What Are Some Facts About Pygmies in the Congo?

The pygmies of the northern Congo are a forest-dwelling people who rarely stand taller than 5 feet. Of the four main pygmy peoples, the Aka are the ones who dwell in the Northern Congo. The small stature of the pygmies enables them to move about easier in dense forests and to rapidly dissipate the high heat of the Central African climate.

The pygmies live in nomadic tribes of 15 to 70 people that change locations within the forests several times per year. Their villages are simple clearings that take advantage of the overhanging trees to block sunlight. The Aka survive by hunting wild game and gathering wild plants and honey. They trade honey and game in outside villages for produce and other goods, usually trading with the same family exclusively. Although the pygmies could stay in larger settlements, they prefer the forests for their cleaner, safer conditions.

The female pygmies do most of the gathering, carrying baskets on their backs, while the men hunt and collect honey. Pygmies climb trees up to 100 feet to gather honey from beehives. When they reach the beehives they burn wood to stun the bees, allowing them to break into the hives. The pygmies hunt over 45 species of animals using only bows and arrows. Ivory poachers often hire pygmies as guides for hunting endangered forest elephants.