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Ecotourism ended the traditional lives of Uganda's Batwa Pygmies

Tony Schwartz | Uganda

Organization: Tony Schwartz Photography

Mother and Infant, Mubare Group, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, December 7, 2017

In Africa, efforts to protect endangered animals often negatively impact indigenous people. In 1992, the Batwa Pygmies were evicted from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where they had lived for thousands of years, when it was designated as a World Heritage Site and national park. This was stated to be done to protect endangered mountain gorillas, and the increasingly popular and income-generating gorilla ecotourism industry. Many of the Batwa now live in Buhoma, the village in which the park entrance is located. The Ugandan government has provided them with no reparation, jobs, housing assistance, or income associated with ecotourism.

It is not our intention to imply that ecotourism, which provides rangers to help prevent poaching, some veterinary support and a system that helps protect the gorillas, is not appropriate or necessary. Indeed, it is critical to the gorillas’ survival. Ecotourism also brings tourist-derived money to Buhoma, the village at the entrance to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

In Africa, efforts to protect endangered animals frequently have negatively impacted people living tradional lifestyles in those areas. Batwa Pygmies resided for millennia in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of southwestern Uganda.  In 1992, the government evicted them; the forest had been designated a World Heritage Site and national park, to protect highly endangered mountain gorillas, and gorilla ecotourism.

One place in which the Batwa now live is Buhoma, a village at the park entrance. When I first met them in 2006, they were said to be happy with their new lives, but this was belied by their demeanor and living circumstances. I returned to Buhoma in December 2017 to interview and photograph them. Over two days they told me ancient stories, described and demonstrated their former forest life, and discussed their current status.

Since eviction, the Ugandan government has not provided the Batwa reparation, jobs, housing assistance, or income from ecotourism. Although their situation has improved somewhat since 1992, they still are “ultra-poor,” living on less than $0.80 per day.


Musinguzi Amos, BS (Nursing), Buhoma, Uganda

Canon Scott Kellermann, MD, MPH&TM, Buhoma, Uganda


Eric L. Schwartz, Los Angeles, California, USA

Musinguzi Denis, Buhoma, Uganda

The images I acquire are diverse in subject matter and location. Exotic locations stimulate my creative photographic juices and, being a veterinarian, I have a natural proclivity for photographing wildlife and nature. The human face also fascinates me, and I very much enjoy making on-site portraits. Thus, travel and a love of photographing people have led me to focus on portraying ways of life, and differences and similarities among individuals from diverse cultures and environments.

Faces express the soul and are captivating, especially those of aged people and children. Children’s faces often express joy and a love of life, or suffering, desperation, and the struggle to overcome adversity, and the aged face can display the effects of how a life has been led.

I strive to record images in which, when possible, the personality of the subject, be it a non-human or human animal, and their story, come through. In work with models, it became clear to me that one of my major interests is to acquire portraits that resonate with personal stories told by the subjects.

The current proposal is my first formal entry into photojournalism. I have attempted to utilize my approach tofine art photographic portraiture, whileassociatingpersonal stories with the images, as I dealtwith a common conflict in Africa. That is, between protecting endangered animal species and the impact this has had on people, often leading traditional lives, who reside in the same area as the animals. The protection of animalsmight not be supported by governments unless associated with income derived fromecotourism. I had seen this issue up close during a trip to Tanzania in 2009, where I interacted with members of the Maasai tribe. But not until the current project, involving the impact on diminutive people of the forest of protecting critically endangered mountain gorillas, have all my photographic, veterinary and storytelling interests come together.

In 2006, my wife Claudia and I travelled to southwest Uganda, to trek to see mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (a World Heritage Site). While there, we met co-author Musinguzi Amos, then 16 years old, in Buhoma, the village at the entrance of the park. We also met some Batwa Pygmies. The forest also had been the home of the hunter-gatherer Batwa for millennia, until the Ugandan government evicted them from it in 1992, to protect the gorillas and ecotourism. At that time, our tour leader stated that the Batwa were happy to now be living outside the forest, but that did not appear to us to be the case.

We visited Uganda again in December 2017. There, we attended the graduation of Amos, with a BS in Nursing from the International Health Sciences University, in Kampala. From there we traveled to Buhoma, where I had arranged to interview and photograph the Batwa. I believe a far richer an outcome derives from presenting individual stories than a summary of them. Individual stories create a fabric that narrates the lives of the people.

The elder Batwa speak no English, so the conversations I had with them required translation by one of the co-authors, Musinguzi Amos. Some of the interviews were recorded via video, and notes were taken during all of them. While in Buhoma I met co-author Canon Dr. Scott Kellermann, who has resided in Buhoma since 2001. Realizing the potential for loss of knowledge of the Batwa's former way of life, several years ago he purchased a site in the forest adjacent to the national park, for the Batwa to teach their children how they had lived, and to gain some income from visiting tourists. At this site, via a demonstration of their previous ways of life called "The Batwa Experience," they demonstrated the types of huts in which they had lived, how they had hunted, and their relationship with their god, “Nyabingi.”

Despite nearly a 100% illiteracy rate among the adults, the Batwa have a rich oral tradition, so many of their stories and legends having been passed down for countless generations. During my interviews, the Batwa told both ancient and more recent stories from their culture and spoke of their former independent and happy lives in the forest. Further, they were open in their discussion of their current, difficult existence, as they continue to integrate into the larger, “Bakiga,” community in Buhoma. The portraits comprising some of this article were made as the Batwa told their stories.

Since their eviction from the forest, the Ugandan government has not provided the Batwa with reparation, jobs, housing assistance, or income derived from ecotourism. Initial studies in 2000 by Scott Kellerman found that 8 years after their eviction, 38% of the Batwa children died before their fifth birthday, translating to a life expectancy of only 28 years, and that they had an annual mean income of $25. At present, though there has been some improvement in their lot, the Batwa still are identified as “ultra-poor,” with an average income of $.80 per day.

The other side of this complicated story: As of 2016, only an estimated 880 mountain gorillas survived. While in Buhoma, in December 2017, we trekked again to visit the gorillas. Three days after photographing Kanyonyi, the dominant silverback of the Mubare group of gorillas, he died from wounds associated with a previous fall from a tree and a fight with another silverback. This was a major loss.

Lewis, J. (2000). The Batwa Pygmies of the Great Lakes Region. London, United Kingdom: Minority Rights Group International.

Werikhe, L. M. (1998), et al. CAN THE MOUNTAIN GORILLA SURVIVE? Population and Habitat Viability Assessment for Gorilla gorilla beringei. Apple Valley, MN, USA: IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.

