The Batwa to benefit from sharing Indigenous Knowledge and Practices

The Batwa to benefit from sharing Indigenous Knowledge and Practices

The Batwa, an indigenous group formerly residing in Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Echuya forests, have been a source of concern for the Government due to their reluctance to conform and contribute to the country’s development. Despite several attempts to integrate them with other communities, they have resisted.

In 2023, it has been 33 years since the Batwa were evicted from the forests for conservation purposes, particularly to protect endangered mountain gorillas. Since then, they have faced challenges without land and a sense of identity, as their traditional way of life, relying on hunting and fruit gathering, was taken away.

Some Batwa individuals in Kisoro, Kabale, Rubanda, and Kanungu have managed to improve their lives through education, employment, and intermarriage with other tribes. However, the overall situation remains grim, with many of the younger generation resorting to begging, consuming cheap alcohol, and engaging in prostitution.

To address the decline in biodiversity caused by human activities, Uganda, a party to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS), is undertaking a four-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Environment Program. The project aims to uplift indigenous communities’ traditional knowledge, including the Batwa, living near the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Echuya Forest Reserve.

The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and various state and non-state partners will collaborate on this project. With an allocated budget of over 2 million US dollars, the initiative seeks to strengthen institutional capacity and create awareness campaigns on ABS in Uganda.

The project will give the Batwa access to the National Parks under Uganda Wildlife Authority’s supervision to utilize unique plant species for value addition. At least 25 Batwa members from the Kigezi region will receive training on negotiating better terms for benefits derived from products within their localities.

The United Organization for the Development of Batwa in Uganda (UOBDU) will manage the project, aiming to identify and document traditional knowledge, community values, and principles of the Batwa. Additionally, they will explore bio-prospecting sites and develop medicinal plant species. The organization will register any developed bio-products with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau as owned by the Batwa communities where the plant genetic resources originated.

Developing the Batwa’s traditional knowledge could significantly contribute to Uganda’s ability to produce medicines for local and international markets, as the Batwa have expertise in using traditional resources to treat various ailments.

Dr. Grace Nambatya, the director of research at the National Chemotherapeutics Research Institute (NCRI), emphasized the importance of cooperation between Uganda Wildlife Authority, National Forestry Authority, and the Science, Technology, and Innovation Secretariat to ensure the project’s success.

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