Bwindi Forest is home to a fantastic diversity of flora and fauna, including some exotic plants and rare and endangered animals. The forest was also home to an the Batwa pygmies. These indigenous people were the original dwellers of the anicient forest and were known as the ‘keepers of the forest’. The Batwa lived in harmony with the forest and survived by hunting small game using bows and arrows and gathering plants for both food and medicinal purposes.
In 1992, the lives of the Batwa changed forever, when the forest became a national park and world heritage site in order to protect the endangered mountain gorillas that reside within its boundaries. The Batwa were evicted from the park and became conservation refugees in a world that was very unfamiliar to them. Their skills and means of subsistence were not useful in this modern environment and they began to suffer.
In 2001, when the Batwa tribe was on the edge of extinction American medical missionaries, Dr Scott and Carol Kellermanns came to their rescue. They purchased land and established programs to improve the conditions and lives of the Batwa. This included the building of a school, hospital and housing. The Kellermanns also developed water and sanitation projects and found ways that the Batwa could generate income and sustain themselves.
These projects are now managed and operated by the Batwa Development Program (BDP). BDP works closely with the Batwa community to try to ensure that their indigenous rights are respected and they also benefit from the forest being a national park and tourist attraction.
Batwa Cultural Experience
The Batwa cultural experience was created by the displaced Batwa pygmies to educate their children and to share their amzing heritage and traditions with the world.
A day spent with the Batwa gives you the opportunity to enjoy the following:
- Hike in the forest with the people of the forest. You will have a Batwa guide and he will provide you with the chance
to see the forest and its habitants through their eyes.
- See how they lived and hunted in the traditional manner. Enjoy trying out your hunting techniques as the Batwa teach
you how to shoot with a bow and arrow.
- Visit a traditional Batwa homestead and learn from the women how to prepare, cook and serve a meal. You will also
have the opportunity it sample the dishes.
- Talk to a medicine men and learn about the medicinal properties of the forest flora.
- Hear ancient legends and traditional songs.