UNPO.org. (2016). Batwa: The History and Culture of a Marginalized People in Central Africa. The Hague, The Netherlands: Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization - unpo.org. 

Wikipedia. (2018). Mountain gorilla. Wikipedia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_gorillaBatwaOfBwindi/Batwa2017.html

Dr. Kellerman: The Kellerman Foundation:


Email: tony@tonyschwartzphoto.com ; tonyvet@comcast.net


Land Line: (617) 859-3948

Summer Land Line: (802) 824-6720

Cell: (617) 899-8029

Please find the full manuscript for this photoessay by scrolling down.  For the images shown on the SDN site, plus additional images please go to:

http://tonyschwartzphoto.com/20171206-08-BatwaOfBwindi/Batwa2017.html  If you have trouble with getting there by clicking on the latter, please copy and past the above in your browser).

The mouse over images in the latter linked website are referred to by number in the below full manuscript of this photo essay:

The full manuscript:

“Ecotourism Ended the Traditional Lives of Uganda's Batwa Pygmies”

Stories of the Batwa Pygmies of Buhoma, Bwindi, Uganda:

Anthony (Tony) Schwartz, DVM, PhD, DACVS, and Musinguzi Amos, BS (Nursing), and Scott Kellermann, MD, MPH&TM

Photographs by Tony Schwartz


The Batwa Pygmies

There are many instances all over the world of a dominant and powerful group of people killing or having a serious negative impact on weaker indigenous peoples living a traditional life style.  This certainly is true of the what has happened to the small statured, hunter/gatherer Twa, who lived for millennia in the forests of central Africa. The Twa of Uganda, known as Batwa Pygmies, are the subject of this paper. The stories told by Batwa of their life in the forest, and their current status, are presented through images and personal narratives. The general philosophy of this approach is that the story of a people is best told by compiling individual stories, rather than presenting generalizations.

Who are the Batwa?  Jerome Lewis (Lewis, 2000) has written that they: “…are believed to be the original inhabitants of the equatorial forests of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. The forest was their home. It provided them with sustenance and medicines, and contained their sacred sites. Their low-impact use of forest resources meant that their way of life was sustainable over thousands of years. In the nineteenth century, incoming agriculturalists and pastoralists started the process of deforestation, clearing forests for cultivation. The Batwa were integrated into society at the lowest level, although they were also important in the courts of the pre-colonial kings and chiefs, as performers, spies, hunters and warriors.”

“With the advent of colonialism, large-scale forest logging and an increasing interest in trophy game hunting, the overexploitation and destruction of Central African forest habitats and wildlife impacted more and more on Batwa Pygmy communities. In recent decades, the establishment of game parks has led to their eviction from their traditional lands, while severe inter- and intra-state upheavals and violent conflicts have undermined their livelihoods and culture even further. For numerous Batwa Pygmy communities, near- or absolute destitution has become a reality (Lewis, 2000).”

The population of Batwa living in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has been estimated at 86,000 to 112,000, with approximately 6,700 in Uganda (UNPO.org, 2016).  Despite nearly a 100% illiteracy rate among the adults, the Batwa have a rich oral tradition, many of their stories and legends having been passed down for countless generations. Since the dawn of man, the mountain gorillas and the Batwa resided alongside one another in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda, but this no longer is true. 

In 1992, the Batwa were evicted from that forest, when it was designated as a World Heritage Site, and now the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, for the stated purpose of protecting endangered mountain gorillas, however, perhaps it was at least in part because the Ugandan government sought to protect the increasingly popular and income generating ecotourism industry.  Many of the Batwa now live in Buhoma, a village in which the park entrance is located. The Ugandan government has provided the Batwa with no reparation, jobs, or housing assistance, nor have the Batwa shared in any income associated with ecotourism.  Initial studies in 2000 by one of us (Scott Kellerman �" SK) indicated that 8 years after the eviction, 38% of the Batwa children died before their fifth birthday, translating to a life expectancy of only 28 years, with an annual mean income of $25. Despite improvements in their condition since then, they remain classified as “ultra-poor” i.e., living on less than $0.80 per day.

The Gorillas

The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of two subspecies of the eastern gorilla (the other being Grauer's gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), formerly known as the eastern lowland gorilla. There are two populations of mountain gorillas. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, within three National Parks: Mgahinga, in southwest Uganda; Volcanoes, in northwest Rwanda; and Virunga in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The other is found in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mountain gorillas are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (https://www.iucn.org/ (S. Werikhe, 1998). As of September 2016, only an estimated 880 mountain gorillas remained (Wikipedia, 2018). 

Gorillas break themselves up into family groups, each led/controlled by a dominant male, the “silverback.”  As part of the ecotourism enterprise, certain of these groups have, over the years, been habituated to the presence of human beings.  Each member of these groups is named and studied over time. Trackers follow and know where the various habituated groups are in the forest, return in the morning to the last place they were seen the evening before, find their current location, and then communicate with to the base so groups of tourists can be led to them.

The gorillas are comfortable with and generally seem to ignore the human beings on the periphery of their group, though the young ones may be attracted to interact with people more than the adults.  Human beings near them do not elicit fear or aggression during their one hour stay. The gorillas sometimes walk with their babies close to and even brush against the tourists.  Routinely, it is possible to be less than 20 feet from them as they eat, nurse their infants, and just exist. This often is a very emotional experience for the tourists. Some images taken on December 7, 2017 show members of the Mubare group of gorillas, still intact when we observed them (Figs. 1-3).  (Note: Figure numbers used in this manuscript refer to images in the associated website: Click on Batwa. Some additional images also are presented there).

Figure 1. Kanyonyi, Dominant Silverback, Mubare Group, December 7, 2017

Figure 2. Infant, Mubare Group,December 7, 2017

Figure 3. Mother and Infant, Mubare Group December 7, 2017

Kanyonyi, the dominant (and only) silverback of this group (Fig. 1), died 3 days after these photos were taken, from an infection previously acquired during a fight with another male, following an earlier fall from a tree. The group undoubtedly broke up thereafter, with the females and babies becoming members of other groups.  The gorillas are free to roam and, as there are no fences around the park, they occasionally wander outside of its confines, so the Buhoma community has an ongoing relationship with them.  When the word went out that Kanyonyi had died, some residents mourned the loss.

