19.03.2019. We are the language we speak. It is through language that we communicate with the world, define who we are, express our history and values; learn, defend our rights and participate in all aspects of society.
With this in mind, the United Nations declared 2019 The Year of Indigenous Languages to celebrate unique systems of knowledge and values that enrich cultural diversity. On International Day of Forests, celebrated worldwide on 21 March, INTERHOLCO stresses the importance of providing new opportunities to indigenous peoples (often referred to as Pygmys, a derogative name that should be abandoned), according to the theme retained for 2019, Forests and Education.
Already 10 years ago (in 2009), INTERHOLCO, together with the ‘Center for the Education of Indigenous Peoples’ (CEPA), opened the doors of the first school for indigenous pupils in the Republic of Congo. Called ‘Langounai, Idjouki, Pangonai’, which means ‘Wake up!’ in three indigenous languages (Mikaya, Bamgombé and Mbenzelé, respectively), the school is situated in the village of Ngombé, at a short distance from the sawmill.
The ‘Wake up!’ school enrols more than 100 indigenous children, aged 9 to 14.
Interholco supports their families by taking over the whole school costs, in the Republic of Congo usually monthly fees are necessary to even access public schools.
In 2014, the school administration could finally be handed over to the State (normally the rightful operator); INTERHOLCO, however, continued to support with maintaining the building and offering meals to the children.
According to the United Nations, language is pivotal in preserving one’s identity and to build one’s future. It is also key for peacebuilding, reconciliation, and sustainable development.
Reaffirming the importance of cultural and linguistic continuity, in 2018 INTERHOLCO refurbished the school and built a facility to properly stock food, in addition to a well, making sure indigenous children have access to healthy food and clean, drinking water.
Indigenous Peoples in the INTERHOLCO forest concession
A big part of the population inhabiting the concession that INTERHOLCO manages sustainably are indigenous peoples, belonging in particular to the Mikaya, Bangombé and to a lesser extent, Mbenzelé and Balouma ethnic groups.
Some of the indigenous peoples living within the forest concession have retained a semi-nomadic life-style. Accordingly, indigenous peoples split their time between village and forest. The forest is where they hunt (a traditional, customary right that INTERHOLCO fully supports), their staple food being the blue duiker, a forest antelope. In addition to hunting, the search for wild honey and the harvest of fruit and other forest products are essential to their ancestral traditions. Close to the village is where crops are grown by villagers, in portions of land that are specifically set aside for use by the local communities and indigenous peoples.
Since 1962, INTERHOLCO is serving an international clientele with high-quality hardwood – Made in Africa.
With annual sales of about EUR 65 Mio., the Swiss-based INTERHOLCO is one of the leading international suppliers of sustainable hardwood, from sourcing and processing to high quality hardwood products: logs, lumber, laminated scantlings and more. In addition to three processing sawmills, large kiln facilities, a lamination and planing mill, INTERHOLCO manages an FSC-certified 1.1 million ha forest concession in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), employing a diverse dedicated global workforce of about 1’000 people. INTERHOLCO serves over 50 countries world-wide, from importers to industrial end-users.
INTERHOLCO is committed to making sustainably harvested timber from Africa the norm, as a renewable material that improves people’s livelihoods in the region and protects the forest and its precious wildlife. INTERHOLCO supports the Fair&Precious initiative in its goal to increase market recognition of sustainable hardwood from Africa based on technical, environmental and sustainability considerations.
Communications contact INTERHOLCO
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82