Life on the edge; the Mbororo of Cameroon

The Mbororo are a semi-nomadic cattle-rearing community who have faced discrimination since arriving in Cameroon in the early 1900s. They are a sub-ethnic group of the largest nomadic group in the world, the Fulani, who are spread across West, Central and North Africa.

Many Mbororo live isolated in small, remote communities and come in to conflict with neighbouring majority communities who despise them as illegal immigrants or land-grabbing invaders.

Numbering some 1.5 million, many Mbororo are illiterate and ignored by state authorities and have little access to basic services such as schools, hospitals, clean water and electricity.

Central to the Mbororo lifestyle are their cows, much-prized and signifiers of a family's wealth and standing. Their cattle-grazing lifestyle however means that they are frequently at odds with settled farmers as competition for land and resources is intense.

MRG's Media Officer, Emma Eastwood, recently paid a visit to Cameroon to meet with our partner organisation, the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, who support the Mbororo through development projects and legal cases. To find out more about the Mbororo way of life and the challenges they face, she visited a number of villages inaccessible by road, in the central region of the country.

Gallery

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Women are in charge of the cooking in Mbororo communities, yet they have no electricity or running water and have to cook outside without even a rudimentary stove.
 MRG-GAL-1977
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Mbororo society is Muslim and polygamous. Women and men live relatively separate lives with tasks strictly divided according to gender.
 MRG-GAL-1978
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White Fulani cattle, who thrive in this tough environment and are resistant to many pests, are central to Mbororo life.
 MRG-GAL-1979
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Elders from the village tell MRG how they come into conflict when their cattle stray onto the land of nearby farmers. One showed us his hand which had a missing finger after a dispute involving a machete with his neighbour.
 MRG-GAL-1980
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Mbororo families in this village suffer grinding poverty and have virtually no possessions apart from a few cooking pots and basic furniture
 MRG-GAL-1981
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Mbororo often tattoo their faces as part of a traditional cultural practise. Those who can afford to are also embracing more modern technology, useful for knowing the local market price for beef.
 MRG-GAL-1982
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The women say that although polygamy means that there are often petty rivalries between wives, it also allows for their children to be cared for by the extended family should anything happen to one of them.
 MRG-GAL-1983
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This region of Cameroon is hot and wet; pasture is relatively plentiful for the cattle. Mbororo in the northern Sahel region of the country face grave problems finding water and adequate grazing.
 MRG-GAL-1984
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Mbororo women often marry and have children at an early age. Life expectancy in Cameroon is 52, but Mbororo frequently die at a younger age.
 MRG-GAL-1985
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A typical Mbororo hut
 MRG-GAL-1986
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In the centre is the traditional Mbororo leader of the wider area, flanked by his closest advisors.
 MRG-GAL-1987
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Children in the traditional leader's village
 MRG-GAL-1988
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Date: 21/07/2011

Countries:

Cameroon

Categories:

Culture and Tradition
Poverty
Indigenous Peoples
Land Rights

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