It is not our intention to imply that ecotourism, which provides rangers to help prevent poaching, some veterinary support and a system that helps protect the gorillas, is not appropriate or necessary.  Indeed, it is critical to the gorillas’ survival.  Ecotourism also brings tourist-derived money to Buhoma[1]. This is a complicated and difficult story because of these facts.   

Visits to Bwindi, Uganda

The principal author (AS) and his wife Claudia (“we”) had visited Buhoma, a small village in Bwindi, in southwestern Uganda, in 2006. We not only trekked to see the gorillas at that time, we also met two young men who lived in Buhoma, Musinguzi Amos (MA) and Musinguzi Denis (MD) (not related, but with a similar tribal background), with whom we have since had an enduring relationship.  While on a tour of Buhoma we were introduced to some of the Batwa.  The leader of the tour stated that the Batwa were “happy” to be living outside of the forest, however the Batwa’s demeanor and circumstances of living indicated otherwise.  AS longed to learn more about these former people of the forest.  In December 2017, we again visited Uganda, where we attended MA’s graduation from the International Health Sciences University in Kampala, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. After the graduation we returned to Buhoma.  We were honored to meet and dine with members of MA’s and MD’s families, among other residents of Buhoma, the warmest and friendliest people we have ever met. 

At the request of AS, MA had arranged for MD, AS and himself to spend portions of two days (December 6 and 8) with the Batwa, both in a mountainous region outside the national park, and in the Buhoma Batwa settlement.  In each case, the guide and on-the-spot translator for the tours, Busingye Levi (BL), also prepared the Batwa for our visit, informing them that AS wished to photograph and interview them. Eric Schwartz (ES), our son, was visiting from the USA, arriving in time to participate with the rest of us, including CS, on the second day,

During our stay in Buhoma we were very fortunate to meet Canon Dr. Scott Kellerman (SK).  SK had purchased 100 acres of old growth forest, adjacent to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, to establish a “living history” site where the Batwa’s rich heritage could be preserved. Working with the Batwa elders, traditional houses and religious sites were created. The name chosen by the elders was the Batwa Experience; they agreed that this would become a venue where Batwa children would be taught the ancient ways of life in the forest. When we visited the Batwa Experience, we were presented with the recounting of ancient legends, the singing of traditional songs and the performance of age-old dances.

The first of our two days was spent in the forest, participating in the Batwa Experience.  On the second day, we met with the Batwa at a smaller version of the tour, which occurred on land set aside in Buhoma for this purpose.

It is obvious that survival in the forest for millennia as hunter/gatherers had demanded an intimate knowledge of the flora and fauna located there. During the Batwa Experience we joined in a mock hunt where the Batwa displayed how adept they are at the art of snaring small game and this demonstrated the speed, alacrity and accuracy required to hunt an animal using only a spear or a bow and arrow. They amazed us by how quickly they could start a fire using only the friction created by spinning one stick against another. The Batwa love honey and showed us that they are very agile at climbing trees in search of it. Nyabingi (the Batwa’s deity, also known as Nyagasana [creator]) still is feared and worshipped by the Batwa. We were shown how food and drink would be offered to Nyabingi at a “shrine.” Late in the day, if Nyabingi has not consumed the offerings, the Batwa would assume that the God was neither hungry nor thirsty and therefore they would be free to consume the gifts. They also demonstrated how they dealt with death of one of their own in the forest.

AS interviewed and photographed nine of the Batwa, in eight instances asking questions through BL.  Tumubweine Elizabeth speaks English, so her story required no translation. AS, through BL, informed the Batwa that their images and their stories would be shown and told in the United States.  Some videos also were made of the interviews, by MD, who currently in a nursing program in Kampala, and ES.  MA took notes during the interviews, and later also translated the videos into English.  The written notes and video transcriptions served as the sources of the narratives of the interviews.  Tumubweine Elizabeth and Turyahikayo Bernard were interviewed away from the tour sites on the second day.

Visiting the Batwa

MA, MD, BL (left to right - Fig. 4), and AS walked up the steep mountainous trail from Buhoma, toward the Batwa site, passing several homes of Buhoma residents on the way to the Batwa Experience.  The valley, including Buhoma, were visible (Fig. 5). As always on such tours, an armed guard accompanied them.  A surprise rebel attack in 1999 in the Bwindi Forest resulted in several tourists being tortured and killed, so ever since there has been an obvious military presence there.

Figure 4.  Levi, Amos and Denis on the way to the “Batwa Experience”

Figure 5.  Buhoma View

After some time, we were greeted by several Batwa.  They welcomed us, as they apparently always do, by singing and dancing (Fig. 6).

Figure 6.  Batwa Greeting

We then proceeded further up the mountain.  We were assisted in the ascent by one of the Batwa, Eliphaz Kabwana (Fig. 7).

Figure 7.  Eliphaz Kabwana Improves the Trail

The Batwa prepared several demonstrations of their previous life in the forest.

Making Fire (Figs 8-10):

Figure 8.  Making Fire I

Figure 9.  Making Fire II.  The Embers are Ready

Figure 10.  Making Fire III.  The Torch is Lit

Harvesting Honey from a tree: We were shown how fire was used to help retrieve honey from the trees (Figs. 11 & 12).

Figure 11. Harvesting Honey I

Figure 12.  Harvesting Honey II 

The smoke was said to sedate the bees and drive them from the hive.  This was followed by removing the honey combs.  Stings would occur.

Selecting a New Place to Live in the Forest: The places in the forest where the Batwa set up housekeeping always had to have large rocks present.  One reason for this was the use of openings in the rocks as shrines, where they placed offerings to their god Nyabingi, as shown by Eliphaz Kapere (Fig. 13). During this demonstration small rocks on the ground took the place of offerings.

Figure 13.  A Shrine for Nyabingi

During both the Batwa Experience and the lower village Batwa tour, Barekwe Flora, one of the Batwa, dressed in straw outfit pretending to be Nyabingi (Figs. 14 and 15).

Figure 14.  Barekwe Flora as Nyabingi, God of the Batwa

Figure 15.  Nyabingi, God of the Batwa

Hunting:  There was a demonstration of several means of hunting wild animals using snares (Figs. 16-18).  A stick was used to demonstrate triggering the snare

Figure 16.  The snare is ready

Figure 17. The snare is sprung

Fig. 18. Acting Ensnared

Hunting with bows and arrows also was demonstrated (Figs. 19 and 20).

Figure 19. On the “Hunt”

Figure 20.  Return from the “Hunt”

Batwa Huts:  During the Batwa Experience Eliphaz Kabwana described where the Batwa had lived while in the forest.

