Niwagaba, Isaac Naboth
The Rubanda West Member of Parliament, Moses Kamuntu Mwongyera, has expressed concern about the persistent food insecurity in the Batwa communities of the Kigezi subregion.
Kamuntu was speaking to the press shortly after launching the distribution of the second phase of his food and feeding intervention program for the Batwa in Rubanda District.
The program involving the distribution of assorted food items such as beans and posho targets up to 500 Batwa households in Rubanda West Constituency and the surrounding areas of Kabale, Kisoro, and Kanungu Districts.
The Batwa have faced a prolonged challenge of food insecurity since the forceful eviction from their original homeland in the Ecuya, Bwindi, and Mugahinga forests that were gazetted as forest reserves by the Government of Uganda in the early 1990s.
The government did not provide habitation and survival alternatives for the Batwa, who have since been surviving on the mercy of nongovernmental organizations as well as peanut payments for casual labor, especially digging, for the Bakiga and Bafumbira communities in the hills of Kisoro, Rubanda, and Kanungu districts.
After his election as Rubanda West MP in 2021, Hon. Kamuntu unveiled a plan to supplement the work of NGOs operating in Rubanda District to save the Batwa from extinction by providing food items such as beans and posho to the severely hunger-stricken families.
Kamuntu says his intervention plan includes not only periodic food distribution but also interaction with the Batwa throughout the process, as they suggest lasting solutions to problems they face.
“My focus is not on what I give to the Batwa, but a platform to suggest ideas on how they want to be helped through sustainable solutions to their problems, especially this continuous food insecurity problem,” he said.
Kumuntu told journalists that his unrelenting concern for the Batwa dates back to when he lived among them during his childhood days.
“I think I know the Batwa more than any other outsider. I used to graze my father’s goats in their areas. “They were largely hunters, and I would share in the game meat, which they also brought home for my father,” he said.
Mr. Gad Ssemajjeri, a Mutwa from Rwamahano Village in Ikamiro Parish of Muko Subcounty, told this media house that they were resettled in steeply sloping and less fertile hills by a section of NGOs, but the Batwa have no land ownership rights, which limits the activities on the land they occupy.
“The land we were given is small, yields poor quality, and sometimes produces no crops at all.” “Good Samaritans like Hon. Kamuntu would start projects for us on this nonproductive land, but they still have nowhere to start because the land does not entirely belong to us,” said Ssemajjeri.
Emily Nyirasasira, a 60-year-old Mutwa from Karengyere in Muko Subcounty, requested Hon. Kamuntu make a follow-up on their quest for government intervention into the problems they face, especially the demand for permanent resettlement.
“We want our own land that is fertile for agriculture.” “We want to grow our own food and stop begging from NGOs and politicians, because Batwa are traditionally hardworking and everybody knows that,” Nyirasasira said.
Kyabazaga Norah 69, also said that the hunger in Batwa communities has been worsened by the increase in food prices, especially posho, which was raised from UgX 3500 to UgX 4000 since last year.
“We work for little pay.” When we dig for the Bakiga, they give us between 5,000 and 7,000 per day, depending on the size of the land. “They used to give us food and money in exchange for our labor, but now they just give us money,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Hon. Kamuntu revealed that he was in touch with the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development as he continues to demand the quick processing of compensation and resettlement of the Batwa communities.