In the impoverished Democratic Republic of the Congo, members of the indigenous people commonly referred to as Pygmies have turned to a surprising line of work: dealing pot. As National Geographic reports in an in-depth feature, the marijuana they cultivate illegally in the forest represents one of the few ways they can rise above the most dire standards of living. Among a group where an income of $1 a day is common, a family can bring in up to $100 a week, depending on how many plants they have. "Because of selling this marijuana, our children can get some food," says a father of 10 who has no job. The Pygmies harvest their crop inside the protected Virunga National Forest, their ancestral territory, always trying to steer clear of the park's armed rangers.
The Pygmies say medicinal and recreational use of marijuana goes back generations, and they've apparently learned well. The story quotes one dealer in the capital of Goma who says the best strains of pot he receives from lawless territories come from the Pygmies, who let it sit for months for added potency. They often sell it to soldiers or police officers who patrol their region, never knowing if the transaction will end with thanks from a happy customer or a confiscation and fine. "If you have money, you pay, if not, they beat you until they get tired," says the chief of one village. "He has a gun; I have an arrow." Read the full story here. (Read more marijuana stories.)