Trouble for Batwa “Pygmy” Communities: Successes & Failures

Our Batwa friends from Rwamahano happily received six months of accumulated funds this week. They got UGX 2,130,000 (USD 570) that we had saved from several Batwa Today experiences we did with them.

Small contributions end up becoming substantial when brought together! Each time we collaborate we put half of Batwa fees aside and deliver it all at once when they request it. It’s of course up to them to decide how to spend this money but we always encourage them to prioritise their children’s educational needs.

Oh yes, when we lost access to Echuya Forest for this activity, the trips didn’t stop! But instead of taking visitors into the reserve, our Batwa guides now walk with them on the edge of the forest, identifying medicinal herbs and explaining about their lost culture and lifestyle. Guests appreciate the walk and the knowledge and then socialise with the community in the village. They don’t lament the missing hike through Echuya because, for most, their main concern is to support the Batwa.

This fruitful collaboration is so very different from the situation with the third Batwa partner group in our series of posts! When we leave Echuya Forest Reserve and proceed towards Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, we encounter:

Partners #3: Birara Batwa community
Location: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Adversary: financial expectations

We first came to Birara when looking for an interesting program for hikers connecting Lake Mutanda and Lake Bunyonyi. Unlike our partners from Rwamahano and Makanga, they are more religious and seemingly more under the control of NGOs that claim to represent the Batwa. It used to be a pleasure to pay a visit to their settlement for cultural exchange and community support — until some months ago when our guests had the worst experience ever! In Birara they ran into people from an organisation we will not name who forbade any interaction with the Batwa! Perhaps it was they who also influenced the Batwa to expect huge payments from every group of visitors? They asked for UGX 500,000 last time, from two hikers, and that of course didn’t make much sense. For the moment we have no other solution but to stop visiting them …


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