Who are the Batwa?
Originally forest dwellers, the estimated 6,200 Batwa (2014 Uganda Population and Housing Census) in Uganda make up 0.2 per cent of the population. The establishment of the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks for Mountain Gorillas in 1991 enabled the authorities to evict the Batwa definitely from the forest. They live in south-western Uganda in the districts of Bundibugyo, Kabale, Kisoro and Rukungiri.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
For centuries, the Batwa depended on hunting and gathering from the forest. However, today, only a few Batwa still live in Echuuya Forest Reserve and Semliki National Park; most live on the periphery of their ancestral forest lands.
Batwa Engaging in local Dance
Batwa population in Uganda is about 6000. Other than Batwa, the forest is surrounded by Bakiga, Hutu and Tutsi who comprise a bigger percentage of the population.
The Ugandan government created formal conservation areas in the Virunga hills and in nearby Bwindi. The Batwa, forced to live on the edges of the national parks, were unable to return to hunt small animals, collect wild honey or gather fruit, and found their traditional skills and vast knowledge of the forest ill-suited to life outside it.
Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
They are among the poorest inhabitants of one of the world’s poorest countries. Two years ago a Mutwa graduated from university, it made headlines in national newspapers.
To visit the Batwa, arrange for your trip here