May 28, 2024 | Allison Robertson

The Batwa People of Uganda


A Culture Lost to the Modern World

The Echuya Batwa—often known as “keepers of the forest”—are an endangered tribe of forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer people.

They lived peacefully off their land without any outside influence until 1991, when they were tragically evicted from the forest.

Suddenly, the native tribe was trapped in a world unfamiliar to them, and their fight for survival had begun.

This is their story.

Batwa People Of Uganda Msn

Their Land

The Batwa people, sometimes referred to as the “Twa” people, have lived in the lush rainforests of South-Western Uganda for thousands of years—and are said to be direct descendants of the first homo sapiens of the area.

Male from Batwa pygmies from the Bwindi Impenetrable ForestAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

The Landscape

The Albertine Rift region, where they predominately reside, is a beautiful forest dominated by a series of snowcapped mountains, serene lakes and stunning greenery.

But, with a landscape like that, the Batwa people are certainly not the only inhabitants.

Batwa pygmies from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in UgandaAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

The Mountain Gorillas

In addition to typical rainforest wildlife, the Albertine Rift region is home to one of the world’s greatest endemic species—the critically endangered mountain gorillas.

And their harmonious relationship dates far back.

Mountain Gorilla EatingCharles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Their History

The Batwa people are the original people of the Uganda and Rwanda rainforest. For millennia they lived as the only humans in the forest, in harmony with nature and all of its creatures.

The traditional Batwa pygmies from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in UgandaAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Population

Today, their numbers are estimated at around 6,000-7,000 people, though this number is difficult to determine given their circumstances.

People of Mukuno village who are traditional Batwa tribes peopleAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Their Traditional Lifestyle

This indigenous tribe were traditionally forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers, living completely isolated from the outside world and fending for themselves using only what nature could provide.

A male Batwa tribesman demonstrates hunting animals using a bow and arrow in Bwindi Impenetrable ForestAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Their Unique Physical Appearance

The Batwa people can be easily identified by their physical unique physical characteristics—specifically their height.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Their Height

Commonly known as pygmies, the Batwa people’s average height is unusually short. The average height for men is about 4-foot-11-inches, and women are typically shorter than that.

Note: The term, pygmy is often considered derogatory today.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Their Houses

Traditionally, they lived in small ground-level huts made from sticks, leaves and grass. Using mud and clay in place of concrete and forest rope to hold everything together, the Batwa people use only what nature gives them.

And miraculously, these huts can easily withstand Mother Nature’s wrath.

Batwa pygmies from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda demonstrates where they used to liveAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Their Hunting Skills

Aside from being architectural geniuses, traditional hunter-gatherer tribes like the Batwa people are also extremely skilled hunters and fishermen. They use hand crafted bows and arrows, nets, and traps to hunt small game and birds.

Bushmeat, however, is not their main source of sustenance.

James demonstrates an animal snare trap in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.Andrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Forest Gathering

The Batwa people gather various fruits and vegetables throughout the rainforest, including tubers, mushrooms, and wild yams.

With an abundance of options at their fingertips, the Batwa people are able to get creative with flavors, too.

The people of Mukuno village who are traditional Batwa tribes people from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.Andrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Honey Collectors

A Batwa staple in which they use in several different ways to add flavor to their meals is honey—which they climb high into trees and brave many stings to obtain.

Their dense and earthy environment provides them with so much more than food, though.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man holding a honey - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Their Medical Practices

The Batwa people also rely on the forest’s ecosystem to provide them with an array of medicinal plants, in which they use as their primary source of healthcare.

The powerful natural remedies were essential to their well-being and were often celebrated.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man holding a weeds - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Traditional Celebrations

The Batwa enjoy celebrations. They have a rich oral tradition that includes storytelling, song, and dance. They use these activities as a way of passing down their history throughout the generations.

Aside from their musical talent, they were also skilled in various forms of art.

Batwa members act out a story with music song and dance in the village house of MukunoAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Artisan Skills

Traditionally, the Batwa people were often busy with artisan work, such as basket weaving, pottery, and making handcrafted tools. All of which used natural resources from their environment.

Not only were these skills handy to have, they were seen as an integral part of their livelihood.

A Batwa woman in traditional dress uses reeds to make a basket.Andrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Marriage

The Batwa people practiced monogamy, although sometimes they would partake in polygamy and exchange girls in a “barter marriage.”

