Learn more about Njem
|Image:Njem man making shelf.jpg Njem man from Ngoila making a shelf for his home.|
|Total population||Total: 7,000 (2003)<ref>"Njyem", Ethnologue. Ethnologue does not give a date for the 3,500 Njyem speakers it lists as living in the Congo.</ref>|
|Regions with significant populations||Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo|
|Religion|| Christian <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Bajwe, Bakwele, Bekol, Benkonjo, Bomwali, Konabembe, Mabi, Maka, Mbimu, Ngumba, Nzime, Sso</td>
The Njem (or Ndjem) are an ethnic group inhabiting the rain forest zone of southern Cameroon and northern Republic of the Congo. In Cameroon, the Njem live along the road running south from Lomié to the town of Ngoila and into far northern Congo. Their territory lies south of the Nzime people and north of the Bakwele, both related groups. Ngoila is the largest Njem settlement. They speak Njyem, one of the Makaa-Njem Bantu languages.
The Makaa-Njem-speaking peoples entered present-day Cameroon from the Congo River basin or modern Chad between the 14th and 17th centuries. By the 19th century, they inhabited the lands north of the Lom River in the border region between the present-day East and Adamawa Provinces. Not long thereafter, however, the Beti-Pahuin peoples invaded these areas under pressure from the Vute and Mbum, themselves fleeing Fulani (Fula) warriors. The Makaa-Njem speakers were forced south.
 Lifestyle and settlement patterns
The majority of Njem are subsistence farmers. Their settlements tend to follow existing roads, making the typical village a linear string of houses facing the road and backed by forest. Fields are typically very small, usually planted in clearings cut out of the forest with axes and machetes and then burned. Major crops include manioc, plantains, and maize, with bananas, cocoyams, groundnuts, and various fruits raised in smaller quantities. Livestock are typically small animals that may be left to roam unattended, such as goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens. A smaller number of Njem have obtained financial success in the cocoa and coffee plantations of Cameroon's forest region.
Hunting is another common pursuit, especially in the smaller villages. Traps are the primary tool employed, though firearms are increasingly used today. Bushmeat caught in this way is becoming an important, if unsustainable, source of income for many people.
Some Njem groups share a codependent relationship with Cameroon's Baka pygmies. The Njem trade manufactured goods and cultivated crops for pygmy-supplied forest game. In recent years, the Njem have increasingly exploited their pygmy neighbours, however, both for cheap labour and as a sort of living tourist attraction.
The traditional Njem house is a rectangular structure made of mud bricks held together by a bamboo frame. The A-shaped roof is covered in raffia palm leaves, though tin or aluminium roofing is today becoming more common. Wealthier Njem and those living in larger villages and towns often live in modern concrete-block houses, as well.
Social organisation begins with the family, which consists of a man, his wife or wives, and his children. Several related families often live together to form a village. At the next level are several villages that claim common ancestry to form a clan. In the past, these clan identities were of the utmost importance, determining one's friends, lineage, and potential spouses. This clan identity is much weaker today, however. Each clan is headed by a chief, though the modern chiefs are little more than figureheads.
The vast majority of Njem practice at least nominal Christianity. Vestiges of their native animism still persist, however, especially in the realm of traditional medicine. Folk superstitions also remain, such as belief in witchcraft.
- Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005): "Makaa-Njem (A80)". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th ed. Dallas: SIL International. Accessed 7 June 2006.
- Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005): "Njyem". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th ed. Dallas: SIL International. Accessed 7 June 2006.
- Neba, Aaron, Ph.D. (1999) Modern Geography of the Republic of Cameroon, 3rd ed. Bamenda: Neba Publishers.
- Ngima Mawoung, Godefroy (2001) "The Relationship Between the Bakola and the Bantu Peoples of the Coastal Regions of Cameroon and their Perception of Commercial Forest Exploitation". African Study Monographs, Suppl. 26: 209–235.
- Ngoh, Victor Julius (1996) History of Cameroon Since 1800. Limbé: Presbook.