Change a Life Bwindi is a Ugandan CBO working to ensure a balance between the environment, wildlife conservation and sustainable development programs among the communities living in Bwindi, Rubanda District. CALB aims to uplift the wellbeing of the communities in Bwindi through creation of sustainable livelihoods opportunities.
Change a life Bwindi envisions people living in Bwindi exercise their rights and take ownership in sustainably managing and utilization of natural resources to improve their livelihoods.
CALB mission is to develop the capacity of and work with communities in Bwindi improve their livelihoods and wellbeing through the provision of alternative livelihoods, climate change adaptation and management, environment conservation, improving access to quality formal and vocational education, improved food security, promotion of Human rights, and promotion of quality Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
The Batwa are one of the oldest surviving tribes in Africa, but their culture, identity and language are under increasing threat.
The traditional hunting ground of this nomadic community comprised of forested areas in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, in 1991, due to conservation projects to protect mountain gorillas, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda was created in the south of the country and Uganda’s 6,700-strong Batwa community were evicted from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where they had lived for centuries.
These then scattered in different groups by the outskirts of the forests to places like Mpungu, Buhoma, Kitalito, Kebiroma, Mgahinga, Kisoro among others.
According to Ugandan law, as a nomadic people who had never settled in one location, the Batwa had no claim to the land, therefore, the Ugandan government had no legal obligation to compensate them.
Within these settlements, they have bent towards adapting the culture of societies like the Bakiga which they settled in at the expense of their own.
There have been intermarriages between these groups and the Batwa and several young children born of late cannot trace their roots or the culture of their forefathers.
Over time, the government has promised to accommodate them and find them land but the process has been a slow one. These communities have failed to adapt to a new life as their number reduce and life expectancy reduces. There are 3,463 (1,685 males & 1,778 females) Batwa in the Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area according to a 2016 census by the Bwindi Mgahinga conservation trust nearly half the number it was by the time of displacement.
The Batwa cultural centre in Mpungu is the only one in the area and with its unique constriction depict huts that these forest people used to sleep in decades ago, it remains outstanding.
Our dream is to see the centre serve its core mandate of preserving and promoting the threatened culture of these indigenous and marginalized people for as long as we can.
We hope the Centre can benefit the Batwa community hereby increasing their incomes through the sales of the products they will make, the presentations and through telling their unique story.
Change a life Bwindi joined several other organisations to see to it that the lives of a group of about 67 Batwa living in Mpungu at the edge of the forest are improved.
Among such interventions, we have offered livelihood programs to them like beekeeping, basket weaving, tailoring from which they make products they sell to tourists.
The cultural centre has come in to help preserve the Batwa culture. At the center, there will be a display of artifacts of the Batwa, tools that they used in the forest life among other things.
At the center, the Batwa will also perform traditional dances to visiting tourists.
They will display part of their cultural practices like making fire from wood and stones, hunting skills, among others which will earn them some money from the visitors.
Still at the centre, we shall have several stalls where the Batwa will sell products made from their weaving, tailoring and beekeeping to visitors.
The centre was an idea conceived by Change a life Bwindi to address the issue of a looming threat to the Batwa culture that is expected to disappear if nothing is done about it.
The Idea was backed by the Batwa community elders and local government authorities and with their approval, land was secured near the Batwa community on which the centre would sit.
The building started soon after a long and tiring process of sourcing for funds from well-wishers and donors and went on smoothly but not without some hitches because of funds but eventually, success prevailed.
On March 6, 2020, we successfully launched the Centre and it started operations although it is still lacking many things to make it a world-class place for tourists to enjoy themselves.