Hunter-Gatherers Facing Life Of Extreme Poverty After Relocation | The Batwa Pygmies From The Virunga Mountains

This family is headed by mother Nyirankunda Justina who lives with her 5 children, Mbarimo, Isaach, Muhereza, Gapusi and Racheal.
Since they have access to free education, they are optimistic about the future.
Nyirankunda believes that her children will become better people when they can go to school. She also believes her first born son will become a doctor and her daughter will become a teacher.
Despite of their faith, they also are uncertain about food sources in the future. Due to the climate changes they fear famine….

 

Photographer Jan Janssen is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From the project ‘Proud for One Second’To see Jan’s body of work, click on any image.

 

Head of the family Patrick Munyambabazi with his wife Janet Kamashamba and their 5 children.
They believe the future situation is going to be worse unless a miracle happens. They say they have lived a poor life since they left the forest. Patrick says he is happy they were brought out of the forest but he is not happy about the life of begging. “We beg for everything, from food, clothes, money and even sometimes shelter. We don’t own anything
good like the other members of the community. We have lived a life of begging and our children are heading for the same life.” Janet says she feels miserable about her children’s future because there are no prospect other than become beggars. She also is scared of dying early because of the increased diseases without medication and famine.

 

This family is headed by Niyiraburo who has 5 kids, Muhumuza, Bando Edgar, Alexander, Desire and Mpaye.
She regrets being removed from their forests where they used to live. She says she was brought out of the forest with fake promises of giving her a better life. All she sees now is
suffering. She had no hope for a better future, because her people are now discriminated doing hard work and living miserable lives. She believes life would only be better only if the government gave them back their ancestral land. If that won’t happen, she predicts all of them ending up dying as beggars in the near future.

 

Head of the family, Nyiramarunga Sophia with her two children. Sophia predicts extreme poverty and famine in the future. Although working in people’s gardens, they have no clear source of income and she can’t provide basic needs. She also mentions that her children spend the little money they have on alcohol instead of food for the family, and as long as there is alcoholism in the family, poverty will prevail.

 

This family is headed by Nyiramuhirwe Jackline who lives with her 3 kids Monica, Emily and Rebbecca. They don’t have faith in the future. Agriculture is the only food source they have, and they became discouraged continuing it because the crops don’t yield enough food. The mother sees them giving up on agriculture because she believes it is a waste of energy having gardens that don’t yield. She predicts famine to her family.

 

The Batwa Pygmies, one of the oldest people of Africa. It can be said that the Batwa still pay the price for the development of the country and the preservation of the mountain gorillas.

For years and years now, the number of people that live on our planet is increasing. The pressure on our earth is also increasing. Every human needs food, water, and a place to call home.

People are traveling all over the world to see other countries and to enjoy all of the beauty our earth is providing. Tourism brings development and improvement, for people, but what about the animals? Habitats are decreasing and the number of visitors keeps growing.

The Virunga Mountains (situated along the Northern border of Rwanda, the Democratic of the Congo and Uganda) are the home of the mountain gorillas, which are threatened with extinction.

There used to be a time in the past that they shared their habitat with the Batwa Pygmies, who spent their whole lives in the forest.

The Batwa roamed the forest, looking for fruits and honey and hunted with bows and their trained dogs. As the woods were cut down by the Bantu, the Batwa numbers dwindled. In the early 1990’s they were evicted from the parks of Bwindi and the Mgahinga National Parks, in the effort to protect the mountain gorillas and their habitat, with no compensation.

More than 20 years after eviction from their ancestral land, the Batwa people are still suffering. They are the poorest among the poorest, without farming land of their own.  The Batwa have no or very limited access to education and healthcare. They survive on handouts and begging.

The church and some non-governmental organizations helped by buying land for settling on, but despite of that, the Batwa people are still squatters and laborers without farming land of their own. The church of Uganda had built 15 units of household facilities; the rest of the families built their homes with reads and polythene papers.

These pictures are taken in front of their houses, where I asked them to stand and feel “proud for one second”.

 

Head of the family Kyomugisha Sylvia is a mother of 4.
She predicts tough times and has no hope for a better future, since they lack food even though she still able to work. She doesn’t know how they will survive when diseases put her down. She says she has starting to feel weak already. Her kids will die poor because they can’t go to school like the other kids in the village.

 

Head of the family, Nyiraguriro Beatrice who lives with her daughter Ake Donata. They say since they were forced out of the forest, they have been treated unequally to the other members in the society and they don’t think this will change in the near future. They are discriminated given less priority in everything. This makes them more vulnerable and scared about the future.

 

Head of the family, Akakwasa Patience. She also don’t predict a bright future. Akakwasa believes they might run short of food just because they can’t be back in the forests due to increased deforestation. She says their source of food was wild fruits and herbs but these days those foods are hard to find. Their life of hunting is also being brought to an end due to the restriction on wild reserves.

 

This family is headed by Nyirabikari Judith.
She does not see much in the future. She thinks they will die of famine and diseases due to the poor health conditions and climate changes. She is sick and too weak to work. Nyirabikari and her kids have resorted to begging, which does not give them enough to live and with no hope for the future.

 

Babitanga Mahuku and his wife Nyiramana Jovia.
His gaze on the future is pessimistic. His children have to survive on what they find in waste. He thinks that is hard and it’s not providing a normal future.

 

All images and text © Jan Janssen

 

 

See also:

“I am”

By Jan Janssen

 

 

 

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