Batwa in Kisoro Hire Out Land to Get Quick Money for Survival

Life is not yet about to improve among Batwa community in Kisoro district as many of them have resorted to hiring out their land to get quick money for survival. Batwa, a semi-nomadic pygmy tribe that lived in the jungles of Ecuya, Bwindi, and Mgahinga forests as hunters and gatherers for centuries until 1992 when the government evicted them from their ancestral dwelling to conserve wildlife without providing alternative land. 

As a result, non-government organizations and faith groups led by the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (OUBDU), African International Christian Ministry, Diocese of Muhabuura, and Lift up Jesus Global Ministries intervened and purchased land for the Batwa for settlement and farming.

However, the Batwa have instead started hiring out the land to get quick money for survival. Enos Masheija, the Bukimbiri sub-county LC3 Chairperson says that there are about 120 Batwa households in his sub-county. According to Masheija, despite the Batwa being known in the area as very hardworking people, they have maintained a negative attitude towards self-development. 

Masheija explains that he has observed many cases of Batwa hiring out even the small land they have to non-Batwa people at less than Shillings 20,000 per season. According to Masheija, the cases are common during the Irish potato planting season. Masheija says that what is disappointing is that Batwa, use the money they get from hiring their land to buy alcohol and food instead of investing it in agriculture.

Constant Tindimwebwa, a Mutwa from Mukungu village in Nyundo sub county admits that there are cases where his community members hire out their land at Shillings 5,000 while others exchange 1 kilogram of maize flour for the whole season.    

Vastine Ayinkamiye, another Mutwa from Birara village in Kagunga parish, Bukimbiri sub-county, says that he has settled on the land allocated to him by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA), which she often hires out to serve her punishments at the local level once they plead guilty to crimes committed.

Ayinkamiye, however, says that other locals in the area are now using this method of punishing the Batwa once they find them guilty in case they commit any crime to keep them poor.

Boaz Arinaitwe, the Kisoro District Police Community Liaisons Officer, says that the challenge of Batwa hiring out land instead of utilizing it for self-development has affected their personal growth.    

Peninah Nzaninka,  the Coordinator of the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (OUBDU) in Charge of Kigezi sub-region attributes blames the vice on a lack of capital and agricultural inputs. Citing a bag of Irish potato seeds, which costs around Shillings 500,000, Nzaninka says that no Mutwa can afford such money, which pushes them to hire out their land to those who can afford to use it.

Nzaninka however says that in partnership with the government, the Batwa are being sensitized to partner with other locals who have seeds so that they utilize the land and share the harvests, instead of hiring it out. According to Naznainka, there are between 800-900 Batwa currently living in Kisoro district.

Kamadi Byonabye, the Director of Research, Education, and Documentation at the Uganda Human Rights Commission, says that however much the decision to hire out land depends on an individual, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to keep advising the Batwa on the benefits of utilizing the land themselves.

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