The focus of the garden is a leaf house or mongulu. The mongulu on Green & Black’s Rainforest Garden will be built by Margerite Akom, Jeanne Noah and Mathilde Zang who want to use their visit to Chelsea to talk about their communities’ traditions and concerns and how they are being affected by incursions into the rainforest. All three women are community leaders who work with the African Indigenous Women’s Organisation in Yaounde, Cameroon. This garden is indebted to Margerite, Jeanne, Mathilde and Aisha Aishatou for their inspiration and help, to AIWO leaders , British High Commission and UNESCO in Yauounde and to the many individuals, listed on the ‘thanks’ page who have helped make this garden possible.
The garden surrounding the Mongulu is red, mineral-rich earth typical of the rainforest floor. The dense planting around the sides of the garden includes tropical, sub tropical and temperate specimens. It will also include crops representing those grown by Baka and Bagyeli communities including banana, cassava and maize. The maize was grown by Rushcliffe Comprehensive School in Nottinghamshire and Woodstone Primary in Ravenstone, Leicestershire.
The Baka and Bagyeli cultivate plants such as bananas around the edge of their gardens. Hardy bananas will line the front of the Chelsea garden so that visitors are made to feel as if they’re peering through the edge of the forest into a the garden. Leaning up against the bananas are chainsaws, guns and miners’ helmets symbolising threats to the rainforest. The chainsaws and guns will be disabled.
For horticultural detail please looks at the ‘Plants’ page on this site.
The Baka have had to start growing their own food as their traditional hunting grounds have come under pressure from the outside world. I came across some of these pressures first hand in 2009 when I joined Rushcliffe School students on their Giving Nation trip to stay in a Baka community. The community lives in a remote part of the southern Cameroon rainforest a few miles from UNESCO’s 526, 000 hectare World Heritage Dja reserve.
Even in the remote area where we stayed, illegal bush meat hunting has left little for the Baka to survive on. Illegal hunting, mining and logging have all impacted on the traditional Baka and Bagyeli diet. Fewer animals are available and the size and number of fish has plummeted according to local NGOs. 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.
Now, to add to the problems faced by indigenous people , an open cast nickel and cobalt mine may soon open just 30 K of UNESCO’s Dja reserve. Permissions have been granted to mine 1,250 square kilometres of rainforest. This will impact on indigenous people in the area. It will also affect the area’s isolated plantlife 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 may soon be logged. With the logging will come threats to biodiversity and the lives of indigenous people who have lived in isolation, and in harmony with the forest, for thousands of years.
This Chelsea Flower Show garden raises awareness of rainforests beyond the Amazon and highlights 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.