United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU)
In 2000 the Batwa organized themselves and formed their own organisation, the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU). Its aim is to support Batwa in south west Uganda to address their land problems and help them develop sustainable alternative livelihoods. Through its Batwa members, UOBDU has identified four key areas it hopes to address including:
- Land and Housing;
- Education and Adult Literacy;
- Income Generation including Agriculture; and
- Forest Access and Benefit-Sharing.
Among these priority areas, securing their rights to land and forest resources are an integral part of Batwa’s own strategy to build more secure livelihoods, since their landlessness and restricted access to forests have contributed so significantly to their persistent social and economic marginalisation in Southwest Uganda.
FPP has supported UOBDU since its creation in 2000. In the early years of the organisation UOBDU spent a great deal of time lobbying government, NGOs and donors in the region to include Batwa communities within their programmes. As a result today there have been significant changes to NGO and donor programmes, with most now accepting the need to design and implement special measures to help Batwa overcome their poverty, landlessness and socio-economic marginalisation.
UOBDU is now working hard to ensure that Batwa communities across the region are able to participate fully in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of new initiatives targeting them. This work is in addition to its continued work to help Batwa overcome the negative impacts from existing projects, including conservation projects such as Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks, which overlay traditional forests upon which Batwa livelihoods have relied.
FPP continues to support UOBDU and the Batwa of south west Uganda primarily through its human and legal rights programmes. Since 2006, UOBDU has focused on securing the Batwa’s rights to lands, both those they currently live on outside the forest and those lands which make up their ancestral territories and which are currently protected through conservation projects. The aim of this work is to support the Batwa communities to be the leaders of their own rights based struggles through the provision of training and information sharing as well as through the creation of opportunities for the Batwa to take their struggle directly to the policy makers at the local, national, regional and international level.
FPP is supporting UOBDU to lobby local governments to respond to the landlessness of the Batwa by providing parcels of land upon which the Batwa can live and farm. UOBDU is also providing support to the Batwa communities so that they are aware of their rights and able to present their situation to locally elected individuals at the village or parish level.
UOBDU is continuing to lobby key government departments and Ministries in the hope that a specific and direct response will be offered by the government. This lobbying includes high level meetings with government officials as well as media work to inform the wider public about the situation of the Batwa.
UOBDU has attended the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights on a number of occasions and in partnership with FPP has submitted two alternative reports on the occasion of the submission of the Uganda States scheduled submissions to the commission.
At the international level UOBDU has been able to represent the situation of its members regularly in forums that includes the CBD, IUCN and UN amongst others.
It is hoped that by opening spaces in policy, and supporting Batwa communities to utilize those spaces, the Batwa will have a greater chance to sustainably manage and freely determine their lands and livelihoods.