Many travelers visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for gorilla safaris but pay less attention to taking cultural tours around the local communities. One of the rules of sustainable tourism is to promote the well being of the local communities that live near the national parks. One of the communities that you should not miss during your gorilla tour are the Batwa Communities.
The Batwa are a pygmy tribe in Uganda, Rwanda & DR Congo. They are relatively short and tinny forest people. Their origins lie deep in forests where Uganda meets Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Forest National Park.
Batwa are Marginalized People
The Batwa are some of the most marginalized people in Africa. They were forcefully evicted from their ancestral land in 1991 when the forests became National parks for gorilla conservation because they couldn’t stay in the same environment with the mountain gorillas – they were both competing for food i.e. fruits. The Batwa never grew food given that they are fruit gatherers. Therefore, they had to exit the forest to make room for the mountain gorillas to enjoy their habitant, be peaceful and do away with aggression.
Batwa People Found It Hard to Change to Modern Life
After the forceful eviction from the the forest, the natives were not happy and in their own view they think it’s a disservice. They found it hard to adjust to the modern way of living – living in modern houses or even going to school. Having been used to the forest, they found it hard to live settle in new communities.
Batwa Never Forgot their Lifestyle
The Batwa who now leave on the outskirts of the national parks still practice a few of their culture though. You can experience their past lifestyle on a tour that is commonly known as the Batwa Experience. A visit to The Batwa village would really help you experience their culture, challenges and benefits of being evicted from the forest.
Batwa People Need Help
When you go mountain gorilla tracking, don’t forget to take a community tour or volunteer with one of the community based organizations. The Uganda Wildlife Authority set aside USD10 on each gorilla permit to the development for their community but this is really little. They need more houses, schools and hospitals to help them realize that life can be perfect out of the forest.