Cameroon

The Baka

In the East Region of Cameroon, Two Rabbits works with the Baka, an ethnic and linguistic minority and hunter-gather community.  In the 1970’s, the government and missionary actors compelled the Baka to move out of the forest and to settle in roadside villages. The stated purpose was to improve access to public services, but the effect was to open the forests up to extractive industries. Logging, mining, and poaching depleted natural resources, and restricted the Baka’s ability to continue their sustainable hunter-gatherer lifestyle in rich forest territory.

Although international law grants indigenous usage rights in conservation zones, and though they have lived sustainably as stewards of the same forests for millennia, the Baka face arrest and even torture for attempting to access ancestral lands. They have also been systematically excluded from consultation on resource extraction projects that impact their forest home. As the Baka settled in villages, they were forced to do so on lands already “owned” by the Bantu majority population. With few livelihood options and a new need for money to meet basic needs, many Baka turned (often by force) to labor on Bantu farms for liquor, small sums of money, or nothing at all. This situation has created a vicious cycle of domination, poverty and dependency.

The inequities and discrimination in society at large are reflected in, and perpetuated by, the education system. Primary schools feature only Bantu teachers, lecturing in non-native tongue (French), preventing Baka children from acquiring the skills to engage with outsiders. Stigma imposed on them by their teachers and Bantu peers instills Baka children with a lack of confidence, leading to low achievement and high drop-out, furthering negative stereotypes. Surrounded by oppression, Baka children grow up ashamed of their culture and heritage, and by adolescence, many shun their forest heritage as primitive and outdated. As a result, literacy rates in Baka communities are low, limiting their ability to understand their rights, to participate in decision-making forums that impact their lives, and to seek redress for rights violations.

Baka parents have expressed a need for an educational solution that would prepare their children to succeed in school and societal systems stacked against them, while still remaining rooted in the community’s rich and vibrant heritage. Working together with community leaders and local partners, Two Rabbits and the Baka have developed a preschool model that accommodates the the group's semi-nomadic lifestyle with a mobile platform, enriched with stories, songs and games created in the traditional Baka style (see above video produced by partner Baka Gbine).

Project Goals

  1. Achieve statistically significant reduction in school drop-out rates and improvement in school performance among Baka students in primary level one;

  2. Boost literacy rates among Baka primary level one students;

  3. Improve self-image and perception of Baka culture among youth in year one of primary school;

  4. Increase awareness and use of Baka orthography, with a view to preserving and validating the Baka language and the knowledge transmitted therewith;

  5. Build teaching and leadership capacity among Baka adults, through trainings in teaching practice and lesson facilitation;

  6. Create a platform for recording and sharing Baka music and oral history.

Read our comprehensive baseline report for an in-depth analysis of the project.