Top > African Study Monographs > ASM Supplementary Issue Back Number > No. 47 (2014)

Bio-social Adaptations of the Baka Hunter-gatherers in African Rainforest


Edited by Hiroaki SATO, Taro YAMAUCHI, Koji HAYASHI & Daiji KIMURA


pp. 1-2

PREFACE

Hiroaki SATO

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Part I: Biological Adaptation


pp. 5-24

A CONTROLLED FORAGING TRIP IN A COMMUNAL FOREST OF SOUTHEASTERN CAMEROON

Hiroaki SATO
Faculty of Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine

Koji HAYASHI
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

Hiroyuki INAI
Ryota YAMAGUCHI
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University

Kyohei KAWAMURA
Graduate School of Education, University of Yamanashi

Taro YAMAUCHI
Faculty of Health Sciences, Hokkaido University

ABSTRACT
      Since 1995, we have been researching the “Wild Yam Question,” that is, whether or not human beings could live without agricultural products in tropical rainforests. We conducted surveys of the distribution and reserves of yam and yam-like plants and observational surveys of 3 controlled foraging trips, during which the cooperators of the Baka hunter-gatherers could use no agricultural products, in the Ndongo area and showed the possibility human beings be able to live without agricultural products and the high reliability of yam tubers to a foraging life in the tropical rainforest of southeastern Cameroon. But there still remain some issues to be examined. Our 2 controlled foraging trips were done in a forest area which local people rarely visited and was likely to be rich in wild food resources, and the third trip was done in a forest area which they often entered to set snares and was likely to be poor in wild food resources. How does the foraging life style differ between these 2 types of forest? Furthermore, in the previous 2 controlled foraging trips the Baka cooperators used wire-snares, but did not use them on the latest trip as such durable and labor-saving wire-snares would not have been available to Stone Age hunter-gatherers. What difference does the presence or absence of wire-snares make to the foraging life style in tropical rainforests? Based on this survey of a controlled foraging trip in a communal forest which local people communally managed and exploited, we demonstrated that (1) supplying a comparable amount of food to that in remote forests rich in wild food resources, yam tubers remained a staple food for forest foragers even in a communal forest, (2) the present Baka could obtain few game animals without the use of wire snares in the communal forest, (3) game animals, like yam tubers, are a critical food for the foraging lifestyle in southeastern Cameroon forests as their scarcity has a notable impact not only on the hunter-gatherers nutritional intake but also on their emotional state.

Key Words: Controlled foraging trip; Baka Pygmy; Foraging lifestyle; African tropical rainforest; Communal forest.

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pp. 25-34

NUTRITIONAL STATUS AND PHYSICAL FITNESS OF PYGMY HUNTER-GATHERERS LIVING IN THE AFRICAN RAINFORESTS

Taro YAMAUCHI
Faculty of Health Sciences, Hokkaido University

Hiroaki SATO
Faculty of Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine

Kyohei KAWAMURA
Graduate School of Education, University of Yamanashi

ABSTRACT
      Pygmy hunter-gatherers living in the tropical rainforests of central Africa have attracted the attention of anthropologists for many decades because they are extremely short in stature. The investigation of their nutritional status and physical fitness can offer important information for the interpreting corresponding data from all human populations; however, quantitative nutritional and physical fitness surveys of Pygmy hunter-gatherers have been limited. The nutritional status of 23 male and 24 female Pygmy hunter-gatherers (Baka) was surveyed, and their physical fitness was examined by performing heart rate measurements at 2 resting positions (sitting and standing) and 2 exercise levels (step-test, 15 and 30 steps/min).
   The average stature was intermediate relative to other Pygmy hunter-gatherers, and the participants were generally well nourished. In more than 85% of the participants, the body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) was within the normal range (18.5 ≤ BMI < 25.0). The results of correlation analyses between anthropometrical indices and physical fitness indicators show that taller and heavier (especially in fat-free mass) subjects were significantly fitter than shorter and lighter subjects. In addition, skinfold thickness and body fat were negatively associated with physical fitness.

Key Words: Pygmy hunter-gatherers; African rainforests; Physical fitness; Nutritional status; Heart rate.

