The richness of the Ituri forest sustains a wide range of animals, birds, and insects that become a food source for the Mbuti. Their hunting and gathering skills allow them to kill animals and birds, as well as gather mushrooms, roots and other vegetation. Men do the hunting, but women and children play important roles when nets are used. Long nets are spread by waiting hunters, and women and children drive animals into these nets. Although the Mbuti’s traditional way of life is often described as centering on hunting and gathering wild food sources, they rely for a large part of their subsistence on cultivated foods acquired from villagers. Starch foods from the villagers’ gardens make up a significant part of the Mbuti diet. In exchange for food, the Mbuti women provide meat and honey gathered by men from the forest or work in the villagers’ gardens. The Mbuti also provide diverse forest products such as thatching and construction materials, firewood, medicinal plants and edible mushrooms. Men initially set up these trade relations, but the physical exchange of goods is done by women, traditionally the wives those men. Men rarely travel to the village for trading purposes, only doing so to trade for non-food items such as clothing, tobacco and marijuana. Recently, with the influx of immigrants to the villages, some Mbuti have been enticed to over-hunt to meet the villagers’ need for protein, thus depleting the animal population. These immigrants do not usually form exchange relations with the Mbuti, rather they prefer cash payments. Because the Mbuti cannot rely on these trading partners when they require garden food, they often resort to low status jobs such as carrying water for restaurants or washing clothes in order to get the cash they need to buy food.
Hart, John A. and Terese B. Hart
2010 The Mbuti of Zaire. Electronic document, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/democractic-republic-congo/mbuti-zaire. March 18, 2014.
2010 The Mbuti of Northeast Zaire. Electronic document, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/ourpublications/csq/article/the-mbuti-northeast-zaire. March 18, 2014.