The Batwa: 25 years after eviction from the forest

By Patricia Osman

The Batwa living in Kanungu long for the day they will go back to the forests where they shared home with the wild life.

Since the government evicted them from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park in 1991 to pave way for the wild life conservation, life has never been the same because they now have to spend on food, clothing and medicines among others.

Tina Katushabe the project sustainable manager Change a life Bwindi a Non Governmental Organisation which works to ensure a delicate balance between the environment, wild life conservation and sustainable development says life is tough for these men and women as they do not have any sources of income yet they have personal daily needs.

Their main challenge today is the low source of income that does not match their needs. Katushabe adds that the forest was their life because they would get medicine and fruits from the trees, eggs from birds and hunt for meat from within.

“Life is tough for us, we don’t know how a day will end, and sometimes we go to bed hungry because we don’t have money to buy food or land to plant some food, we really hope the government can allow us to go back to the forests.” says Alivera Turyomurugyendo a widow and mother of 9 with 5 grand children.

" Our children no longer go to school because we don’t have money to pay for their school dues; we also hate to see any of us sick because with the alarming levels of high poverty here in Mpungu village we can’t do much for our selves" , she adds.

65 year old Kakulu David a father of 9 says, “This is not the life we were meant to live, we are forest people, we are the custodians of the forests but the govt did not put that into consideration before pushing us out into this life, we were totally neglected by the government”.

"This community is rough on us because we face a lot of discrimination which makes life even harder, we hardly have any job yet those available also offer little pay.”

Miss Katusabe agrees to this saying the Bakiga and other tribes have failed to peacefully co-exist with the Batwa community because they feel they are not meant to be a part of them.

Cases of land wrangles, and intermarriages are also often witnessed in the community.

The Batwa say since they are discriminated upon then no none Batwa should marry their girls.

Now to help the Batwa have a better life Change a life Bwindi is empowering them in various ways for example the women are taught how to weave baskets while the men are engaged in bee keeping.

Miss Katusabe says the final products are sold to tourists and other people that visit the area adding that the little money they get helps them to support their families in different ways.

Note: All photos taken by Lovati Emmanuel Mugabi