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pp. 35-44

BLOOD PRESSURE OF BAKA PYGMIES LIVING IN SOUTHEASTERN CAMEROON

Kyohei KAWAMURA
Graduate School of Education, University of Yamanashi

Taro YAMAUCHI
Faculty of Health Sciences, Hokkaido University

Koji HAYASHI
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

Hiroaki SATO
Faculty of Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine

ABSTRACT
      African hunter-gatherers, Baka Pygmies (N = 276, ≥ 17 years of age) from the southeastern part of Cameroon participated in an assessment study of their blood pressure (BP) measurements. For comparison, data from 2 different Japanese populations (H with n = 632, and Y with n = 131 groups) were used.
   There were no differences in systolic/diastolic BP in the Baka Pygmies with respect to the sex. A comparison of BP showed that neither systolic nor diastolic BP increased with age in Baka Pygmies, but it increased in the Y group (from 20 to 60 years).
   The average systolic/diastolic BP in Baka Pygmies (122.8 ± 10.9/71.2 ± 8.6 mmHg) was significantly lower than that of the H and the Y groups (126.1 ± 17.5/80.3 ± 11.3 and 131.6 ± 15.4/78.8 ± 9.9 mmHg, respectively). Most of the systolic and diastolic BP measurements in the H and the Y groups were classified high-normal or Grade 1 hypertension, whereas BP of most Baka Pygmies were classified as normal or optimal. These results revealed that an average BP of approximately 120/70 mmHg did not increase with age in Baka Pygmies living in the rainforest hunting and gathering for their living.

Key Words: Hunter-gatherers; Baka Pygmies; Blood pressure; Tropical rainforest.

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pp. 45-57

THE DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS AND NUTRITIONAL STATUS FOR A HUNTER-GATHERER SOCIETY WITH SOCIAL TRANSITIONS IN SOUTHEASTERN CAMEROON

Izumi HAGINO
JSPS Research Fellow, Graduate School of Health Sciences, Hokkaido University

Hiroaki SATO
Faculty of Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine

Taro YAMAUCHI
Faculty of Health Sciences, Hokkaido University

ABSTRACT
      Economic development and social transition often influence the health status of local populations. Pygmy hunter-gatherers in central African rainforest had lived in nomadic life, however, their surrounding environment have been changing. This study aimed to assess the transition of nutritional status for local hunter-gatherers societies which faced social transition. Cross-sectional surveys were conducted in 1996 and 2010–2011 for a village of Baka Pygmy in southeastern Cameroon. The census and anthropometric data were collected from all inhabitants. The nutritional statuses were assessed by following ways; (1) BMI classification, (2) Z-score converting for children using CDC/NHANES reference, and (3) Deriving biological parameters for child growth from Preece-Baines model. During 15 years, despite the migrants greatly increased, the number of Baka was decreased and their living areas were become dispersed. However, the mean values of BMI and %fat for adults were proper and unchanged. Children’s Z-scores indicated that although their body sizes were smaller than reference population, they had much amount of body weight and muscle for their height. In addition, the onset of growth spurt for children was occurred in moderate ages. These indices indicated that the nutritional status for Baka people was generally good, and that statuses were not changed.

Key Words: Baka Pygmy; Demographic characteristics; Nutritional status; Child growth; Social transition.

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pp. 59-72

SHARING HUNGER AND SHARING FOOD: STAPLE FOOD PROCUREMENT IN LONG-TERM FISHING EXPEDITIONS OF BAKWELE HORTICULTURALISTS IN SOUTHEASTERN CAMEROON

Takanori OISHI
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

ABSTRACT
      Forest-dwelling farmers of the Congo Basin are not always sedentary. Apart from the tradition of enhancing catch effort near sedentary villages, forest farmers have developed a tradition of long-distance expeditions for faunal exploitation. This paper focuses on forest farmers’ carbohydrate procurement strategies in response to shortages of agricultural foods during such nomadic phases, with special reference to sharing and exchange between them and hunter-gatherers; it also examines the impacts of the periodic cycle of food abundance and scarcity on people’s health and social relationships. Bakwele horticulturalists conduct long-term fishing expeditions to reduce the “hunger for animal protein.” However, long-term forest expeditions also make participants suffer from the “hunger for staple foods.” Direct observations were made, to clarify the strategies of staple food procurement, on a fishing expedition from January to March 2007. Thoughout the period child participants increased their body weight, which suggests a positive role of fishing expeditions in the improvement of children’s nutritional status. When agricultural foods brought from the sedentary village had been consumed, participants employed various means of exchange and sharing to deal with the shortage of carbohydrates. The Bakwele exploited wild yams, a food they avoid eating in villages, on such occasions. Forest foods were exploited and shared beyond normal sociocultural boundaries at fishing camps. In Bakwele long-term fishing camps, shared hunger brought about cooperation rather than conflict between different households and ethnic groups.

Key Words:Forest-dwelling farmers; Fishing expedition; Hunger for carbohydrates; Bakwele; Cameroon.

