By Alex Baluku
The danger of extinction of the Batwa ethnic group and its beliefs in Bundibugyo District has left the semi-nomadic pygmy worried
The Batwa, or Twa People are one of the last groups of short-statured people also known as pygmy’ people, and until Bwindi Rainforest was gazette as a National Park, they lived a hunter gather lifestyle in the forest. They are now some of the poorest people in the World with high infant mortality rate and low life expectancy.
As the original dwellers of this ancient jungle, the Batwa were known as “The keepers of the forest.” The history of these small-statured is long rich. The Batwa survived by hunting small game using arrows or nets and gathering plants and fruits in the rain forest.
The Batwa lived in huts constructed of leaves and branches, moving frequently in search of fresh supplies of food. They lived in harmony with the forest and its creatures, including the mountain gorillas for millennia.
Some anthropologists estimate that pygmy tribes such as he Batwa have existed in the equatorial forests of Africa for 60,000 years or more.
In 2019, the government relocated the Batwa from their ancestral dwelling to Ntandi Town Council with an aim to conserve wildlife.
According to the 2014 Uganda Population and Housing Census, Batwa were estimated to be 6200, making 0.2 percent of Uganda’s population.
Now, the cultural leader Geofry Nzito says that their population continues to drop gradually after the hosting community that is comprised of the Bamba, Bakonzo and Bawisi has on several occasions impregnated their daughters and later abandon them.
Nzito said that according to their Culture, a Mutwa is not supposed to get married to a non Mutwa.
Mrs. Edeleda Bingolo said that there daughters have been impregnated by non-Batwa from the nearby communities and to their dismay the young girls are abandoned by their husbands leaving them in poor conditions. Bingolo wants government to intervene and force the perpetrators to take care of their children as the Batwa also looks after their daughters.
Nzito is now calling upon government to provide them with their own land, health facility and school for their Children where they can freely get all the services.
The Batwa living at Ntandi Town Council are totaling to 156 from 46 homesteads and out of them, 25 are school going girls and only 1 out the 25 has completed Primary seven, 11 are now young mothers and 13 are pregnant.
Responding to their demands and cry, the Bundibugyo District Chairperson Robert Tibakunirwa accredited the challenges faced by the Batwa and quickly said that the district has had a plan to recruit qualified teachers to handle the minority group so that their children are able to acquire education services as they have always complained to have been left out.
He also told this reporter that with support from their partners Last Frontier Missionaries, they have secured land worth 40million on which they will house permanent structures for the Batwa. The District has since received another partner FAWE-Uganda to help in putting up of houses for the Batwa to occupy.
Last week, FAWE Uganda delivered food and non-food items including iron sheets worth shillings 100 Million to the Batwa communities and flood victims in Ntandi Town Council in Bundibugyo district. The organization also promised to sponsor the education of the only one girl in Primary seven until she completes school.