News: Terraces 2015!
Batwa Pygmies

 

The pygmies account for 1% of the Rwandan population and have always lived in the rainforests: traditionally they are hunter-gatherers.

 

For years the government has been forcing them to leave their natural habitat and they now live in extreme poverty and are marginalised, because of the loss of their traditional forest home and because of racial preconceptions. 

Already in 2008, following central government directives, the District had to accommodate several Batwa-Pygmy families in Nyamyumba village, forcing them to leave their homes.


The Nyamyumba community reacted badly: they did not want them. Nonetheless they were forced to build them houses, which they did poorly and reluctantly on the outskirts of the village, using compulsory “umuganda” community labour.


From then on, the pygmies have been left to their own devices and marginalised: our association was too busy with projects already underway to look after them, unless it was to provide some clothing and occasional support.

In 2013, towards the end of the building of the  terraces, a delegation of Batwa-Pygmies came to ask Mabawa's help and trust to improve the difficult living conditions the community endured. At that point a first project was initiated (in partnership with the Rwandan state) to build terraces for planting below their dwellings. The first areas to be prepared and farmed have produced a highly satisfactory potato crop and forage has been planted out on the walls of the terraces.

The lack of terraces for planting was only a small part of the problem:

the 16 families (85 people)had been utterly abandoned to their fate: we had no choice but to intervene and furnish them with the same opportunities as the "Great Nyamyumba" community. Having visited the project, the  Margherita Foundation made the grand gesture, in honour of its tenth anniversary, of undertaking to pay for the entire build of homes for the 16 families.

 

  • they had no access to water: now they can use the nearest access point free of charge and have been given jerry cans, basins and soap;

  • whilst they are not as yet self-sufficient, food is distributed to the most vulnerable families and milk protein powders are supplied to malnourished babies;

  • the dwellings, all semi-detached, are currently being built brand new. In January 2015, 5 dwellings (10 families) are already in use;

  • The children are now able to go to  school (uniforms, shoes, hygiene, medical cover and whatever else is required) and they attend lessons.

 

The government has finally accepted that it needs to integrate this minority into the community but, without the cooperation of the village leaders and the “Great Nyamyumba” community as a whole, this is difficult to achieve.
After initial resistance, the reactions of the local have now become more positive.

© Associazione Mabawa, Via del Sole 22, CH - 6943 Vezia, Tel.: +41 91 9673802, info@mabawa.org

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