Children's daily activities and knowledge acquisition: A case study among the Baka from southeastern Cameroon

Sandrine Gallois, Romain Duda, Barry Hewlett, Victoria Reyes-García

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35 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 Gallois et al. Background: The acquisition of local knowledge occurs through complex interactions between individual and contextual characteristics: as context changes, so it changes the acquisition of knowledge. Contemporary small-scale societies facing rapid social-ecological change provide a unique opportunity to study the relation between social-ecological changes and the process of acquisition of local knowledge. In this work, we study children's involvement in subsistence related activities (i.e., hunting and gathering) in a context of social-ecological change and discuss how such involvement might condition the acquisition of local knowledge during childhood. Methods: We interviewed 98 children from a hunter-gatherer society, the Baka, living in two different villages in southeastern Cameroon and assessed their involvement in daily activities. Using interviews, we collected self-reported data on the main activities performed during the previous 24h. We describe the frequency of occurrence of daily activities during middle childhood and adolescence and explore the variation in occurrence according to the sex, the age group, and the village of residency of the child. We also explore variation according to the season in which the activity is conducted and to the predicted potential of the activity for the acquisition of local knowledge. Results: Baka children and adolescents engage in subsistence-related activities (i.e., hunting and gathering) and playing more frequently than in other activities (i.e., traditional tales or schooling). Gender differences in children's subsistence activities emerge at an early age. Engagement in activities also varies with age, with adolescents spending more time in agricultural activities, modern leisure (i.e., going to bars), and socializing than younger children. When conducting similar activities, adolescents use more complex techniques than younger children. Conclusion: Subsistence activities, which present a high potential for transmission of local knowledge, continue to be predominant in Baka childhood. However, Baka children also engage in other, non-traditional activities, such as modern forms of leisure, or schooling, with a low potential for the transmission of local knowledge. Baka children's involvement in non-traditional activities might have unforeseen impacts on the acquisition of local knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Article number86
JournalJournal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2015


  • Cultural transmission
  • Embodied knowledge
  • Ethnoecology
  • Hunter-Gatherers
  • Learning


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