At the end of October, the Ugandan team traveled to Bwindi in south west Uganda to launch the IHACC project with our partners and members of the community. Ugandan PI Shuaib Lwasa sent in this brief report on the team's visit.
....It is a long journey from Kampala, about 12 hours of driving on roads of varying quality; you definitely need a capable vehicle with four wheel drive! Upon arrival, we were able to meet and begin working directly with members of the Indigenous Batwa Peoples in Kanungu District.
During the visit we run a workshop to discuss the project objectives, program and work plan. One of our major tasks was to capture video clips that will be used to create an informational video. The objectives of the video are to (1) describe the overall IHACC project, (2) outline the schedule of research activities, and (3) explain potential short and long term outcomes and benefits of the project to Batwa community members. This video will be shown to each participant before they complete the questionnaires in the first phase on the project.
The Batwa are quite amazing people. Two of the first members we met on this visit were Rueben and Geoffrey. Geoffrey is an older gentleman who has a job as a cleaner at the Bwindi Community Hospital. Reuben is able to speak some English and we communicated without the help of our interpreter. He taught us some simple phrases and greetings that we were able to use throughout the rest of the trip.
We also had a really neat experience with Sabastian, a health worker and interpreter from one of the project partners, Batwa Development Programme. Sherilee and Allan talked about many similarities between the Canadian Inuit and Batwa Peoples. Showing him photos from travels to the Inuit community Rigolet, located in the Canadian Sub-Arctic (another IHACC study site), Sabastian was fascinated by the snow and ice, dogsleds, hunting, snowmobiles, and frigid winter temperatures.
At first, he could not believe that people would want to live in a remote place with all the snow and ice. He asked “why would the Inuit not move down to the south where it is warm?” We rhetorically asked him why the Batwa want to go back to the forest when they could live in their settlements where they have a house with a tin roof over their head? All they have to do is give up their hunting culture and become farmers. He smiled, we could tell he instantly understood that the connection Indigenous people have to the land is truly universal.