RESTORING HOPE To THE GAHINGA COMMUNITY IN UGANDA
The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT), established in 2009, is a non-profit organization that connects Volcanoes’ Rwanda and Uganda luxury lodges to the neighbouring communities and conservation activities. The VSPT aims to create long-term, self-sustaining projects that enrich the livelihoods of local communities, promote the conservation of the great apes, restore natural habitats and work with communities and institutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
The ATCF and its members have awarded VSPT $16,500 to develop a permanent settlement dedicated to Gahinga community of Batwa pygmies. The Batwa are thought to be one of the oldest surviving indigenous people in the Central African Region. Known for their unique pygmy culture in the forests, the Batwa of the Virunga Mountains survived by hunting small game, gathering plants and fruits, living in caves and constructing huts of leaves and branches.
With international attention on conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas, the Mgahinga part of the Virunga volcanoes in Uganda was turned into a national park in 1991 to provide protection to the wildlife from poaching and habitat encroachment. The creation of the park required the Batwa to be removed from their homes in the mountains and be displaced in a modern world unfamiliar to them. The Batwa ended up squatting in nearby farm land. They earned a living through occasional labor or begging. With limited education, adapting to the modern world has been a difficult journey. They do not have resources or land and suffer from acute poverty, malnutrition and poor health.
A group of about 18 Batwa families from those displaced live in makeshift shelters on a tiny rocky site at Musasa, about 4km from the entrance of Mgahinga National park and Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Lodge, surviving as best as they can.
Volcanoes Safaris’ long term goal is to provide land that can be used in perpetuity by the Batwa, where they can have their own homes and community facilities as well as an agricultural area where they can grow their own crops to help them start generating their own income. The houses are being built by the Batwa, following their own traditions and culture, using a volcanic stone base with mud and water to form the core of the design. The site plan will act as the backbone with cultivation, recreational and communal areas demarcated. Sanitation is to be provided.
MORE ABOUT VOLCANOES SAFARIS
Volcanoes Safaris is the leading luxury lodge company in Uganda and Rwanda. They have been at the forefront of reviving gorilla and chimpanzee tourism in the region since 1997.
Twenty years ago they were the first to set up simple camps in the areas around the gorilla parks. Today, Volcanoes Safaris is the leading luxury lodge company in Uganda and Rwanda.