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The younger generation of Cameroonians, pushed out of the cities by unemployment, has found in the bush a refuge where the men can feed their wives and children. Many of these young people have become beekeepers, hoping to put aside money thanks to the sale of honey. The gathering of the honey on evenings of a full moon from one of the most aggressive bees in the world takes on the air of a sacrificial ceremony.

Cameroon - Adamawa, a paradise of bees. Photos by ŠEric Tourneret/LightMediation Text by ŽSylla de Saint Pierre Contact - Thierry Tinacci - LightMediation Photo Agency - +33 (0)6 61 80 57 21 thierry@lightmediation.com


2356-07: The men put on the heavy suit of wood fibres, indispensable for a daytime harvest. The sap from the tree that produces this wood gives off a substance that repels the bees.


2356-01: An antediluvian minibus converted into a bush taxi, trees covered in flowers and a dirt road of red laterite make up a typical scene in the tree-filled savanna on the high plateaus of Adamawa.

2356-02: A beekeeper fastens into a tree a traditional cylindrical hive, made of the veins from raffia leaves, after having coated the sides with beeswax prepared in an infusion of citronella to attract a wild

2356-03: A late afternoon in a village on the route to Ngaoundal. It's the time of day when the trees again begin producing nectar, interrupted during the hours of intense heat.

2356-04: His majesty Aboubakar Mohamadou Mbele, traditional chief of Ngaoundal, surrounded by his council members. The power of the traditional chieftainships is today undergoing a renaissance.


2356-09: The gatherer constructs the scaffolding as he climbs it: a rudimentary but effective technique that only requires transporting the raffia, the wood being cut on the spot.


2356-05: A colony of adansonii bees has been spotted in a tree. Gbayas are sometimes guided by a larva-loving bird, the informer, which leads them right to the nests in exchange for part of the harvest.

2356-06: Scaffolding on one of the giants of the gallery forest: 40 to 50 metres high and up to eight metres in diameter. In the foreground, a man holds a yam tuber found along the way.

2356-07: The men put on the heavy suit of wood fibres, indispensable for a daytime harvest. The sap from the tree that produces this wood gives off a substance that repels the bees.

2356-08: The nest, situated in the hollow of the tree more than fifteen meters off the ground, requires the honey gatherer to make a perilous climb without insurance, exposed to attacks by the bees.


2356-11: The basket woven of veins from the raffia leaf and now full of the precious nectar is lowered to the ground.

2356-10: The honey gatherer extracts the honeycomb with his bare hands, precariously balanced more than fifteen meters above the ground.


2356-09: The gatherer constructs the scaffolding as he climbs it: a rudimentary but effective technique that only requires transporting the raffia, the wood being cut on the spot.

2356-10: The honey gatherer extracts the honeycomb with his bare hands, precariously balanced more than fifteen meters above the ground.

2356-11: The basket woven of veins from the raffia leaf and now full of the precious nectar is lowered to the ground.

2356-12: The gatherer enlarges the hole sheltering the nest with a hatchet in order to insert his hand.


2356-40: The African bee is known for its aggressiveness, increased tenfold by certain odours, like that of perspiration. The smoke from a torch of flaming dried grass drives the bees to take refuge in the back of the hive. The honeycombs are quickly put through the fire to kill the attackers.


2356-13: The honey gatherers'hands, exposed to the bees' stings, are carefully rubbed with the wood fibre to impregnate them with the repelling sap.

2356-14: The gatherer enlarges the hole sheltering the nest with a hatchet in order to insert his hand.

2356-15: The brood cells are separated from the wax combs holding the stores of honey and carried in the baskets of woven raffia lined with banana leaves.

2356-16: After a very poor harvest, the honey gatherers take off the heavy suits that protected them from stings.


2356-20: This type of harvest, taking place during the day and without smoke, is practiced less and less. It comes from a time when, during wars, the fighters took refuge in the forest. Honey and water and some wild yam provided him who knew how to find them several weeks of subsistence.


2356-17: After a very poor harvest, the honey gatherers take off the heavy suits that protected them from stings.

2356-18: Honeycomb.

2356-19: This type of harvest, taking place during the day and without smoke, is practiced less and less. It comes from a time when, during wars, the fighters took refuge in the forest. Honey and water and some

2356-20: This type of harvest, taking place during the day and without smoke, is practiced less and less. It comes from a time when, during wars, the fighters took refuge in the forest. Honey and water and some


2356-24: The tree-filled savannah is favourable to beekeeping as much as cattle rearing.


2356-21: The reward following the harvest.

2356-22: The reward following the harvest.

2356-23: The tree-filled savannah is favourable to beekeeping as much as cattle rearing.

