renewed by vote, after verification that quorum was attained. Representativity across the platform’s seven key roles (Coordinator, Vice Coordinator and Thematic Representatives) was important for the platform – four posts are now held by women and three by men; three of which are from Bagyeli organisations and four from Baka organisations. Thematic areas include education, women and family, land and natural resources, health, and economic development.
Gbabandi also welcomed its new Facilitator, Clemence Martiale Tabodo, who will assist the platform in its organisational development over the coming years.
Conservation and human rights – an indigenous perspective
A key topic for discussion was the issue of conservation and human rights. The platform members shared their experiences of conservation initiatives from their respective areas – notably around the Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve and the Lobeke, Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks. There was some discussion on MOU processes, their strengths and weaknesses, and how indigenous peoples’ perspectives can be better represented and respected. The platform is considering drafting a position statement on the subject, as they have previously done for land rights and citizenship.
The Assembly also provided a space to officially launch the new EU-funded Keta project. Keta – the Baka word for “dream” – began in April 2019 and runs until March 2022.
Its objective is to strengthen the active participation of forest-based indigenous peoples (both organisations and communities) in sustainable natural resource management, in order to enhance the promotion, protection and defence of indigenous peoples’ human rights.
Key components of the project include organisational capacity building support for the Gbabandi platform; a tailor-made training programme for indigenous leaders; training on key natural resource management issues; and support for an Indigenous Women’s Network.
Keta has been designed in conjunction with indigenous associations as a follow-on from the EU Cameroon project, which initially supported the creation of the Gbabandi Platform. Project partners are FPP, Okani and Gbabandi.
The Gbabandi platform fills a gap that no other civil society platform or national NGO offers to forest indigenous peoples in Cameroon – notably, direct representation and advocacy by indigenous forest peoples themselves. Member organisations are based throughout Cameroon’s South and East forest regions representing Baka and Bagyeli peoples (it is hoped that the Bedzang will join soon). Each organisation has links with local Baka and Bagyeli communities in its area of operation. It is estimated that over 100 indigenous communities have links with the platform through these different member organisations, and this number is growing. Platform members currently include: Okani, ASBAK, ADEBAKA, ABAGUENI, ABAWONI, ARBO, ASBABUK and CADDAP.
For more information about that Gbabandi Platform, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
This event took place thanks to the support of the European Union.