The Batwa tribe - Keepers of the forest
As the original dwellers of this ancient jungle, the Batwa were known as “The Keepers of the Forest.” The history of these small-statured people is long and rich
The Batwa people, also known as pygmies, live in the Bwindi Forest Reserve in the Kisoro and Kabale Districts of South-Western Uganda. The Albertine Rift region is recognized as an important eco-region, and the Bwindi Impermeable Forest is located there. The Batwa are thought to have migrated from the DRC's Ituri Forest in search of wild animals to hunt, hence the name Kisoro, which literally means "area occupied by wild animals."The Batwa live in small huts mainly made from sticks and grass, and their number was estimated at 6,700 in a 2014 estimate by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
The Batwa's past
The Batwa were originally forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers who lived in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, and they are widely regarded as the region's first inhabitants. " The Batwa became squatters, living on the outskirts of society as their traditional forest lands and territories were taken over by agro-industries and conservation agencies. The establishment of the Mountain Gorilla National Parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga in 1991 allowed the authorities to completely evict the Batwa from the forest. In Uganda today, the Batwa face systematic and pervasive discrimination. Many Batwa died during the early years of exile, and the tribe’s very existence was severely threatened.
The Batwa's future
For the Batwa, life is still very uncertain. The UOBDU and other NGOs are lobbying the government for adequate compensation for the displaced communities, as well as for the restoration of their rights of access to the forests on which their livelihoods are based, but progress is slow. However, there is reason to be optimistic: Batwa children are now attending school and integrating into local communities, and increased awareness of the Batwa's plight has prompted more attention to be paid to helping them solve their problems.
Projects like these cultural visits also provide an opportunity for the Batwa to directly benefit from the tourists who visit Uganda's famous gorillas on a daily basis. Opportunities for both sides to benefit will only grow as the community learns more about what they can offer and visitors learn more about the incredible experience available. It's not much, but it's something. Spending time with the Batwa is a rewarding introduction to a proud community that will leave you inspired and moved.
Visiting the Batwa
Small Batwa villages, usually with no more than a half-dozen families, can be found on the outskirts of Bwindi and Mgahinga, as well as near Lake Bunyonyi. Because many of them welcome visitors, your experience may differ depending on where you go.
Batwa Experience Tour:
The Batwa Experience, a hands-on adventure created by displaced Batwa pygmies to educate their children and share their amazing heritage and traditions with the world, is eco-tourism at its best. Step back in time to see how the Batwa have lived for millennia in Bwindi, one of the world's most beautiful jungles and home to the world's most famous mountain gorillas. Discover how the Batwa lived and hunted, learn about medicinal plants, and keep an eye out for animals and birds on an incredible day hike in the rain forest with Batwa guides. You'll be treated to ancient legends and traditional songs, as well as energetic dances and a mock hunting party. You can even put your skills to the test by using a Batwa bow and arrow.
Advice for your visit
You may be approached by independent 'guides' who offer to take you to a Batwa community when you arrive in the area. These unregulated tours could be exploitative, so avoid them. Only participate in official tours led by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, or the Batwa Development Programme. For more information, inquire at your lodging or at the Batwa Craft shop near the Bwindi entrance.
“Tours - Welcome to the Batwa Experience.” Welcome to the Batwa Experience, batwaexperience.org, 8 Apr. 2020, https://batwaexperience.org/tours/.
“Echuya Batwa - Wikipedia.” Echuya Batwa - Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org, 1 Mar. 2012, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echuya_Batwa.
What's Your Reaction?