History Of The Lost Pygmy People – The Batwa Tribe (The Forest Keepers)

The endangered tribal group also known as the Pygmies; the Batwa are the original dwellers of the montane rainforest (the Echuya forest) in the Kabale and Kisolo, southwestern part of Uganda and in the northern part of Rwanda.

The Batwa are said to be hunters and gatherers living under a hut made of sticks and grasses that came from Ituri forest in Congo DR hunting for wild animals. It was said that on landing the forest, it was named Kisoro which means land dominated by wild animals.

In the 90s, they were forcefully sent away from the forest after the agro-industries and forest conservation agencies gained control of the forest from the government.

The establishment of the Mgahinga and Bwindi  National Park in 1991, the Batwa lost control of the land they believed was their birthright and became squatters, trying to attach with the condition. They abandoned their tradition which was basically hunting and gatherings and became either beggars or laborers, while some were forced to acquire skills like making pottery and dancers/entertainers for survival.

History Of The Lost Pygmy People - The Batwa Tribe (The Forest Keepers)
The Pygmy Tribe – Batwa (image credit: google.com)

The eviction caused the tribe’s populace to dwindle as means of survival became hard for them trying to fit in with the system.

In Rwanda, the Batwa are called Twa. These groups of people are said to be with an average height of 4 feet or smaller. They were called the forest keepers as it was their assigned duty by the Tutsi King to collect fine from the forest encroachers.

The Batwa were said to be treated so unjust by the government and the non Batwa people; other tribes like the Bantu were compensated while the Batwa were left to survive by any means. They were victims of rapes as the non Batwa believed that the cure of HIV and AIDS lies in just sleeping with the Batwa people.

The harsh treatment on the Batwa tribe goes a long way since the establishment of the National Parks, their lands were taken from them. None of the government’s revenue was allocated to them. Violent treatment by dwellers such as raping, looting, and setting their houses on fire.

The Pygmies majorly fed on honey, meat and herbs from the forest, which made them move around hunting for survival while they store up most of their collections in a hut they call Ichuro while they live either in caves or Omuririmbo (hut built by grass and sticks.)

They are shy people who practically carry out their daily activities including worshipping their gods in the forest. They wore animal skin-products for clothing and footwear.

Marriage between Batwa and non Batwa was disallowed – it takes a Batwa to marry a Batwa and they believe the parents of the boy are to get a girl that suits their son, they would pay a visit to the girls family with meat, and pots of honey.

A dead Batwa is to be buried under the earth covered by hut wrapped up in grass but that is after burial rite of corpse purification with herbs by the elders of the community before mandating the family to drink a herbal concoction to avoid more death and are sent off and prevent them from living there again.

A newly married man would take his wife to his own hut while getting advice from the parents, before moving to a far land with his new wife.
The wife on getting pregnant is expected to feed mostly of meat, honey, leaves, and herbs to keep her and her baby inside, healthy.


History Of The Lost Pygmy People - The Batwa Tribe (The Forest Keepers)
Batwa family (image credit: google.com)


On birthing, her baby’s umbilical cord would be cut by the elderly women using a bamboo stick and would be placed by the fire to get the baby warm wrapped in animal skin.