WWF Collaboration in Bayanga
The Central African Republic is one of the least developed countries on the planet, ranked at 172 out of 177 on the United Nations Human Development Index. There is a mere 50/50 chance that people there will survive to age 40; more than 10% of infants die at birth; and a quarter of children under five years old are malnourished.
Poor health is a significant contributor to national impoverishment and educational deficiencies, as noted in a recent story in the Financial Times: “Teachers in the Central African Republic are dying of AIDS faster than they are being trained, prompting the government to close some schools because so many teachers have died.”
Outside of the cities, forest-dwellers such as the indigenous Ba’aka people face their own social and economic hardships, especially as logging companies infiltrate the region and the commercial trade in wildlife meat increases. The Ba’aka still rely on the forests for their sustenance including both food and medicines, and they maintain a rich history of traditional knowledge.
Now, the availability of conventional medicines adds to the traditional remedies already employed by the Ba’aka communities to help protect them and their children against diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
With financial support from 370 members of the $10 Club, INCEF produced a series of short educational films on three health topics of relevance to the Ba’aka people and the survival of their culture: malaria, parasitic chigoe fleas, and the value of forests as "natural pharmacies." These films were produced locally and shown throughout Ba’aka communities in the region.
Filmmaker Jéhu Olivier Bikoumou spent a month training two local Ba’aka as they developed skills allowing them to produce their own films on health care, conservation, and human rights issues. Jéhu has worked for nearly two decades as a photographer, cameraman, director, producer, and editor in Congolese national television. He recently spent two years producing and editing documentaries for the World Health Organization on films including AIDS awareness.
The two “students,” Benoit Damale and Paul Mboko, have recently made the transition from traditional hunter-gatherers to wage earners as tourist guides within the Dzangha/Sangha Reserve. Both Benoit and Paul are highly respected members of their community, are educated, and are literate in locally used languages: Sangho, Aka, and French - and some English.