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Ethnobotanical survey of wild edible plants used by Baka people in southeastern Cameroon

Billong Fils, PE and Afiong Nana, N and Betti, JL and Njimbam, OF and Womeni, ST and Avila Martin, E and Ros Brull, G and Okale, R and Fa, Julia and Funk, SM (2020) Ethnobotanical survey of wild edible plants used by Baka people in southeastern Cameroon. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 16 (64). ISSN 1746-4269

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Abstract

Background Forest inhabitants worldwide, and Indigenous Peoples especially, have depended for generations on plants and animals harvested in these ecosystems. A number of Baka Pygmy populations in south-eastern Cameroon became sedentarised in the 1950s, but still rely on hunting and gathering to meet their basic needs. The use of wild edible plants (WEP) by these communities remains largely undocumented. In this study we document the diversity of WEP used by Baka people in dense rainforests in the Mintom region. The area still contains relatively undisturbed forests areas, just south of the Dja Biosphere Reserve, one of the most important protected areas in the Congo Basin. Methods We conducted two ethnobotanical surveys in 2019 in four villages on the Mintom road. In the first survey, we interviewed a total of 73 individuals to determine WEP usage. In our second survey we specifically quantified WEP harvested and consumed daily in a number of households over a two-week period during the major raining season, when use of forest products is highest. Specimens of all recorded plants were collected and identified at the National Herbarium of Cameroon. Results We documented 88 plant species and 119 unique species/plant organ/recipes in 1,519 different citations. A total of 61 genera and 43 families were recorded. Excluding 14 unidentified wild yam species, 17 WEP species had not been reported in previous ethnobotanical surveys of the Baka. Our results showed that cultivated starchy plant foods make up a significant proportion of their daily nutritional intake. Conclusions A high diversity of WEP are consumed by the studied Baka communities. The study area is likely to be significant in terms of WEP diversity since 18 out of the 30 ‘key’ NTFP in Cameroon were quoted. Documentation of the use of WEP by Indigenous communities is vital to ensure the continuity of traditional knowledge and future food security.

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