The Batwa are an indigenous group of people who originally lived in the ancient Bwindi forest in Uganda until it was gazetted as a National park. The Batwa are believed to have migrated from the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo in search of wild animals to hunt.
The Batwa lived in harmony in the jungle with forest animals including the mountain gorillas.
The Batwa were regarded as the Keepers of the forest. They have a low life expectancy and a high infant mortality rate.
The Batwa lived a lifestyle of gathering fruit and plant and hunting in the forest using bows and arrows.
The establishment of the forest as a National Park with an aim of protecting the rare mountain gorillas let to the eviction of the Batwa from the forests.
They had to change their lifestyle because they had been introduced to a life they were not used to.
It was very hard for them to get used to the new environment because they had no money to survive or even land.
Since the Batwa are not allowed to stay in the forests, the Batwa culture had started to diminish since 1992 after their eviction.
Nevertheless, things began to change by 2011 where the Uganda Wildlife in conjunction with USAID plus the Embassy of Netherlands in Kampala started the Batwa Cultural Trail found in Mgahinga Gorilla Park.
On this trail the tourists that visit the park and are interested in culture are led by Batwa locals through the jungle, they basically teach the tourists their ancient gathering and hunting ways.
After the visit Batwa Guides head back to their community, the Batwa also receive a percentage of the Batwa Trail Fees.
The Kellerman Foundation also set up the Batwa Experience just outside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Visitors can enjoy this experience after trekking gorillas.
Way of living of the Batwa
The Batwa men and women rise to an average of four feet or less in height, the tallest man among the Batwa would be the shortest among the other Ugandan tribes.
According to a study undertaken in 1996, the Batwa reside in about 53 separate settlements falling within 41 villages. On average each settlement is composed of about 10 households. The household sizes range from single to 17 member households.
Marriages normally take place within the clans, and marriage among members of an individual settlement is rare.
Honey is the most important food and product for the Batwa, in addition to wild fruits and herbs. Stingless bee honey was always considered a delicacy, as well as a medicine that makes people immune to several illnesses. This tradition is just one of the slowly disappearing cultures and activities of the Batwa in their new settlements.
In conclusion, the Batwa communities are still struggling to reintroduce the production of honey, despite the several challenges attached to the current way of life they are being forced to live.
Groups of Batwa people together with other supportive partner organizations are working tirelessly to lobby the National Forestry Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority to periodically allow some communities to raise their traditional bee-hives at the fringes of the forests and national parks.
The old Batwa men also spend time teaching the children how to detect wild honey, as well as demonstrating the construction of traditional bee-hives, while women mostly deal with a collection of tubers and fruits as well as foraging. Why miss out on this wonderful encounter, book your Batwa Pygmy safari now with Friendly gorillas Safaris or click here for more information.