Batwa cultural experience in Mgahinga national park
Batwa cultural experience in Mgahinga national park involves taking a visit to communities of the Batwa living on the outskirts of Mgahinga national park. However the park has got a lot of attractions that create a memorable safari Tourists that love to explore the African culture can always be part of the Ugandan culture by visiting the mysterious Batwa pygmies of Mgahinga national park.
For people that have never heard about the Batwa people, these were once people of the forest and here we mean they used to stay in the jungle alongside animals. The Batwa found their comfortable homes in the forests of Mgahinga national park and others in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park which are homes to different kinds of wildlife.
The Batwa people lived in the forest of Mgahinga national park feeding on honey, fruits, animals, yams, and stems of different plants. They were good forest hunters and they used to eat cooked food and meat because they had ways of making their own fire. The Batwa got sick but they used local herbs from different trees to treat their illnesses.
Inside the forest, the Batwa lived in caves which were their main type of houses. They had sacred huts where worshiping was done by only adult people. Lastly about the Batwa, they wore leaves and skins from animals such as bushbucks and duikers. The young ones wore skin from small animals while the mature ones wore skin from old animals.
In 1990, the Batwa people were evicted from all national parks in southwestern Uganda among which included Mgahinga national park. The Batwa were evicted out of the forest by the government of Uganda which was gazetting the park by that time. Mgahinga national park was gazetted to protect the mountain gorillas which were getting to extinction according to Dian Fossey.
The Batwa pygmies were forcibly evicted from Mgahinga national park their ancestral lands by the government of Uganda without compensation. They didn’t have funds to go so far from the national park and this is why they settle at the boundaries. The Batwa pygmies had to get used to life outside the jungle and they did so by mixing with other locals around the park.
The Batwa people are now used to life outside the forest and tourists can always find them in their communities found around Mgahinga national park. A visit to the Batwa gives tourists what we call the Batwa cultural experience. The Batwa trail in Mgahinga national park takes tourists to the Batwa pygmies which are said to be one of the earliest ethnic groups to have arrived in Uganda.
Even though Batwa pygmies have been living outside the jungle of Mgahinga national park for over 30 years now, they still say that life in the jungle was always the best. On a visit to different communities around the park, there will be elderly people which have experienced life outside the jungle and inside the jungle. The elderly will tell you different stories but in their local language and the role of your local guide is to translate the information into English so that you understand.
Tourists that are going to visit the Batwa pygmies can always tell their safari guide so that they plan accordingly. There are local guides always in the park and when you have made a program with them, they will be ready to take you to different communities around the park. From the park or lodge to the community you are driven by your driver guide until you get to the starting point where the local guide starts his job.
Outside the national park, you will find out that Batwa pygmies still have stuck to their ancient ways of doing things. Their standard of living and the houses they live in are very poor compared to other tribes within the country. A local guide does take you to different homes with the community where you meet different things and people.
Communities of the Batwa are grass thatched and they pick this grass from the bushes around their homes. It’s illegal to hunt animals in the national parks but the Batwa still carry out hunting when they get a chance too. They di cut down trees for firewood and sometimes charcoal for sale. The government is becoming so strict on the cutting down of trees, charcoal burning, and illegal hunting in Batwa areas and it’s from here that they are slowly turning into farmers.
Batwa people are surrounded by the Bakiga who teach them how to dig and grow their own crops. They have now learnt how to grow crops like cabbages, maize, Irish potatoes, and sweet potatoes among others but on a small scale. They also so do small scale livestock farming just for their homes. Batwa also plant coffee and a visit to a local coffee home will get you an opportunity to see how coffee seeds are collected, cleaned, dried, and pounded to make coffee which you can put in milk or water.
Still visiting the Batwa community, you will be able to visit locals who do local breweries. Banana is kept until it turns yellow and its squeezed to produce juice which can be drunk still new and fresh or kept until it has turned into local wine for people above 18 years to drink.
The Batwa community experience can lead you to the home of local men normally called the Mutwa medicinal herbalists. Here you will see how different plants from the bush as well as bones from dead animals are used as local medicine. The medicinal mean can treat most diseases apart from cancer, HIV, and Ebola.
Tourists can also visit local schools and hospitals and support the needy. There are small groups of women around the community who work so hard to support their families by weaving baskets, hats, mats, and much more. These women didn’t study a lot so they can’t get jobs but can use their heads and hands to get something to eat.
With all the above being said, tourists that love African culture should try out Batwa pygmies on their safari to Mgahinga national park. Mgahinga national park has a lot of things to offer apart from the Batwa cultural experience and among these include mountain gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking, golden monkey habituation, and bird watching among others.