While in the forest, different groups of Batwa were scattered in different areas, and each group lived in a homestead as one family. In a homestead, various kinds of huts/houses were named according to the function each played:

Omuririmbo: This was a hut that accommodated the entire family for an extendedperiod (Fig. 21).

Figure 21.  An Omuririmbo Hut

Ekifuha: This hut (not shown) accommodated many members of the family, much like the Omuririmbo, but was used temporarily [and had a flat, rather than a peaked roof �" the name is derived from the word Okufuha, meaning possessiveness].

Kyamutwarabwashesha, which in the Batwa language means “in the morning, someone was taken from the hut by an animal]: This was a hut where they slept at night; very early in the morning, they wandered away to do their daily activities (Fig 22).

Figure 22. A Kyamutwarabwashesha Hut


Mwamba: This type of hut was constructed high up in a tree between branches. It played several functions, including being the place families stayed when there were dangerous wild animals in the area, such as lions, hyenas or leopards. The man stayed at the entrance with a spear to kill any animal or scare it away in case of attack (Fig. 23), and they left their children high up in this hut to protect them from wild animals whenever they went away to hunt, collect honey or wild yams.

Figure 23.  A Mwamba Hut “Guarded” by Eliphaz Kabwana


Following the demonstrations, the Batwa interviewees were asked to tell personal stories of their lives in the forest; they also told stories passed down through the generations.  The ages given below for the elder Batwa are approximate, as there are no written records of their births.

Interview of Barekwe Flora, about 88 years old (Fig. 24)

Figure 24.  Barekwe Flora

Telling the story of the Mutwa (singular for Batwa) and the Duiker:  Long ago, the Batwa lived in Bwindi forest. While in the forest, there came a time when they lacked honey, wild yams, fruits, wild meat, among other needs. This was a disaster - famine in the forest (Fig. 25).

Figure 25.  Flora tells the story of “the Mutwa and the Duiker”

A Mutwa man proposed to his family that he would wander away to other parts of the forest to look for food.  He carried with him fire-setting sticks, bows, arrows, stones, sharpened spears and a mat bag. He walked several miles in the forest and looked everywhere, uphill and downhill and up in the trees, but he did not find anything to eat.

Luckily, at some point he spotted a wild duiker (an antelope) grazing on grass deep in the forest. He was very excited and started blessing and praising Nyabingi for the opportunity given. He asked his god to help him kill the duiker and have food for his family.

He got himself in position to kill the duiker. But, as he raised his spear, the duiker rose up on its rear legs and said to the Mutwa: “my friend, do you really want to kill me?”

The Mutwa immediately threw down the spear and said: “Oh my god, I wanted to eat meat, but this animal has said that I should not kill it.”

The duiker came closer and hugged the Mutwa and said, “from today onwards, you are my friend, but you should never talk about me,” and that he would then always get everything he wanted to eat.  He also invited the Mutwa to sleep at its home that night.

The duiker took the Mutwa to its home, where there was honey, meat, yams, fruits and all the foods the Mutwa desired. They ate until they were satisfied and spent a good night at a duiker’s place.

Early in the morning, the duiker packed all sorts of foods for the Mutwa to take to his home and accompanied him to the point where they had met. The duiker told the Mutwa never to tell anyone about its whereabouts and then went away.

The Mutwa carried the food to his family.  When he was near his home, his children and wife spotted him from a distance; they welcomed him, saying “here comes dad!”

The family enjoyed the food.  They were satisfied and very happy.

Interview of Eliphaz Kabwana, 36 years old (Fig. 26):

Figure 26.  Eliphaz Kabwana

Life in the forest: Kabwana said that he had lived in the forest in the late 1980’s and early ’90’s, during their last days there, and that he was among the last people to leave the forest. He lived with his grandparents then, and their life in the forest was very good (Fig. 27).

Figure 27.  Eliphaz Kabwana tells his story

They didn’t know about money because everything - food and water - were freely available. There was nothing like going to school. They spoke their own Rutwa language, unlike, today when they now speak the local Rukiga language; and the young ones speak English.

He described the dress code in the forest, whereby only the elders dressed in bark cloth (cloth made from the bark of trees[2]) and skins.  The children never wore clothes, even up to 14 years of age.

The Batwa lived under the rocks and the fallen logs of trees, in caves and huts, and under the roots of large fig trees. He stated that in the early 1990’s, when they were forced out of the forest, some of the elders who resisted leaving were killed by the game rangers.

Soon after leaving the forest, life became very difficult.  There was segregation between the Bakiga, the residents of Buhoma, and the Batwa. He said that the Bakiga hated the Batwa, regarding them as wild, dirty, thieves and nonhumans, because of how they appeared and how they dressed in bark cloth and skins.

When life became too difficult, some Batwa sought help from Bakiga families, to whom they had sold wild meat during the time they had been in the forest.  Some families helped the Batwa by providing them with small plots of land far away, where they put up small huts, or they lived in caves, where they were isolated from other people. Others still lived a wild and miserable life in the bush; many of them were killed by the local people for stealing food or domestic animals (cows, goats, pigs, sheep, poultry and sometimes cattle), which reduced the population of Batwa compared to when they had lived in the forest.

He said that while they were in isolation, they started doing manual labor for the local people, initially exchanging hard labor for food and later paid, but too little, because they were regarded as illiterate and primitive.

Another challenge was that the families that gave them those pieces of land, labor and food forced them to go hunting in forests, setting snares and traps, to bring meat to them. Many of their parents, elders and relatives, lost their lives as they were shot dead by the game rangers in the newly established Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, further reducing their numbers and strength.

Later, around 2002, programs (NGO’s) like the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forests Conservation Trust (MBIFCT) and now the Batwa Development Programme (BDP) started to help them, bringing them together, providing care and giving them places to live.

Current challenges, but also perhaps benefits:

Kabwana said that he must seek and pay for healthcare, unlike in the past when the Batwa lived in the forest where medication was free and readily available.

He is not happy at all; he has lost too much; everything was free in the forest; the only good thing now is that children go to school.

Interview of Mamia Margaret, about88 years old

Mamia Margaret �" Fig. 28 (whose vision is impaired due to the infectious disease trachoma, the second leading cause of blindness in sub-Saharan Africa) �" clearly is the instrumental musician of this group of Batwa. She was nearly always in possession of her traditional musical instrument, an “African finger hub,” or “ikyembe” in both the local Rukiga (Bakiga) and Lutwa (Batwa) languages. When interviewed, Margaret related the following, with tears in her eyes:

Figure 28.  Batwa Elegance �" Mamia Margaret

She misses wild meat, honey, yams, fruits and herbal medicines, and the Batwa culture; all this is history now. She said that she feels hurt and unhappy in this new life (Fig. 29).

