A group of Baka “Pygmies” and their neighbors in southeast Cameroon have sent an impassioned plea to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), urging the conservation giant to stop funding anti-poaching squads that are responsible for a long history of persecution against the Baka.
One letter by a village elder reads, “When WWF started its work here in Ndongo we welcomed it, but the promises that were made and the things we were told have never materialized. We are subjected to your law enforcement work – and where are the promises you made?
Sir, before you finance your work we want you to come meet the people on the ground [to see] its negative impacts.”
Stop giving money to anti-poaching squads
Another letter urges WWF to stop giving money to the anti-poaching squads.
When much of their land was turned into “protected areas” and safari hunting zones, the Baka, who hunt to feed their families, were promised they would still be able to use their ancestral lands.
But now the Baka are forced to stay in roadside villages and fear going into the forest which has provided them with most of what they needed for generations, said Survival International (SI). Anti-poaching squads routinely arrest, beat and torture Baka and their neighbors in the name of “conservation” and many Baka say that friends and relatives have died as a result of the beatings.
Despite having known about these abuses for at least 13 years, WWF has taken no effective action and has repeatedly claimed that it has not been presented with enough evidence, said SI.
Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International – the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights – said today, “National parks have, since their invention, been responsible for the eviction, and sometimes destruction, of tribal peoples. It is not sufficient for organizations like the WWF merely to have ‘policies’ to protect tribal peoples – they have actually to adhere to them. If WWF cannot ensure the funds it gives to anti-poaching squads are not harming people, it must stop that part of its program. For conservation of the Baka’s forests to really work, WWF must help protect the tribe’s land rights and respect their own methods of conservation.”
- Download the letters to WWF here: letter 1 (French, pdf, 209KB), letter 2 (French, pdf, 168KB)
- Earlier this month, Survival International launched its “Parks Need Peoples” report exposing the “dark side of conservation.” The report details many other cases of tribal peoples facing illegal eviction from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation.”
- Read WWF’s response to the reports of abuse, as supplied by Survival International.
- Read a Q&A about Survival’s work to change conservation here.
- “Pygmy” is an umbrella term commonly used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central Africa. The word is considered pejorative and avoided by some tribespeople, but used by others as a convenient and easily recognized way of describing themselves. Read more here.
Source: Survival International
A WWF International spokesperson sent the Green Times the following response to these allegations:
“It is not yet apparent that WWF had actually received the letters. The essential background is that WWF globally opposes forced relocation and supports Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) on uses of traditionally owned lands. In Cameroon, as in many other countries, customary rights to land and resources are not recognised and the communities are disadvantaged and suffer from widespread discrimination. In the absence of legal recognition of customary rights WWF-Cameroon works with Baka associations and others in securing community and access rights to protected forests. We also work on protecting forests important to the Baka, in part through providing funding to the Ministry of Forests and Fauna for Ecoguards. There have been issues of alleged inappropriate behaviour by Ecoguards, which at least in part reflect the pervasive patterns of discrimination against the Baka (and other forest peoples). WWF has taken action on incidents reported to us that were capable of being taken further, and general action, such as assistance to Baka communities and supporting human rights training for ecoguards. Well prior to SI launching its public campaign, WWF committed itself to supporting an investigation by the Cameroon National Human Rights and Freedom Commission of the allegations raised by Survival International – the forum preferred by SI. The Baka associations WWF works with have not sought a suspension of funding to the Ecoguard Service and it is difficult to see how such a step would benefit people dependent on the forests. Nevertheless, WWF will consider the letters in good faith and abide by its commitment to SI to support the NHRFC investigation.”