Scholars have taken a keen interest in the social and cultural meanings of the African landscape in the reconstruction of the continent’s history (Giblin, 1992; Spear, 1997; Wagner, 1995). But how much did Africans know of their environmental past? This article explores the indigenous history of ecology, focusing on the medicinal forest (ak’u mii-fii) and the mythical python (iigw-im) and their link with livelihood and sustainability in Kom, Cameroon. The paper argues that the Kom people have always been conserving their forests since the pre-colonial era. During the colonial period and especially in the 1930s many hectares of land including the sacred forest and the sites of the mythical python were carved out as forest reserves. The paper will demonstrate the extent to which colonial and post-colonial forms of conservation have ignored indigenous notions of forest conservation in Kom. It shows that Kom citizens have continued to protect their forest. Using archival sources and secondary material, along with oral interviews, this paper explores the environmental history of sustainable livelihood in Cameroon taking Kom society as a case study.

Author Bio(s)

Walter Gam Nkwi holds a Ph.D. in Social History from the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. He lectures in the Department of History, University of Buea, Cameroon, and since 2015 has been the Faculty Officer in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, University of Buea, Cameroon. His research interests include migration, conflict, and cultural and technological history of Africa.