Figure 29. Mamia Margaret Tells Her Story

She described how the Batwa in the forest had the best food, with meat from various animals, including duikers, bush bucks, porcupines, squirrels, monkeys, buffaloes and sometimes bigger animals like elephants. Meat was always available. Other foods, like wild yams, wild potatoes, fruits, and herbs, were always available. They never were hungry; they were strong and healthy, with very good and attractive bodies, and were well-nourished, unlike today when they are miserable, malnourished and wasted.

Margaret said that a Mutwa never became sick while in the forest.  They just got headaches, which were simply treated with local herbs, unlike today when diseases like diarrhea, malaria, AIDS, typhoid, and childhood illnesses have taken very many lives of the Batwa.

A Mutwa only died of old age; their skins would peel off and be replaced; they would be young again, until old age and then they would die. She said that she had never seen a young Mutwa die unless they were struck by lightning, attacked by a wild animal, or hit by a falling tree in a strong storm, all of which were rare.  Whenever a Mutwa died, it was regarded as a misfortune associated with being in that habitat; it was one of their saddest and most terrifying moments.

Immediately after the death of a Mutwa, the corpse was quickly wrapped in grasses, as the rest of the family prepared their belongings. The grass-wrapped corpse then was hidden in a thick bushy area near their home, with the face to the sky, which was felt to cause the spirit of the dead to remain around that place and not follow them when they left. After disposing of the dead this way, thinking that the smells of the dead body would cause more deaths if they remained at that place, they would move on to find a new habitat, several miles away.

The Batwa did not cultivate crops or rear animals. All their food and medicines were readily available in the forest; they only had to look for them and eat; they lived a healthy life.

Today, she said, they eat modern and processed food like posho [finely ground white corn flour], rice, beans, peas, onions, tomatoes, bananas, local meats, biscuits, chocolates, and sweets, especially the children. She feels that salt, cooking oils, spices, and local foods they access have decreased their resistance, leading to increased sickness and death in the Batwa community.  The Batwa now often die young and in middle age, which never happened when they lived in forest with their fathers.

Also, she stated, there now is no security for their homes, families and children, unlike in the past when a Mutwa was believed to be very strong and no stranger entered a Mutwa’s home or territory.

She concluded by saying that she is not happy and that her wish is that one day they could allow the Batwa to go back to live in the forest.

Interview of Nyamihanda Vilot, about 60 years old (Fig. 30):

Figure 30.  Nyamihanda Vilot

Vilot said that while in the forest, the Batwa lived with their parents, grandparents, relatives and friends, in large numbers, and life was very good.

When mature, women got married and got pregnant. The women maintained their pregnancies to full term without any problem, and delivered their babies normally while in forest, not having or needing anything like assisted delivery or caesarean section (Fig. 31).

Figure 31. Nyamihanda Vilot tells her story

Whenever food was depleted where the Batwa stayed, they shifted with their belongings to a virgin area with plenty of fresh wild food, honey and meat, which they loved so much; they regret leaving the forest. Vilot said that the Batwa will never have that happiness and enjoy life again.  “We are all going to perish.”

While in the forest the people had a lot of firewood; they made big fires for roasting their food, meat and to perform their rituals.  Fire was the main source of warmth; today they feel cold and that’s why the Batwa get sick all the time and die.

While in the forests, the children were very healthy; they never got sick like today. She said that the few who got sick maybe had misbehaved and annoyed the elders, so Nyabingi would not be happy, making such undisciplined children sick.  But, they then performed rituals to their god and the children became better. For those who got infections, fevers and worm infestations, they had medicinal herbs ready, and there was nothing to worry about.

Since they were forced out of their ancestral homes in the Bwindi Forest by the government and game rangers, Batwa women no longer deliver normally, no longer push babies naturally and caesarean section is common. This has weakened Batwa women and contributed to more sickness and death of mothers, and all the Batwa population today.

Children now get sick and die more often than in the past, from malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria, typhoid fever, parasitic and other diseases. Unlike in the past there are very many sick children in the hospital or at home.

Vilot related how organizations like the BDP constructed semi-permanent houses for them with iron sheets for the rooves. She complained that these houses are too cold, and whenever it rains there is a lot noise from iron sheets which makes them very uncomfortable; their grass thatched huts were so comfortable, quiet and very warm.

Interview with Eliphaz Kapere, about 80 years old (Fig. 32):   

Figure 32.  Eliphaz Kapere

Kapere was interviewed twice, on December 6, and 8, 2017. In his first interview Kapere stated that in the forest, Batwa never dressed in clothing like today. They dressed mainly in bark cloth, a material derived from the bark of trees.

He described how bark cloth was prepared by using a special piece of wood designed like a mortar, called an “esemwe.”  They would hit the bark, which was derived from a big tree, in repeated circular movements. Later, they would carefully peel off the outer part after hitting it, dry it in the sun and then the cloth would be ready to wear.  They then would cut it into pieces and share the pieces with others; he said that they looked smart and celebrated by dancing and rejoicing, on receiving a new piece of cloth.

Another source of clothing was animal skins.  The skins were removed and then sun-dried for about a week for skins from small animals like duikers, bush bucks, civets, cheetahs, and up to two weeks for the hide of a large animal like a buffalo, which was felt to be a good material to wear.

Kapere said that they used to hunt and kill several kinds of animals, including bush pigs, duikers, bush bucks, vervet monkeys, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, civets, mongooses, buffaloes, and baboons (Fig. 33).

Figure 33.  Eliphaz Kapere tells his story

Whenever the Batwa went on a hunt, they first detected the animal’s presence by their footprints, by which they could identify the types of animals that were present.  They then would set up many snares, depending on the size of the animals they were going to kill. The snares were in the form of strong ropes set up in a small part of the forest where the animals entered to either graze, rest, or mate.

A few strong men stayed near the snares in silence, well equipped with spears, machetes, bows and arrows.  Another group of men went up hill, made a lot of noise, shouting from different directions, leaving the site of the snares very quiet. This would cause the animals to run towards the snares.

Because some animals were strong, when the snares trapped them they would try to run away with the snares still on them. However, that was impossible, due to the presence of the strong men who stayed around the snares.  Immediately, when the animal got caught in a snare, the men would spear it and kill it.

