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EMMF: Making a Difference in Uganda

History

 

Uganda is a land-locked country in East Africa, astride the equator. It is 91,344 square miles of beautiful, serene, green plateaus situated between the eastern and western branches of the Great Rift Valley. It is truly a country blessed. More than eighty inches of rain fall on its ever-fertile lands each year and is on a continent often struggling against drought and famine. Lakes, rivers, and streams, including Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest fresh water lake, and the legendary Nile River cover twenty-five percent of its surface. Its lush rainforests, savanna, and semi-desert areas are home to a splendid array of wildlife, bird life, and flora. The biggest blessing of all, perhaps, is that it is populated with friendly, hearty folk who have somehow withstood a brutal, humiliating, and devastating civil war for almost two decades and have come out on top.

 

The Batwa Pygmies are a unique ethnic African race found in southwest Uganda in the Bundibungyo District extending to the Congo region. There are an estimated 16,000 Pygmies living in the Central African forests; in southwest Uganda there are 2,000 Pygmies. These Pygmies lived in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of southwestern Uganda until the 1950’s, when the Ugandan government created the Swindi National Park as a preserve for mountain gorillas and other wild animals. The Pygmies previously lived in clusters of small, makeshift, thatched huts, which lasted up to three months and either burned down or fell apart, so they moved frequently. They existed with wild animals in secluded areas and lived primitive lives with the now near-extinct mountain gorillas for many centuries. They lacked all form of modern living, like clothing, farm implements, monetary knowledge, medical facilities, and services such as schools or clinics. They lived a nomadic lifestyle as hunter-gatherers. Food was plentiful in the rainforest as they hunted for small game for protein and searched for wild roots and fruits for their carbohydrates and vitamins. In the late 1980’s, the Ugandan government forced the Pygmies out of the park preserve, often at gunpoint. These Pygmies, who previously roamed the forest hunting for food, were subsequently relegated to an area where they had no land, no money, and were looked down upon by every other tribe and class of people in Uganda, and actually throughout Africa. The Anglican Church of Uganda became the region’s only advocate for these displaced people. Most of the 2,000 or so Pygmies had been reduced to begging for survival and a few found domestic work or guarded gardens from baboons. Through the efforts of the Diocese of Dallas, in cooperation with the Diocese of Kinkiizi and Bishop Ntegyereize and Archbishop Nkoyoyo, moneys were obtained to resettle these Pygmies. They presently live on two separate parcels on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Small homes, gardens, and agricultural help has been provided to the Pygmies; however, our mission was to do a needs survey among the Pygmies and ascertain if further assistance was necessary.

 

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