Traditional Foodways: Cameroon


The slopes of Mt Cameroon, with Fernando Po, Equatorial Guinea in the background (Photo: S. Laird)Mt. Cameroon is an active volcano, the largest mountain in West Africa, and one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. The indigenous Bakweri and other groups living around Mt Cameroon and in Southwest Province retain strong traditional resource management systems that grow from deep historical and cultural connections to place. However, biodiversity, forests and traditional knowledge and practices are under pressure from industrial agriculture, oil, and other global economic and cultural forces.

The Mt. Cameroon Traditional Foodways Project is working to shore up and conserve threatened traditional food systems, including the management, harvesting, cultivation, and preparation of traditional foods. The Project grows from many years of collaboration between PPI, Bakweri and migrant villages, and local NGOs and institutions around Mt. Cameroon, including the recently established Mt. Cameroon National Park. The Project activities include development of knowledge exchange materials and education programs for local villages and schools, as well as broader outreach programs in the region. 

Bakweri men in Likombe village with an mbira made as part of efforts to revive traditional musical instrument-making, music, and dance in the region (Photo:S.Laird)


Knowledge exchange materials. The Traditional Foodways Project is producing manuals and posters that include: drawings by local artists; myths and stories from older members of the community; and information on current and historical uses of species in the area, how people in other parts of Cameroon and Africa use these plants, species ecology and management, and the importance of species in local livelihoods and traditions. The manuals include:
    •    Wild, cultivated and semi-domesticated traditional foods of Mt. Cameroon  
    •    Medicine as food, and food as medicine
    •    Homegardens of Mt. Cameroon
    •    Traditional musical instruments, music, and dance of Mt Cameroon
    •    Traditional games of Mt. Cameroon


Education and outreach programs. The manuals and posters serve as the basis for interactive education and outreach programs in schools and villages. In these programs, elders bring young people to harvest and cook foods no longer widely consumed (for example, a wider range of greens, mushrooms, yams, and forest fruits), to collect and process medicinal plants, and gather materials from the forest to make musical instruments and pieces for games. In order to create an atmosphere of celebration, and to support complementary forms of traditional knowledge that are also disappearing, games, dance, and music are included in this project, as are home gardens, the source of many foods, and plants used as both food and medicine.

Food exhibits and awards. Exhibits of traditional foods will be held in local towns. Food awards will be made to celebrate traditional foods and the people who harvest, grow and cook them. Categories will include a range of best local dishes, most diverse home garden, best home cooking, and best fish and other street food.