The basis of Baka life and culture both now and in the future is the forest in which they live. CBBM believes that no forest management strategy will be successful if ignoring the interconnectedness between Baka spiritual and ecological knowledge and the state of the forest and its biodiversity.
Baka communities in this region have expressed the need to lead their own monitoring initiatives to protect their forest and support their ability to make decisions for their communities. The BMN fuses indigenous knowledge with high-tech digital tools. Rugged Android smartphones are equipped with Sapelli software enabling non-literate communities to design, use, and manage the tool in an appropriate way and according to local priorities. Data is visualised using rugged tablets in the village, promoting discussion around how best to put the data to work. This process is led by free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) promoting the power of Baka communities to dictate if and how projects should be carried out and subsequently managed through community protocols which outline local management plans and data sovereignty.
The network provides the means for Baka communities to monitor activities in their forests, support cultural revitalisation and inter-generational knowledge sharing, build trust and credibility with non-indigenous people (including Bantu villages, government officials, private industry, and NGOs), and address specific local concerns and needs. In the context of the Dja landscape, community priorities gravitate towards tackling illegal wildlife crime, contributing to ecological monitoring, and the documentation and sharing of traditional knowledge and cultural rituals including storytelling and forest spirit ceremonies. These data are acted upon alongside local indigenous and non-indigenous partners to fulfil the communities’ objectives.
The Dja is the largest protected area in Cameroon and is recognised as an area of Outstanding Universal Value and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for both its biological and cultural diversity.