2356-24: The tree-filled savannah is favourable to beekeeping as much as cattle rearing.


2356-33: No centrifuges in the bush: the honey is extracted by pressing.


2356-25: A hive maker brings to the village cylindrical hives that will be covered in palm leaves to enclose them.

2356-26: The high plateaus of Adamawa were originally covered in mountain forest. The slash and burn practiced by the Wodaabe or Bororo and the Fulani cattle breeders created the tree-filled savanna.

2356-27: The entrance to the mosque on Friday. Adamawa, dominated by the Fulani, is mostly Muslim.

2356-28: Conflicts are frequent between Gbayan farmers and Fulani cattle breeders, when the animals destroy the corn and cassava crops.


2356-21: The reward following the harvest.


2356-29: A woman in sumptuous Fulani costume takes her laundry to the pond in the heart of the gallery forest.

2356-30: The market. The baskets of cassava, corn and rice flour are often visited by bees needing pollen. The more pollen-gathering bees there are, the better the flour is reputed to be.

2356-31: In all the villages, the Christian women make mead in the huts, which are also the places where it is drunk.

2356-32: No centrifuges in the bush: the honey is extracted by pressing.


2356-50: Children play an important role in finding the colonies. The whole family takes part in the harvest of the honeycombs, which will be transported in banana leaves before extracting the honey.


2356-33: No centrifuges in the bush: the honey is extracted by pressing.

2356-34: The market. The baskets of cassava, corn and rice flour are often visited by bees needing pollen. The more pollen-gathering bees there are, the better the flour is reputed to be.

2356-35: Nana Sa誰dou is a honey merchant, getting honey from the bush and villages to sell in the big cities and to Nigerian tradesmen.

2356-36: Nana gets beeswax from a village. It's the preferred material of silver and goldsmiths.


2356-25: A hive maker brings to the village cylindrical hives that will be covered in palm leaves to enclose them.


2356-37: Joseph and his wife, who live in the bush, get ready to gather the honey from one of their hives set in a tree.

2356-38: Joseph harvests the hives at night, chest and legs bare to avoid getting bees caught in his clothing.

2356-39: The African bee is known for its aggressiveness, increased tenfold by certain odours, like that of perspiration. The smoke from a torch of flaming dried grass drives the bees to take refuge in the back of

2356-40: The African bee is known for its aggressiveness, increased tenfold by certain odours, like that of perspiration. The smoke from a torch of flaming dried grass drives the bees to take refuge in the back of


2356-41: The African bee is known for its aggressiveness, increased tenfold by certain odours, like that of perspiration. The smoke from a torch of flaming dried grass drives the bees to take refuge in the back of

2356-42: Joseph harvests the hives at night, chest and legs bare to avoid getting bees caught in his clothing. The shape of this hive makes the harvest very harmful because it involves the destruction of the

2356-43: The shape of this hive makes the harvest very harmful because it involves the destruction of the colony.

2356-44: The shape of this hive makes the harvest very harmful because it involves the destruction of the colony.


2356-52: Nana Sa誰dou in negotiations with a Fulani merchant. The honey is packaged in 20 litre jerry cans, or in 50 litre plastic bags for exporting. Approximately two tons of honey are being readied to go to Nigeria.


2356-45: Joseph lights an armful of dried grass to smoke out this colony, which has found refuge in an abandoned termites' nest.

2356-46: Exceptional within the apis melifera family, the African bee often nests in the ground. The nest is destroyed during the harvest, which is carried out at night using a hoe.

2356-47: Exceptional within the apis melifera family, the African bee often nests in the ground. The nest is destroyed during the harvest, which is carried out at night using a hoe.

2356-48: Exceptional within the apis melifera family, the African bee often nests in the ground. The nest is destroyed during the harvest, which is carried out at night using a hoe.


2356-49: Children play an important role in finding the colonies. The whole family takes part in the harvest of the honeycombs, which will be transported in banana leaves before extracting the honey.

2356-50: Children play an important role in finding the colonies. The whole family takes part in the harvest of the honeycombs, which will be transported in banana leaves before extracting the honey.

2356-51: Children play an important role in finding the colonies. The whole family takes part in the harvest of the honeycombs, which will be transported in banana leaves before extracting the honey.

2356-52: Nana Sa誰dou in negotiations with a Fulani merchant. The honey is packaged in 20 litre jerry cans, or in 50 litre plastic bags for exporting. Approximately two tons of honey are being readied to go to


2356-37: Joseph and his wife, who live in the bush, get ready to gather the honey from one of their hives set in a tree.


