Institute for Environmental Security
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GPS helps pygmies defend forest
18 February 2008
For the Pygmies of Central Africa, the last century has been one of intense struggle for survival. Over the centuries, Bantu groups seeking farmland have been encroaching steadily into their forests. Also, the world's hunger for tropical wood is threatening their existence. In Cameroon, there is evidence of illegal logging and encroachment by big logging companies into community forest.
Various parties are now working together to pioneer the use of hand-held computers among the Baka Pygmies in Cameroon. When they go into the forest to hunt and gather, they carry a GPS - Global Positioning System - on which they can record the exact location of their hunting grounds, sacred trees and important rivers.
The computer screens are marked with symbols which they can press to record an important site. For example, a tree designates a medicine or food source, or the image of a fish signifies a river. This tool is designed to empower the Baka to respond to the threats of the modern world.