We received a lovely email this week from Ivy Beccu from Belgium. I’m glad to see that news of the Singing Wells project is spreading far and wide! Ivy has made a great video about the Batwa Trail in Kisoro, Uganda.
When the Singing Wells team visited Kisoro last year to record the music of the Batwa (click here to go to our field reports), we didn’t have enough time to do the Batwa Trail but we heard about how it is helping the Batwa people tell the story of their cultural heritage and, in doing so, provide an income for this impoverished community.
About the Batwa Trail
‘The dense forests at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes were home to the Batwa people: hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine thanks to ancient knowledge passed down for generations.
When Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was established, the Batwa, a group of indigenous people, were suddenly evicted from the forest and forced to abandon their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. Now landless, they work for local farmers. The only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on the Batwa Trail. A visit to the Batwa trail permits visitors to discover the magic of the indigenous people old home while partaking in nature walks and learning about the group’s cultural heritage.
During this moving cultural encounter tour, the Batwa demonstrate hunting techniques; gather honey; point out medicinal plants and demonstrate bamboo cups. Guests are finally invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, once home to the Batwa King, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a striking and moving sense of the richness of this fading culture. This is truly a unique experience for visitors to learn about the traditional culture of the indigenous people.
Most Batwa are unable to earn money to provide for their families, as they have no land of their own. This tour is part of the give-back program since part of the tour fee goes directly to the guides and performers, while the rest goes toward the community fund to cover school fees and books, and assist in the purchase of new land for the Batwa. The tour encourages the practice of traditional skills such as sourcing medicinal plants, making bamboo cups and using bows and arrows – skills which are being lost as the Batwa integrate with the surrounding communities. The income provides an alternative to illegal poaching in the park’.
The Batwa Trail video by Ivy Beccu
Ivy’s email to Singing Wells
I thank you for writing to me!
I was in Uganda on an organized tour and visited Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest National Park, Queen Elisabeth National Park, Lake Bunyonyi, Kisoro (Nshongi Gorilla), Lake Mburo. While we were in Kisoro we received information about the Batwa Trail in the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) office. I read more about the Batwa people in the latest Bradt guide.
I am worried about the Batwa people destiny. The Batwa are the mankind example of how people can live in harmony with nature. Something that the Batwa did much longer than all other populations!
I am an amateur film maker and I was pleased with the explanation about the living, the medicinal plants, hunting methods… that the Batwa use(d). When I think about the darkness in the Garama Cave and then the sudden singing and dancing, I am still deeply touched. After that in front of a beautiful panorama the singing and dancing continued.
I am very happy to have experienced this on my travel and recommend it for all Kisoro visitors.
I would be honoured If you use my video on your website.
Music of the Batwa by Singing Wells