Central African Republic

Little Sun in the heart of the Congo Basin

August 2015

OrigiNations e.V., an organization based in Berlin, Germany works closely with indigenous peoples and communities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to preserve their cultural hertiage and protect the surrounding natural environment.

Tatjana Puschkarsky from OrigiNations provides a snapshot from a 10-day workshop in Dzanga-Sangha, Central African Republic in May 2015.

The Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas in the Central African Republic, home of forest elephants and endangered lowland gorillas, lie in the heart of the Congo Basin, the second biggest rainforest in the world. The Central African Republic ranks 185th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) and was further weakened by a coup d’état and ensuing civil conflict in 2013, which destabilized the whole country. Health and education facilities are scarce or non-existent and there is no electricity in the rural villages. Only campfires and some rare petroleum lamps and torches illuminate the darkness of the villages at night. In the main town Bayanga, some residents use generators to charge their mobile phones or run one of the few TVs.

 

Members of our association OrigiNations e.V. have been working with the indigenous BaAka hunter-gatherer forest communities around the National Park and World Heritage Site of Dzanga-Sangha since 2012. In our workshops we aim to empower local youth to take the development of their communities into their own hands and to become active protagonists in the protection, promotion, and management of their cultural and natural heritage and in the defense of their rights. The youth are accompanied by respected village elders that aim to transmit their knowledge and skills to the new generation.

The young BaAka, joined by young members of the local Sangha-Sangha fisher community, have formed a group called “Ndima-Kali” — a combination of the Aka word for forest, and the Sangha-Sangha word for river. The composition of the group is unique in the region, as it unites both indigenous and local people and actively works to combat discrimination and improve the living conditions, social standing and organization of their communities.

During the most recent workshop in May 2015, issues such as the conflict between different population groups, low level of education, influence of the money economy on the villages, and exodus of youth were discussed.

The members of “Ndima-Kali” have established environmental youth groups in the eleven villages that they represent. As one of their activities, they plan to collect used batteries which currently litter the villages and forest ground, posing a risk to the health of the population and the ecosystem, and endangering the quality of the region’s drinking water. The youth group aims to then exchange solar lamps for a certain number of old batteries and the torches they power.

As shown in the pictures, the Little Suns were used in a variety of ways during the youth group’s activities: to illuminate group discussions after nightfall (6 pm), to light story-telling sessions, to allow for cooking in the dark, and generally making life after nightfall safer but also more fun! All participants of the workshop were provided with Little Suns and have taken them home to their communities. Little Sun will support the participants in their village activities and help school students do their homework at night.

Little Sun is very grateful to Tatjana and OrigiNations for their wonderful work.

Photo credit: Tatjana Puschkarsky and Ernesto Noriega