Kalibo Mandigo - Etaeto - Democratic Republic of Congo - September 10th, 2012
The hunt for precious coltan is killing Africa's dwindling Pygmy population. The village of Kalibo Mandigo, located in the Ituri rain forest in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, lies in the heart of an obscure war zone that few in the West know about. The densely forested expanse along a stretch of border between the nation once known as Zaire and Uganda, furnishes some 80 percent of planet's Columbite Tantalite, or "coltan," an ore that is an essential ingredient in the creation of the miniature Tantalum capacitors present in virtually all electronic devices, including laptops, cell phones and pagers. Coltan is panned for by hand in much the same way as gold during the California gold rush of the 19th century. The demand by major companies such as Nokia and Sony for coltan (Australia is the other major source) has made the Congo into a battleground for rogue miners, who enter the country, through Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. The number of Pygmies is in constant decline as a result of the border fighting. On the move constantly, the pygmies, who are considered inferior, face the wrath of Congolese troops and Rwandan raiders who cross the border seeking the coltan. They were victims of rape, murder and cannibalism. According to Minority Rights Group International there is extensive evidence of mass killing, cannibalism and rape of Pygmies and they have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate a campaign of extermination against pygmies. Although they have been targeted by virtually all the armed groups, much of the violence against Pygmies is attributed to the rebel group, Movement for the Liberation of Congo. Pygmy is a term used for various ethnic groups worldwide whose average height is unusually short; anthropologists define pygmy as any group whose adult men grow to less than 150 cm (59 inches) in average height. A member of a slightly taller group is termed "pygmoid." The best known pygmies are the Aka, Efé and Mbuti of central Africa.
The term "pygmy" is sometimes considered pejorative. However, there is no single term to replace it. Many so-called pygmies prefer instead to be referred to by the name of their various ethnic groups, or names for various interrelated groups such as the Aka (Mbenga), Baka, Mbuti, and Twa. The term Bayaka, the plural form of the Aka/Yaka, is sometimes used in the Central African Republic to refer to all local Pygmies. Likewise, the Kongo word Bambenga is used in Congo. The term pygmy, as used to refer to diminutive people, derives from Greek πυγμαίος Pygmaios via Latin Pygmaei (sing. Pygmaeus), derived from πυγμή – a fist, or a measure of length corresponding to the distance between the elbow and knuckles. In Greek mythology the word describes a tribe of dwarfs, first described by Homer, and reputed to live in India and south of modern day Ethiopia. Various theories have been proposed to explain the short stature of pygmies. Evidence of heritability has been established which may have evolved as an adaptation to low ultraviolet light levels in rainforests. This might mean that relatively little vitamin D can be made in human skin, thereby limiting calcium uptake from the diet for bone growth and maintenance, and leading to the evolution of the small skeletal size characteristic of pygmies.
Other explanations include lack of food in the rainforest environment, low calcium levels in the soil, the need to move through dense jungle, adaptation to heat and humidity, and most recently, as an association with rapid reproductive maturation under conditions of early mortality. Other evidence points towards unusually low levels of expression of the genes encoding the growth hormone receptor and growth hormone relative to the related tribal groups, associated with low serum levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 and short stature. Pygmies live in several ethnic groups in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. Most Pygmy communities are partially hunter-gatherers, living partially but not exclusively on the wild products of their environment. They trade with neighbouring farmers to acquire cultivated foods and other material items. It is estimated that there are between 250,000 and 600,000 Pygmies living in the Congo rainforest. There are at least a dozen Pygmy groups, sometimes unrelated to each other, the best known being the Mbenga (Aka and Baka) of the western Congo basin, which speak Bantu and Ubangian languages; the Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest, which speak Bantu and Central Sudanic languages, and the Twa of the Great Lakes, which speak Bantu Rundi and Kiga. A commonly held belief is that African Pygmies are the direct descendants of the Late Stone Age hunter-gatherer peoples of the central African rainforest, who were partially absorbed or displaced by later immigration of agricultural peoples, and adopted their Central Sudanic, Ubangian, and Bantu languages. This view has no archaeological support, and ambiguous support from genetics and linguistics..Genetically, the pygmies are extremely divergent from all other human populations, suggesting they have an ancient indigenous lineage. Their uniparental markers represent the most ancient divergent ones right after those typically found in Khoisan peoples. African pygmy populations possess high levels of genetic diversity; recent advances in genetics shed some light on the origins of the various pygmy groups. The transition from hunting and gathering to farming involved a major cultural innovation that has spread rapidly over most of the globe in the last ten millennia. In sub-Saharan Africa, hunter–gatherers have begun to shift toward an agriculture-based lifestyle over the last 5,000 years. Only a few populations still base their mode of subsistence on hunting and gathering. The Pygmies are considered to be the largest group of mobile hunter–gatherers of Africa. They dwell in equatorial rainforests and are characterized by their short mean stature. However, little is known about the chronology of the demographic events — size changes, population splits, and gene flow — ultimately giving rise to contemporary Pygmy (Western and Eastern) groups and neighboring agricultural populations. .
The footage shows two pygmi women, early in the morning, going to the river next to the village, holding their children.
Original footage: AVI