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Saturday, December 9, 2023

The Batwa Pygmy trail of Uganda

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Imtiaz Ullah
Imtiaz Ullahhttps://nomadlawyer.org/about/
Imtiaz Ullah is the founder of travel website - NomadLawyer. A Corporate Lawyer, Senior Travel Correspondent, The Traveller Trails magazine and also acts as an Advisory Member, NGO - Sarvahitey. His travel philosophy is exploring new places, meeting new people, knowing the culture, eating like a local. He always believes in the idea-“ Don't just be a traveller but a Responsible one”.

Words: Imtiaz Ullah

Photos: Kyagaba Edison

The Batwa Pygmy trail of Uganda

Who are the Batwa or Pygmy?

Echuya Batwa, commonly known as pygmies ( they are called Pygmies because of their short height), are an endangered group of people around Echuya Forest Reserve in Kisoro and Kabale Districts of South-Western Uganda. 

The Batwa are the original people of the rainforest who are the primary inhabitants of the Montane Rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi. They lived, gathered and hunted in the rainforest since time in memorial. They were never involved in farming, there was no destruction of the forest, no charcoal making, their shelters did not disturb the environment, they lived in harmony with their beloved forests, wildlife including the Mountain Gorillas and left a low ecological footprint behind them.

The Batwa Pygmies led a simple and harmonious way of life. There is a Batwa saying “A Mutwa (Singular Batwa) loves the forest as much as he loves his own body.”

The Batwa Pygmy trail of Uganda
Source: Wikipedia

Today the Batwa are stigmatized as Gorilla killers and poachers and are readily blamed for any poaching that takes place in either Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park.

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Pain points of the Batwa People

  • Children of the Batwa need regular finances to keep them in school.
  • The youth of the Batwa need to learn some training skills to help them to regularly earn a living, such as sewing, carpentry or metallurgy.
  • The Batwa people have no medical facilities, not even water.
  • Half the Batwa do not know to write and to read the local language.

Source of livelihood for Batwa

Batwa in this area lead a life of plight and poverty. They don’t have regular means of livelihood, they find inconsistent jobs and their existence is primarily dependant on the mercy of other people. They live a life of hand to mouth.

Dance of Batwa People

In Batwa society dancing serves the dual purpose of recounting history and a communal expression of joy. Batwa dance deserves more recognition and respect.

The Voice of Batwa People

The Batwa people have gotten a voice, there are Batwa organizations within Uganda that are  speaking out and making a difference on their own behalf.  The Dream still is to go back into the forest and live in coexistence with their environment and that includes the Mountain Gorillas where they hope once again to live peacefully with the Mountain Gorillas.

The Batwa Dream is to go back into their Forest and once again live in harmonious existence with the Forest, Wildlife, and Gorillas.

How can you help the Batwa People?

NomadLawyer is working very closely with local NGOs and voluntary organisation from this area. The goal is to support and help the Batwa people. Incase you wish to volunteer, do write us or if you can’t travel to this place, you can also contribute by going to our donate page. We will ensure that the contributions will be utilised in restoring the condition of Batwa people. Let us join hands and help humanity.

Thinking of Batwa Heritage experience? These former forest and hunt men and women have stories like no other.

Our partners in Uganda are Kyagaba Edison, Executive Director- Kichwamba Orphans Development Centre and Byamugisha Abel, Local Tourist Guide.

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