Jengi is the Baka pygmy god of the forest.

The southeast forests of Cameroon are homeland to many indigenous ethnic groups, divided between the hunter-gatherer Baka people and the so-called slash and burn agriculturalist comprising about six ethnic groups. Their main economic activities comprise food and cash crop farming, subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering.
For the Baka people, the forest is mother, father and guardian. The people all share a common socio-cultural and economic direct dependence from the forests products for their subsistence.

"While appreciating the socio-economic growth of the area," Leonard Usongo says "the huge influx of people and businesses is weighing heavily on the environment."

The total project site has an estimated human population of about 100,000 people. There are 2 small urban centres, Yokadouma and Mouloundou, 6 logging towns and about 50 villages.

The Baka comprise 25% of the population. About 25% of the overall population in south-east Cameroon comprises non-indigenes, mainly skilled workers of various logging companies, but also Muslim traders from as far as Senegal, Mauritania and Mali.

Baka pygmies - the facts

  • The typical Baka pygmy will not leave his home in the forest even in exchange for an ultra modern palace in the city.
  • They have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the forest and its products, including the healing power of plants. They are, in fact, guardians of a huge natural pharmacy.
  • The pygmy is able to "understand" animal language and can utter different animal-like sounds.
  • Although they stay in the same community, the Bantus and the Bakas are not very good friends. They live in a perpetual atmosphere of mistrust.
  • The Baka pygmy eats his heaviest meal of the day in the night. At that time, the day’s harvest is boiled or roasted and consumed.
  • The Bakas are usually very shy when in public. They are friendly and good-hearted especially when one meets them in their abode in the forest.
  • Their social life involves drinking locally produced liquor, singing, drumming and dancing.
  • Unlike their Bantu counterparts the Bakas of the region are not polygamous.
  • Beside Jengi, a traditional ritual that raises social status among the pygmies, one is considered worthy of his name only after he goes through a painful traditional circumcision. For the young man who usually is over 20 years old, it marks a turning point in his social life.
  • Jengi ceremonies are part of Baka pygmy’s tradition. It is always a festive period coinciding with the dry season when the Bakas are involved in fishing and honey harvesting. These ceremonies are organised every year to usher new members into the "Jengi Society". In the early days, Jengi could only be held after an elephant has been killed. Today other forest wildlife are used for the festival.

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