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Part II: Social Adaptation


pp. 75-95

EVERYDAY CONVERSATIONS OF THE BAKA PYGMIES

Daiji KIMURA
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

ABSTRACT
      This study analyzes the everyday conversations of the Baka Pygmies in southeastern Cameroon. The Baka, the Bakwele farmer-fishers, and the Hausa live together in the study village. I recorded their conversations using a video camera and produced verbatim translations with the help of my informant, which were later subjected to conversation analysis. Excerpts from conversations about several topics that vividly reflect the sociocultural characteristics of, and current problems experienced by, the Baka people are presented. First, I examine the “foraging mode of thought” among the Baka, which is characterized by “interest in the present” and “relationships with the forest.” Second, relationships with actors, such as other ethnic groups and the national/international agencies working in the vicinity of the Baka are analyzed.

Key Words: Baka Pygmies; Everyday conversation; Foraging mode of thought; Intra/inter ethnic relations.

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pp. 97-119

CURRENT ISSUES FACING THE FOREST PEOPLE IN SOUTHEASTERN CAMEROON: THE DYNAMICS OF BAKA LIFE AND THEIR ETHNIC RELATIONSHIP WITH FARMERS

Shiho HATTORI
Faculty of International Studies, Tenri University

ABSTRACT
      This paper examines the dynamics of the relationship between Baka hunter-gatherers and farmers in the forests of southeastern Cameroon, focusing on 2 aspects of this situation: Changes in the Baka lifestyle and the attitudes of the 2 ethnic groups toward the external society. As a result of the sedentarization policy promoted by the government since the 1950s, the nomadic Baka hunter-gatherers have settled near the farmers’ villages. This transformation has made the Baka more economically and politically dependent on the farmers. In recent decades, the introduction of logging companies, tourism businesses, and conservation agencies to the forest in which the Baka reside has created conflicts of interest between these outside actors and the Baka with regard to forest resources. The majority of the benefits generated by these outside agencies have gone to farmers’ groups, and the Baka have been marginalized politically and economically. Interventions by outside agencies appear to play a decisive role the future sustainability of the Baka way of life.

Key Words: Baka hunter-gatherers; Konabembe farmers; Cameroon; Marginalization; Transformation of life; Ethnic relationship.

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pp. 121-141

THE BAKA AS “CHAMPIONS” OF WITCHCRAFT: REPRESENTATIONS IN THE AMBIVALENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BAKA AND THE BAKWELE IN SOUTHEASTERN CAMEROON

Ryota YAMAGUCHI
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University

ABSTRACT
      This paper investigates the relationship between the Baka hunter-gatherers and the Bakwele farmers in southeastern Cameroon, focusing on their narratives about witchcraft. It has been suggested that Baka witchcraft was borrowed from the Bantu farmers. However, the Bakwele people assume that Baka witchcraft is more powerful than their own. The focus of this study is on representations of witchcraft in both societies; kiti in the Bakwele and mokilakila in the Baka. They appear to be similar on a superficial level; however, major differences exist. From a Bakwele perspective, even jengi, the most important and powerful spirit among the Baka, and its associated members, are related to witchcraft. Associations with jengi and notions about witchcraft are a combination of historical, economic and political relationships between the Baka and the Bakwele under the “multiple-game situation.” The complex interrelations of their self- and other-representations in this multiple-game situation are discussed.

Key Words: Witchcraft; Representation; Multiple-game situation; Baka; Bakwele; Cameroon.

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pp. 143-163

FROM RITUAL DANCE TO DISCO: CHANGE IN HABITUAL USE OF TOBACCO AND ALCOHOL AMONG THE BAKA HUNTER-GATHERERS OF SOUTHEASTERN CAMEROON

Takanori OISHI
Koji HAYASHI
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

ABSTRACT
      For centuries Pygmy hunter-gatherers in central Africa formed economic interdependent relationship with farmers based on a barter economy. The recent monetarization of daily transaction changed the local socio-political power balance. Previously, tobacco and alcohol were produced by farmers for self-consumption and were used in the barter of agricultural labor with the Pygmies. We conducted intensive field research in Ndongo Village in early 2009 to supplement ethnographical data from previous research. We have documented and analyzed recent trends in tobacco and alcohol consumption among the Baka to examine their adaptation to the ongoing economic transition from a barter economy to a monetary economy. Whereas the increased opportunities to earn a cash income has led to the excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking and drinking became one of the great pleasures of sedentary village life. The use of social space for drinking and smoking has changed dramatically: From mbanjo traditional meeting space to public bars in the village. Baka youths are attempting new ways to forge solidarity at such new social spaces instead of traditional practices of song and dance.

Key Words: Farmer Hunter-gatherer relations; Monetarization; Sedentary life; Solidarity; Cameroon.

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