2356-53: The train linking Ngaoundere to Yaounde is the main overland route from North to South. It bypasses the innumerable police roadblocks, customs and other administrative hassles that are as

2356-54: The train linking Ngaoundere to Yaounde is the main overland route from North to South. It bypasses the innumerable police roadblocks, customs and other administrative hassles that are as

2356-55: Eric in action, fifteen metres above the ground, just before a massive attack that will earn him forty-odd stings

2356-56: In all the villages, the Christian women make mead in the huts, which are also the places where it is drunk.


2356-12: The gatherer enlarges the hole sheltering the nest with a hatchet in order to insert his hand.


Cameroon Adamawa, a paradise of bees. Being the dry season, it is still quite chilly at 9:00 in the morning in this month of February. The bush taxi leaves Ngaoundal, to the south of the Adamawa province, to head into the tree-filled savanna. The mango trees are still flowering; granite outcrops reveal themselves in the large gray rocks. After an hour of bumping along on the red laterite track, Nana Saïdou switches vehicles for a motorcycle taxi, which brings us to Marcus and Oussein's encampment. The latter are beekeepers; Nana comes to collect their honey. A colony of wild bees has been spotted an hour's walk away, sheltered in the recess of a tree trunk. Today, for just this once, the gathering of the honey will take place during the day. Accompanied by two other men, we set off into the gallery forest, which has grown around the course of a small river. It is relatively cool in the shade of the immense trees under which the path snakes. Arriving at the location, the men begin to build the scaffolding that will permit them to access the nest, using the veins from Raffia leaves and wood cut on the spot. During this time, Marcus and Oussein start to put on their protection: the African bee is vindictive and always ready to attack. These strange vegetal armours are part of the ancestral knowledge of the forest. The bark fibers that compose them come from a tree of

which the sap has repulsive properties. The parts of the body that remain uncovered are carefully rubbed with it in order to impregnate the skin and avoid stings during the harvesting. Once kitted out, the two honey hunters scale the scaffolding, constructing it as they go, until they reach the hole in the tree fifteen meters above the ground. The cavity is big enough to reach their hand into. The guardian bees have alerted the threatened colony, which launches a general attack, repelled by the protective garb. Below, the other men wait at a respectful distance? Marcus places the honeycombs in a raffia basket woven on the spot and which Oussein lowers to the ground with the aid of a long rope. The harvest hardly lasts longer than a few dozen minutes; the nest is not very big and has not kept its promise of abundance. Once back on the ground, the honey hunters receive a reward in the form of the succulent nectar, taken right from the honeycomb. The rest is brought back to the camp in baskets lined with banana leaves. The Gbayas have an amazing ally in their hunt for wild honey: the informer bird, Gba-sara in the Gbaya language. Fond of larva, when it sees a possible accomplice, man or ape, it perches itself somewhere in view and emits its particular birdcalltirrr-tirrr! Once spotted, the Gba-sara takes off to perch on another tree, sings again and so on until they have reached the colony of bees. The men never forget to give the bird a part of the brood cells filled with the desired larva, out of respect for this mysterious alliance, without doubt as old as the hunting of honey itself. Retour à Ngaoundal, à la chefferie de 2e degré, où se décident les autorisations de partir en brousse, d'abattre des arbres, et où l'on vient résoudre les éternels conflits qui opposent éleveurs peuls et

cultivateurs gbayas. Sa Majesté Aboubakar Mohamadou Mbele siège au frais de murs épais de pisé, entouré de ses conseillers. La plupart sont assez âgés pour avoir connu l'âge d'or de ce type de récolte, aujourd'hui quasiment disparu. - Quand il y avait la guerre avec les Allemands (la résistance contre la colonisation allemande, dans les années 1880), nos pères devaient se réfugier dans la forêt, explique Sadam, 88 ans. Ils subsistaient avec le miel et l'eau, et un peu d'igname sauvage. Grâce au miel, on peut vivre plusieurs semaines dans la brousse. Même là en 2008, on vit très bien avec le miel et l'eau, on est toujours bien nourris, plus gros et plus puissants que toi (rires) ! Cette « guerre du miel » en temps de conflit interdisait l'usage de la fumée, comme la récolte nocturne au flambeau. Les Gbayas la pratiquaient à l'aide de plantes, protégés par les fibres végétales, ou en utilisant certaines essences au pouvoir narcotique. Désormais, une apiculture semi traditionnelle a cours sur les hauts plateaux, comme celle que pratique Joseph. Joseph a 24 ans et des rêves de musique plein la tête. Comme nombre de jeunes Cameroonais, il est victime du chômage qui sévit dans les villes, malgré un français parfait et une scolarité poursuivie jusqu'en seconde chez les s?urs à Ngaoundal. Depuis quatre ans, il vit en brousse avec son épouse, dans une cabane rudimentaire. Quatre murs, un toit tressé de raphia, deux ouvertures, une unique pièce qu'ils partagent parfois avec la jeune s?ur de sa femme lorsque, Joseph parti cultiver ses champs, la solitude se fait lourde. Les Gbayas pratiquent une culture traditionnelle de subsistance. Ils font pousser du manioc, des bananes, de l'igname ou encore du

