The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to a perfusion of exotic species of plants and animals, including the endangered mountain gorillas; it also contained an indigenous people-the Batwa pygmies.
The Batwa were the original ancient dwellers of the forest. The first records of pygmies were made by the Egyptians over 4000 years ago. They described short stature people living near the “Mountains of the Moon” extolling their abilities as dancers and story tellers. Homer and Aristotle also made mention of them. They survived by hunting small game using poison tipped arrows or nets and gathering various plants and fruit that the forest naturally supplies. Small temporary huts construc
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was gazetted as a national park and world heritage site in 1992 to protect the 350 endangered mountain gorillas within its confines; in the process the Batwa were evicted from the park and having no title to land, were given no compensation. The Batwa became conservation refugees.
In the year 2000, Carol and Scott Kellermann MD performed a medical needs survey on these Batwa and ascertained that the Batwa had an under five mortality of 38% compared with a Ugandan average of 18% and a US statistic of 0.8%. Four of ten Batwa would not live to see their fifth birthday! With a life expectancy of only 28 years and an annual income of $25, their very existence was severely threatened.
Since 2001, Scott and Carol Kellermann have worked to buy land, build homes, construct a hospital and several clinics, introduce water and sanitation programs, build and equip schools, introduce income generation and encourage indigenous rights. The results have been encouraging with recent studies indicating that the Batwa under five mortality has now been halved. Other development interventions include: Raising funds for sponsoring two hundred Batwa students in private schools, purchase of 300 acres of land for the Batwa, forty one houses with kitchens and pit latrines were built for the Batwa over the last three years. Sales of baskets to the United States started in November 2007 and the Batwa Basket Banda & Cafe at the gate to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, was opened in December 2008. Everyone is invited to come and have some cinnamon bread, a cup of coffee, enjoy the view of the forest from our deck and buy a basket. It is guaranteed the best view you can get with a cup of good coffee.
None of the work being done by the Batwa Development Program is new. It has been going on for years, but now it has a name, Batwa Development Program (BDP).
All of these activities are now being assumed by the Batwa themselves under an organization, a limited corporation under the government of Uganda, known as the Batwa Development Program. BDP is totally managed and run by the Batwa themselves. The BDP has an Advisory committee made-up of four locals and two volunteers, none of whom are Batwa. Much remains to be done and the Batwa appreciate your support and assistance.
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