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EMMF: Making a Difference in Uganda

Reverend Benon Biryomumeisho. Katairiro Pygmy Project

Kinkiizi District, Rukungiri, Uganda


He gave a grave history. He said he realized the Pygmies were headed for extinction if something wasnít done, that the culture had already been interrupted by contact with other people for a good number of years, they had lost the ability and desire to live in the deep forest but lacked skills for economic development before they were brought into their present settlements. They have traditional huts, small, with a large number of people. They are smoky. There are many fire-related accidents, severe coughing, and tuberculosis. The baboons break into the houses and destroy property and also destroy crops.


These people believe in demons. Back in the forests, when they hunted, they got meat, which they sacrificed to their gods. They feel like the demons have turned against them because they have no meat to sacrifice. These people, even though they have largely become Christians, still have a deep belief in demons, such as if a child dies or something goes wrong, its because of the demons.


They have a simple governing body. There is a chief, who is appointed in the village by the pastor. They use a quorum to settle problems and the pastor helps with this. They canít read, so the pastor dictates issues, or sometimes they bring up issues of things that are happening, and both men and women vote.


The pastor mentioned that they have a wandering mentality and have been used to picking up what nature gives them. Traditionally, in the forest they ate roots, vegetables, and fruit, and they had a steady supply of meat. The pastor felt like this protected them from diseases when they lived there. He said when they were strong, they were able to withstand diseases, but thereís very little meat now so malnutrition is prevalent among the Pygmies. The Pygmies do not produce enough food to feed themselves. In the past, when there was an agricultural teacher, these people were taught how to grow crops, and lack of on-site help has greatly hurt the production of these crops. The other unfortunate thing is they eat all they produce because of insufficient food, so often when it comes time to plant, they donít have enough seeds leftover. A family of four or five has less than one acre of land, which is not enough land for crop rotation, and the soil is poor. As they canít survive on what they grow, they have to work the farms of other tribal groups; sometimes this is quite a distance away, and economically they are exploited as cheap labor. He thought that each family needed at least four acres of land where they could have a house and do cultivation; they could have crop rotation and animal husbandry. The Pygmies started with three acres and now have fifteen acres serving twenty-five families consisting of eighty-one individuals. He also said the Pygmies, in general, take good care of things that are given to them and they share what they have with the others.


Here is a list of things they grow and how many times a week they eat it:


1.†††††††† Cassava four times a week

2.†††††††† Sweet potatoes about once a week.

3.†††††††† Posho or porridge, daily with maize or millet.

4.†††††††† They use a green banana that they cook, which they call metoke, which they eat about once every two weeks.

5.†††††††† Ground nuts, or peanuts, typical for other tribal groups, is rare in the Pygmy diet.

6.†††††††† They have beans daily, fresh or dried. Some of them, perhaps once a week, have soybeans.

7.†††††††† Green vegetables three times a week.


He also mentioned that there is an acute lack of materials to burn, or fuel, in Katairiro.


A high priority for Pastor Benon is education. This would include an agriculture teacher and a nursery teacher who prepares the young Pygmy children for primary school and also for integration into the other tribal cultures. They also need a public health nurse for daily medical care and to teach them about sanitation, health for themselves and their children, and assistance with prenatal care.

Other needs include a full-time pastor. He said the pastor brings hope and stability and helps them analyze their problems and intervenes if necessary. Pastor Benon has not been paid in over a year.


He also said that they do not have enough latrines.


My direct observations in Katairiro: I looked at three huts. Each had three saucepans without handles, no soap. One kitchen had a shelf; the other two did not. One house had a raised platform for their woven mat bed. The other two huts had bed mats, which were on the dirt floor. There was very little proper food storage. They need good rat-proof and animal-proof containers to keep the baboons out. A lot of them had iron roofs, or tin roofs, but not all of the huts. The huts were not ventilated, were smoky and consequently there are a lot of respiratory problems. The latrines have a fifteen-foot deep hole. I saw only one latrine and it was in good condition. There are two water sources, both springs cemented with a pipe, located approximately a hundred yards below the settlement. The water supply has been steadily diminishing over the last few years to a marginal flow.


I had a number of personal interviews with the women of Katairiro:


First was a woman named Sere. She had been living far away; she needs a house and some land. Without land, food is a real problem for her. She also wants medical care.


My second interview was a woman named Jacinta. She wants seeds, a hoe, and a Jerry can. She misses the forest and what it gives, particularly food, meat and fruit.


Edith wants a hoe, a jerry can, animal husbandry such as goats, pigs, and chickens, and utensils for her home.


Peace is tired of the soil of the village. Itís not fertile, and the baboons are a problem. She wants to plant in fertile soil.


Dina wants the same thing as Peace.


Irene, who is a widow, needs a hoe, utensils, a Jerry can, and saucepans.


Arete wants fertile land, a blanket, a jerry can, and she is upset about the baboon problem.


Nora wants a jerry can, saucepans, a hoe, and clothing. She has only the clothes on her back.


Abia cannot close her home. There are no windows or doors to shut, so baboons get into her home regularly. She needs a change of clothes, a hoe, a jerry can, and she says that there are too many diseases. She requested that they get free medical care at least two times a year. She also requested more latrines. She said there werenít enough latrines, especially at the other branch of Katairiro.


My last interview was with the chief of the Katairiro settlement. He said that there was a lack of food, the soil was not productive, that the baboons come from the forest and destroy the gardens and that they are not allowed to kill them because the government protects them. He said there is too much sickness and a lack of clothes. He also mentioned the water problem, with the water trickling more slowly. He says they cook with saucepans between two rocks and that there is no chimney. Because of the wood fires and poor ventilation, he says that smoke is a real problem. He says they are not allowed to hunt and so they really miss meat in their diet. He said when they lived in the forest they ate a lot of wild boars, so heís sad about that. He said before they had meat and roots, it was a more balanced diet, and they were not sick like now. He said there was not enough money to buy meat. He said his group was split; some went to the Congo and some to Rwanda. He still wishes to go to the jungle to hunt.




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