Batwa : A Land Dispossessed, Regained
The Batwa are regaining access to their land in Uganda’s national park, thanks to an American investment in a touristic project, which will reorganize their ancient trail.
Below is an article published by New Vision:
A revamped trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park will allow tourists to explore cultural sites in the footsteps of the Batwa tribe in southwest Uganda. The three-kilometer trail winds through the dense forests of the Muhabura mountain range, known for its troops of golden monkeys and mountain gorillas—two of the most endangered species in the world.
The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), with the support of U.S. Mission Uganda and the American people, commissioned new markers along the trail that are expected to boost tourism revenue in the park by approximately 50 percent over the next two years.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at the U.S. Mission is investing $31,000 to train Batwa people to serve as guides and to improve lighting, walkways, and shelters along the trail. These new features are expected to add $12,500 per year to national tourism revenue, with 50 percent going to approximately 200 local residents.
Last year, UWA, with support from USAID and other partners, signed a formal agreement with Kisoro district officials and local community members to create the Batwa trail inside the protected park.
Through this unique initiative, the Batwa tribe regained access to the land that was dispossessed in the 1990s when the Government of Uganda designated it as a national park to protect biodiversity and the endangered mountain gorillas.
USAID’s program aligns with the Government of Uganda’s Tourism Strategy to promote ecotourism, protect natural resources, and improve the livelihoods of locals.
Over the next five years, the American people will invest approximately $15 million in ecotourism and work with local government and communities to raise Uganda’s profile as a premier tourist destination.
USAID Acting Mission Director, John Mark Winfield, said, “Through our partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Uganda Wildlife Authority, we are in a unique position to help preserve the natural beauty of this country while supporting the tourism industry so vital to Uganda’s development.
We hope the new additions to the trail will attract more tourists to the park and give Uganda a competitive edge in the global market.”
UWA appreciates the support of the American people toward biodiversity, conservation, and tourism in Uganda through USAID’s Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift (STAR) Project.
The Batwa trail project is supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Program, Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration, United Organization of Batwa Development in Uganda, and Kisoro District Local Government.
Dr. Andrew Seguya, Executive Director of UWA, said, “We are happy to be associated with the development of our partners, the Batwa people, and with projects such as the Garama Cave and short trail, which will enhance income for them. We will strive to add more products to give our visitors a fully rewarding experience.”