Batwa Community Cultural Tours in Uganda: The Batwa were known as “The Keepers of the Forest” because they were the original inhabitants of this old jungle. The Batwa subsisted in the rain forest by hunting small wildlife with arrows or nets and gathered herbs and fruit.
Background of the Batwa
The Batwa, also known as the Twa in Rwanda, are an indigenous tribe of people who lived in Uganda’s old Bwindi forest until it was designated as a national park in 1991. The Batwa lived in harmony with all wildlife in the bush, including mountain gorillas. The Batwa were known as the Forest Keepers.
They are now among the poorest people in the planet, with short life expectancy and a high new-born mortality rate. According to some anthropologists, most pygmy groups, such as the Batwa/Twa, have been present in the equatorial woods for more than 60,000 years. The Batwa had a nomadic existence, collecting fruit and plants and hunting wildlife in the forest with bows and arrows for both medicinal and food needs.
They lived in the trees in peace, never cultivating, never manufacturing charcoal or deforesting, and not even the shelters they had could affect the ecosystem.
“A Mutwa (singular) loves the forest as much as he loves his body,” they say. Most Ugandans see Batwa as poachers, eaters, and murderers of gorillas. However, for many years, these humans coexisted with the huge giants and other monsters. The Batwa have chased gorillas after being displaced from their previous habitat. As a result, they are branded by all of the titles they are given and are also accused for hunting gorillas located in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks. However, before Bantu tribal groups arrived into the region, the Batwa safeguarded and maintained the forest.
The Bantu grazed their livestock, farmed, and chopped down the rainforests. The Batwa were expelled from the trees about 1992, after the forest was established as a national park with the goal of safeguarding the rare mountain gorillas. This changed their way of life permanently since they became conservation refugees in a world they were completely unfamiliar with. As a result, their tools and abilities were no longer effective in the contemporary environment in which they lived, and they began to suffer.
Because they received no monetary or land recompense. They were unable to compete in the contemporary market with their talents, so some resorted to stealing, poaching, begging, and working for others who did not pay them a fair salary for their efforts. In most regions of Uganda, where Batwa people dwell, they are stereotyped as drunks, slackers, pot users, and robbers.
Non-Batwa are not allowed to marry or eat with Batwa women or men, but about half of Batwa women have been raped by non-Batwa men under the mistaken assumption that having sex with them will cure AIDS, and a number of non-pygmy children have been born into their society. The good news is that the Batwa now have a voice thanks to several groups that have spoken out for them and are making a difference.
The Batwa still want to live in the forests with other species, however this is no longer viable because the forest can no longer support Gorillas and people. However, other organizations are working hard to restore the ancient Batwa spirit of coexistence. There are various activities for the Batwa, such as a hospital, clinics, schools, home building, sanitation and water projects, indigenous rights promotion, and revenue generation.
Batwa Community Cultural Tours in Uganda.
Since the Batwa are not permitted to remain in the forests, their culture has begun to dwindle since their expulsion in 1992. However, things began to change in 2011 when Uganda Wildlife, in collaboration with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and the Dutch Embassy in Kampala, launched the Batwa Cultural Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Tourists that visit the park and are interested in culture are taken through the bush by Batwa natives, who essentially teach the tourists their traditional gathering and hunting methods. After the visit, the Batwa Guides return to their community, and the Batwa receive a portion of the Batwa Trail Fees. Remember that tipping is acceptable.
The Kellerman Foundation also established the Batwa Experience, which is located just outside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. After hiking gorillas, visitors may enjoy this experience. The Batwa villages have profited enormously from this experience. Visitors are introduced to Batwa culture, which includes traditional dances, clothes, and food.
There is also a village visit programme and the Buninga Batwa Forest Walk at the southern end of Bwindi Forest, which began when the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) collaborated with the Batwa Community. This allows travellers to learn about the Batwa’s culture and traditions. Although Buninga Forest is not part of Bwindi, its fauna, primates, and flora types are comparable to those found in Bwindi. During the woodland trek, visitors may possibly see some Chimpanzees.
All in all; the Batwa community cultural tours in Uganda are best combined with gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable national park or Mgahinga Gorilla national park. You can as well combine your Batwa community cultural tours in Uganda with other interesting activities such as chimpanzee trekking in Kibale national park or wildlife viewing in Murchison Falls National Park or lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park.