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Development project 5 of 16
Title
Indigenous Communities in Uganda
Location
Communities around the Mgahinga National Park, Uganda
Gorillas
Mountain gorillas
Local Partner:   UOBDU
Description

The indigenous Batwa of Uganda are amongst the poorest communities living alongside the Mgahinga National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The Batwa traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers in the forests of Uganda, which provided them with food and shelter. However, when the national park was officially established in 1991 the communities were evicted, leaving families homeless and without land. They have since faced acute poverty, and a low level of education, coupled with little knowledge of their rights, has resulted in a severe lack of confidence.

In late 2007, the Gorilla Organization started working with the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU), a national NGO that supports the communities in developing sustainable livelihoods. Through a needs-assessment workshop, it was established that the Batwa’s main problem is poverty, exacerbated by a lack of resources and dependency on others. This is being addressed through training in agriculture and animal husbandry, building their livelihoods and reducing the poverty and discrimination they are facing.

The overall objective of the project is to reduce the poverty faced by the Batwa, in turn lowering human pressure on the national park. The specific objectives are:

 

  • To improve the Batwa’s socio-economic status through the sale of surplus crops grown
  • To support education by enabling children to attend school
  • To improve the health and welfare of the communities through the support of a social worker

 

Progress

The Batwa have been learning modern farming techniques through practical training sessions, and the Gorilla Organization has hired ten hectares of land for agricultural demonstrations and crop growing, as well as providing tools and seeds. These crops not only cover the Batwa’s subsistence needs, contributing to an improved diet, but also provide surplus, which is sold to generate income. Building the livelihoods of the communities in this way benefits children as well as adults, as the increased income allows them to attend school on a more regular basis and facilitates the purchase of school materials.

A social worker has been educating the communities on health and hygiene issues, with discussion topics including diseases, food preparation techniques, and the importance of a balanced diet. This aspect of the project is helping the Batwa to live healthier lives and is contributing to an overall improvement in their wellbeing. 

During 2009 the communities will continue to train in modern farming techniques, implementing these to produce high quality crops, which generate further income. The social worker will continue to work with the communities with regard to health-related issues, and latrines will be constructed to further improve hygiene. The construction of crop stores will allow the Batwa to stockpile surplus crops, reducing spoilage and enabling them to be both used and sold over longer periods, while livestock sheds will also be constructed to facilitate the keeping of sheep and goats.

 

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