Meet the Batwa of Echuya Forest

Batwa People of Uganda

Echuya Batwa, commonly known as pygmies, is an endangered group of people around Echuya Forest Reserve in Kisoro and Kabale Districts of South-Western Uganda. The Echuya is located in the Albertine Rift region recognized as an important eco-region. The Batwa are believed to have migrated from the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo in search of wild animals to hunt, hence the name Kisoro, literally meaning “the area occupied by wild animals”. The Batwa live in small huts mainly made from sticks and grass. After your amazing gorilla safari in Bwindi Forest, you can take an excursion to the Batwa Community of Echuya.

“Originally, Batwa were forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers based in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, and are widely accepted as 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 enabled the authorities to evict the Batwa definitely from the forest.

Echuya Forest Reserve

Echuya Forest Reserve is located in the most densely populated area where, the average land holding per household is 0.8 ha and population density is 353.9 persons per km2.  Other than Batwa, the forest is surrounded by Bakiga, Hutu and Tutsi who comprise a bigger percentage of the population. Bakiga are commonly referred to by Batwa as Bairu. Batwa comprise about 5% of the population. Their households are scattered in various settlements in villages located adjacent to the forest. They include: Murubindi, Kashasha; Gitebe-Kanaba, Biizi-Rugeshi–Murora, Mukasaayi that comprises two settlements, Karengyere-Rwamahano and Kinyarushengye.

Before the declaration of the Echuya as a central government forest reserve, the forest was heavily encroached upon. Up to now, some activities such as wild hunting, collection of honey, mushrooms, water, bamboo for basket making, building poles, making of bee hives and fire wood are being carried out by both Batwa and non-Batwa dominant ethnic communities. Batwa, illegally hunt in the forest due to lack of alternative sources of proteins. The forest is also of cultural importance to the Batwa, who offer religious sacrifices to their gods.

The Batwa can be found in other places in Uganda like, Semliki National park, Mgahinga national park and Bwindi National park. Once visited they Demonstrate their culture, how they used to stay in the forests, how they used to start fire, the Hunting techniques, their songs and Dance. Some of them are not mixed blood due to intermarriages with other cultures.

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