The Batwa people

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THE BATWA PEOPLE

THE BATWA PEOPLE

The Batwa people are an endangered group of people around Echuya Forest Reserve in south western districts of Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, Bundibugyo and Rukungiri. The Batwa were forest dwelling hunter-gatherers based in the great lakes region of central Africa and are believed to be the original inhabitants of the region. As their traditional forest lands and territories fell under the control of agro-industries and conservation agencies, the Batwa became squatters living on the edges of society. The establishment of the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks for Mountain Gorillas in 1991 to protect mountain gorillas pushed the authorities to evict the Batwa from the forest.

The Batwa population in Uganda is about 6000. The size of the Batwa is quite different from other tribes in Uganda, the 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 neighbouring community, the Bakiga. Traditionally, the Batwa lived as hunters and gatherers, residing in temporary huts and caves, deriving sustenance from forest resources like honey, wild fruits, mushrooms and vegetables. Each clan collectively owned an area of forest within which they derived food and herbal medicine for their sustenance.

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. Despite living in different settlements, the Batwa have strong social relations and recognize themselves as a community. Marriages normally take place within the clans though marriage among members of an individual settlement is rare because of the close relations amongst such persons. Batwa still practice social norms and customs normally associated with clanship like majority of other tribes in East and Central Africa.

Tourists who visit the southwestern part of Uganda usually participate in activities like gorilla trekking, hiking, golden monkey trekking. But on top of the common activities, they also add Batwa community visits to their plans such that they can of their culture and donate different stuff to them like clothes, soap, salt and also support them buy buying their locally made handcrafts.