They usually had several kills, up to 10 animals in a single hunt or even more. With a lot of excitement, all the kills were gathered, counted, skinned and spread on a big wooden rack with very strong log stands.

They set up fires under the meat with very strong wood, which surrounded the meat.

Before the meat was ready, as they sat around tending the fire, they had discussions, congratulating themselves for the successful hunt and appreciating the strong men who had speared and killed the strongest, biggest, fastest, fattest, most delicious and toughest animals in the day’s hunt.

When the meat was ready, they served it immediately, and whoever got satisfied would go away, returning to eat when hungry again. Meat was always plentiful, and other foods as well. The Batwa didn’t have specific meals like breakfast, lunch and supper and there was no break between meals. They ate day and night and only rested when it was time to sleep. He said that life was fun and fantastic, unlike today.

In his second interview, Kapere told a story about his youth.  He said that he used to live in the forest with his parents, who went hunting every day and life was so interesting.  One day he cried a lot, so his parents would allow him to go with them to hunt. They refused, but he kept crying until the next day when they allowed him to go on the hunt; he became one of the hunters. One day, as they hunted in the forest, he speared a duiker for the first time in his life. When the duiker was down, their dog grabbed it.

In all the excitement, Kapere held on to the duiker, and because the dog was not yet used to him as part of the hunting team, it bit him on the arm.  He still has a scar on his arm (which he showed us (Fig. 34).

Figure 34.  Eliphaz Kapere - Where the Dog Bit Me

In the forest, the Batwa had good food, meat, and safe water; a Mutwa never became sick. They were known as the strongest race. Later, in the 1990’s, after they were forced out of the forest, life has become too difficult for them, and until this day, they still suffer and regret leaving the forest.  “Our life has changed. and now we are dying like flies because we no longer enjoy the meat, wild yams, fruits and traditional herbs that treated all kinds of diseases.”

Whenever they harvested honey, they served their children and kept the biggest share for the elder in the family, a “Father.” Children who stole the Father’s honey would automatically get sick and that was the only instance when their children became sick, because this behavior annoyed Nyabingi. When that occurred, they immediately took the child to the Ritual Hut or under a large rock that served as a shrine (Fig. 13), and “we presented them to Nyabingi with several types of roasted meat and honey, and our children got healed immediately.”

Kapere told us that Batwa children born in communities are adopting the eating habits and getting used to the available foods. However, the adults who lived in the forests have completely failed to adapt to the foods and continuously live miserable lives and become sick and die every day.

Interview of Turyahikayo Bernard "Kihorihori,” about 90 years old:

To start the second interview day, we visited Kihorihori at his home in Buhoma (Fig. 35). 

Figure 35. Turyahikayo Bernard “Kihorihori”’s House

He told his story: “My life in the forest was comparable to nothing else; I had the best life ever.” He said the Batwa had plenty of food, a variety of meat that included bush pigs, duikers, bush bucks, water bucks, civets, porcupines and buffaloes; and foods like wild yams, wild fruits, mushrooms, wild honey, and herbs. These foods acted as medicines, too.  The Batwa were strong, resistant to disease and healthy.  “We were the strongest people in the world (Fig. 36).”

Figure 36.  Kihorihori tells his story

Bernard said that the Batwa were enemies of the gorillas, but they did not eat them; they resembled people too much. At any encounter with the gorillas, “we staged a war or gorillas scared us away.”


They rarely ate monkeys and some Batwa never did, because good meat from other animals was available all the time. They only ate monkeys when there was no other meat to eat. Today, some Batwa eat monkeys and other “funny animals” because they cannot get enough other meat to eat.  “Today, we no longer get wild meat and the all the good food stuffs we got in the forest. Local foods like posho bought from shops, beans, salt, cooking oil, local [domestic] meat, and other food stuffs lack nutrients enough to keep us strong and healthy. Long ago we were strong, immune and healthy, now we are weak, malnourished, wasted and sick” (Fig. 37).


 Figure 37.  Long Ago We Were Strong, Immune and Healthy

Bernard feels that modern medicine is not helping the Batwa in any way. They trusted their traditional medicines.  For example, one would get the herbs, pound them in a wooden mortar, mix them with water, drink the medicine and get better. “Modern medicine is making us weaker.”

He discussed why he uses Marijuana: “I started smoking marijuana when I was still a young man and a strong hunter. Marijuana helped me to become confident, strong, and see animals clearly during the hunting. I just threw one spear into the animal and that was the end of it.”

“We did not need money in the forest, now we need money to live.”

“We are living a miserable life.”

We were joined at the interview by his two grandchildren (Fig. 38), Tushabe Moses and Kyatuhire Brenda, who were children of Eliphaz Kabwana and Tumuhimbise Molly.

Figure 38.  Kihorihori’s grandchildren

Interview of Kabwana Julius, about 55 years old (Fig. 39), derived from a recording:

Figure 39. Kabwana Julius Tells His Story I

“I lived with my family at the forest edges. We only sneaked into the forest to hunt, set snares, traps, gather fruits, wild yams, collect honey, kill wild birds, make bark cloth clothing, which took us a couple of weeks before we came back to our homes.  Life was so interesting.  We would come back with lots of meat and other foods that would last us for a long time.  We then rested for one or two days and went back to hunt.  We liked the way we lived so much because we had very delicious, nutritious food that we cannot get in the community today.”

“We had freedom to move wherever we wanted in the forest, to look for all we needed, unlike today where you are not allowed to move or even kill a bird (Fig. 40).”

Figure 40.  Kabwana Julius Tells His Story II

“We had all the food, shelter, and traditional medicine both in quality and quantity. We neither became sick nor died. We did not become hungry even for a single day. Now hunger is almost finishing us.”

“As we hunted, whenever we landed into a gorilla field, we staged a war because we were great enemies. One day, we landed in a field of wild gorillas and because the gorillas thought we were hunting them they chased us away; I sustained a serious injury from a tree stump as I tried to run away. That was a wasted day because we missed killing an animal that day.”

“Many of our friends fell from tall trees and some died, others would get serious bites from bigger animals as we hunted.”

“Our life is so terrible now. We become sick all the time, no food and we get hunger spells, we are no longer strong like in the past and we are living a miserable life today.”

Intereview of Bazongoza Tito, about 76 years old (Fig. 41), derived from a video recording:

Figure 41. Bazongoza Tito

“I lived in the forest. We stayed in our huts at night, and comfortably slept on ferns. Life was so good.  We ate a variety of wild meats, yams, fruits, roots, honey, safe fresh water and a variety of traditional medicines we used to treat diseases.

