Batwa Trail Upgrade Attracts More Visitors in Uganda

The Batwa Trail, located in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, offers a nature walk tour that introduces visitors to the Batwa culture.

Batwa are indigenous communities who previously inhabited the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks in Uganda. A marginalized hunter-gatherer tribe, the Batwa have a wealth of knowledge about the forests and maintain a rich non-destructive heritage with the forests. The current population of Batwa people in Uganda is estimated at only 6,705. In the 1990s, when the Uganda government creation the Mgahinga and Bwindi national parks to protect biodiversity and endangered mountain gorillas, the Batwa people were evicted from the forest. They now live in adjacent agricultural communities as landless squatters.

On June 27, 2012, the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, USAID Mission to Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority and other private and public sector representatives commissioned several new developments for the Batwa Trail. These planned improvements include a shorter trail, artistic cave shelter, lunch shed and improved solar lighting worth over $31,000.

Roughly 2,500 tourists visit Mgahinga Park each year. In addition, 206 tourists have visited the Batwa Trail. Over a 2-month period, Batwa cultural trail had registered 22 (6.3% of all tourists) paying tourists. With investment in volcano hiking infrastructure and increased marketing, tourism numbers are expected to increase 50% by 2014.

There is great optimism that this revamped trail, a unique initiative that allows the Batwa tribe access to the land from which they were evicted in the 1990s, will allow tourists to explore the cultural site of Africa’s last forest people and add about $12,500 a year to the tourism revenue with 50% of it going to the Batwa people.

This project has been jointly developed by Solimar International under USAID STAR, the USFS, the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC), United Organization of Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU), and Kisoro District Local Government.

 

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Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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