She’d recently stayed with a community of Baka hunter-gatherers for a few days in a remote part of southern Cameroon a few miles from UNESCO’s 526, 000 hectare World Heritage Dja reserve. Shocked by the threats that the rainforest there was (and still is) facing and, with it, the ‘double whammy effect’ on global warming. She was determined to do anything she could to bring this global issue to the fore and wanted me to get involved. I agreed immediately.
The ‘Rainforest Garden’ raised awareness of rainforests beyond the Amazon and highlighted the pressures faced by all those who live in them as well as focusing on the broader impact, in terms of climate, that the destruction of rainforests will bring.
Logging, and its attendant trade in illegal bushmeat, means that indigenous people struggle to find food. As pressures on traditional hunting grounds increase some indigenous hunter-gatherers have started to cultivate productive plants and those were also included in our Rainforest Garden.
Margerite Akom, Jeanne Noah and Mathilde Zang from the Baka and Bagyeli “hunter-gatherer” peoples, travelled from Cameroon to help set up the red-earthed exhibit planted with tropical plants and featuring a forest dweller’s mongulu shelter.
An AK47 assault rifle, mining gear and a chainsaw in the display gave a nod to the plight of the indigenous forest people whose departure from the forest as a result of deforestation and mining have left them in a quandary over land rights, housing, education, healthcare and adrift from their traditions.
The road to delivering the garden was circuitous, difficult and fraught with highs and lows both emotionally and financially, but the unswerving support of Green and Blacks founders Craig Sams and Jo Fairley kept us going in delivering our combined message.
Together, we achieved a gold medal, and an official visit by Her Majesty The Queen.
My first Chelsea garden, one whose memories I shall always treasure, and whose message still rings clear.
Plants supplied by Indoor Garden Design.
Build by Garden House Design.