To Save a People. . .
1960: Only 3,800 Efé Pygmies Remaining -
What led to the Founding of The Pygmy Fund

Story and Photography by JEAN-PIERRE HALLET

On June 26, 1957, after great difficulties, I managed to liberate every Efé (the only true, pure-blooded African Pygmies in the Eastern Ituri Forest) from these oppressive bonds of serfdom by obtaining from the Nande chieftains of Beni an official "emancipation proclamation." At the same time I established for the Efé Pygmies a realistic self-help program based on the progressive introduction of agriculture and better sanitation to compensate for the loss of their forest home.

During these eighteen months in the Ituri Forest, I taught the allegedly unteachable Pygmies how to read, write, and do simple arithmetic, mainly for the purpose of proving that they were as able to learn as their former masters -- if not more so. I showed them crop rotation and use of improved selected seeds enabling them to compete on a more equal footing with neighboring "tall" tribes.

In 1960 political independence was granted to the Belgian Congo, and with it chaos, rebellion and civil war. By nature nonaggressive, my Pygmy friends were the first to suffer. They were further diminished to less than 15,000 souls. Victims of new harassments -- having to pay income tax, being drafted into the Zaïrian army, bearing the enforced loss of cultural identity -- they kept on dying at an increasing rate despite my lonely efforts. Then, only some 3,800 "pure-blooded" Pygmies remained.

In Africa, more than one hundred and fifty thousand square miles of national parks and game reserves are dedicated to the preservation of flora and fauna. To date, not a single square mile has been set aside to aid the survival of the Pygmies, Central Africa's oldest known surviving people.

The inhabitable scattered "left-over" areas from their former glorious forest home have been reduced, at present, to less than one percent of that reserved for the African animals. I believe that the Pygmies have at least the right to survive in this small remnant of their ancestral land. I am now heading THE PYGMY FUND, the world's only nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the Efé Pygmies from extinction, preserving their cultural values, natural dignity and securing their original forest land.

Top of the Page 1960:
Only 3,800 Surviving
1972: Documentary Film
"The Little Giants"
Presidential End Hunger Award
Poem: "People of Love" The Eighteen Sins of Man Contributions to
The Pygmy Fund