“We once spotted a place where there were bees, and honey smelled everywhere. As we went to collect honey from the tree, gorillas in trees charged at us and chased us away; I sustained a very serious injury on my leg. I made a lot of noise, shouted that a gorilla has bitten me, but actually it was a tree branch that had entered my body. My brothers removed it by hitting the opposite side, and pulled it out leaving behind a very big wound that later healed with a scar as you can still see on my leg (Fig. 42).

Figure 42.  Where I thought the gorilla bit me

“In communities today, life is very difficult. We are eating local foods like posho, matooke [or matoke, a variety of bananas used mainly for cooking before they are ripe. Once cooked and mashed, they are often considered the national food of Uganda], beans, millet, local [raised] meats, spices, cooking oil, oily foods, salt, sugar and the sweet things that are responsible for our sickness and increased death rate. The Batwa culture has been invaded by the culture of local communities and soon we shall lose our dignity, culture and values.  What a loss chasing and forcing us out of the Bwindi forest.”

Collecting Honey from the forest: “Up to today, we are the best at spotting honey bee locations. Whenever we spotted honey, we started making a fire.”

Fire setting: “We used two dry sticks called “obusingo.” We made a small hole in one of the sticks, put it down horizontally to act as a fire base. We inserted into the hole the smooth end of another stick and held it vertically (Figs. 8-10).” 

“One man with the vertical stick held between both palms made several circular turns to create friction and generate heat at the point of insertion.  With stronger and faster turns, heat generated smoke and then fire, which was now ready to use.”

Honey harvesting (Figs 11 and 12): “We collected the fire and put it in the pile of dry leaves or fibers, as we approached a tree that had a hole in it, or a hole in the ground, a tree stump or a log, which had bees and honey in it.  If it was a tall tree, we used ropes or vines, which we tied around the tree to help us climb it.  We brought with us bags and machetes.  When we reached the place that had the hole for the hive, we placed the fire into the hole to generate enough smoke that it would cause most of the bees to go away and make others disorganized or drunk. We used the machete to enlarge the entrance so that an arm could pass to pick the honey combs from inside; we received several bee stings but made sure we got out all the honey, eating some of it at that time.  Thereafter, we took the honey home for other family members to eat, with the rest kept for the elders in a family.”

When a Mutwa died: “When someone in a Batwa family died, this was regarded a misfortune. We became angry and felt miserable for the loss of our family member.”  We believed that this death was a bad omen, showing that where we were was cursed, insecure, or unfriendly to us, and an immediate decision would be made to shift to a new place.

“We spent that night packing all our belongings, preparing to go away to look for a new home in the forest that was free, secure and had all we needed to live.

“The next morning, we “buried” the corpse [it was never put underground].  The corpse was wrapped in ferns and a grass specie called “orusiru” by the elders. The corpse was then placed, facing upwards, under a large bush and we then moved away with all our belongings to a new location to live.

“The corpse was faced upwards, so the spirit of the dead person would stay at that place and would never follow us to our new habitat.  We moved immediately because we feared that the bad smell from the dead person would lead to more deaths, besides the place being regarded as one of misfortune.”

The traditional Medicines: “While in the forest, we depended on some foods used as medicines to treat the diseases that affected us. Apart from food like honey, other traditional herbs included:

“Ekizimyamuliro, which was used to reduce fever in sick children and adults;

“Ekyomoro, which would be mashed and applied to the fresh wound, it was used to dry the wound, and treat infection to promote quick healing;

“Omuhoko was used to treat anyone who got a snake bite. It was made into a hot poultice and applied to the affected part to help suck out the venom;

“Omugyiti was used to stimulate milk production in women, who would then help nurse infants who either lost their mother or whose mother would not produce milk to support the baby;

“Nyakibazi was used to deworm infants and adults who had intestinal worms;

“Rukokoota was used to treat stomach ache, among other diseases.”

Interview of Tumubweine Elizabeth, 19 Years Old (performed away from the Batwa community sites - Fig. 43):

Figure 43. Tumubweine Elizabeth and Her Daughter Shivan

Elizabeth lives in the Batwa Community. She speaks English, unlike nearly all of the other interviewees. The interview was recorded by video. She was told that she was the only person interviewed who not had not lived in the forest, and because she is young she is working though the current way of life of the Batwa in Uganda. She was asked to tell her personal story and, from her perspective, how the elders feel about their life in comparison to young people.

Elizabeth stated that she is a student. She had completed her primary level at the Bishop’s Primary School (Kunungo District, Uganda [www.kellermannfoundation.org/bishops-school-batwa-sponsorship-program/]), after six years, and now she is Senior 2 in secondary school. She stated that her parents are proud of her because she is studying. They also have taught her how the Batwa lived in the forest; they are living now in the village.

Elizabeth said that when the Batwa were in the forest they used to go hunting early in the morning. They used to sleep in small grass hut houses. When they wanted to sleep they would make a fire around those huts, which they would enter, and put the young ones inside, so that large animals could not attack them. They would kill animals that came to attack them. In the morning when the men would go to hunt, they would put the young ones in tree houses. After the hunt, they would bring the children back down and prepare the meat. But before they would prepare the meat they would worship their God, and to make sure they would have another successful hunt, they would offer parts of the animal to their God.

When the men went to hunt, the women would be left behind, looking for fruit, collecting firewood, and some would cut out patterns for clothing, and others would look for wild yams (Fig 44).

Figure 44. Tumubweine Elizabeth tells her story

When a Mutwa died in the forest, they would “bury” that person and then shift away. They could not dig a hole and bury it, but they could just cover that dead person in grasses. Then they could hide him or her and then shift away.

When the President of Uganda came and wanted to conserve this forest, the Batwa were told to come out of the forest, but coming out of the forest was not easy for them. They at first said that they were not going leave because they would miss their food choices. Some were killed, she said, by rangers, because they refused to come out of the forest.

After leaving the forest they did not have land, but lived in the community. Then, she said, Dr. Scott came and decided that these people should have their own land and their own houses. He bought some land and built some houses, and they now are proud because now some of Batwa members are being educated and graduating from school" - “they are supporting us; we thank them very much.”

When asked if she has hopes as a young person that her life will be as good as anybody else in Uganda, she answered: “Yes.”

When asked if Ugandans who are not Batwa treat her as well as they do other Ugandans, she answered: “Yeah ok, now we are the same.”

