Why Pygmies Are Dealing Weed to Survive
Indigenous communities in the Congo have harvested marijuana as long as they can remember. Now, with no land to call their own, they turn to selling—with dire consequences.
NORTH KIVU, Congo — Nana sleeps on a pillow of marijuana. It’s a trick his grandfather taught him to make the buds more potent, he explains while tending his sparse plot at the edge of a mud hut village. The current offering of a few dozen plants is unimpressive. But his crop was lush, he says, before Congolese army soldiers came and confiscated it. Across this eastern province, the epicenter of the country’s conflicts, many Pygmy communities grow marijuana, eking out a meager, and dangerous, living.
Marijuana is illegal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which occupies the bullseye of Africa. But after a brutal colonial regime, decades of dictatorship, and more than 20 years of civil war that left