maïs. Ils chassent occasionnellement, notamment le python qui abonde ici, comme celui qui vit à quelque 200 mètres de la cabane?Leur seul apport d'argent liquide reste le miel. Ce soir, Joseph part récolter les ruches qu'il a installées sur les arbres de la savane. Il possède une centaine de ces cylindres coniques, fabriqués artisanalement. Une armature de nervures de palmier raphia habillée de palmes, un peu de cire et de miel au fond pour attirer les colonies sauvages, l'abondance de la nature fait le reste : 80 ruches sont déjà occupées. Cette abondance, on la constate dès le départ, qui a lieu sans bagages ni provisions, juste une brassée de l'indispensable raphia. On ramasse en chemin l'igname sauvage, l'eau coule partout, et Joseph déniche une petite colonie d'abeilles trigones sans dard qui concoctent un miel délicieux. Plus loin, un arbre est littéralement assailli d'abeilles. Mystère de la miellée. Sur celui-ci, et aucun autre alentour, les butineuses ivres de nectar virevoltent plusieurs heures avant de l'abandonner subitement. La pleine lune éclaire la savane d'une lumière froide. Joseph s'est dépouillé de ses vêtements, à l'exception d'un short, et monte à l'un des arbres porteurs de ruche, muni d'un flambeau végétal. Après avoir repoussé les abeilles au fond de leur habitat en soufflant la fumée, il introduit la main dans l'ouverture et sort les premières galettes, qu'il passe rapidement à la flamme pour tuer les abeilles. Ces précautions ne lui épargnent pas quelques piqûres, mais évitent une attaque en règle. Sur le chemin du retour, des enfants ont repéré une colonie installée dans une termitière abandonnée. Joseph l'ouvre avec une houe, protégé par le flambeau, et ajoute quelques kilos à sa récolte de la nuit. À la fin de la saison apicole, Joseph a


réuni quelque 900 litres de miel, qui trouveront preneurs dans les grandes villes ou au Nigéria voisin, par l'intermédiaire de Nana, qui fait le lien entre apiculteurs et marchands via le train qui relie Yaoundé à Ngaoundéré. Malgré un mode de récolte dévastateur la colonie ne lui survit généralement pas, le couvain se trouvant à l'entrée des ruches - l'abeille africaine vit de beaux jours dans la savane arborée où elle trouve une manne d'arbres à fleurs. Un paradis d'abeilles. Encadré : Sur les hauts plateaux de Adamawa, la forêt tropicale a fait place à une savane arborée créée par les éleveurs. La plupart des grands fleuves du pays prennent leur source sur ce territoire considéré comme le réservoir d'eau du Cameroon. Ici, les abeilles ont trouvé une terre d'abondance grâce à la prodigalité d'arbres à fleurs, où le varroa, ce parasite venu de Java, est encore inconnu, où les cultures traditionnelles n'ont pas recourt aux pesticides et n'ont pas encore été balayées par OGM et monocultures.


Captions. 2356-01: An antediluvian minibus converted into a bush taxi, trees covered in flowers and a dirt road of red laterite make up a typical scene in the tree-filled savanna on the high plateaus of Adamawa. 2356-02: A beekeeper fastens into a tree a traditional cylindrical hive, made of the veins from raffia leaves, after having coated the sides with beeswax prepared in an infusion of citronella to attract a wild swarm of bees. 2356-03: A late afternoon in a village on the route to Ngaoundal. It's the time of day when the trees again begin producing nectar, interrupted during the hours of intense heat. 2356-04: His majesty Aboubakar Mohamadou Mbele, traditional chief of Ngaoundal, surrounded by his council members. The power of the traditional chieftainships is today undergoing a renaissance. 2356-05: A colony of adansonii bees has been spotted in a tree. Gbayas are sometimes guided by a larva-loving bird, the informer, which leads them right to the nests in exchange for part of the harvest. 2356-06: Scaffolding on one of the giants of the gallery forest: 40 to 50 metres high and up to eight metres in diameter. In the foreground, a man holds a yam tuber found along the way. 2356-07: The men put on the heavy suit of wood fibres, indispensable for a daytime harvest. The sap from the tree that

produces this wood gives off a substance that repels the bees. 2356-08: The nest, situated in the hollow of the tree more than fifteen meters off the ground, requires the honey gatherer to make a perilous climb without insurance, exposed to attacks by the bees. 2356-09: The gatherer constructs the scaffolding as he climbs it: a rudimentary but effective technique that only requires transporting the raffia, the wood being cut on the spot. 2356-10: The honey gatherer extracts the honeycomb with his bare hands, precariously balanced more than fifteen meters above the ground. 2356-11: The basket woven of veins from the raffia leaf and now full of the precious nectar is lowered to the ground. 2356-12: The gatherer enlarges the hole sheltering the nest with a hatchet in order to insert his hand. 2356-13: The honey gatherers'hands, exposed to the bees' stings, are carefully rubbed with the wood fibre to impregnate them with the repelling sap. 2356-14: The gatherer enlarges the hole sheltering the nest with a hatchet in order to insert his hand. 2356-15: The brood cells are separated from the wax combs holding the stores of honey and carried in the baskets of woven raffia lined with banana leaves. 2356-16-17: After a very poor harvest, the honey gatherers take off the heavy suits that protected them from stings.

2356-18: Honeycomb. 2356-19-20: This type of harvest, taking place during the day and without smoke, is practiced less and less. It comes from a time when, during wars, the fighters took refuge in the forest. Honey and water and some wild yam provided him who knew how to find them several weeks of subsistence. 2356-21-22: The reward following the harvest. 2356-23-24: The tree-filled savannah is favourable to beekeeping as much as cattle rearing. 2356-25: A hive maker brings to the village cylindrical hives that will be covered in palm leaves to enclose them. 2356-26: The high plateaus of Adamawa were originally covered in mountain forest. The slash and burn practiced by the Wodaabe or Bororo and the Fulani cattle breeders created the tree-filled savanna. 2356-27: The entrance to the mosque on Friday. Adamawa, dominated by the Fulani, is mostly Muslim. 2356-28: Conflicts are frequent between Gbayan farmers and Fulani cattle breeders, when the animals destroy the corn and cassava crops. 2356-29: A woman in sumptuous Fulani costume takes her laundry to the pond in the heart of the gallery forest. 2356-30: The market. The baskets of cassava, corn and rice flour are often visited by bees needing pollen. The more pollen-gathering bees there are, the better the flour is reputed to be.

2356-31: In all the villages, the Christian women make mead in the huts, which are also the places where it is drunk. 2356-32-33: No centrifuges in the bush: the honey is extracted by pressing. 2356-34: The market. The baskets of cassava, corn and rice flour are often visited by bees needing pollen. The more pollen-gathering bees there are, the better the flour is reputed to be. 2356-35: Nana Sa誰dou is a honey merchant, getting honey from the bush and villages to sell in the big cities and to Nigerian tradesmen. 2356-36: Nana gets beeswax from a village. It's the preferred material of silver and goldsmiths. 2356-37: Joseph and his wife, who live in the bush, get ready to gather the honey from one of their hives set in a tree. 2356-38: Joseph harvests the hives at night, chest and legs bare to avoid getting bees caught in his clothing. 2356-39-40-41-42: The African bee is known for its aggressiveness, increased tenfold by certain odours, like that of perspiration. The smoke from a torch of flaming dried grass drives the bees to take refuge in the back of the hive. The honeycombs are quickly put through the fire to kill the attackers. 2356-43-44: The shape of this hive makes the harvest very harmful because it involves the destruction of the colony. 2356-45: Joseph lights an armful of dried grass to smoke out this colony, which has


found refuge in an abandoned termites' nest. 2356-46-47-48: Exceptional within the apis melifera family, the African bee often nests in the ground. The nest is destroyed during the harvest, which is carried out at night using a hoe. 2356-49-50-51: Children play an important role in finding the colonies. The whole family takes part in the harvest of the honeycombs, which will be transported in banana leaves before extracting the honey. 2356-52: Nana Sa誰dou in negotiations with a Fulani merchant. The honey is packaged in 20 litre jerry cans, or in 50 litre plastic bags for exporting. Approximately two tons of honey are being readied to go to Nigeria. 2356-53-54: The train linking Ngaoundere to Yaounde is the main overland route from North to South. It bypasses the innumerable police roadblocks, customs and other administrative hassles that are as frequent as they are costly. 2356-55: Eric in action, fifteen metres above the ground, just before a massive attack that will earn him forty-odd stings 2356-56: In all the villages, the Christian women make mead in the huts, which are also the places where it is drunk.


Cameroon - Adamawa, a paradise of bees.