She then was asked how her parents speak about their history and the fact that the Ugandan government moved them. She answered that some say that they don’t remember, because they were not educated; they were the first to come out; they just say that President Museveni is the one who brought them from the forest.

Elizabeth said that the Batwa in the forest had medicines to cure some diseases they suffered from. “I know some plants, but I can’t relate them now. They had medicines for many diseases in the forest.”

She mentioned that when the Batwa lived in the forest they sometimes would come out, looking for local food. When they would bring someone honey, that person would give the Mutwa matoke or tobacco to smoke. They also might bring wild meat they killed.

When she was asked if she has a career she would want to go into, she said she would like to be a nurse.


In recent years, associated with the involvement of SK in the community (see below), there have been improvements in the lot of the Batwa Pygmies of Buhoma. It is hoped that the Ugandan government will become increasingly aware of the plight of the Batwa and engage in supporting them through land acquisition, promoting better health and education. The government now provides about 7.5% of the operating expenses for the Bwindi Community Hospital, which is the main provider of health care for the Batwa.

It is not likely that the Batwa will ever be able to return to their beloved forest, however there are glimmers of hope that their lot will improve in the community in which they now reside: For example, The BDP is supporting the education of many Batwa children and the Bwindi Community Hospital has a robust program for public health outreach to the Batwa. However, much remains to be done, not only for the Batwa, but all children of the region. Contributions from far away, through the Kellerman Foundation (http://www.kellermanfoudation.org ) and otherwise, will be necessary to help the Batwa reverse their cycle of poverty and assist them in re-capturing the joy of life that they experienced in the forest.


Anthony (Tony) Schwartz was born in New York City. Before devoting himself fully to photography, was an academic veterinary surgeon and immunologist. He received a DVM degree from the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University, and a PhD in Medical Microbiology/Immunology from the Ohio State University College of Medicine, where he also completed a surgical residency, later becoming a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. He has been on the faculties of the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine and, since the first class started in 1979, Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. There, he served as Professor and Chair of the Surgery Department and as an Associate Dean until retiring in 2005. He was awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship in Washington, DC, in 1988-1989. Tony has been involved in art all his life, starting with drawing as a child, and doing oil painting and clay sculpture as an adult. Since 2003 his artistic passion has been photography, and retirement from academia allowed him to “focus” on it (http://www.tonyschwartzphoto.com ), associated with photographic training at the New England School of Photography, in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as in workshops and photographic tours. He resides in Boston, Massachusetts and Peru, Vermont, USA, with his wife Claudia, who is a watercolor artist. Their son Tom, daughter-in-law Carolynn and grandsons Zeke and Arlo live in Madison, Wisconsin, USA; their son Eric lives in Los Angeles, California.

Musinguzi Amos was born and raised, along with 14 siblings, in Buhoma Village. His father died when he was 10 years of age, making the life of the family of very difficult. Despite this, Amos completed his primary education (in the Kanyashande Primary School and the Buhoma Community Primary School) in 2003. Thereafter, he attended secondary school, and with the aid of sponsorship he completed studies at the Nyamiyaga Secondary School in 2007, and High School in the Science Class of Kigezi College Butobere (2009). He then completed a course in Comprehensive Nursing at Rakai Community Nursing School in 2012 and graduated with a BS degree in Nursing from the International Health Sciences University, now the Clarke International University, in Kampala, Uganda in December 2017. Currently, he is in an internship, attached to the Hoima Regional Referral Hospital in western Uganda.

Scott Kellermann is a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, USA. He received a BS in Mathematics and Biology at the University of Virginia, and MD degree from Tulane University Medical School. He then interned in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Los Angeles County Hospital, completed a residency in family practice at the Santa Monica General Hospital, California, completed a year of surgical residency at the Touro Hospital in New Orleans, as well as a MS in Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Tulane University. Scott has Certification in Travel and Tropical Medicine and Board Certification in Family Practice. A canon in the Episcopal Church, he has practiced Tropical Medicine as a medical missionary at the Shanta Bhawan Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. Later he was in private practice in Nevada City, California. He has helped start a hospital near Tijuana, Mexico, and was a founder of a medical clinic that has become the major health care provider for Nevada County, California. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for 2017-2018, which is being spent at the Uganda Nursing School, Bwindi Community Hospital. In 2001, Scott and his wife Carol settled in Bwindi, Uganda as missionaries of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, surveying their health status and then working among the Batwa to deal with their medical needs, serving as a consultant to the Bwindi Community Hospital. In 2004, they established the Kellermann Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting the displaced Batwa Pygmies in all areas of development (through the BDP) and to providing high-quality healthcare to the Batwa and their neighbors in southwest Uganda. Besides establishing the Bwindi Community Hospital, he also started the Uganda Nursing School Bwindi in 2013. Dr. Kellerman considers that perhaps his “best accomplishment is getting people from all walks of life to collaborate on a project on the other side of the globe.”


We greatly thank Eric Schwartz and Musinguzi Denis for the videos they produced during several of the interviews. We also are very grateful to Busingye Levi, Manager of the Batwa Experience and its Assistant Coordinator, in Buhoma, Uganda. He is an advisor/counselor to the Batwa, based on a long-term relationship with their community, working hard to assure the education of their children. Levi expertly led the tours described herein, worked with the Batwa so they would be willing to give interviews, made on-the-spot translations, provided and corrected the names of people and huts involved in this project, and became a friend in the process. AS and CS also sincerely thank the very warm, gracious and welcoming families of Musinguzi Amos and Musinguzi Denis, who invited us to their homes, introduced us to their extended families, and fed us, and Amos and Denis, who over the 11 years since we met in Buhoma, have come to be at the level of children in our family, as well as in their own. These experiences helped to inform us of the ways of life of the people of the Buhoma community. And we profusely thank the Batwa people, who gave generously of their time, telling us their history in the forest and their current situations. This was one of the great honors of our lives.


Lewis, J. (2000). The Batwa Pygmies of the Great Lakes Region. London, United Kingdom: Minority Rights Group International. (http://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/old-site-downloads/download-150-Batwa-Pygmies-of-the-Great-Lakes-Region.pdf) 

S. Werikhe, L. M. (1998), et al. CAN THE MOUNTAIN GORILLA SURVIVE? Population and Habitat Viability Assessment for Gorilla gorilla beringei. Apple Valley, MN, USA: IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.

UNPO.org. (2016). Batwa: The History and Culture of a Marginalized People in Central Africa. The Hague, The Netherlands: Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization - unpo.org.

Wikipedia (2018). Mountain gorilla.

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