The Batwa duly arrived, albeit 2 hours late on day one and after a stern talking to one and a half hours late on day 2. Due to the lack of a common language between myself and the Batwa, rather than risk 2 days of hilarious misunderstandings and poor translations, we decided to bring in other Batwa from Bwindi who have already benefitted from tourism. So on the 21st 3 batwa in the shape of Safari Gepisomu, Bapajirana James and Nyamihara Gladys arrived at the lodge. The oldest of the 3 was James, who was enjoying himself so much, that around the fire every night he would pick up his thumb piano (an instrument composed essentially of flattened nails that are twanged) and regale us with some traditional Batwa music and singing.
The trainers, as it turns out, were an inspired choice and when the local Batwa arrived there was much hugging between James and the local chairman, who were clearly old friends. So with the 4 people from Bwindi to lead the discussions the workshop got off to a flying start. Not understanding the language I was slightly lost but from time to time somebody would translate what was going on but mostly I would smile and nod. However, I did have a large hand in setting the agenda, so I know that the topics discussed ranged from the challenges and benefit of tourism to the Batwa, to tackling social problems in the community (such as alcoholism).
My personal highlight from the 2 days was when Gladys, a small and until this point mostly silent woman, stood up to talk to the Batwa about making baskets and ended up shouting at them for drinking, much to the surprise of everyone there. I think overall the workshop was a success, what the outcomes of this exercise will be only time will tell, but the community were genuinely interested in getting more out of tourism and many even promised to stop drinking, even though I think this was mostly a case of telling the instructors what they wanted to hear, if people think twice before picking up a sachet of gin then it can be counted as a success. I hope this workshop will lead to better cooperation between the VSPT and the Batwa community so we can work together to increase the communities revenues from tourism. Probably more importantly though, during the 2 days of the workshop, everybody seemed to be having a good time!
Will, Uganda - Volcanoes Safaris Partnerhip Trust