People of Mukuno village who are traditional Batwa tribes peopleAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Barter Marriage

During a barter marriage ceremony, the two girls were made to face each other as a sign of their shared future in marriage.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

The Importance of Bearing Children

Polygamy was also practiced when a wife was considered barren, so that the man could bear children for the continuity of his lineage.

Small kid from Batwa tribe people.Andrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Spiritual Protection

Most marriages were arranged by their families. After the ceremony, the father of the bride always introduced her to the family of the spirits. This was a further effort for lifelong protection and happiness.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Intertribal Marriage

Batwa people were not permitted to marry outside of their tribe. Although, sadly, other tribes were known to force themselves on Batwa women with a belief that they will get cured of diseases.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Marriage Dowries

Dowries were not accepted in Batwa marriages, but gifts of meat and honey were welcomed by the new couple. Squirrel meat was considered a luxury gift as it was difficult to hunt, and it was typically given to the mother-in-law.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people holding a meat - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Funerals

Upon the death of a Batwa member, their body was buried in a hut or cave, or cremated and the place they were buried was abandoned. During the funeral ceremony, the tribe’s medicine man would cleanse the family so that the spirit would not return to attack them.

Batwa pygmies from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda dancingAndrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Births

When a baby is born, a bow and arrow was always placed in their palms as a sign of protection. Women breastfed their children for many years as they used this as a form of family planning.

Breastfeeding also greatly increased the infant’s chance of survival in the first few years of life.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man holding a bow and arrow - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Schooling

Children did not attend official schools. Instead, they were grouped together and taught basic life skills from elders. This included fire-making, hunting, fishing, food preparation, cooking, building, and crafting.

Village responsibilities, however, are divided by gender.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe kid - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Gender Roles

Men are typically responsible for hunting, collecting honey, producing palm wine, the felling of trees, and construction.

Women are not taught hunting techniques at all, and must follow men’s direction in smoking and cutting meat.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man hunting - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Women’s Roles

Women are mostly tasked with carrying baskets and transporting supplies, as well as some food preparation and mostly all of the cooking.

While they do partake in gathering activities and fishing, the men also accompany them.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Child Minding

Child minding is simple in a Batwa village—they roam freely and follow the adults around assisting in day-to-day activities. They are said to be a gift from the ancestors, and are encouraged to be curious and observative.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe kid - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Parenting Roles

Young babies are carried in slings on their mother’s backs, and older children are left with their fathers when the women leave to gather food.

Children are generally cared for by all members of the tribe collectively.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

The Beginning of the End

Although the Batwa people have a rich cultural history with the forest, dating back more than 60,000 years, in the early 1990s, the outside world stepped in.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man looking upset - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Wildlife Conservation

In 1990, the Ugandan government formally established the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park within the ancestral (and protected) homelands of the Batwa peoples—making it a wildlife conservation for the mountain gorillas.

Bwindi Impenetrable National ParkJosefito123, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Protected Land

Echuya, the Batwa homeland, became a protected forest reserve back in 1939. So, the surprise eviction 50 years later had both outsiders and tribal members completely unsettled.

Echuya Forest reserve sign.Bruno ashimwe winks, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Culture Ripped Away

Their lives completely changed in an instant, and their traditions and culture were ripped away from them. The Batwa people were forced to change everything about the way they have lived for thousands of years.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Their Nomadic Lifestyle

For the Batwa people, their land was their life. They were nomads—never overusing local resources. When an area needed replenishing, they would move elsewhere. They respected the wildlife, never killing for sport and considered the gorillas their cousins—who were not to be harmed.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Deforestation Started It All

The eviction started back when outsiders moved into the forest and began deforestation to build houses and farmlands.

Not only did this take land and resources from the native tribes who lived in the area, it also upset the government.

Deforestation In BorneoIndoMet in the Heart of Borneo, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Their Forceful Eviction

With the land being ruined, the government stepped in to protect the wildlife, and subsequently went after the Batwa people as well—using violent methods to remove them from their homesteads.

And the manner in which the eviction was conducted was anything but humane.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the night - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Unnecessary Violence

During the eviction, the Batwa people were not treated like human beings at all. They were violently forced out of their land, while their homes and villages were aggressively burned to the ground.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Unnecessary Loss

To make matters worse, the authorities who were evicting the Batwa to “help save the wildlife,” not only destroyed their homes, but also their livestock.

