This garden will raise awareness of rainforests beyond the Amazon and highlight the pressures faced by all those who live in them as well as focusing on the broader impact, in terms of climate, that the destruction of rainforests will bring.
Logging, and its attendant trade in illegal bush meat, means that indigenous people struggle to find food. As pressures on traditional hunting grounds increase some indigenous hunter gatherers have started to cultivate productive plants and these will be included in our Rainforest Garden.
Last year I stayed with a community of Baka hunter gatherers for a few days in a remote part of southern Cameroon a few miles from UNESCO’s 526, 000 hectare World Heritage Dja reserve. I was shocked by the threats that the rainforest there is facing and, with it, the ‘double whammy effect’ (as Prince Charles puts it) on global warming. When a group of women took me dam fishing their heavy work was rewarded by a catch of tiddlers worthy of a whitebait first course in the UK.
Now, to add to the indigenous population’s problems, an open cast nickel and cobalt mine is about to open. The mine will be within 30 K of UNESCO’s Dja reserve. Permission has been granted to mine 1,250 square kilometres of rainforest. This will have a massive impact on the local population and the isolated plantlife in the area which supports 107 species of mammal, five of them endangered. In another development, east of the Dja, 830,000 hectares of rainforest in the Ngoyla Mintom is about to be logged with all the attendant threats to global warming, biodiversity and the indigenous people who have lived in isolation, and in harmony with the forest, for thousands of years.
To highlight these issues to the world four indigenous women from the Baka and Bagyeli communities are travelling to Chelsea from Cameroon to build a leaf house or mongulu at the centre of the Rainforest Garden, and talk about the threats that they, and the rainforest, are facing.