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Bwindi Mapping

Bwindi’s Batwa Pygmies: New Insights from a Participatory 3D Map

Bwindi’s Batwa Pygmies: New Insights from a Participatory 3D Map

Bwindi Mapping

If you have been to Bwindi lately chances are high that you may have missed out on one major aspect of the forest, meeting the indigenous forest people – the Batwa.

The Batwa are believed to be the original people for the Central African forests. The dense vegetation was their home as hunter-gatherers. However, with the gazetting of most of these areas as National Parks  in the 1990’s, strict laws were introduced. Consequently, the Batwa had to leave the forest leaving them with no access to the forests for food, shelter, medicines and other goods and values that they used to find so freely. Without the skills or even (in many cases) the land to be farmers the Batwa have suffered since then.

In 2000 the Batwa organized themselves and formed their own organisation, the United Organisation for Batwa in Uganda (UOBDU).  Its aim is to support Batwa in to address their problems and find sustainable livelihoods.

So when UOBDU invited ITFC to take part in a Participatory 3-Dimensional Modelling of Bwindi by the Batwa (with technical support from ERMIS Africa, we saw a great opportunity of knowing how the indigenous forest dwellers perceive and value the forest and why.

It was fascinating to see the deep knowledge of the Batwa.  They can locate sacred sites, burial grounds, animal ranges, sites for hunting, places with minerals like gold and many other things all in the national park.  Some places taboo so that it is considered dangerous to go there or even to say their names.

We can talk you through the process with pictures.  Building the model itself was a tedious job. First, is the laying of the tables on which the model rests with each layer of carefully cut cardboard following a mapped contour. Each layer is glued onto the one beneath.

The 3-D map of Bwindi fully based on input from Batwa. The yellow papers are the various places of interest to the Batwa including burial grounds, ancestral worship sites, names of hills, swamps, streams, rivers, gold sites, hunting and wild plants gathering sites among other things.

ITFC has helped document the process and looks forward to the next project later this year — modelling the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park with the Batwa communities that live on its margins.  Watch this space.

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