Any trace of the Batwa people was completely wiped out—and casualties were insignificant.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Pyrrhic Victory

Government officials proudly announced that the Batwa community had been “resettled” in the name of environmental conservation and species protection, to create a national park.

When in reality, the Batwa people were suffering tremendously.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Catastrophic Consequences

In the weeks after forced relocation, many of the Batwa people succumbed to starvation or disease. Most became destitute. Many died, bringing the population down to a shocking 4,000—sparking an immediate cry for help.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man looking at side - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Aid Efforts

Batwa empowerment groups quickly assembled and struggled to advocate for their mistaken threat, pleading with officials to allow them back into their lands—but were only met with hostility.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Poverty and Disease

The Batwa people were moved to the districts of Bundibugyo, Kabale, Kisoro and Rukungiri, where they essentially became squatters on the outer edges of the forest, living in extreme poverty, and vulnerable to outside diseases.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Threat to Their Survival

What many outsiders don’t understand is just how destructive it can be to remove a traditional culture from the only way of life they know. Vast environmental change has an immense impact on their survival—especially in terms of health.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Drop in Life Expectancy

In fact, in 2021, the PBS Newshour reported that the colonized Batwa population in Uganda has a life expectancy of just 28 years, and that about 40% of children no longer survive to the age of five—an extremely concerning statistic.

This is partly due to the discrimination Batwa people face.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man drinking water - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

No Access to Healthcare

One Ugandan doctor said that the discrimination many Batwa face in Ugandan society has made it harder for the Batwa to access healthcare.

Since their eviction, their health has seen a significant decline.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Specific Health Issues

Health issues facing the Batwa include malnutrition, pneumonia, respiratory tract infections, and HIV/AIDS. Liquor addiction also affects many Batwa, particularly men.

Aside from lack of healthcare, their changed way of life is also to blame.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man collecting water- from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Culture Shock

When the Batwa were evicted from their forest, they were forced to find new ways to source food—foods that their bodies were not used to.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man hunting in forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Life Under Restriction

Their livelihoods became restricted, with rules and regulations dictating what they can and cannot do, from where they live to what they eat and what they wear.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man hunting in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

No Reason to Celebrate

In the past, the Batwa people used to praise a good honey harvest. But now, they are no longer allowed to gather honey, or anything else, from the forest.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people collecting honey in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

No Access to Traditional Remedies

Access to their traditional herbal remedies is prohibited—forcing them to seek modern assistance.

But the Batwa people were met with continual road blocks to their survival.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man eating a herb in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Bountiful Hunt Was Celebrated

Traditionally, the Batwa men would go hunting and their bountiful hunt would be celebrated by their wives upon their return. Song and dance would begin as the food is prepared—raw, grilled, and dipped in honey.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man hitting on a drum to celebrate - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Today They Barely Eat

Today however, they don’t get those types of food anymore. In fact, many of them eat very little food at all anymore.

They were given small farmlands upon their relocation, but none of them new how to farm.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man collecting food  from the ground - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Surviving on Charity

As a result, the farmland was sold and the Batwa people scattered across the region, surviving on charity from neighbors and non-profit organizations—which included cheap, basic, processed food that their bodies were not used to.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people taking food - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Misinformation

From the outside, modern civilization was told that the Batwa community were bad people who hunted the endangered mountain gorillas. We were told they were being evicted as a protection effort for the wildlife.

This misinformation immediately gave the Batwa community a bad reputation.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man hunting in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Detrimental Discrimination

In turn, the Batwa people faced discrimination on all fronts, which made accessing healthcare, education, and social services nearly impossible for them.

Not only were they stripped of all their resources, they were also denied alternatives.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Spiritual Ties to the Forest

In addition to their health, their traditional religious freedoms have been taken away as well. Their spiritual ties with the forest are no longer permitted.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in the forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Sacred Sites Abandoned

Their sacred shrines still stand hidden in the forest, where they would previously communicate with their ancestors. And caves in the mountains will adorn markings from ceremonial rituals.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Living in Poverty

During this time, many Batwa people relocated to urban areas, like Kisoro, which is near the forests. Here, they squatted on the edge of public land, in homes built from cardboard and tarps. They often scrape for food from local dumpsters.

Some have chosen to adapt—some feel completely forced.

James is acting out a traditional story in the village of Mukuno, Uganda.Andrew Aitchison, Getty Images

If Given the Opportunity

One Batwa woman has said, “If you don't have land, you cannot progress, you can't send your children to school, you cannot eat. But if I were given the opportunity to return to the forest, I would run all the way there.”

