The Mbuti, also called Bambuti, includes several ethnic pygmy peoples of Central Sudan origin and Bantu languages living in the Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These people hunt and gather and live in small groups of up to sixty people. Estimates indicate that there are people between 30,000 and 40.00 Mbuti. There are at least four Mbuti cultures, including AH, Efe and Asua, which face various environmental challenges that make life in the forest more difficult.
The Ituri is a tropical rainforest and has high annual rainfall that sometimes reach even seventy inches. This forest is located in the north of the country. The forest covers an approximate area of square miles 27027.15 and has a very short dry season, not exceeding two months. Due to the humid and humid conditions, Mbuti people and their animals run frequent health risks. Deadly diseases have caused chaos not only to humans but also to animals and plants, thus threatening the survival of this minority group. Too much rain also leads to decreased food sources due to the lack of an optimal climate balance for plants to survive.
The Mbuti live in organized villages called groups with each house that includes a single-family unit. A typical house is a small, round and temporary hut, made of long batten walls and large leaves that form the roofs. These villages are normally scattered and located at a good distance from each other. Just before the start of each dry season, people leave the village and enter the forest where they camp, feed and even set up animal traps.
The Bambuti believe that the forest is their mother and their father, as it forms the core of their existence and gives them food, shelter and clothing. Being hunters and gatherers, Bambuti depend on small animals such as ants, crabs, snails, fish and larvae. They also eat larger animals like antelopes, monkeys and pigs. Their plant foods include fruits, berries, roots, nuts and leaves, as well as animal products like honey. Each band has a designated hunting area and both sexes participate in hunting and gathering. Of importance, the Mbuti prefer the giant forest pig that they hunt and sell to neighboring communities but do not eat because they believe that the meat of the animal is not good and can make them sick. This pig is a nocturnal animal that is disturbing at night, so the Mbuti consider him bad for the stomach. Bambuti hunting equipment includes nets, traps, bows and arrows. In most cases, children and women assist in hunting by guiding the animals to the traps.
Social, economic and political organization
Among the Bambuti, lineages are patrilineal. Mbuti women are mainly involved in cooking, collecting water, cleaning and repairing huts, while both sexes take care of children. The whole village has the responsibility to bring food and everyone shares the same food. On religion, everything revolves around the forest. Bambuti believes that the forest is their protector, supplier and healer. All religious rituals such as the burial of an important person take place inside the forest. To get married, a man only has to hunt an antelope and present it to the bride’s parents, after which they start a family without any formal ceremony. Polygamy is present among the Mbuti but it is not common, however, The exchange of inter-band sisters is a common form of marriage. The Mbuti believe that children should be the product of a marriage.
The Bambuti also participate in barter trade with neighboring Bantu groups, exchanging goods of wood, iron and other agricultural objects in exchange for the food they receive from the forest.
The children do not have a hereditary political structure or a ruling class. They are egalitarian and the band is the highest decision-making body that often manifests itself during the hunt. The best hunters make most decisions during the hunt because of their superior ability, but on a daily basis, men and women have an equal voice in community matters. The Mbuti make decisions through consensus.
Challenges facing the Bambuti people
In addition to diseases and bad weather, Mbuti’s natural habitat faces modern challenges such as deforestation, extraction and forest reclamation for agriculture. The country also continues to face various civil wars that have prevented the legal protection of their habitat. Previously, the Bambuti faced the Genocide threat from the rebel forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during the Effect le tableau operation (“cancellation of the board.