Batwa People; All about the Twa or Batwa Pygmies of Uganda
Discover the Batwa People‘s history, culture, traditions, and practices in this detailed look at their distinct way of life. The Echuya Batwa people are an endangered tribe that live in Great Lakes region who were displaced for the conservation of the mountain gorillas.
Who are the Batwa in Uganda?
The Batwa people are one of the oldest surviving indigenous tribes in kisoro, kanungu, bundibugyo in Africa. They live high in the mountain forests, straddling several east African countries. The Batwa are now called conservation refugees, as governments scramble to cope with the pressures of population growth and climate change.
The Batwa are believed to have migrated from the Ituri forest of the democratic republic of Congo in search of wild animals to hunt hence, kisoro literally meaning the area occupied by wild animals. The Batwa live in small huts mainly made from sticks and grass and number 6,700 per a 2014 estimate by the Uganda bureau of statistics.
How old are the Batwa people?
The Batwa lived in harmony with the forest and its creatures, including the mountain gorillas, for millennia. Some anthologists estimate that pygmy tribes such as the Batwa have existed in the equatorial forests of Africa for 60,000 years or more in 1992, the lives of the Batwa pygmies changed forever.
Why were the Batwa pygmies removed from their forest homes?
In the early 90s, the Uganda government evicted the Batwa people, an indigenous group commonly known as pygmies, from their forest lands. The reason for their displacement was to create national parks aimed at protecting biodiversity and promoting tourism.
The conservation areas that sprang up in this southwestern corner of Uganda are Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Echuya forest reservation all are home to endangered mountain gorillas with Bwindi hosting approximately 51% of the global population of this subspecies.
Yet these forests were also the ancestral lands of the Batwa people, who hunted tree species. Today, a large portion of the minority Batwa population lives in Kisoro district, on the border with Rwanda and the democratic republic of Congo.
Since their eviction in the early 1990s, their livelihoods and culture have largely suffered, and many Batwa became squatters living in extreme poverty. The evicted did not receive adequate compensation or resettlement from the government, for which Uganda’s highest court ruled only this year that the government was culpable. \
Some members currently reside on land donated by churches, such as the michinga Batwa settlement camp given by the diocese of muhabura. Other members were resettled by groups such as the gorilla organization (GO) and the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda. The latter has created approximately 33 Batwa settlements in kisoro.
Twa also called Batwa, one of the best-known of the many pygmy groups scattered across equatorial Africa. Like all other African pygmies, the Twa, averaging about 5 feet (1.5m) in height are a people of mixed ancestry, probably descendants of the original inhabitants of the equatorial rainforest.
The Batwa people believe in a supreme being locally known as Nagaasan or Imaana. And it is believed that Nagaasan provides the wealth, food, protection and children to the Twa people.
The Batwa cultural experience.
The Batwa culture is such an amazing experience created by the displaced Batwa pygmies to educate their children and also to share their traditional ways to visitors. Visiting a traditional Batwa homestead you can learn how Batwa women prepare food and serve a meal.
You will also have a chance to sample their traditional dishes. Batwa people are good at storytelling, and you will be able to visit the community and hear their traditional songs. You can also be able to see how they lived and hunted in the traditional manners and enjoy their interesting hunting techniques as the Batwa people teaches you how to crack with a bow and arrow.
Things to consider before going for the Batwa cultural trail in Mgahinga.
Level of difficulties. The Batwa trail is a relatively less tremendous activity partly because the trails are well maintained and defined.
There are a few steep areas particularly around the foot of the volcanoes but this should be manageable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. Those with heavy luggage or equipment (camera etc.) can hire the services of a local porter at a cost of about 20$.
Cost of the Batwa trail. The experience in Mgahinga costs 80$ for a lone traveler while those travelling in groups pay less. Two international travelers should expect to pay 70$ each while a group of 4 or more will part with 60$. Those interested in capturing the whole experience on camera or producing a documentary will need to pay an additional 400$.
What to wear. While planning to go for the Batwa cultural experience, you also need to take in to consideration what to wear. You should travel with a rain jacket, garden gloves, long sleeve shirts and trousers to help protect you from the rain, thorns and sharp forest tree/plants.
It’s also wise to carry some snacks/packed lunch and bottled water. You might also consider bringing along other essential items like a camera and insect repellents.
Note: unlike gorilla trekking and some of other activities, you don’t need to carry much for the Batwa trail experience. The Batwa experience is usually arranged after gorilla trekking in mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable national park but the experience can also be under taken after wildlife safari or game drive in Queen Elizabeth national park.
The activity and the experience is comparable to visiting Iby’iwacu cultural village in Rwanda. Both have spice up your east African safari by allowing you take part in and understand the local culture of some Africa’s indigenous tribes while helping support them economically.
Best Batwa Cultural Tours in Uganda
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Our 6 Days Uganda Primates and Cultural Tour Package is about Mountain Gorilla Trekking Uganda, Golden Monkey Trek and Batwa Cultural Experience in Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga Gorilla… View Tour
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