In Cameroon's Rain Forest, a Fragile Way of Life

By James Whitlow Delano - 2014-04-03T22:22:38Z

Photograph by James Whitlow Delano for Bloomberg.com

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Oil palm trees are native to West Africa. Southwestern Cameroon is on the edge of the region formerly known as the Oil Rivers (because of palm oil, not petroleum), extending from the Niger River Delta of Nigeria into Cameroon. In the 1870s, the British, Germans and French jockeyed for control to break the cartel of middlemen who held a monopoly over palm oil, a sought-after commodity to make lubricants for machinery and soap.

Here, a villager in Ayang Atemako cuts down a bundle of oil palm fruit on the village's own small farm.

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