The Batwa/Pygmies are the original inhabitants of the equatorial forests of the Great Lakes region. The forest was their home. It provided them with a livelihood and medicines and contained their religious and sacred sites, and because of their sustainable use of resources, they were able to occupy and use the forests for thousands of years. In the nineteenth century, agriculturalists and pastoralists started the process of deforestation, clearing forests for cultivation and animal grazing, respectively. This was followed by large-scale forest logging and increased trophy game hunting; the overexploitation and destruction of forests and wildlife made their habitats shrink. In recessive years, governments and powerful consortiums established game parks and evicted the Batwa from their traditional lands.

The occurrence of violent conflicts and wars has undermined their livelihoods and culture, and many consider them destitute and have no land to call home. In all countries of the Great Lakes Region, i.e., Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, the Batwa have suffered the loss of traditional forest territories and other natural resources. They face personal insecurity and violence, displacement by war, tourism, and logging, political and social exclusion, poverty, ill-health, inadequate educational opportunities, and negative stereotyping.

 

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