Rajiv Raman

1. The Forest People
With each passing year, she realises the fact that its a lost cause and they are never going to get their homes back inside the forest.The Batwa pygmies were systematically evicted from the forests of Central Africa by the Ugandan Government. Often referred to as the "Forest People" they were forcefully driven out with drums and sticks like cattle by the Ugandan Rangers more than a decade back. The Batwa have so far been completely dependent on the changing Governments and their compensations. Since the time of eviction they have been subjected to physical violence, discrimination and extreme poverty many of whom have turned to begging as the only means of survival.NGO's like UOBDU have constantly been making efforts in connecting them to systems of Law and Order and Human Rights. The sad part is that UOBDU is the only such NGO in Uganda, which translates to the fact that they have a lot of field to cover, they are heavily understaffed and they have have little to no support from the Government. 

The image below was taken on 17th January 2016 during an interaction between Lawyers from Kampala and the Batwa community organised at the UOBDU office premises at Kisoro district in Uganda.

2. Marginalised

In 2013 a landlord detained a Batwa scavenger in his fields. The woman was picking on the rotten crop left behind as manure by the farmer. He tied her hands, poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze as a message to all scavengers that his fields were out of bounds. Considered to be the lowest among the other existing tribes of the Hutu and the Tutsi, the displaced Pygmies are often victims of Physical and Sexual abuse. The common street joke doing the rounds a few years back was that sex with a Batwa cures backaches and AIDS. The "Forest People" have no clue of what they have done wrong and why they are being subjected to this social discrimination by the so-called upper tribes. Inside the forest, the proud Batwa picked fruits and berries from the forest floor for consumption and it formed a major part of their diet.

The Image was taken on 17th Jan 2016 during an interaction between Lawyers from Kampala and the Batwa community organised at the UOBDU office premises at Kisoro district in Uganda.

3. Exploited

We are now seeing the second generation of the displaced Batwas. Girls seek partners from outside the tribe for marriage though a boy marrying outside the tribe is still unheard of. This makes the girls prone to exploitation. In the rural villages of Central Africa, where the Batwa have taken refuge there are rising cases of girls being abandoned immediately after marriage or pregnancy.

The image of a young Batwa mother during a field visit organised by UOBDU to the Chahi subcounty in the Kisoro district of Uganda.

4. Converted
The Batwa considered trees as their shrines. Worshipping them and believing in their natural healing powers. Evictions from the forest disconnected them from their gods deep inside the forest. Faced with acute poverty and no means of survival they turned to other religions. A Batwa who is willing to covert and assist in the day to day activities of a Church is alloted land for cultivation and a house to cover their heads. The 'Forest People' are masters at cultivation and understand the seasons and needs of the crop better than any of us. It is evident that those who made the choice are content even though they understand little about Church and its work.

The Image of a Batwa farmer who embraced Christianity and received a field and a roof over his head in the bargain. During a Field visit with UOBDU to Chahi subcounty in Kisoro district. Uganda.

5. Born in the forest

They were evicted from the forest when they were in their early 20's. Even today when they enter the forest they stop and prey to the forest gods to watch over and protect them from harm. Uganda Wildlife Authority ( www.ugandawildlife.org ) organises day treks into the forest. The 8km trek commences at Muhavura, winds through thick forest and ends at the Batwa Caves. The cave served as the home to the leader of the Batwa community while they were still living inside the forests. For 80$ pp its a steal. The trek is conducted by 5-6 Batwa pygmies who keep you entertained with the stories and songs from their lost life.

" Three partners Uganda Wildlife Authority(UWA), Kisoro District Local Government and United Organization for Batwa Development of Uganda (UOBDU) on June 7 launched the Batwa Cultural Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park(MGNP)which the commissioner for Tourism Ms Grace Aulo dubbed the Tourism product of the decade.

- See more at: http://www.ugandawildlife.org/news-a-updates-2/uwa-news/item/3-batwa-trail-tourism-product-of-the-decade-launched#sthash.o1wVyW6I.dpuf

Image taken at the end of the trek. A short prayer after another successful and hard earned day inside the forest.


Those that have lived in the wild have sensed a kind of freedom few of us can ever fathom. Even today the elderly Batwa remain connected with the forest and are still hoping to occupy their land inside the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National parks bordering Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. As they get embroiled in legal issues and learn the ways of politics and money, the 'Forest People' of Central Africa are realising the hopelessness of the situation.

The Image was taken today during an interaction between Lawyers from Kampala and the Batwa community organised at the UOBDU office premises at Kisoro district in Uganda.