Acres of Central African rainforests that indigenous Pygmy people have called home for 5,000 years are rapidly disappearing due to logging and mining.
Integration efforts aimed at settling down the traditionally nomadic Pygmies, barred from forests designated as national parks, have so far proven fruitless.
Thousands of Pygmies inhabiting the rainforests of the Nomedjo region in southern Cameroon, close to the Congolese border, have been forcibly uprooted due to the timber trade.
'Banned from entering forests'
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, one Pygmy said authorities had banned their entry into the forests, adding that they had been unable to contact their kin.
Tombombo Dieudonne, a Pygmy of the Baka ethnic group, said the government had torn the forests apart through the timber companies. "We come from the forest. They condemned us to live by this roadside. When we were in the forest, we found very good quality food. Just of honey, we had 15 kinds, each of different quality."
"They beat us when they catch us in the forest. We aren't allowed to enter the Dja Park right next to us. It's the same for the Nki National Park on the other side. Our relatives there are also suffering. They're subjected to violence by forest officials," said Dieudonne.
'Forests being destroyed by companies'
Venant Messe, Coordinator of OKANI Association, which defends the rights of indigenous peoples living in Cameroon's forests, said that after the Central African nation gained its independence, the timber trade was valued as a major source of income, representing approximately 20% of the country's economy.
"Every year, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forestland is destroyed by companies in the region where the Baka Pygmies live," said Messe.
Pygmies seek to maintain hunting, gathering culture
Underlining that much of the areas that the Pygmies called home have been eliminated due to the forests' destruction, Messe said the Pygmies would not be able to adapt to settled life, as they are a hunter and gatherer society, rather than an agricultural one.
Another former resident of the forest, Elenga Emile said he wants to live and raise his children in the areas that are his ancestral home. "Our life depends on the forest. The forest is our homeland, where we meet all our needs."
The Europeans referred to the local tribesmen as "Pygmies" -- a word meaning "dwarf" in Greek with a mythological reference, as they have an average height of 120 centimeters (3.9 feet).
There are currently around 120,000 Pygmies in the world, with most living in Cameroon's forested region near the Atlantic coast.
Small Pygmy communities also exist in other countries like Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Gabon, and Angola.