A revamped Batwa trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park will allow tourists to explore cultural sites in the footsteps of the Batwa tribe in southwest Uganda. The three-kilometer trail winds through the dense forests of the Muhabura mountain range, known for its troops of golden monkeys and mountain gorillas—two of the most endangered species in the world.
The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), with the support of U.S. Mission Uganda and the American people, commissioned new markers along the trail that are expected to boost tourism revenue in the park by approximately 50 percent over the next two years.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at the U.S. Mission is investing $31,000 to train Batwa people to serve as guides and to improve lighting, walkways, and shelters along the trail. These new features are expected to add $12,500 per year to national tourism revenue, with 50 percent going to approximately 200 local residents.
Last year, UWA, with support from USAID and other partners, signed a formal agreement with Kisoro district officials and local community members to create the Batwa trail inside the protected park.
Through this unique initiative, the Batwa tribe regained access to the land that was dispossessed in the 1990s when the Government of Uganda designated it as a national park to protect biodiversity and the endangered mountain gorillas.
USAID’s program aligns with the Government of Uganda’s Tourism Strategy to promote ecotourism, protect natural resources, and improve the livelihoods of locals.
Over the next five years, the American people will invest approximately $15 million in ecotourism and work with local government and communities to raise Uganda’s profile as a premier tourist destination.
USAID Acting Mission Director, John Mark Winfield, said, “Through our partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Uganda Wildlife Authority, we are in a unique position to help preserve the natural beauty of this country while supporting the tourism industry so vital to Uganda’s development. We hope the new additions to the trail will attract more tourists to the park and give Uganda a competitive edge in the global market.”
Uganda attracts a considerable number of tourists interested in gorilla safaris in Mgahinga National Park. There is hope that the ever increasing number of tourists will also engage in Batwa Experience in order to support the local communities that live adjacent to the park.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) appreciates the support of the American people toward biodiversity, conservation, and tourism in Uganda through USAID’s Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift (STAR) Project.
The Batwa trail project is supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Program, Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration, United Organization of Batwa Development in Uganda, and Kisoro District Local Government.
The Batwa Trail
The dense forests at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes were home to the Batwa people: hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine thanks to ancient knowledge passed down for generations.
The Batwa Trail is located in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda where the Batwa people, a group of indigenous people, used to reside. This nature walk tour introduces visitors to this African tribe’s life. Visitors will learn about the Batwa’s cultural heritage during this cultural encounter experience. The funds from this tour are part of a give back program that supports the indigenous people’s cultural heritage by helping them purchases new land, provide education and books.
During this moving tour, the Batwa demonstrate their unique cultural heritage through various activities and discussions, such as hunting and bamboo cup demonstrations. Medicinal plants and their usage are pointed out as well. Guests are finally invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, once home to the Batwa King, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a moving sense of the richness of this fading culture