Deep in the jungle in the Democratic Republic of Congo, pygmy tribes sell cannabis to survive
Indigenous communities in Congo in Central Africa have harvested marijuana for as long as they can remember. These communities are forced to make a living the way they know how to… like selling marijuana. It is a way of life passed down from generation to generation. Now, without land, without any other means of work, the Pygmies harvest cannabis and sell it to neighboring villages, at their own risk ...
Marijuana still illegal
There are about 600 000 native Pygmies living in the Congo, and like most indigenous people, they are often subjugated and subjected to the poorest conditions in the country. According to National Geographic, they survive about half the income of the country's non-natives (although they are also predominantly poor). Pygmies live mainly on the outskirts of Virunga National Park.
Virunga National Park is a 7 square kilometer stretch of jungle located near the Congo's border between Rwanda and Uganda. It is world famous for its beauty and diversity. But it remains plagued by many social and political issues, slavery and corruption.
Sometimes, the Congolese army will storm villages and steal marijuana from the Pygmies. Cannabis is still illegal in the Democratic Republic of Congo… However, the Pygmies never know if the authorities will be friendly and buy their crop… or if they come to the village to confiscate their marijuana. This can make life unpredictable for the Pygmies ...
A dangerous culture
Many Pygmies cannot afford to stop growing and selling cannabis. As dangerous as it is in the Congo, it is their only source of income.
Pygmies will secretly plant marijuana seeds in Virunga National Park. But the indigenous peoples of the region have survived here for hundreds of years. They do not intend to follow the borders of the government, which has done little to help their communities.
In order to harvest this secret culture, farmers will walk through the jungle in the wee hours of the morning. The Pygmies have learned to hide their plants in the foliage and to spot them using complex and fairly secretive trail systems, markers. But it is also very dangerous and, as Survival International tells a National Geographic, Pygmies are often "victims of harassment, arrests, beatings, torture and even death at the hands of anti-poaching squads" .
The sale of marijuana has other consequences for the Pygmies. After rebel violence led to massive displacement in the region in the mid-2000s, an official list of Pygmy families was drawn up. This is to receive aid, food, water and health services. But families had to stop selling marijuana… The majority of Pygmy families, whose livelihoods depend on selling marijuana, refused.
A culture however medical
Now only families who do not grow marijuana are receiving this assistance. But the communities that continue to sell marijuana don't intend to stop anytime soon. Not only is this their only economic option, the Pygmies also use marijuana for medicinal purposes. This is to cure stomach aches, flu or other basic illnesses. Researchers have even found that using marijuana can lead to a decrease in bodily parasites.
For them, the difficulties caused by their profession are a necessary evil. In addition, marijuana is deeply rooted at home. Just as the knowledge of the culture of cannabis that was transmitted to them by their parents. Thus, they will transmit the tradition to the children of the next generation.