I arrived in Central Africa Republic during the rainy season and was immediately overwhelmed by the dense, humid, dark tropical forest.
The air was humid and the giant trees were dripping continuously, without ever being able to dry out from the violent downpours that occur with monotonous regularity.
It was something new for me, the ground was constantly wet and muddy because of the rains, there was no dust as I was used to in my beloved Kalahari.
I immediately discovered what the forest has to offer its inhabitants, the BaAka. They have an extraordinary knowledge of the forest and live only by its resources, although in recent years their life and survival in the forest is constantly threatened because of the logging concessions in the area, poaching and the fact that more people have reached the area because of the political crisis that has affected the Central Africa Republic.
One of the plants the BaAka use the most is “le Koko”.
Its leaves, very rich in protein, are usually finely chopped and cooked with meat or fish. They are added to the sauce prepared for the gozo just a few minutes before the end of cooking.
The koko is mostly sold by BaAka women or given in exchange for cassava.
Koko leaves are taken from the plant tree two by two and rolled together to form a big cigar.
The koko is a wild Vine, and is found in the humid tropical forest of Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. The koko grows in all seasons in shaded areas and typically spreads along forest floors.
Koko leaves also have medicinal properties.
The leaves are a remedy for nausea, constipations, sore throat and to ease childbirth and they are chewed to mitigate the effects of drunkenness.
There are so many different types of plants and trees in the forest, and mushrooms that grow and give out ancient perfumes that gently spread in the darkness of the forest.
Only a few days after my arrival, a sense of peace pervaded my senses.