Being from a marginalized ethnic group was one thing, but being poor and unable to make any money only made things worse.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Shamed for Their Circumstances

Many Batwa people were shamed by the community simply for their ethnicity. But on top of that, they were discriminated against for having no access to clean water, clean clothes, or sufficient food.

Many Batwa were forced to rely on begging—only making matters worse for them.

Batwa pygmies man from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda talks through local species of plant and their uses.Andrew Aitchison, Getty Images

Using Their Artisan Skills

Batwa women began making traditional pottery to sell at local markets, and while this practice ended up becoming a key symbol of modern Batwa identity, it did not generate enough income to live off of.

Traditional Pottery In NigeriaChukwukajustice, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Valuable Skill No Longer

Most people in modern society no longer use traditional cooking pots made out of clay. They’re simply decorative now, which makes their authentic pottery less valuable.

Their traditional pottery skills are not the only thing that are no longer valuable in their world, though.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Their Own Lives Are No Longer Valuable

One particular call of concern is the importance that is being placed on the mountain gorillas, while the Batwa people are dying in the streets—particularly in terms of profit.

Batwa lives are not considered valuable. If anything, the tribe feels that they have always “been in the way.”

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man in night at forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Gorilla Trekking

The government charges upwards of $700 for tourists to go “gorilla trekking” on the nature preserve they created—the land they stole from the Batwa people.

Trekking in Volcanoes National ParkVisit Rwanda, Flickr

Skewed Priorities

They profit off the endangered wildlife, and leave the endangered humans to fend for themselves—in ways that are completely foreign to them.

Finance, for one, is a concept the Batwa knew nothing about.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Foreign Concept Imperative to Survival

Batwa people had no previous use for money. Living deep in the rainforest, isolated from the modern world, there was no need for money exchange. Instead, they would trade handcrafted items or natural goods with other indigenous tribes.

Now though, they have to learn how to earn money.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

A Whole New World

After eviction, the Batwa people had to learn new ways to survive—including working for money. Instead of gathering food from the forest and making clothing by hand, all of their food, clothing, and supplies now have to be purchased with legitimate currency.

That’s not all they had to learn.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man collecting water - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Learning to Farm

Once again, the Batwa people were forced into farming—a new skill they had to learn quickly—where they would often labor on someone else’s farm for very little compensation.

And when they couldn’t farm, they were tasked with other jobs.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people digging in the ground - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

The Bottom of the Barrel

After years of struggling, Batwa people had begun to acquire local labor jobs in towns nearby, where they would spend hours walking to and from each day. These jobs paid next-to-nothing, were often labor intensive, and included various methods of mistreatment.

They barely made enough money to eat.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people holding a plant - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Labor Jobs for Kids

Many of the younger Batwa people, especially older children who were not in school, were forced to carry heavy loads to and from local markets—on foot. This was in place of other jobs they couldn’t do.

Batwa person Prepping Clay to Make PotsUnited Nations Photo, Flickr

Stuck

They were not allowed their own places in the local markets either because they no longer had resources to make anything to sell.

They were essentially stuck—with nothing even close to resembling the life they had just come from.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Seeking Support

As a result of their struggle, many Batwa people grouped together to assist each other in day-to-day life in the modern world. With only the support of each other, they were tasked with making some tough decisions.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man smiling - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Desperate Measures

During desperate times, some Batwa people turned to unlawful hunting in the protected forest that they were kicked out of. As risky as it was, they had to eat somehow.

Eventually, aid programs started to emerge.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man hunting in forest - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

No Strings Attached

At various times, non-profit organizations and churches funded land for Batwa people to live on. These protected areas were supposed to be helpful, but offered no respite for the tribe as they were still restricted from any sort of life resembling their traditional ways.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Still Not Enough

Local reserves were created and Batwa people grouped together. They were given new opportunities to attend school, get medical help, and make more money. However, the efforts are never enough.

Unidentified women belonging to the Batwa bushmen tribe of UgandaPapa Bravo, Shutterstock

High Dropout Rate

While many Batwa children now attend school, it is said that most drop out after only a short time due to extreme poverty—they end up having to work instead, simply to survive.

Some children run away from school due to mistreatment by teachers and peers.

Konkomba children play in the villageAnton_Ivanov, Shutterstock

A Impossible Goal

Shortly after eviction, children who were sent to school were unable to catch up. With no previous formal education, the Batwa children could not read or write, let alone anything else on par with their age-appropriate peers.

