Peoples of African forests

For centuries, the European have thought the Tropical forests were inhospitable and dangerous. In fact in the heart of the forest, in Zambia, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo and the Central African Republic, live peoples who regard the forest as a protective and generous home. They are tribes of hunters and gatherers, who are short and not too muscular to adapt to the environment. Recent studies showed that their diets are better than those of other sub-Saharan African people. They generally live in groups of 15 – 60 people, hunting and gathering vegetables and honey. They perfectly know the forest and its inhabitants, both animals and plants. In particular, they know how to make use of the specific properties of thousands of plants they use as food, to make poison, relieve pain, treat wounds and fevers. The products of the forest are collected in baskets, carried on the back especially by women, who can bear loads weighing one half of their body weight. The most valuable gift of the forest, also called “liquid gold”, is honey, which is collected even at 30 metres above ground by people climbing with lianas and strings. Men take along some embers wrapped up in large leaves, with whose smoke they stun the bees. The honey is then collected by women and children.
The most representative African forest peoples are the Mbuti, the Twa, the Baka and the Aka. In particular, the Mbuti have invented a peculiar hunting method: all the men of the tribe, standing one beside the other, lift their nets in a sort of semicircular trap, that can reach many metres long. The women, with the help of dogs, shake the shrubs and make noise to push the animals towards the net. The men stand and wait, ready to hit the animals that get trapped. The Baka and the Aka use, instead, bows and arrows, more advanced than the old crossbows. The arrows are soaked in a substance that paralyses the prey without poisoning it.

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