ExCiTeS EMPOWERING BAKA IN COLLECTING DATA ON NATURAL RESOURCES
“In the forest, when I come across signs of animals, I can record such data in the Sapelli. I also collect data on natural resources such as wild yams, honey and medicinal plants. I simply click the illustration on the phone that corresponds to what I have identified in the field,” says Mambombé.
Mambomé is one of a dozen Baka in six pilot communities around the Park using the Sapelli device for data collection, within the context of an Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) project being tested in the Baka communities in the periphery of Lobéké supported by the London College and WWF Germany.
The implementation of the project follows prior consultation meetings in Baka villages and participatory design and training on the use of the Sapelli smartphones, involving Baka community agents.
Thanks to the ExCiteS project and the Sapelli device, the indigenous forest people now play a vital role in conservation work around Lobeke. “The smartphone application allows the indigenous communities to collect detailed information on their natural resources areas, poaching signs, and human-wildlife conflicts in and around the park,” states Romanus Ikfuingei, Program Mannager for the WWF Jengi TNS.
So far, up to 70 percent of data collected related to NTFPs, while the others are linked to poaching and human rights abuses.
The Baka, however, face challenges in the use of the Sapelli smartphone. “Some Baka engaged in the project have difficulties using the device, making it difficult to record as much information as they should. Other natural factors relating to the functionality of the equipment pose problems. There is, therefore, need for more training and guidance,” states Yvette Mongondji, a Baka woman who works as WWF Community Facilitator.
To ensure greater participation in the project and effective use of the Sapelli smartphones, Lobeke Park management organized a training workshop in Mambele in March 2023, to build the capacity of Baka to enable them to better collect data on natural resources. Twenty Baka participated in the training, with four each from five pilot communities. The training had practical sessions in the field to ensure that the IP understand the process of data collection.
The ExCiteS is a Citizen Science project that brings together scholars from diverse fields who have contributed to develop guiding theories, methodologies and tools such as the Sapelli smartphone that is supporting communities to engage in activities aimed to address local concerns and needs.