They were essentially kindergarteners at 10 years old. As a result, they didn’t continue with school at all.

African pygmies of Batwa tribe in the village, children poverty, social issues of Africa - 2022Piu_Piu, Shutterstock

Restricted Healthcare

Healthcare is “available,” but with restrictions. There is no facility close to the reserves. Batwa people must walk five kilometers to access a doctor, and even then, medications for various illnesses are not affordable for them.

Man walking on muddy road at the countryside.StreetVJ, Shutterstock

Slow Progress

It has been several decades since the Batwa’s eviction from their traditional life, and so lots has changed and some progress has been made.

The Batwa Cultural DancesAinembabazi leviticus, Wikimedia Commons

Tourism Exploitation

They continue to live on the outskirts of the forest, and many of them still live in extreme poverty. They have accepted various forms of exploitation of their traditional ways as a form of payment—specifically catering to the tourism industry.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

An “Authentic” Experience

Many Batwa reserves allow tourists to not only visit, but stay overnight to experience life on the reserve. The Batwa people are then encouraged to “recreate traditional rituals and practices” to give tourists the “authentic” experience.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Finally Learning to Farm

Batwa people who have acquired land, whether rented or gifted, have since learned to grow and cultivate various crops, and raise domestic animals for livelihood. They have even attempted bee keeping, in an attempt to preserve their honey collecting traditions.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe people - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Hoping for Change

In terms of support, the Batwa people have developed partnerships with various non-profit organizations who are dedicated to helping them prosper in their new world, and possibly gain access back to their ancestral lands.

Leader of the Batwa group is telling stories about the life of the group.Martin Bartusek, Shutterstock

A Decade After Eviction

In 2001, when the Batwa people were on the edge of extinction, American medical missionaries, Dr. Scott and Carol Kellermanns came to their rescue.

Batwa pigmy boys on October 21, 2012 in Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda.Travel Stock, Shutterstock

Building a New World

The Kellermans’ purchased land and established programs to improve the conditions and lives of the Batwa. This included the building of a school, hospital and housing, as well as a water sanitation project.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe kid outside - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

Escaping Poverty

Though, even with the help, there are thousands of Batwa people today who remain squatters on other people’s land, where they live in small, semi-temporary huts and do small scale farming and provide cheap labor as means of survival.

Woman from Echuya Batwa, commonly known as pygmies,Gulseren Onder, Shutterstock

Losing Traditions

Their traditional way of life has diminished drastically over the years. Batwa children today grow up in a completely different world with little knowledge of how their ancestors lived for thousands of years as the “keepers of the forest.”

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man making a fire - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)

The Forgotten Culture

All in all, the Batwa people of today feel that the forced colonization may have been beneficial to some Batwa, though with one caveat: it is erasing who they are and where they came from.

Soon, the Batwa culture will be completely forgotten.

Screenshot of Batwa tribe man hunting - from The Batwa Legacy (2011)Great Lakes Film, The Batwa Legacy (2011)


READ MORE

Kim Internal

This Man Who Escaped North Korea Went Back To Save His Mother

Escaping North Korea successfully is an incredibly rare occurrence. Defectors often face dangerous journeys through land, avoiding officials and relying on smugglers to reach China. It's nearly impossible to get out alive—so then, why did one man who managed to escape willingly decide to go back?
July 3, 2024 Eul Basa
Disneyparks Internal

Disney Parks Urban Legends And Secrets

Disney Parks are iconic for their magical atmosphere, but beneath the surface lies a collection of creepy urban legends and cool secrets. From ghostly sightings to secret areas, the happiest place on Earth is full of mystery.
July 16, 2024 Eul Basa

Tristan da Cunha: The Most Remote Inhabited Island on Earth

Discover Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island on Earth. Find out how the island residents came across the island, and how they have managed to establish a thriving community in isolation from the rest of the world.
July 16, 2024 Allison Robertson
Nk Internal

Bizarre Facts About Life In North Korea

Life in North Korea is characterized by strict governmental control, limited personal freedoms, and a strong state ideology under the Kim dynasty.
July 7, 2024 Eul Basa
Japan Internal

Unspoken Rules Everyone Expects You To Follow In Japan

When you visit Japan, it is essential to show respect for local customs and manners in order to have a pleasant and seamless experience. Here are 30 unwritten rules to follow.
July 5, 2024 Eul Basa