25 Sep 2005
The Story of Ibang
Ibang is the indigenous (Moghamo) name given to a wild edible vegetable that was once very common in Batibo Sub division of Cameroon. This vegetable could be considered the wild equivalent of njama njama that is cultivated and consumed in many parts of Cameroon today.
When growing up as kids in the sixties and seventies, ibang was very abundant. It could be found on hills, in farmlands and virtually anywhere that other grass thrived. There was a little bird that locals believed was the propagator of ibang. This bird had an appropriate Moghamo name anyi-bang (the one that defecates ibang). Because ibang was abundant and could be harvested by anyone free of charge, there is an expression in Moghamo language that talks of ‘harvesting ibang’ which means obtaining a valuable thing free of charge. (See image of ibang at this link)
Recently, I made a trip to Batibo to find out how ibang and anyi-bang were faring. My findings were quite surprising. I tried on my own but could neither locate ibang nor anyi-bang. I had to enlist the help of some village residents to locate some small quantity of ibang because this herb has become very scarce. I could not locate the bird anyi-bang but I was assured that a limited number of these birds are still around.
The story of ibang is a clear reflection of the extent to which our environment has undergone profound change within a very short time. The farming methods of the Moghamo people are primarily responsible for most of that ecological devastation. They mostly practice shifting cultivation that entails extensive clearing and burning of forests. In addition, the shrubs that were once common on the hills have been cut over a period of time and used as support for climbing plants such as yams.
If the theory that ibang is propagated by anyi-bang is correct, I would assume that the destruction of the forest and hill top shrubs must probably have dealt a devastating blow to anyi-bang. Anyi-bang is going extinct certainly due to habitat loss and consequently ibang is becoming scarce because there is no one to defecate it. In my discussion with village residents, they admitted that so much flora and fauna have vanished within the last three decades that they have lost count
Copyrightã 2005 by Njei moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah